Why diversity makes the AEC industry better and stronger, and why you need an open minded, energetic, Digital Construction Manager to make it happens
We talked with Francesca Lofiego about career, personal growth, roles and diversity (and about how important is to get up on a scaffolding). francesca is Digital Construction Manager at ISG and London Ragional Lead for WIB – Women in BIM.
Let’s talk about your current work at ISG. What are your responsabilities and how does it fit into the digital vision of your company?
After working for almost 3 years in an architectural firm, I moved on to the “dark side” (as they call it here in the UK), that is the construction world. After one year, I feel this as the environment where I want to develop my career. Here, Bim is supported by substantian investments in the use of new technologies. At the end of each project I always fell part of the team that succeeded to create the building step by step.
My current role, Digital Costruction Manager, well describes my different responsabilities: I take care of the implementation of BIM within ISG as well as any other kind of new technology. We test it, we apply it to selected projects and, if it works, we extend it to the whole company. In addition to research & development (R&D), I also work on specific projects by coordinating the pre-construction phase, I assist the team during construction, to then finish with the handover phase, making that the client receives all the informations and data required in the EIR (model, COBie, Asset register, etc. ).
“My mission is to implement BIM in the workflow of my collegues and to learn from them, so that we can have a mutual and constructive exchange”
Which project do you particularly care about and what themes interest you most at the moment?
The project I care most about is essentially linked to what ISG is also trying to implement. I believe that in the construction world, in 5/10 years, there shouldn’t be a specific BIM team, but the BIM processes will gradually have to be absorbed by the varius stakeholders as an additional task. That doesn’t mean extra work though! BIM techniques can simplify and streamline processes for all employees: Design Manager, Construction Manager, Commercial Manager ecc.
My mission is therefore to implement BIM in the workflows of my colleagues and to learn from them so that we can have a mutual and constructive exchange.
Moreover, driven by my curiosity and desire to learn, I am working on site alongside construction managers to learn from them and understand how to combine their knowledge with mine. Knowing different construction methods and rules helps and improves BIM coordination during the pre-construction phase. For example, knowing that certain pipes cannot be built at a minimum distance of 100mm from walls, allows me to check models and create a specific clash-test to verify that this will not happen. Coordinating everything before the construction phase allows a considerable time and cost cut for the construction site.
We really like your Job Title: Digital Construction Manager. We like the focus to be on digitalization and not on BIM. Can you tell us something more about it?
ISG recently re-branded the department. All the “BIM” roles have become “Digital” and in fact my role is now “Digital Construction Manager”. I was very happy with this change because the BIM Manager title was getting a little too tight compare to all the things we do. In fact, my team does not only deal with BIM (which is still one of our biggest tasks) but also with the implementation of all kind of technologies, from new platforms to new digital tools such as HoloLens.
ISG’s digital vision aims to make new technologies accessible to everyone and to ensure that everyone can implement them in their workflow (even the people who are most reluctant and only familiar with traditional methods).
“Today I live in London and I’m very happy with the choices I made. This country has taught me so much and still has so much to give me!“
You graduated in Italy, took a Master’s degree in the UK and started your career in the UK. Can you tell us about this experience?
It all started with a scholarship from the Lazio Region and the European Community. After my bachelor’s degree in architecture and the master’s degree in restoration (both at La Sapienza in Rome) I applied for and then won a scholarship called “Torno Subito” (I’ll be back soon). I left and, unfortunately or luckily, I never came back.
The Masters course in the UK was very interesting and helped me understanding how the AEC (Architecture Engineering Construction) world works in the UK. Thanks to the Masters it was quite easy to find a job in Bristol (where I studied). At that moment I realized how different the situation between Italy and the UK was. Within 2 weeks I had 2 permanent job offers and a rather competitive salary considering my first work experience. At that point, nothing was stopping me from signing those papers and staying in the UK. Today I live in London and I’m very happy with the choices I made. This country has taught me so much and still has so much to give me.
Everyone should have the possibility to live an experience abroad, it is formative from both professionally and and personally. After 5 years and a half I won’t deny that I miss Italy and that I often think of coming back, but unfortunately, I am very frightened by the rumors I hear. At the moment, Italian professionals often work long hours and don’t get paid enough. Building a career is not easy, it takes many years and often the remuneration is not adequate. However, I am sure this doesn’t happen everywhere, and I have great confidence in companies who want to make a change in Italy!
You, an Italian woman, are WIB Regional lead for London. What is Women In BIM, why is it important and what do you see from a London perspective?
With WIB, we found out that there are a lot of Italian girls around the world doing BIM and it’s very promising. However they don’t work in Italy (and I speak for myself too).
WIB is a company founded in Australia by two sisters (probably with Italian origins) 10 years ago. Today we have WIB delegations all over the world. Our aim is to invite and support more women in the AEC field and especially in the BIM field. Even today there is a great disparity between the number of women and men occupying BIM positions around the world. WIB wants to encourage young girls (or any other gender), to start this career.
It is sometimes true that creating a women’s group might seem non-inclusive, but we can’t pretend not to see the big elephant in the room. The problem is there, and WIB will exist until this gap is filled. All young men and boys in the world of BIM are absolutely welcome, in fact showing your support for the group is a very appreciated gesture!
As London Regional Lead I organise WIB events in London, write newsletters and attend monthly events and meetings. Supporting this community makes me happy, especially if I can help other women with the mentor scheme. In fact, every year WIB organises one-to-one support courses between Mentors and Mentees. Everyone can participate, it is the Mentor’s responsibility to follow the Mentee and to provide different kinds of help in their careers.
In London there is a big community, so we often get together for a beer or an event. Having the opportunity to discuss with other women and to share similar problems and frustrations is really helpful! We support each other.
In the UK I haven’t had any major problem with being one of the few women in the industry, and that gives me great hope!
WOMEN IN BIM
“Supporting this community makes me happy, especially if I can help other women with the mentor scheme“
Next November you will be among the speakers of London Build 2022. What are you going to talk about?
London Build is always an interesting event where I meet people who work in my field and make new contacts. WIB will participate to the event, and I will moderate a panel on “Future Skills Requirements: How our industry can build skills and knowledge in digital techniques supported by a diverse industry”.
I’m excited to interview the 3 women who will be attending the event and to get to know their point of views.
I personally think that in this case “diversity” means integration with disciplines that had never come close to the AEC world before. These new collaborations will generate new ideas that will certainly lead to very interesting results. Nature teaches us that diversity means strength and for me this is reflected very well in our field of work.
So this time we will not only talk about gender diversity but also about different skills and disciplines that will be used, in the future, by the construction industry to improve the functionality of systems and workflows.