Q&A with Catherine Milburn: “How I combine record-breaking results at work with a young family”

After leaving school and joining Buildbase Catherine Milburn has been rising to new heights year on year.

At the tender age of 22 she was given the role of Branch Manager meaning that she is responsible for branch turnover and profitability, as well as overseeing 9 employees (many of whom are men older than her).

In our latest blog we quiz her on how she managed to lead her branch to its most successful year in the branch’s history, whats more is that she was able to do this while looking after a young family.

What barriers have you faced in your career?

The obvious barriers have been my gender, I entered my role as a branch manager not only as the only female in the Division but one of the youngest too. So I’ve always felt I’ve had to work even harder to prove my worth. That being said I’ve never let these factors hold me back.

What motivated you to keep going?

I have this internal motivator which just doesn’t allow failure, I think this must be from my father as he has always been the same. Being somewhat “different” to everyone else I felt I had a big point to prove when I started my role.

What do you think we need to do to break down barriers in the workplace?

The simple answer would be to employ more women in higher roles. The construction industry is changing but it is still miles behind where it needs to be. 10 years ago you never would have seen a 22 year old female managing a branch and it’s great that companies like Buildbase are putting more women into these roles, however, we still have a long way to go.

If you could change one thing about the working world what would it be?

When I announced I was pregnant with my son comments I received made me feel like I was giving up my career. I felt very isolated throughout my pregnancy. If I could change anything it would be that no woman should ever have to feel like I did.

Who are your inspirations?

I have to say our CEO Kate Tinsley has always been a big inspiration of mine, she is very humble and infectious. Her drive and determination is very inspiring.

“Be confident, don’t settle for anything less and believe you really can do anything!”

How did you get to the position you are now?

I have worked for Grafton for almost 9 years now, I started at the age of 17 as an Admin assistant for a division within the company and completed a management programme, shortly after I was offered a role as a Sales Development Manager. Within a few months I was keen to get back into the office environment and I applied for an Assistant Managers role with Buildbase. I was interviewed and offered the role of Branch Manager. This was a big step so took a lot of considering and the first few months were really tough but since I have never looked back.

Tell us a bit about your current role

I am responsible for the branch turnover and profitability. I currently manage 9 members of staff and oversee the running of one section. I manage my team’s performance and development and all health and safety within the branch.

What are your proudest achievements?

My proudest achievement so far is my son Noah. He is so much more than I ever expected. Becoming a branch manager at 22, I still sometimes can’t believe how young I was! 2018 was a huge achievement for me too. I returned to work from maternity on a flexible basis, the branch had a record year, we obtained a new lorry and employed another driver.

What’s great about being a female in your role?

I always smile when people are still surprised I am the manager. I love working in this environment. Construction is very open and honest and I love that. Customers and staff tend to say it as it is, which at first can take some getting used to but it works well for me.

Why is #YesSheCan important to you?

Yes she can is hugely important for breaking the barriers that I have experienced during my career. I think it’s a great source of information and inspiring people.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?

My future goal would be a Regional Role so this year I am taking on some additional duties to prepare me for this but right now I still have unfinished business with my branch.

How do you ensure that you’re an inspiring leader?

I am not afraid to get stuck in, whether that be climbing into a 26T Lorry or walking across a muddy building site. I wouldn’t expect them to carry out a job that I wouldn’t do myself. I am always honest and open with my team sometimes this can be hard because I have very high standards but I feel I have gained respect when it delivers results.

Catherine noted that one of her inspirations is Buildbase CEO Kate Tinsley, if you enjoyed Catherine’s you’ll be sure to enjoy hearing about how Kate achieved her role and continues to challenge herself to achieve more!


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