The Impact Blog is a spotlight series that highlights and celebrates the diverse employees that make MGAC tick. Beyond their day-to-day schedules, we want to know how they have a greater impact on their colleagues, their company, and the communities in which they live and work. We want to know what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what led them to their current role, and what they hope their lasting impact will be.
Today, we get to know Harleen Lyall, Project Manager at MGAC.
MGAC: Hello and welcome to the Impact Blog, Harleen!
Harleen Lyall (HL): Thank you! It’s lovely to be here!
MGAC: What is your role here at MGAC?
HL: I’m a project manager based in the London office. I manage an array of projects: office, retail, residential, and retirement properties. Some are in the early stages; we are deep in local planning for some exciting work that I can’t wait to see come to life. We’ve also got projects in their final stages where I’m focused on housekeeping to put everything in order to close-out. The work is in different locations, so there’s stuff going on all the time!
MGAC: Sounds like it! And how long have you been with the firm?
HL: Coming up on seven months! I started in April of this year.
MGAC: How have you been settling in?
HL: Really well! The people are lovely, which is so helpful. It’s a relaxed environment and everyone is always happy to help. That makes the ease of transitioning into a new company much easier and more fluid. It’s all going well so far!
MGAC: Glad to hear it! What led you to this role?
HL: I was at another consultancy, smaller than MGAC. It was similar, but focused primarily on office fit-outs. I was seeking change, and a recruiter thought MGAC would be a great fit for my personality and what I was looking for in terms of progression in my career. I interviewed here, and right away I could tell the recruiter was right! Coming to MGAC meant I could expand my work to new builds and really understand construction technology and all the internal structural elements of it. I’m building on previous experience, while encountering new experiences, which is quite cool.
MGAC: Sounds like a perfect fit! You mentioned you came from a similar role before MGAC. Did you always see yourself ending up in this industry?
HL: How did I end up here? Well, I loved science from an early age and wanted to do something related to medicine and perhaps work as a doctor, dentist, or pharmacist. Then I realised the continuous need to study would have been a reality for the rest of my life… and that made me change my mind. I’ve always loved design, and kind of fell into this industry through that. I’m quite an organised person, a type A personality, so project management was the right fit!
MGAC: Seems like it! Speaking of this role, what does a great day on the job look like for you?
HL: Wednesdays, because we have team breakfast. It’s a core day, so everyone comes into the office. It’s so good to see everyone, especially the members of other teams you don’t speak to as often when working from home. We all enjoy breakfast, have a quick catch-up, and crack on with our days! I’m a social person—I love a chat—so it’s something I really look forward to.
MGAC: Who doesn’t love a team breakfast? On the flip side, what kind of challenges have you encountered so far with your work?
HL: As a project manager, it’s my job to oversee all ongoings of a project—and there can be many moving parts to stay on top of. It can be challenging to maintain momentum and keep all the plates spinning while also managing expectations. Being successful ultimately comes down to communication, whether you are guiding a client or getting relevant parties together to come to a resolution. Communication is imperative in project management and facilitating progress. You can go back and forth on emails for days, but often I find that simply putting a meeting on your diary, even for half an hour, can be all you need to hash everything out. A quick chat and direct communication often solve so many of the challenges we see.
MGAC: That’s so true. Now that you’ve found your footing in the company, what impact do you hope to have here at MGAC?
HL: I’m passionate about female representation in a male-dominated industry. I feel so proud when I see a woman breaking barriers in a line of work you wouldn’t expect her to be in or that wasn’t ‘made’ for her. While a lot of change still needs to happen in our industry, it only takes one person to inspire another, so maybe I could be that to somebody else! The more we see that, the whole scope of diversity represented, the more we will see women ultimately reach senior management positions. I think playing a role in that is the impact I would like to make.
MGAC: That’s excellent. What do you find most rewarding about your work?
HL: Being part of and having my stamp on something that may still be here long after I’m gone. Not to be soppy, but thinking about being long-gone from this Earth and having something you worked on remain is really powerful!
MGAC: What at MGAC has made an impact on you?
HL: So many companies say they are a people’s company, and in reality, they’re not. But MGAC truly is, through and through. There are a lot of opportunities. There is a lot of encouragement. There is a great balance of support for progression in your career while still leaving autonomy. The company has the confidence in the people they’ve employed to just crack on, but should you need support, you know you can put your hand up and you’ll get it.
MGAC: That’s great. What gives you energy to keep up with all of your projects?
HL: I’m really big on my morning and evening routines.
MGAC: Tell us more!
HL: The night before I go into the office the weather is checked, my outfit is in order and my bag is ready. For an hour before I go to sleep, I’m not on my phone and I try to detach from everything, just really unwind. It’s my turn down routine. Come the next morning, I feel the way you start your day really sets the tone for the rest of it. For me, it’s again no phone, calming music, and a glass of hot water while I get ready. At work, I know it’s going to be a busy day with a lot going on, so the mornings are my moment of peace.
MGAC: Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?
HL: “A person who knows what they bring to the table is not afraid to eat alone.” For me, it means if someone is confident in their abilities, they don’t need to rely on anyone to make it through life or any situation—and don’t need to settle in any circumstances.
MGAC: That’s a great one. Now, are you ready for some rapid-fire questions?
HL: I hope so!
MGAC: You’re starting your workday. What’s the first thing you do?
HL: Say good morning to everyone!
MGAC: And the last thing?
HL: Check my calendar.
MGAC: What is the most interesting thing we might find in your desk or work bag right now?
HL: I have this red velvet pouch that goes with me everywhere. It has everything anyone could need: lipstick, safety pins, a sewing kit, pens and pencils, hydration packets, painkillers, an inhaler, perfume, antiseptic cream, contact lens solution, and more. It’s my ultimate survival kit- I tell people, “If anyone needs anything, hit me up!”
MGAC: What can’t you get through the workday without?
HL: Coffee—and my red velvet pouch!
MGAC: What’s your go-to workday lunch?
HL: Either Marks and Spencer or Pret. I’m a salad girl.
MGAC: What’s the most-used app on your phone?
MGAC: Describe your job in five words or less.
HL: Plate-spinning. Organisation. Problem-solving. Communication.
MGAC: What’s your 2023 work goal?
HL: To progress with my APC (Assessment of Professional Competence).
MGAC: What’s a new industry trend that you’re excited about?
HL: The drive toward sustainability. Upcycling and recycling, reducing the carbon footprint, and steering away from landfills. I am happy to see this concentration on sustainability because the construction industry is in a unique position to make a positive impact.
MGAC: You’re managing your dream project. What is it?
HL: A high-end fashion house headquarters abroad, in Paris or New York. I love fashion, and I love those cities!
MGAC: What are you known for in the office?
HL: My office chats and perhaps, on occasion, my sass!
MGAC: What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
HL: That I’m an avid gardener. I find it so therapeutic, and flowers are just beautiful, aren’t they?
MGAC: Where would we find you if you’re not at work?
HL: The garden! Or reading an article whether its Vogue or reading about someone’s home in Architectural Digest, or exploring Pinterest to update myself on the latest trends.