Carolyne Ferguson is a senior stakeholder, customer and communications manager for Kier Highways and more recently, communities representative on our new contract for Highways England Area 4.

Here, Carolyne talks about her recent 2020 European Women in Construction & Engineering (WICE) award for ‘Best Woman in Business Development’ and shares a small insight into her passion for effective communication and what being a WICE winner means to her.

“‘Communication is key!’ How many times have we heard this? And why is effective communication one of the hardest things to achieve?

As children, we are taught to read and write, to put letters onto paper but not how to translate them through our words or body language. A friend of mine, who is a marriage counsellor, once said that if people learnt how to talk effectively to each other, she’d be out of a job!

I started my journey in customer service as a 14-year-old working Saturdays in my local shop. And even to that shy teenager, it soon became apparent that people just want to be heard, listened to and feel, just for a few moments, that what they have to say is interesting and significant. So, is communication knowing when to stop talking and just listen?

People fascinate me. It’s probably why I choose a career in retail, so I could truly examine them in all their glory. During my time working in retail, there were occasions where I was verbally and even physically abused by customers – simply because they did not know how to articulate their concerns and complaints to me. What did I do? I listened! So that we could start a meaningful conversation.

Now, I find myself working in a completely different industry and that’s down to transferable skills.

Working with so many talented, knowledgeable individuals who helped me develop professionally, I was able to transfer all the communications skills I had collected over the years and use them to, yes, you’ve guessed it, listen and then open effective dialogs with customers and stakeholders.

We must appreciate that sometimes we disrupt communities, and the working lives of our stakeholders and their customers. This can be a tricky conversation to have, but by having open, honest and transparent discussions, we can take them on a journey with us. They become receptive and interested. They can help us communicate important messages and feel that they are part of our teams.

On hearing that I had been chosen as the winner, I did a double take and then read the email again! What an honour to be even considered for this award in an industry alongside so many talented and amazing women.

My aim was always to put communication teams at the forefront within the construction industry. To raise the bar and show that your customer/comms teams are integral to schemes or projects. Your customers can take you from hero to zero with one phone call, email or social media post and the people who will be working to facilitate positive news and mitigate potentially adverse publicity, will be your communications team.

As a Kier ambassador, I will certainly be using this award to entice more females into construction and if you are in any doubt about applying to the WICE awards 2021, don’t be! Everyone has a story to tell and I implore you to tell yours.

Only through sharing the experiences we’ve had on our personal journeys, can we ensure that our future generations feel empowered and allowed to be the best people they can be.”