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Emma Williams: Building structures, breaking barriers

Emma Williams: Building structures, breaking barriers

In conversations with Emma Williams about her career in the construction industry, one can’t help but be captivated by her profound passion for the field.

When Williams was studying at university, little did she anticipate that a seemingly straightforward request to draw a window would set in motion her journey towards a thriving career in construction. At the time, pursuing a degree in product design engineering – a blend of mechanical engineering and industrial design – she envisioned herself entering a design role within the manufacturing sector.

However, fate had other plans when a friend of a friend, Dan from Horizon Building Group, sought her artistic skills for a window project. Given her love for drawing, a significant aspect of her academic studies, she gladly accepted the task. What began as a favour of drawing a window, quickly evolved into a significant window of opportunity.

Williams began working regularly with Horizon Building Group, eventually taking a year off from university to work full time with the company as a project coordinator.

“I contributed to multiple projects within the company’s portfolio, helping to deliver high-end architectural and restoration renovations throughout Melbourne,” says Williams. “Dan entrusted me with a wide range of responsibilities, letting me have a go at anything and everything.”

“He provided me with the autonomy to tackle any task and, with his support, allowed me to navigate and resolve challenges independently.”

During this experience, Williams unearthed a genuine interest in the construction industry, prompting her to seek her next opportunity. After a brief stint with commercial fitout company Leeda Projects, she accepted a role at Multiplex.

Williams embarked on her Multiplex journey initially through a work experience opportunity. Her dedication and competence led to successive promotions, ascending from cadet to graduate, project coordinator, services coordinator, and ultimately to her current position as an assistant services manager.

Reflecting on her decision to continue pursuing a career in the industry, Williams emphasises the “three P’s” – the people, the projects and the problem-solving – as significant influences.

“The construction industry is replete with diversity in terms of various projects, learning opportunities and individuals,” she explains. “I am particularly drawn to the services area within the construction industry as it involves a collaborative effort of diverse individuals working towards a common goal, and projects spanning various sectors.”

“These dynamic aspects strongly align with my passion for problem-solving, my enthusiasm for continuous learning and my desire to work with a large, cohesive and talented team.”

For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the services field, Williams offers a unique analogy. She likens structures to the bones in a human body, and services to internal components that enable proper functioning, such as the heart, brain and lungs.

“Much like our internal organs enable us to function, services encompass all of the things that make a building operate correctly and safely,” she explains. “This includes electrical works; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; security and alarm systems; escalators and lifts; and fire safety systems.”

Working in this field is multifaceted, with services delivery spanning from the initial design phase of a build to its commissioning and handover. Williams’ role involves collaborating with consultants, architects and engineers during the early stages of a project, progressing to designing the services for a building. This entails creating schematics, determining requirements and reviewing specifications.

Williams emphasises the significant coordination involved in her role, bringing all the services of a project together, identifying their interactions and ensuring they operate effectively. She also highlights the complexity of interfacing, a critical aspect in achieving the seamless operation of diverse components.

“Once all the services are installed in the building, we meticulously ensure their optimal functionality during the commissioning phase,” says Williams. “We conduct thorough tests to demonstrate to both consultants and clients that every service is operating according to specifications and meeting the project’s requirements.”

Since joining Multiplex, Williams has been involved in various major projects. Notably, she worked on the $1 billion mixed-use M-City development in Victoria, involving the construction of three residential towers, an international hotel and an office tower. Williams also worked on West Side Place Stage Two, the final phase of the $2 billion West Side Place precinct, and later contributed to Stage One.

While Williams boasts an impressive portfolio of achievements in the industry, her impact transcends the successful delivery of construction projects. She recently added another feather to her cap with the publication of her storybook, This Girl Built That.

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Emma Williams’ new storybook, This Girl Built That. (Image: Emma Williams)
Emma Williams’ new storybook, This Girl Built That. (Image: Emma Williams)

Williams initially ventured into book illustration a couple of years ago when Suzie Hollott, national marketing manager at Multiplex, wrote a storybook titled The Building of a Building for families at Multiplex. Williams was given the opportunity to create the illustrations, collaborating with the children of Multiplex. Motivated by this experience, the concept of This Girl Built That took shape – a storybook designed to inspire primary school-aged children, particularly girls, to explore the wide range of job opportunities available within the construction industry. Through the portrayal of a diverse and representative workforce, she aimed to impart the empowering ethos, “if you can see it, you can be it”.

Recognising the significance of her initiative, Williams received the National Association of Women in Construction’s (NAWIC) Bright Ideas Grant in 2022, providing funding for the publication of her book. “The idea was to inspire the next generation to consider a career in the construction industry,” says Williams. “Each page features a distinct female character engaged in diverse onsite roles.”

The illustrations showcase a variety of positions, including trades-based and office-based roles. From a scaffolder and crane operator to an engineer, project manager, mechanical commissioner and fire engineer, the characters represent a wide spectrum of construction professions.

“The intention was to highlight roles beyond the conventional ones associated with construction, such as carpenters, electricians or plumbers,” says Williams. “Instead, I chose lesser-known positions to expose young individuals to the extensive range of opportunities within the industry.”

As Williams continues to blend her love for illustrating with her passion for the construction industry, her Instagram page has gained a significant following. Through her art and story, she remains committed to inspiring the next generation to consider rewarding careers in construction, just like hers.

To purchase a copy of This Girl Built That, visit www.emmawallacedesigns.com.au

To check out Emma Williams’ construction illustrations, visit instagram.com/emmawallace.designs

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