Alicia Press is a Sales Administrator for Lagan Cement Products, and has been with Lagan Group for the last 3 years.
I was interested in talking with Alicia because she won the award for Back Office Person of the Year at Command Alkon's award ceremony at the 2017 Elevate customer conference. I reached out to her, and she graciously agreed to answer any questions that I had. We were unable to chat through Skype video or audio, so I sent her my questions and she answered them via email.
I really enjoyed speaking with her and learning a bit about her background and the role that she plays in our industry.
Karli: Can you tell me about your title and what you do on a daily basis?
Alicia: I am a Sales Administrator at Lagan Products based in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. I am mainly responsible for the admin of concrete and block as well as sand and bulk cement. We ship approximately 100,000 m3 of concrete out of four plants per year and 4.5 million blocks and I process all the invoicing and the logistics side of it too. Also I would be involved with continually improving our admin processes along with my manager and operations manager. We are always trying to think of ways we can be even better and use the Command Alkon system we have to do this.
Karli: Can I hear a little bit about your background and what led you to choose the construction industry as your career path?
Alicia: I have always grown up with knowledge of what the construction industry is like. My Dad has a family building contracting business so I have been around it all my life. After school I went on to university to do a degree in Geography and then a few years later I ended up in Lagans. I suppose I always knew I would end up in the construction industry in some form and it all ties in very well together especially working with concrete and also on the logistics side of my job as well. I love that I am doing something that I am personally interested in as my job.
Karli: What’s the biggest challenge of being a female professional in this industry?
Alicia: I feel that it is still a very much a male dominated industry as a whole but there is a lot of women now involved in particular in the admin and finance departments. One challenge I find is ensuring some of the men in the industry (especially those based out on sites) that women are capable of doing the same job they might expect a man to do. I find that some men can be surprised that personally I know what a concrete mix is and it is building that trust with them that I can do it just as well as they might.
Karli: How do you think the industry can help?
Alicia: I feel that not all men in the industry have the same perspective of women. For example, in the office in Lagan Products the men very much know how good of a job the women do as we work together day in day out, but maybe men who work out on building sites or in the plants who don't work with as many women on a daily basis have a different perspective. I would say educating everyone in the cycle of the business to show each other how everyone does their job is a way that can change perspectives. I personally have been out on site with the concrete drivers and in the plants with the plant managers and got to see what they do every day and tell them what I do every day. This way we can link how what we do impacts each other and get an understanding of each other’s roles. It also builds a relationship with them.
Karli: What do you believe are some of the values that women can bring to our industry?
Alicia: I suppose women can bring a completely different perspective to the industry. For years it has been mainly men dominated and they have mapped out how the industry has developed but with woman now being involved in all aspects of construction they have proved that there is no longer a need for a gender divide. We are also very good at multi-tasking which is always an advantage! Women tend to be good at communicating which is definitely beneficial in sales based roles in construction. They can build good relationships with customers and create more business with them.
Karli: How has this industry benefitted you and enhanced your professional and personal development?
Alicia: I came into this position just over 3 years ago and I have become so passionate about it. I love working with concrete and especially working on Command Alkon. Over the past few years we have worked really hard to make the system work in the best way possible to suit our business and I think it has been a success. I even won the Back office of the year 2017 in the Best of Command Alkon awards which makes all the hard work worthwhile and boosts your confidence. It also makes you want to be better for the next year and continue to improve.
Karli: Who are your role models?
Alicia: I don’t necessarily have a role model but I just aspire to be a hard working person and I respect anyone else that is. I believe that if you work hard you will get somewhere in life. This has been built into me by my parents.
Karli: Any advice that you would give a young woman who is considering the industry?
Alicia: It's a great industry to be involved in and a lot of hard work. It is full of passionate people so if you’re that type of person that likes a challenge then go for it! There is plenty of room for women in construction in every department and the industry could use some new ideas.