MGAC Impacts: Kerry Ann on Empowering Young Women, Finding Fresh Air, and Desk LEGO
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 Kerry Ann, Associate at MGAC | RLF.
MGAC: Welcome to the Impact Blog, Kerry Ann!
Kerry Ann Ralston (KR): Hello! Thank you for having me.
MGAC: Let’s start off with what you do at MGAC | RLF.
KR: I’m an Associate in the Glasgow office, working in cost management. We help our clients achieve their goals, while managing the costs and minimizing the risks. Our work is very hands-on, as we’re involved in all stages of a project. Here in the Glasgow branch, our projects are mostly in Scotland, but span diverse sectors—commercial, educational, leisure, you name it!
MGAC: It’s nice to have something a little different on every project! How long have you been with the company, and what were you doing before joining?
KR: I have been here since 2008, so 13½ years now! I’m originally from a small village on the west coast of Ireland and had been working in Dublin for a smaller Quantity Surveying company for four years prior to coming on board. That was after completing university. In those early years, I had completed my chartership and some other professional goals of mine. So, I was at a stage where I was looking for a new experience!
MGAC: It certainly sounds like you’ve found a great fit then! Was this always something you saw yourself doing when you were younger?
KR: I have to admit, I didn’t even know what my job was in high school. I wanted to be an architect or accountant. Though, looking back, I’d say I met those two somewhere in the middle!
MGAC: It’s true! This line of work is the perfect fit.
KR: The difficulty is, when you’re younger and start choosing your career, you don’t even know what’s out there. You might only know of the careers you hear about on TV or, today, on social media. And that can be daunting when you’re 16 or 17 and not knowing what options exist. I try to do my part to educate young people about our industry. I’m a member of the Association of Women in Property. Right now, we are working on our school outreach program that informs young women, and young men as well, about opportunities in our industry. I think for young women especially, seeing a female in the industry is so important.
MGAC: It absolutely is. Can you share a bit about what’s keeping you busy at work right now?
KR: One of my key projects is a leisure center called the Helensburgh Waterfront Development. It’s over a year on-site now. Its location is quite interesting. It’s right on the water, so we had to make sure flooding wasn’t a risk. It’s a public facility with a swimming pool, state-of-the-art gym, café, and other recreational areas. It’s a fantastic building, and the location is really something you have to see to believe. You can do your “couch to 5K” while looking out on the water just below you!
MGAC: What a great asset for the community!
KR: It will be! I’m also working on a few National Health Services projects in various stages, from feasibility to construction on-site and a suite of maintenance and refurbishing projects for the University of Dundee as well. And lastly, a project framework for a local authority that’s delivering an early years nursery expansion program, a commitment to provide 1,140 hours funded early learning and nursery hours for young children aged three to five.
MGAC: Wow. That really is a great mix of projects across sectors. It must be fun to watch each of them evolve from start to finish.
KR: I love that about a project; we’re there from the very first day when the design team and client meet to the very end. Through all the key stages, from procurement to bringing the contractor on board to breaking ground on site to completion and handover. And no two projects or days are ever the same, even if you have a repeat client or repeat design team. The project itself has its own face and comes with unique challenges. It’s ever-changing. That’s part of what draws me to it. It’s always something new.
MGAC: And when you think about all your role in these unique projects, all you’ve been able to accomplish in your career to-date, what impact do you ultimately hope to have here?
KR: I would like to be known as a team player, and as someone who gave every project my all. Teamwork is so key to what we do, not only within our own organization, but also with the design team, the contractor, all the project team members you work so closely with. We need to all click and be on the same page in order to give the client the end result they are looking for.
MGAC: You’re right; it’s such a crucial element of this work. When you think about your time on all these projects, working with diverse teams, what challenges have you been faced with?
KR: My life dictates that I have to be able to manage time between my work and my family—which includes my husband, two young kids, and a puppy! So, the biggest challenge for me is typically time management. I’ve developed a few best practices to assist with that. But it also helps that I’m part of a company that is so supportive of its employees. We aren’t just numbers on a chair; we know they care about our progression and overall well-being. I feel empowered to have a family and progress my career simultaneously—I’ve never had to choose. That reassurance has helped me be better at what I do every day on the job.
MGAC: Yes! That makes such a difference. You mentioned you’ve developed some best practices for keeping your time and schedule on track. What’s that look like for you?
KR: For me, to-do lists are key. I check mine first thing in the morning and update it before I’m finished with work for the day. It’s one of those simple things that can make all the difference, because it helps me determine what needs to be done immediately, and what can be tackled later in the day. It’s like setting very specific deadlines for myself, which always helps me work more effectively.
MGAC: How do you hope your work will impact your community at large?
KR: We’re fortunate to work across a range of sectors, each with its own way of impacting our community. In education, you have the satisfaction of seeing the buildings give students the best educational experience possible. In healthcare, it’s having the most state-of-the-art facilities for people when they need them. Our leisure projects give the public a place to go for recreation.
MGAC: That’s a cool way to look at it! And through this, over time, you are also able to meet the changing needs of the world around you.
KR: Exactly. We’re constantly adapting and evolving as we work within the context of the times to focus on the key needs of the community. For example, at this moment there is such a major focus on sustainability. So, our team is discussing, “How can we best deliver a sustainable outcome, while also meeting the client’s needs and funding?” Because, of course, these things usually cost a lot more, and we need to consider that. It’s all about achieving that balance.
MGAC: Great point. What at MGAC | RLF has made an impact on you?
KR: Definitely the visions and values. The fundamental focus is on client satisfaction, the client journey. When you see that installed as a core company focus, it automatically becomes your focus too. That’s driven me to ensure the client’s journey is always as smooth as possible, no matter what. To seamlessly adapt as the project adapts. To overcome the hurdles that inevitably will come up.
MGAC: What have you found most rewarding about your job?
KR: I’d again go back to the fact that we are able to be present for a client’s whole journey. It’s nice to sit down for the first meeting and hear the project concept and what they want to achieve, and then to be integral in the process of making that a reality. No matter the project, the journey, for me, is always the most rewarding.
MGAC: What gives you energy?
KR: The team. I think it’s such an important aspect of any company or any job. We’re so fortunate to have a great team here. We all get involved and help out. And seeing someone else give a project their all drives and motivates you to do the same.
MGAC: It really does. So, at the end of a long day, after navigating diverse projects and teams, what is your secret to winding down?
KR: Walking my dog, Bailey. He’s a 9-month old labradoodle—so he’s full of life! That’s my off-switch. No phone, no earphones. Just getting out for a walk to clear my head. Fresh air is important for keeping your mind clear.
MGAC: What about your secret to starting the morning off on the right foot?
KR: I make a tea and check my list, taking five minutes to prepare for the day ahead.
MGAC: Small rituals like that can make all the difference! What’s a book that has made a significant impact on your life?
KR: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. It’s a charming illustration of friendship and compassion, and not being afraid to ask for help. It helps me keep things in perspective when life gets hectic. I remind myself to take five minutes, and that it’s always okay to ask for help. And, ultimately, that everything is going to be okay,
MGAC: How about a favorite quote that inspires you?
KR: “When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
MGAC: That’s a great one, and so very true. You’ve talked a bit about how colleagues can influence and help each other at work. What do you want your lasting impact to be?
KR: It’s so important to me to give back to the younger generations coming into this industry. I’m currently mentoring a system Quantity Surveyor who is completing her university. It’s great to see her progressing and to see her confidence growing. I want to give the younger generation the best start possible, because when I was coming out of university, I was fortunate to have a mentor who helped me. We can all be so busy and get wrapped up in our own work, but when you’ve been given the opportunity, I think it’s important to give it back. It’s really all about giving them the time.
MGAC: That’s wonderful. Okay, now we’ve got a few rapid-fire questions for you to answer. Are you ready?
MGAC: Describe your job in 5 words or less.
KR: Helping clients achieve their goals.
MGAC: What’s the last thing you do to wrap your workday?
KR: Switch off the computer, clear my desk, and update my to-do list.
MGAC: The perfect way to set up the next day! What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your desk or work bag?
KR: Probably something like a toy dinosaur or LEGO figurine!
MGAC: What’s your go-to lunch?
KR: A homemade soup or salad.
MGAC: What’s the most used app on your phone?
KR: Probably WhatsApp or Instagram. I quite like Instagram for researching new recipes and design ideas, in particular.
MGAC: How handy! What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
KR: Funny, I’ve worked with the same people for thirteen years—I think we might just know everything about each other! But maybe just how much I love the outdoors. It could be climbing or going back to my home place in Ireland and getting on a wetsuit to go surfing or paddle boarding.
MGAC: Very cool. What’s your biggest work goal for 2022?
KR: I think my biggest goal for this year alone is simply getting back in the office and back on track. And in a more ongoing sense, to continue to progress and develop my career.
MGAC: On that note, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
KR: I think in five years, I hope I’m carrying out my work, while also progressing up the management line. It will also be interesting to see what changes we see in five years, in terms of industry drivers and how we achieve sustainability net-zero—and other goals that might not even be on our radar yet!