Pip Seldon / Operations Manager / Kane Constructions  / 
Grit Levels

story / Interview / July 22, 2022

I started in the industry in an unconventional way, I never did the university degree or went through the ranks as a cadet / graduate fresh from study.

I spent my first 10 years working at an organisation importing motor yachts and sailboats into Australia. In 2009, the GFC hit and due to the luxury nature of the business we were hit hard, and I was suddenly jobless. When you love your job and have been in it for 10 years, it’s hard to know which way to go next.

At the time I was in the middle of a major house renovation so I took some time away from work to finish this off. I enjoyed the end user and delivery aspect of the yachting business, had been through a couple of house builds and renovations and thought that I may enjoy a role in construction.

My move into the construction industry wasn’t super easy. Whilst I had contract, logistics, program and client experience, everyone I met could not see the transferable skills. So, I started at the bottom as a document controller, then project administrator and eventually a project manager. This has shaped the way I hire people today. I seek out those with diverse, transferable skills. The traditional path is not always the best, especially in dynamic and competitive markets. Everyone I hire needs firstly to be a good human being with the right attitude, once we tick that box, we can build skills through training. We all learn differently; I’m a practical learner, I learn best by seeing and doing and I fundamentally do not agree with the mentality that a university degree is the only viable way into the industry.

In 2013 as New Zealand was recovering from the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch, I was offered an opportunity to move to NZ and work in my employer’s Christchurch office. During this 2 year stint, I also delivered a project in Wellington, which is still one of my favourite projects to date. Building the Australian Memorial in the New Zealand National War Memorial Park was a project with a reach far greater than myself and the project team. The community involvement and impact on the end user was a rare and special opportunity.

In 2020, I moved across to Kane Constructions. Professionally, the last couple of years have been a huge challenge. We have been rebuilding a business and team in a pandemic. It has been a test of my grit levels and perseverance to work through some challenging times, but I’m committed to doing things differently. I’ve always taken the approach that we are one team (us and our subbies) and believe that every project should be delivered with that mindset. It should never be ‘them and us’. A successful project is one where we all enjoy the experience.

As an operations manager, broadly my role is people, projects and systems.

People, hiring, training, education and culture. Performance reviews and professional development are for paving the way for us to support and empower our people to be the best they can be and to go out and build incredible things.

I work with our project teams, making sure we are delivering all of our projects with high quality, safety and in accordance with our systems and targets.

The Healthy Tradie Project was born from a personal tragedy of losing my eldest brother to suicide. His passing has been my biggest life challenge, I feel the void in our family every day.

He was a carpenter and this happened in my first two weeks of working in construction. This was my first experience with suicide and to this day I cannot believe the statistics. Every second day a construction worker takes their own life. Whilst we are slowly breaking the stigma attached to suicide and mental health, many are still wearing a mask, portraying a completely different version of themselves to what is happening inside.

Healthy Tradie Project came about seven years later in 2016, once I had really immersed myself in the industry, understood the challenges, stresses, and environment. I started thinking about what helps me to survive and thrive in this environment and it came down to nutrition, movement and meditation. All three elements now form the basis of the project, the message we convey and the workshops we run.

There are many excellent crisis-point and counselling services out there. At the Healthy Tradie Project we play in the early intervention space by providing construction workers with tools to to ensure they don’t reach crisis point. We also aim to educate those on the early signs to look for in suicide awareness and how to help ourselves and those around us.

The organic growth of the Healthy Tradie Project is what makes it great, it’s not just the business who is contacting us now, it’s the individuals who are wanting more of this. They feel the benefits.

There are those within the industry that will never change, those with macho mentalities will always exist, but our aim is for those individuals to not impact the ones around them who are ready for change. If we talk to thirty guys and one leaves ready to implement change, we have done our job. If we have planted a seed for the others, given them a toolkit to pull from at some time in the future, I’m happy. We all need to do something to create better environments, regardless of the resistance. Turning a negative experience into a positive ripple effect in Dales’ name, this legacy is my favourite and proudest achievement in my life.

The pandemic? The impact on mental health has been huge and the uptake on services to assist has been significant. Job security is a major concern for a lot of tradies, in many cases they are the main breadwinner, and their body and mind are their livelihood.

While small, the networks of women in construction are incredible. My experience has been holistically positive surrounded by amazing women.

Advice to my younger self? If you get a chance, always take it! Whether it is a huge life event or spending time with family. Never miss the chance to tell them that you love them. Start a gratitude journal, it’s the simple things of life that can bring you out of the darkness. Celebrating the roof over your head, or the magic light of the sunlight, gratitude helps you to feel more grounded.

Our parents always used to tell us ‘if you don’t eat all your dinner, you can’t have any dessert.’ I heard my brother say it to his children the other day, it’s an excellent circle of life. If I reflect on that now, perhaps my folks were teaching me that if you show grit and perseverance, good things will come!

 

 

Pip was recommended to us by Jo Farrell. They work closely together at Kane and are legends in their own right. We love their competitive nature around who has won the most awards or had the greater positive impact in industry. The Healthy Tradie Project is one of those brilliant, culture changing initiatives making a real positive impact in the industry. We thank Pip for interviewing with us and wish her the best for the close out of 2022. R & D x

One thought on “Pip Seldon / Operations Manager / Kane Constructions

Zam   July 29, 2022 at 8:21 am

Loved this!