Sophie Timms is corporate affairs director at Kier. Here, she tells us about her career journey so far, and why more people should consider a career in construction.
“I joined Kier in October 2020 and became corporate affairs director and a member of the executive committee in May 2021.
My background is in communications and public affairs and before joining Kier, I worked in the financial services sector, most recently at Zurich Insurance where I worked for over 20 years, and before that I worked for the Federation of Small Businesses, a trade body representing SMEs across all sectors.
After spending so long in one sector, I was keen to spread my wings. As my father had worked in construction, I’d always been interested in the industry and I was particularly interested in Kier due to its focus on government and public sector clients.
My role means I can use my public affairs and public policy experience to its full extent. I am also responsible for internal and external communications and supporting strategy development which means I get to talk a lot about the great and iconic projects Kier is delivering. I also oversee our social media strategy; I’m a big fan of social media and how it connects people and allows brands to bring themselves to life, all of which helps us to show clients, customers and other stakeholders what Kier stands for. We’re not just another construction company; we are involved in so many different projects and initiatives and I’m particularly proud of our support for apprentices, prison leavers and ex-service personnel.
My role is very much split between handling daily and weekly news and political cycles and building a long-term approach to policy, trends and positioning. I have always been interested in politics and current affairs and while there is no such thing as a typical day, my job means staying on the pulse is what I do all day every day (and makes me a pretty good secret weapon in pub quizzes!).
Another one of my passions is diversity and inclusion (D&I). I’ve been involved in D&I efforts throughout my career. I have seen a lot of progress but there is still have a long way to go, as we, sadly saw in the aftermath of the European football championships. But companies are really making this part of their strategic focus and I am proud to be part of Kier’s drive to create a more inclusive workplace.
As well as sitting on the Kier Inclusion Network, I am also the executive sponsor of our Ability Network and last week I visited Nordis a signage firm and part of the Kier Group that mainly makes road signs. What is different about Nordis, though, is that the majority of its workforce has a mental or physical disability but the team very much has an ethos of focusing on what people can do and not on what they can’t and it’s a fantastic team. I’m also part of the construction and property industry Mentoring Circle, a cross-sector mentoring scheme that connects senior females with younger counterparts in other parts of the industry.
I find people fascinating and relationship building is the biggest part of my role, as I look after multiple stakeholders and make sure Kier is engaging and visible with them, whether they be employees, our vast supply chain, the communities we work in, or journalists and policymakers.
I joined Kier during the first UK lockdown so spent my early months meeting people mainly on Teams. Now that things are beginning to get back to normal, I’m enjoying meeting people in person and the best bit of all is visiting project sites up and down the country. With investment in infrastructure a key priority to help the UK recover from COVID-19, it’s an exciting time to be part of Kier.
Construction isn’t always the first destination that young people or those looking to change roles think of, but it’s an industry that underpins so much of the economy and society – providing homes, schools, hospitals and roads that are a key part of our daily lives. It’s also an industry that is looking to build that infrastructure in a way that positively impacts future generations – making sure it is inclusive, providing jobs and skills and ensuring that we tackle climate change.
Because we work across so many diverse projects, there really is a role for everyone in construction, regardless of where they want to take their career.”