Guess what? My career break to have children didn’t make me lose my skills.

By Eva Mills, Director, Building Performance Engineering

Returning to the engineering construction industry after a long career break to start a family provoked mixed emotions for me of trepidation and excitement.

Finding the right opportunity wasn’t straight forward. I was unsure how things would play out after so long out of engineering consultancy. However, it’s worked out fine. In fact, better than fine! With Hydrock I’ve felt valued for being me. Yes, it’s taken some effort to pick up the technical knowledge ‘gaps’, and there have been a few: BIM, REVIT, GSL and BG6 come to mind. But, time flies and I’ve now been working at Hydrock for two years and I’ve realised that my career break to have children didn’t make me lose my skills.

A different conversation

Earlier in my career it was a constant battle trying to fit-in and make a mark in a male-dominated industry. Our industry will continue to be male-dominated for a long time to come. However, I’ve been increasingly encouraged, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, to ‘Lean In’ and share my views and I’m starting to feel positive for the industry as a whole that more is being done to enhance our people culture and the emphasis on work-family balance.

As I sought to ‘return’, the conversation I had with Henry Easterbrook, Director of Building Performance Engineering (BPE) at Hydrock was so different from my conversations with other prospective employers. Henry recognised my experience and was keen to draw upon my business management and international project delivery experience to complement the skills of his existing senior team. It was good to be heard.

Brushing down established skills

The fast-paced delivery for Dyson at Hullavington Airfield is the highlight of my work to date as a ‘returner’. It’s been great to be back in a collaborative team environment where everyone pulls together to solve problems. I’ve led a team of both experienced engineers, and early-career professionals, experiencing this exceptional pace of delivery for the first time. I’ve recognised that my ability to appreciate what motivates people, understand how they are wired, and establish what really matters for people has never gone away.

One piece of advice for ‘returners’

The one piece of advice I’d give to others preparing to ‘return’ is to remember all the things you could do before and trust in yourself that you can do them again. Don’t over think it. The more you seek reassurance, the more you build up pressure and create self-doubt. You achieved a certain level of skill before, so there’s no reason why those skills have disappeared.

Hydrock is the first company where I haven’t pushed myself to fit-in. In fact it is quite the opposite, they have welcomed me for bringing my established skills to a different situation to offer a new perspective. I am proud to have returned and to be able to make Hydrock’s culture even more inclusive.

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A version of this article was first published by Construction News on 29th October 2018.