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International Women’s Day Spotlight: A conversation with Jenna Holmes

We’re continuing our week-long celebration for International Women’s Day by turning our attention to another valuable member of our team.

Our second article sees us get to know our Pre-Construction Manager, Jenna Holmes. Jenna has a wealth of industry experience behind her and takes this opportunity to explain the breadth of a Pre-Construction Manager’s role, how empowering this year’s theme of Inspiring Inclusion is to her, and how McCann empowers individuals to be the best versions of themselves.

Thank you for sitting with us Jenna, let’s start by finding out how long you’ve worked for the business and what your role involves day-to-day

I have worked at McCann for nearly four years – the time really has flown! Prior to McCann, I worked for a number of different companies including Aggregate Industries and CEMEX. I’ve been in the construction industry for nearly twenty years.

My role involves the management of all elements of the bidding process from conception through to final completion, while ensuring that McCann consistently wins bids through understanding customer requirements, question interpretation, implementing bidding structures and writing scheme specific content. Specifically I manage the following processes:

– Bid management and strategy

– Bid writing

– Editing and proofreading

– Production of pre-qualification questionnaires, supply chain documentation and accreditation renewals

As well as bidding for new tenders, my role also involves the management of all of McCann’s marketing, web and social platforms. I ensure that all of our external marketing activities are aligned to our business strategy and that the McCann brand is aligned to our prospective growth sectors. I also manage the production of business specific marketing materials – including case studies and brochures, press releases, event and social media management. My role is really varied and every day is different! We recently hit 5,000 Linkedin followers, which is a 30% increase since I took over the role and something that I’m incredibly proud of. 

Another part of the marketing function is organising and managing our attendance at a number of key events. Our flagship event is Highways UK, and every year I work with our design teams to build a stand that keeps McCann at the forefront of our industry.

As well as all of the above, I regularly get involved with the companies’ Social Value activities, including coordinating charitable donations, while also being a registered STEM ambassador.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day to me is about empowering women to think outside of the box and push boundaries, while celebrating women not only across McCann, but across our industry as a whole! For me it also offers a chance to recognise the value that women bring to our organisation and celebrate the unsung heroes who are not always front and centre, but continue to make our business what it is today. 

The theme for 2024 is Inspire Inclusion, what does this theme mean to you?

The theme of Inspiring Inclusion is about empowerment and showing the future generation that every door is open to them regardless of sex, age or ethnicity. Personally I feel that inspiration across our industry in particular comes from both men and women, you don’t have to be a successful woman to inspire another. It’s about demonstrating that everyone is capable of doing anything that they set their minds to.

Could you share with us a woman who has inspired you either in your personal or professional life?

The woman that inspires me the most is my mum. I know it’s cheesy, but I really wouldn’t be who I am today without her. She has always encouraged me to be the best person I can be and that I should be proud of everything I achieve whether that be big or small. 

Like most people I have faced challenging times in both my professional and personal life and she has always been there to support and encourage me. She has also made me realise that sometimes things don’t always go how you think they are going to go and that life can sometimes be unfair, but it’s how you deal with what is thrown at you that counts.

I have always wanted to become the best version of myself because she has always made me feel like there is nothing I cannot achieve if I put my mind to it.

In what is historically a male dominated industry, how do you succeed and make your mark?

Unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma and generalisation of women across the industry. I’m sure most women have been asked when attending a meeting to ‘go and make the tea’ because they are the only women in the room, regardless of their seniority. These situations are difficult but are thankfully becoming less commonplace. I think that’s down to a different level of respect and empowerment of women across the industry. 

I think the way to succeed is to be your genuine self, never try to be what you think you should be or act how you think others want you to act. There is no greater person you can be than yourself!

How do you feel McCann successfully creates an inclusive environment for its people?

I think McCann creates an environment where people can flourish no matter who or what they are. I know people always talk about the McCann Family, but it really is like a family and like every family, it’s not always perfect!

There’s always an opportunity to grow and further yourself at McCann, whether that be through training, gaining experience in other areas or through internal promotions. Like the rest of the industry, McCann still has a journey to go on, but the business is smart enough to recognise and accept that it needs to go on that journey – which can only be a positive.

How do you think the civil engineering industry is evolving to meet the needs of its female workforce?

I think compared to when I entered the industry, things have come on leaps and bounds. Over the last five years the industry has finally started to ‘wake up’ and understand the value that women bring – with more female engineers on site than there has ever been before. However that being said, I still think there’s plenty of work to be done. 

The civil engineering industry is still predominantly male and there is nothing wrong with that, the big difference now is that everyone is embracing and empowering women, and recognising what they can really bring to an organisation. Personally I think the next significant change that needs to happen is more of a recognition around women’s health. It’s still ‘taboo’ to talk openly in the workplace about periods, the menopause, breast cancer and fertility problems. I think in 2024, we need to be having open conversations about these important issues.


If you’d like to take the next step in your career in civil engineering, explore the opportunities on our Careers page.

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