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Ten minutes with Lisa Cleary of Mitchell McDermott

Meet a senior project manager delivering complex, high-profile construction projects

Lisa Cleary of Mitchell McDermott

How did you get started in Project Management?

My path to be a project manager began in Sydney, where I moved to after I earned my degree in civil engineering. I started working as an engineer with a small construction company and, as the company grew, so did my role. I moved into a project management role which I enjoyed, and I pursued this path when I moved back to Ireland. On returning, I completed a diploma in project management, which helped further my career.

Why did you choose to work with Mitchell McDermott?

I like that Mitchell McDermott is a progressive construction consultancy with hands-on directors and senior management team. From the outset I was given opportunities to get involved in all the stages of a project and experience every aspect, from site inspections to meeting clients. I also like the emphasis on using data and ongoing analysis of industry trends to advise clients on upcoming projects. The diverse range of interesting projects across several sectors is also a major draw.


What are you working on at present?

I’m currently working on a commercial office remodel and fit-out for an international client, and a student accommodation project that’s due for completion in August, in time for the coming academic year, which will be exciting to finalise and hand over to new students. I’m also involved in project monitoring of Build-to-Rent schemes where our client has purchased or is looking to purchase a scheme. Our role is to ensure that the finished building is designed and delivered to contract requirements.

What is the best part of your job?

It’s really rewarding seeing a project through to completion and handing it over to satisfied clients. Getting good honest feedback from clients is also a bonus. I’m lucky to work with a friendly and dynamic team at Mitchell McDermott, and there are also lots of non-project-related activities and groups to get involved in, such as sports, CSR, Diversity & Inclusion and Wellbeing, and lots of varied talks, workshops and training modules throughout the year on relevant topics.

You don’t need to do everything at once. Take time to figure out what you’re good at and what it is you want to do, or where you want to be

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?

“You can’t pour from an empty cup!” – as important as it is to perform well at work, it’s even more important to switch off outside of work hours and do something that you enjoy (no matter how much you enjoy work!). Balance is key for happiness. With more people working from home these days, it’s easy for the lines to get blurred, so it’s good to have boundaries to make sure you switch off and make time for fun. This is something that Mitchell McDermott is very cognisant of - a big effort is made to emphasise maintaining a good work–life balance and enjoying the fun side of things too.

If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?

You don’t need to do everything at once. Take time to figure out what you’re good at and what it is you want to do, or where you want to be. Embrace opportunities to learn, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try out different things.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about interviewing for this position?

Do your research, both on the role and the company itself. Figure out if it’s a good fit for you and something you want to be doing. Chat to other people in similar roles, or within the company if you can, to get a feel for what the day-to-day role is like. Come prepared to the interview, have a list of any queries you have on the company and the role, and be yourself. It’s important to make sure you’ll be happy in the role before accepting.

What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?

In a project management role there are certain technical skills that are required, whether through a qualification in a construction-related field or on-the-job experience, but I think the most important skill is effective communication, building trust and relationships with colleagues, clients and project teams. Everyone on the team has different skills and comes from diverse backgrounds, so it’s important to communicate clearly.

You’re in the room or on the project for a reason, so don’t be afraid to give your opinion, but always listen to the opinions of others in return

What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?

You’re in the room or on the project for a reason, so don’t be afraid to give your opinion, but always listen to the opinions of others in return. No matter what stage of your career you are at, there’s always something new for you to learn. So don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If you were applying for a project management role today, how would you prepare?

The construction industry is always evolving. I’d make sure I was up to speed on anything new and emerging. There’s always innovative technology or new legislation coming out, like Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) or ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance); the recent changes to planning legislation in response to C-19; and the growing reliance of BIM (Building Information Modelling) in project design, so it’s important to make sure you keep your finger on the pulse.