Katie Kelleher – How she got to the top!

If you’re considering a career in construction, then this blog post is for you. Professional crane operator Katie Kelleher is breaking down the stigmas associated with women in construction, operating the UK’s largest cranes. She has also been named in the Women Engineering Society Top 50 Women in Engineering 2018 and also by Construction News as one of 15 people to watch in construction in 2019! In this post, she tells us how she got to the top!

“Just over 4 years ago I was working in the recruitment industry feeling so unhappy with life in general, I was desperate to make a change but for years had felt stuck, unable to move out of sales. I had sold phones, advertising space, cars, people but always in sales and every time I left a job looking for something new I felt held back by my previous experience feeling like the only positions open to me were in sales. Despite not having any prior experience I decided to send my CV out to some construction companies to see if they might have an opportunity for me, and that’s when Laing O’Rourke called me up one evening asking if I would be interested in becoming a crane operator! It was something that I had never considered but decided to go to the interview and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”


“I started on a Lifting Technician apprenticeship with Select Plan Hire & Laign o Roukerien before attending CITB college in Bircham Newton where I learned to operate Crawler Cranes, Mobile Cranes, Tower Cranes, Pedestrian Operated Cranes, Slinging & Signaling and Traffic Marshalling, skills and tickets. I never in a million years imagined I could learn and do all of these things! I then headed out onto my first site: Tottenham Court Road Crossrail.”

She tells us about her first day, “Walking onto the site for the first time was difficult and there were a lot of stares. When looking at the statistics of women in the construction industry it’s clear to see that women make up a small minority with only 13% working in the industry. 10% of those are engineers and only a very small 2% work in the manual area. I wanted to be a really good operator but I had a constant fear of not being good enough.”


“One of my key motivators is life itself, I want to make a better life for myself and this encourages me to work hard, I want to keep trying to make a change in the industry by making it more inclusive which is why I think #YesSheCan is so important, for years when I was growing up, nobody told me that as a woman I could work in construction and I definitely didn’t think they could operate cranes! It’s so important to show women that they can be anything they want to be and often the only limitations are our own imaginations. Along with #YesSheCan I want to show everyone exactly what strong women like us can do! I was recently operating a crane on a barge in the middle of the river Thames working on the tideway project!”


What is it like being a female on a site? “In my role, we are a small elite team of female crane operators and are a tight-knit bunch, we operate huge bits of machinery, lifting massive loads around and its one of the most important jobs on the site- nothing gets moved without you there!”


We asked Katie her advice to girls who are thinking about changing their careers, “I understand how hard it is to change your life around, I’ve managed to do that for myself so I want to encourage others to do the same. Taking your first steps into the unknown can be very daunting but it can also change your life! It’s also important to remember that it’s never too late to change your career and my advice to young girls would be to say YES to opportunities that come your way, you never know where they may lead, believe in yourself and don’t be afraid of change, if you want to pursue a career in the construction industry, go for it, construction is for everyone.”


Katie Kelleher is living proof that there are no boundaries for women! Even if you feel stuck in your career – you can push yourself to achieve anything.


As well as Katie, we have many inspiring women who are also bringing us amazing content. You can find more here, also check out our jobs here.


Connect with Katie:


Twitter @katie_cranes

Linkedin: Katie Kelleher

Instagram: @katie_cranes

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