Q&A: Samantha Storton on her whirlwind first month at Helix

Samantha Storton is an Assistant Site Manager at Helix, who was a key part of the team that has just completed the first two phases of a rapid Grade 2-listed school refurbishment and remodel project in central London. Here, the 24-year-old tells us about her whirlwind first month at Helix, how social media helped her get the job and how she prepared for her first project as Site Manager.

Read more: Helix launches #HelixOnSite YouTube channel

What is your background and what attracted you to working at Helix?

I was a retail buyer and worked for a few big companies. But I always wanted to work in construction. It’s always been in my family from my Dad, my Grandad and to me – it’s what I grew up around and I have always loved it. Prior to Helix, I had worked for a while at a building contractor in North London and I was then a project manager for a commissioned lighting company – mainly in hospitality. I finished my project manager training in July and then put a video on LinkedIn saying I wanted to get back into construction. Our Managing Director, Carl, saw it and got in touch. I then met with Nic and Carl and they offered me the job!

What was your role at the school refit project and what did you enjoy most about it?

We had six weeks to complete this significant refurbishment and remodelling project. It is across three floors and also includes external works, as well as restoring all the windows inside and out. I am really proud of this project – it is my first for Helix and it does look really fantastic! There were three site managers – I was responsible for the ground floor (including the kitchen) and the whole door schedule. The thing I most enjoyed about the job were the people. They were brilliant and went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I had responsibility from the beginning to make decisions about the programme of works and I know I have the support behind me to do this, which has been great. I have been using this project to get as much experience as possible to help me on my next project in Hertfordshire – the first time I have run my own job for Helix!

Tell us about the Hertfordshire Community Centre project and the key challenges

It is our first project at the community centre and we are undertaking significant structural repair works and reinstatement. It is not a very old building. We are taking the majority of the internal walls down and structurally reinforcing the building, so there are also temporary works required. We aim to retain everything in there that we can, but much of the M&E is coming out and being replaced. It is a challenging and complex project with a lot of moving parts. I’m really excited about this job. It could be quite daunting, but we have a three-month programme and I am really enjoying it.

What are your ambitions in construction and how is Helix helping you realise these?

I really enjoy planning and programming jobs, so would like to build up experience on site to allow me to be able to do this. I’d definitely like to get back to planning jobs if I can. Eventually I would like to be a Contracts Manager and then Construction Director after that. The school project has been a great start for me on this journey as, while I am a planner by nature, we have had to be very reactive due to the short timeframe we’ve had of six weeks start to finish. Our sub-contractors have been really good. When a problem comes up, they let you know and are more than happy to help work with you to resolve it. Some days we’ve had 80 guys on site. Communication is key, to ensuring things run smoothly. We have had a weekly briefing, but I have also met with each sub-contractor supervisor on a daily basis to iron out any issues. A key job has been minimising any scheduling issues and ensuring the work is done as efficiently as possible. It has meant changing things around sometimes, but there have been no delays. Health and safety has been very well managed and all trades have really pulled together to ensure the project has been a success.

Contact Nic Davies