HR Aspects Magazine had the pleasure of recently interviewing Barbara Goffioul, Western Europe Operations Support Manager at PM Group. They are an international engineering, architecture, construction and project management company.
Barbara Goffioul is also a judge on the 2016 European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards (WICE). We were offered the opportunity to interview Barbara about some of the aspects of her busy life.
Where did your interest in the technical side of construction and engineering originate from?
I started in journalism, working for a newspaper and a radio station. I realised that it wasn’t for me. I always had an interest in the creative side of event hosting but my first job ended up being on the technical side of events.
I was a Planner and had to manage the technicians, the freelancers and the materials. We would arrive on a piece of land and 48 hours later we would have created a big stage and a festival setting. 12 hours later it was all gone.
It felt great to contribute to such projects but it was also a very challenging role.
It was a very male-dominated environment. With little technical experience, I was telling technicians with 20-plus years’ experience that they needed to drive through the night to get to a venue and would be erecting a structure within 12 hours.
In the end, I knew that I was doing my job well and I earned the trust and respect of those working with me, which was extremely rewarding.
What attracted you to your present role?
I heard that a big engineering company was setting up in Belgium – PM Group. They were looking for someone to facilitate their opening event which included a party and all the PR. They subsequently asked me to stay on and I ended up doing their local business development for 3 years!
In 2013, I was appointed as Western Europe Operations Support Manager.
Tell us about PM Group and where they operate
PM Group has a network of offices in Europe, Asia and the US and projects in over 35 countries worldwide. In Europe, our design centres in the UK, Ireland and Poland service projects all over Europe.
When we take on a project in Continental Western Europe I recruit and build a team. I collaborate with the various international offices and Project Managers to check the various competencies of their workforces, check their availability and manage their mobility across Europe.
Ensuring that there is a good cultural mix is vital. This isn’t just about language differences but also understanding legal differences. With ever-changing legislation in the construction and engineering sectors, standards differ considerably between one country and another.
One of our philosophies is that projects MUST be delivered safely and on time. Regardless of whatever difficulties we encounter with our globally distributed teams, we always make sure that they do not impact on the delivery or the safety of the project.
I’m currently participating in a research project with the People Task Force in the European Construction Institute in collaboration with Loughborough University. The project is dedicated to finding ways to improve the efficiency of globally distributed teams. One of our goals is to provide best practices and communicate our findings to the industry.
What are you proud of?
Firstly, being a judge for the next edition of the European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards (WICE) is a privilege. Being part of their jury will provide me a great opportunity to see, hear and share the experiences of a wide range of peers and businesses across Europe.
Secondly, I managed the recruitment of about 25 local engineers working closely with the international Project Director and team managers and I managed the expats’ employment contracts for the GSK Pa Vaccines’ project in Belgium. This was one of the biggest projects that PM Group has undertaken. This project was impressive; at peak there were up to 500 workers speaking 18 different languages including up to 30 British and Irish engineers.
We successfully developed a “one-team culture” between the client, the project team and the many contractors. This success has been shown in our safety KPIs as we have achieved 1.5 million safe man hours without lost time incident. These are wonderful achievements by PM Group and I am proud to be a part of it.
Finally I would like to mention that the biopharma engineering industry generally has a greater representation of females than traditional industries. I think the success of biopharma engineering diversity might be down to the modernity of the science.