Ainsley Middleton Contract Manager / Kane Constructions  / 
Early Mornings in Jeans

story / Interview / October 30, 2017

Out of High School I went into RMIT Applied Design. Moving from small town to RMIT was a big leap. If I’m honest the talent wasn’t there. I wasn’t going to be commercially viable as a designer. I also hated working on things that didn’t have an end product. I wanted to see something finished and working. At the end of the year I actively sought a new path and found I could cut a deal with RMIT and get some work experience then starting Construction Management the following year.

At University, I put my resume out there and said I wanted to work, rather than slack around the summer of second year working in my supermarket job. I landed a gig with Cockram. They put me on a project in Clayton, the Monash Health Research Precinct.  I was there as a cadet. I continued to work with them until after graduation.  Working on site early was brilliant exposure. I still really appreciate the opportunity they gave me when I was greener-than-green.

I’m a Contracts Manager at Kane now. That just means I’m older than a Contracts Administrator!  The role is really diverse, which I enjoy.  From contract procurement, client liaison, financial control as well as the day to day running of the project- it’s all inclusive and never dull.

I had no idea what I was doing at first, but working for an organisation like Kane you are not cloistered into one area of the project.  You are expected to be across most aspects of the project and it gives you a great deal of latitude to explore and learn.

When I joined Kane their average project was fairly small scale and now it has grown into much larger projects.  It’s been a great time to be involved in an established company during a period of further growth and expansion.  My first job at Kane was the redevelopment of the Grand Hyatt Hotel which included months of demolition and structural remodelling followed by high end fit out.  Wedged between Louis Vuitton and Hermes while the hotel remained fully operational, it is still the most challenging job I’ve been involved in.

We had a tough programme and worked 24/7 for around 5 months crane lifting materials onto the job from Collins Street at 4am through an opening in the façade.  Looking back at what we achieved there, I still feel a hum of pride and a cold chill walking through the Hotel entrance.  Since then I’ve done mental health facilities, tertiary buildings for VU and LTU, infrastructure upgrades and PC2 laboratory work.  Each job is always different and new.

I love that I can wear jeans to work! No really, I like the finality of handing something over.  Something tangible and real and purposeful.  Handover is literally, ‘Here’s your key, here’s your swipe card, call me if something breaks.’ I really like that. I have a romantic notion of when I’m old pointing to buildings I’ve had something to do with.

I like the simplicity of life on site. It’s either there or it’s not. And on a personal level, I like that there’s not a lot of pretense on the job.  We are there to work together. I’m here to help you, but we are all interdependent and pushing for the same end goal. You can find yourself having a ‘heated discussion’ and five minutes later all is forgotten and you are chatting about your plans for the weekend.

The first person that raised the ‘chick issue’ was my father. When I went home and said I was starting a new course he said ‘Why are you not doing this design thing that you do? I own every texta in Melbourne, why would you not continue with that?’ When I explained I wanted to go into Construction he was genuinely worried that I would undertake a 4 year course and wouldn’t find work at the end.  For his generation I’m sure that was most likely the case and a very real concern.  While I knew I would be in the minority I was confident there would be a job for me.  In a nice round about my Dad, a truck driver, worked on the bulk excavation at the Grand Hyatt when it was first built.

Vanessa Goulding made a good point; you can be equally loved and loathed. Half the blokes on site will love you and half of them will hate your guts at different times. Sometimes in the same day.  That makes you develop a pretty thick skin.  Site is sometimes a world away from the corporate office environment some of my friends work in.  That is, I think, one of its charms.  The people you work with onsite become your family for a time and you can find yourself wanting to look after them and they you.

My mother always told me ‘Do what makes you happy.’ She was always a huge supporter of me and my older sister in anything we wanted to do.  We both work in traditionally male dominated industries.  My sister is in Sport and me in Building and I think my Mum is quietly stoked by that.  I’ve always had women around me that worked.  My Grandmother always had a job and later in her working life volunteered.  My mum always had a full time job, ran two kids, a house and a business at one point.  She used to get up with my Dad at 5:00am, see him off to work and then she would iron our clothes. I’d get up for school and be like ‘What are you doing?’ She’d say ‘When else am I going to iron?’ She’s that woman.  I hate ironing- avoid it at all costs- but I think the hard work bit might have rubbed off.


Ainsley is such a breathe of fresh air. We caught her in Richmond at a cute little wine bar. Where we waxed lyrical on our experiences in the construction game. Ainsley may have chosen an un-traditional path, but she has found her niche and has become a place to call her own in the Industry. What we love about Ainsley is that she is both highly considered in her approach and yet easy going and down to earth. We wish her all the best in her endeavours and we hope you enjoy reading about her life on site. Thanks Ainsley for your time and wishing you all the best, J & D!


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