Five women professionals who cut their teeth in construction in the Middle East reveal how they did it
Noreen Hollywood FCIOB
Executive Director, Hollywood Associates, Dubai
"I’ve reduced a £1m claim to zero on a public-funded project"
I first became interested in construction as a young girl when my father worked as a bricklayer and I desperately wanted to go on site with him. He was eager that I get an education and so I later graduated with a BSc (Hons) Building Surveying degree and developed a passion for the restoration and conservation of our built heritage.
I was encouraged to get commercial experience, leading me to a job as Contract Administration on the Crossrail project. This led to opportunities on other mega-projects, such as Qatar Rail and other infrastructure projects in the Middle East. Today, I am the Executive Director for Hollywood Associates, a contracts and claims management consultancy, previously seconded onto a major rail project in Abu Dhabi as the Procurement and Tender Manager.
I’ve reduced a £1m claim to zero on a public-funded project and I’ve been the "eagle eye" on a recent tender that, if left uncorrected, would have resulted in no tenderers on a $409m project.
I’ve negotiated and secured contracts for clients, proof-reading and re-writing a contract for a $35bn project.
Ariane Dens MCIOB
Associate Director, Mack Commercial Management & Contract Consultants, Dubai
"When I was first told I couldn’t be a project manager if I wasn’t an engineer, I laughed!"
My father’s entire career was Oil and Gas and I’ve only ever wanted to do the same. I was brought up being encouraged that if I worked hard, I could be and do anything. So, when I was first told I couldn’t be a project manager if I wasn’t an engineer, I laughed!
I started as a business graduate, rotating through various disciplines and soon I was helping deliver large and mega projects onshore and offshore.
I was introduced to the CIOB three years ago. Now I’m Chartered.
I’ve worked in various countries, the last 12 years in the Middle East. For me, learning comes in various forms – new projects, new clients, new countries, new cultures and, of course, the CIOB.
Sharing these experiences and mentoring people, helping to develop knowledgeable, professional and fully rounded individuals, the next generation of construction professionals, is by far my most satisfying role.
Jennifer Bradfield MCIOB
Senior Project Manager (Consultancy), Mace, Qatar & Dubai
"I love high-pressure environments"
I’m never one to shy away from a challenge and I have enjoyed what the construction industry has brought me.
My construction career began with FermEng as a site manager with renovations within Abbott Laboratories l factories in Ireland and I’ve spent the past decade gaining experience orchestrating the full lifecycle of construction ventures.
Having joined Mace in 2012, I have been exposed to some of the most amazing projects.
I recently relocated back to the UK after seven years in the Middle East where I’ve been able to work on several major international and national programmes.
I love high-pressure environments where I can apply advance leadership skills and get hands-on.
Already in my career portfolio is the Athletes Village for the London 2012 Olympics with Ardmore, Ashghal Programme Doha, Qatar and Expo2020 Dubai with Mace. It’s been a thrilling experience to work in multi-cultural, cross-functional teams committed to surpassing challenging objectives of projects and I want to continue that for many more years to come.
Lina Zureikat FCIOB
Claims & Dispute Resolution Manager, Construction Management Associates (CMA), Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
"I helped prepare an application for time extension and reimbursement of 1 billion Saudi riyal"
My background is originally in civil engineering and, before getting involved with dispute resolution, I worked as a structural designer for a leading regional consultant for six years.
Concerned by an increasingly insecure world, in 2010 I obtained a Master’s degree in structural design with a speciality in concrete structures to withstand terrorism and explosions.
I completed a Master’s degree in Construction Law and Arbitration from Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.
In nine years with Construction Management Associates (CMA), I’ve taken leading roles on mega and complex projects around the Middle East.
One was King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. The complexity of the airside infrastructure works and the interface between the apron services were enormous.
I helped prepare an application for time extension and reimbursement of loss and expense for the amount of 1 billion Saudi riyal, which required a very thorough and proficient analysis for the cause and effect of the delaying and disruptive events that took place during the course of the project. I am as much proud of the outcome as our client is.
I am proud of what I have accomplished so far but admit that this enthusiastic trip has been tremendously challenging in a male-dominated society and industry.
Saranga Gunawardane MCIOB
Lead Quantity Surveyor – Compliance and Quality Control, QServe Qatar, Doha
"I received the Gold Medal for highest overall grade point average for the quantity surveying degree programme"
In 2011, I completed a BSc (Hons) in Quantity Surveying from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka with a First Class, and received the Gold Medal for highest overall grade point average for the quantity surveying degree programme. I then spent two years on the academic staff at the university.
In 2013, I moved to Qatar and joined QServe Qatar. I completed my LLM in Construction Law and Arbitration with Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen in 2017.
I’ve been involved in a variety of building and infrastructure projects in pre-contract and post-contract stages. I find being able to work in different planning stages in construction so interesting, as it’s challenging to establish the project budget.
Being a woman has never been a barrier to me achieving my dreams but being part of the construction sector has given me more courage.
This is a condensed version of a more detailed account available on the website of the CIOB