My career path
"Managing the company on a day-to-day basis can be complicated, but each project is a new creation."
I run the family business, De Stefano SARL, which has been around for more than 27 years. We’re in the construction sector and specialize in floors and walls.
I’m passionate about modern architecture, but I truly love older buildings and the heritage they represent. Building projects are expensive for our clients, so it’s great to be able to help them make the right choices. Building and renovating is a lifelong investment and it’s important to work with professionals who give you good advice. Managing the company on a day-to-day basis can be complicated, but each project is a new creation.
My career path. I never thought I’d end up in the construction sector – I didn’t think it was very serious or rigorous work. And I didn’t want to be travelling all the time. I wanted to be able to eat lunch or dinner with my kids every day, to be able to spend at least an hour or two with them. My parents ran the business, and to begin with I just wanted to help out. I always told myself that I wouldn’t stay long. But then I saw things I could improve. I liked putting my skills to use for the clients and helping them make the right choices. And it meant I could be there for my children. They’ve grown up now and left home, but at least we got to spend that time together. My parents have been very supportive, as has the French building federation, which understood that I had an unusual perspective on things.
A downside or obstacle ? You put a lot in but don’t always get as much back, and things don’t always move as quickly as you’d like. You have to keep reminding people about professional excellence and the importance of what we do – it can never be taken as a given. That can wear you down. And there aren’t many women in my line of work, which can be a problem in terms of credibility. It may be a man’s world, but diversity can be very enriching, as it’s a way of sharing different perspectives. I don’t want to put everyone in the same basket, but the world is a very sexist place. If you make it to the same level as a man, it’s acceptable. But if you outrank him, it can make things hard to manage. They accept you as an equal but not as a superior.
I’m proud of my contribution to the construction industry. I’m also proud that I’ve tried to promote manual jobs and construction jobs in an environment where the opposite tends to be the case. I think that in the 20th and 21st centuries, manual jobs – and particularly those in the construction sector – have been given a very bad rap. Thing don’t move as quickly as we like but we are making progress, even if it’s slow.