Pathway to Project Management: Kylie’s story

Martin Svehla Civil, Civil Trades, News

“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of really supportive people around me, who pushed me out of my comfort zone. Now I push myself out of my comfort zone.”

Kylie Bourke has come a long way since starting her civil construction career 26 years ago, in accounts administration. “I basically started doing the dishes and making the coffee!”

Thanks to a combination of training, hard work and pushing herself, Kylie is now a project manager for Higgins Contractors Ltd in Whangarei, responsible for establishing and managing maintenance contracts, along with any other projects that pop up in the North. One of the biggest projects she has worked on was setting up a 25-year maintenance contract for the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway project.

She is also the chairperson for Civil Contractors NZ (CCNZ) Northland. Along the way she has qualified in 2022 she gained NZ Certificate Infrastructure Works Contract Management L5 with Connexis.

While in that first job in Auckland, Kylie started planning for a career in civil construction and setting herself some goals, having decided she no longer wanted to be the person making the coffee in meetings.

She loves the variety of her current role and has a long-lasting love for the industry as a whole.

“I just fell in love with the people in this industry. I did leave it for a year or so about 12 years ago but I really missed the camaraderie and the people. There’s nothing quite like it.

“I tried engineering for a while and didn’t enjoy it. Then I realised I was quite good at the contract side of things so started down that road. I love that there’s no such thing as a typical day and usually your day ends up looking completely different to what you thought it would be.”

Though she works in a male-dominated industry, Kylie says she’s now used to the different ways her team communicates – and she grew up around civil construction via her dad who was a bulldozer driver, which helps.

“There were times early on when the guys might say something that would upset me. But not anymore. I just realised they didn’t mean anything personal about it. They’re just trying to teach you, and they just communicate differently.”

For other women considering civil construction Kylie’s advice is simple: “Just give it a go. If you don’t like it, try something else. Think of it like trying new food; you’ll have no idea if you like it until you try it.”

As part of her role, Kylie has been a mentor for other women in the wider civil contracting business and has loved being able to help and encourage others to succeed. She is also proud of her role as chairperson for CCNZ in Northland, which came after one of those nudges out of her comfort zone.

“Someone suggested I go along to a CCNZ meeting, just to get a different perspective of the industry and I really enjoyed it. I love that everyone might have a different logo on their shirt, but they’re all dealing with the same things.”

After helping out with events, Kylie took the plunge and successfully ran for first to be part of the executive team, then vice-chair and then the chairperson role (Kylie was the first female in Northland to hold this role). Her goal has been to boost meeting attendance numbers which is succeeding nicely. “To me the biggest benefit is being able to network with others in the industry and you can only do that well if there’s lots of people.”