Emma first caught our eye on Instagram, with her fabulous illustrations of all things construction. The world works in mysterious ways, because she ended up at Multiplex, where we nabbed her for an interview on starting out on site, and where her illustrations are born. So, here we share our interview with the lovely Emma Wallace, along with some of her illustrations!
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I’ve always been creative and had different projects on the go (painting, crochet, jewellery, sewing, etc). I’m studying product design engineering at university, which combines mechanical engineering and industrial design into a single degree. Some people believe that engineering isn’t creative but I disagree with that; in my experience, creativity has always benefited problem solving and generating solutions.
I worked for a domestic building company for a few years, which I loved because of the range of projects and tasks I was involved in (plus the team). I was on site all the time, drawing up designs for joinery, structural steel detailing, writing scope of works, tendering, quoting, doing documentation, basically whatever needed to be done. I was really lucky to work in an environment where I was exposed to new challenges and was trusted to use my creativity to generate solutions. Earlier this year, I spent a few months working with a commercial fit out company, which again broadened my understanding of the construction industry. After spending a bit of time reflecting on those experiences and what I was passionate about, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in project management. I’m now working as a Cadet at Multiplex and am completing my final year at uni.
Last year when I was working for the domestic builder, I ran a lot of client meetings and found that clients really struggled to understand descriptions of processes or finishes and why things were being done in a certain way. I’m a more visual person and found the easiest way to explain these processes was by doing a quick drawing or taking a photo of something on the iPad and sketching over it. That is basically how I started doing the illustrations that I now share on my Instagram @emmawallace.designs.
The drawings are definitely a way to reflect on what I’m learning on site. People often talk about something in a meeting that is a brand new concept for me, so I write it down and google it later. I then use the drawings as a way of consolidating my understanding of those concepts. I find that sketching is the best way for me to learn and process all the new things happening on site.
Coming into this role, I knew that I would have a lot to learn, especially because I did not study project management at university. I’ve found that maintaining a positive mindset, being open to new experiences and just having a go has helped me overcome this. Nevertheless, I have still felt overwhelmed at times; I have to ask lots of questions and a lot of time I feel like I pull a thread and everything unravels (it’s not normally straightforward), but that’s the fun of it too.
One resource that I’m also really grateful for is my team – they are a bunch of legends! So, while the learning curve is steep, I’m surrounded by a team who are super supportive, happy to explain things to me, take me for walks on site and cultivate a learning environment. It’s pretty cool to be able to work alongside people who are your mentors and role models.
Practical experience is definitely the best way to learn about the realities of site. By having the opportunity to jump in and have a go, you learn a lot about the industry and whether it is something you enjoy; and even if it isn’t, you’ll still learn something new. It’s not just about the actual work though; being able to communicate effectively and build relationships is super important. Being able to talk on the phone is overlooked too… they don’t teach that at uni. That being said, I would encourage all university students to gain some sort of practical experience during their time at uni.
The biggest challenge I have faced so far is the feeling of imposter syndrome. Sometimes I feel like I’m incompetent and worry people are going to realise that I don’t know what I’m doing. This really boils down to a lack of confidence and also the fact that I set high standards for myself and when I don’t hit a target, I can be a bit harsh on myself.
It’s probably more advice to myself (that my boyfriend tells me): Back yourself.
When I’m worried about something, my Mum always says “just do your best” and as long as I do my best, I can be proud of my efforts and that’s the main thing.
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The community of creatives in Melbourne is so brilliant and collaborative. Support is everything! So go follow Emma and any other creatives that make your soul smile. For all those people just entering the industry who follow GAZELLA blog that would like to be in touch to tell us their experiences and stories, contact us through the website or on Instagram @gazella_blog. We’d love to hear from you! Wishing Emma all the best as she graduates and moves into a full time role at Multiplex! J & D x