In our blog, Gender Pay Differentials, we discussed the hot topic of gender inequality. This week we are moving forward with the theme and have asked Debbie Edgar, CEO of the multi-million pound connections company DragonIS, to give our readers an insight into her climb to the top and the challenges she’s faced en route…
I set up Dragon Infrastructure Solutions with my brother, Simon Phipps, back in 2001. We saw a gap in the connections and construction industry and knew it was something we could fill. We’re now one of the UK’s leading independent connections providers, working with nearly all of the UK’s leading construction companies and developers. We have connected an array of major projects to the national grid including The Cube in Birmingham and the Royal Military Academy. Plus, we have also connected 20% of all UK’s ground mounted solar to date.
Like many, I have faced difficulties throughout my career, both as a female and as a sufferer of dyslexia, which I was diagnosed with at the age of 15. Dyslexia obviously presented me with challenges whilst growing up, most noticeably throughout my education, but I was determined not to let it hold me back. I became very strong-minded, always pushing myself that extra mile. Something that has always stuck in mind as an example of this was when one of my teachers told me I couldn’t get a degree. As you can imagine this was crushing to hear, but I picked myself up and went on to finish mine at the age of 20, simply because I just had to prove her wrong. It’s that kind of attitude, which I think my dyslexia actually fostered, that has set me in good stead.
In fact dyslexia has been a gift in other ways too. It has prompted me to recognise what I am good at and equally what my weaknesses are. For instance, although I may not be the most talented writer or the strongest reader, I have learnt that I often see things differently to others; I see things very visually so it makes it much easier for me to spot anomalies in say a design. As a result I use this to my advantage and play to my strengths. I am also not afraid to ask for help in areas that I am lacking, which is something I think everyone can learn from, it’s not a sign of weakness. In fact people are often more willing to help than you might first think! My experiences have taught me never to judge on first impressions; everyone has the same chance to impress me, no matter who they are.
In a way the challenges I faced growing up really helped me to cope and get ahead in the male-dominated world of construction. When Simon and I first started out people would assume I was his PA – How could a female be the managing director of a construction firm, right!? I didn’t let this bother me though, it just fuelled a determination in me to succeed and get my name recognised in the industry.. And I guess I did as 13 years on I’m the CEO of this fantastic organisation, with over 75 dedicated members of staff!
Whilst I might be respected in the industry, I am always keen to help drive the industry to change, so that more women feel able to successfully carve out a career in construction. This is not just out of political correctness, having a diverse workforce is something that every industry should strive to achieve, I therefore actively seek out and mentor this scarce female talent.
I am often asked what advice I give to young talent thinking about construction as a career. Well it rarely changes – I believe that having something tangible to work towards encourages you to push yourself further and harder than those without objectives, so it is important to set tough, but achievable five year goals. I also think it is so important that people aim for more than they think they can achieve, whilst ensuring other peoples lack of vision or negativity doesn’t stop you believing in yourself.
In our next blog we will be hearing from Roberta Jacobs, CEO & Board Member of Fanattac.
Download our Secrets of my Success guide to hear how 10 highly successful businesswomen and female entrepreneurs have got ahead.
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