January 20, 2022

An Interview with Dipalee Jukes

Saint Ambassador spotlight interview – Dipalee Jukes, Ground & Water

Saint Spotlight Part 1 - Your Organisation – Ground & Water

Tell us a little bit about the history of your organisation

Ground and Water was founded by me and my university friend Francis Williams in 2009. We are now in our 13th year of business, with a team of 26!

Francis and I worked together at another geotechnical firm after finishing university. Over time, we came to realise that we wanted to create our own community where people were nurtured, developed, supported and encouraged alongside producing excellent quality work.

I was heading into my late twenties and personally wanted to have a career that could work around having a family and I didn't see that happening working for someone else at the time. We decided that we had to become the change we wanted to see, so we started Ground & Water.

How does your organisation help the construction industry?

I feel Ground & Water are helping the construction industry by constantly working on ourselves and the services we provide. We are an organisation that wants to evolve and improve upon our processes, systems and outcomes.

Our team are passionate about being more sustainable and so it’s high on our agenda to turn thoughts into action. We are working on ways to provide more sustainable solutions for our clients in terms of foundation solutions and remediation, as well as starting to carry out our SI work more sustainably, by way of reducing plastic consumption, trialling the use of electric diggers, and we have a plan to change our vehicle fleet to electric over the next few years.

We want to create an inspiring and ultimately a great place to work, where people love what they do every day. We want a high-performance culture that also has the balance of will, reward and adventure for our team. I would love to see more women engineers coming on board.

How does your role within the organisation help the industry?

What’s great about being a female in my role as a leader within the construction and engineering sector is that I get to rip up the rule book on how things have been done before me. I am a huge advocate for female engineers and female leaders.

I have a platform and a voice to create more equality at work and remove the stigma around female issues that people just don't talk about in the workplace, e.g. periods, pregnancy, motherhood and menopause. These issues for women in our industry are made worse when you consider our work involves driving around quite a lot, going out on site, going onto construction sites.

Through my own experiences, I am creating a new culture at Ground & Water on how things should be done to ensure women are included in the decisions and that this industry is set up to allow women to work within it.

What are the most positive things about working in your organisation?

We have equality and diversity at the very top and this sets the tone and culture of the company. I am female and Indian. My co-founder Francis is male and white. Representation matters and we are showing our team and the wider community and industry that teams and leadership teams made up of diverse backgrounds work well together.

Employee voice is extremely important at Ground & Water, everyone matters, and each person has an opportunity to shape the future of the company.

Tell us about your first day at your organisation

I can’t honestly remember the details! Although it likely involved registering the company name on Companies House and making it official!

I do remember spending the first few weeks/months researching prospective leads and cold calling, all the while being completely petrified.

Saint Spotlight Part 2 - About You

How did you get into the construction industry?

I always enjoyed geography and loved learning about the world. A favourite pastime of mine was studying maps! I particularly enjoyed the physical geography aspects (e.g. volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics) and when I was 15, I remember watching the geological society's Christmas lectures, which naturally led me towards geology although I didn’t actually study the subject until University. Coming out of university, I struggled to work out what career path I wanted to take. I eventually found out that geotechnical and environmental engineering covered some of what I had learnt at university, as well as being very practical, dealing with problem solving and being creative.

What has the industry taught you?

I am stronger and more resilient that I thought I was. In almost 20 years of working in this industry, I haven’t come across another female Indian Geotechnical and Environmental Engineer apart from myself.

This industry isn’t just for men, women can thrive and prosper within construction, but it still has a long way to go with gender equality and diversity.

One of the biggest challenges I faced in the industry was being taken seriously as a woman, and a woman of colour. I still occasionally get correspondence addressed as Mr Jukes. Early on in my career, I once got told (by a woman) that I was too pretty to be an engineer. I was also unfortunately subject to racism once on site.

Did you have a mentor? What did you learn?

I have only recently had a mentor in the past 3.5 years. I have a business coach, who has massively helped me evolve into my leadership role. I have learnt the huge value in having a mentor and really wished I’d had one early on in my career when I was an engineer.

Through being mentored and coached, I have changed into a stronger, wiser and happier person. I have been encouraged, challenged and pushed way outside of my comfort zone and come out the other side stronger. I am eager to pass on my learnings and knowledge to those in my team and my wider community.

What three things would you tell your younger self?

  1. Be courageous in asking what you need and want. Push outside of your comfort zone! No one is going to fight your corner as much as you can.

  1. Start working on your self-awareness and personal development early on – understand your behaviours and what triggers them – what’s working for you and what’s not serving you well, what do you need to work on and change?

  1. More females tend to suffer with confidence issues, have a bigger lack of self belief and greater imposter syndrome. Face your fears, practice makes progress. Confidence is a skill you can learn. Keep flexing it like a muscle and it will get stronger.

What can you see for the future of the building industry?

I see mindsets shifting towards being more conscious about sustainability, both in how we can incorporate that within our own work and through our supply chains. I see a big shift towards building in a more mindful way which is less impactful to our environment. I also see a shift in the diversity of the work force within the building industry. We will hopefully have more women in decision making roles, helping shape all our futures in the built environment.

Dipalee Jukes
Ground and Water Limited
Ground and Water Limited

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