Graduate of Architecture, Madeleine Steele, who is based in our Adelaide Studio has been awarded The Emerging Leader Award with NAWIC SA for 2020.

The Emerging Leader Award recognises the dedication of a female individual working in the construction or related industry for less than five years. This award celebrates the individual’s contribution to the construction industry in South Australia, leadership potential and community involvement.

Madeleine sat down to chat all things leadership and what the next six years look like for her…

1. What initially attracted you to a career in architecture?

I’m that person who wanted to be an architect since before I can remember. I certainly remember declaring my career dreams as early as eight years old. As a child, I believe my rationale was that it was the career for someone who liked art and maths. Lot’s of adults tried to talk me out of it for various reasons, and there were a few times I thought I would follow my family’s career path into teaching. In the end, I am so glad I stuck to my guns, especially through the tough years of university.

2. Can you tell us what your role at Hames Sharley entails?

I’m a Graduate of Architecture in the Adelaide office. On a day to day basis, my job usually involves project-focused work – planning, design and documentation. Recently, I’ve been working on some multi-residential work, retail masterplanning and sports and recreation projects. Hames Sharley has been great in keeping my workload diverse while I learn about our various portfolios.

In the last couple of years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to be involved more with submissions. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable being involved in trying to win new work for the company and I’ve learnt so much about Hames Sharley, who we are and what we do, in the process.

Finally, I have loved putting my hand up for a couple of internal committees, including the SA Studio’s Social Committee, Reconciliation Action Group and Champions for Change.

3. You’ve worked at Hames Sharley for nearly four years now, what has been the best lesson that you’ve taken from your role so far?

Something I’ve reflected a lot on recently is how different my role is compared to the understanding of what it would be when I first started at Hames Sharley. I remember thinking as a student that there just had to be more to ‘real-life architecting’ than concept design, render, make a model, repeat. I was right, and I am lucky that some of the diversity of an architectural role, plays to my strengths. Just last week, I was part of a team who presented to local government in what was as much a marketing exercise as a design-one. That experience and others like it have been really fulfilling to me. I am proud to have shown skills in areas that have diversified my career at such an early stage.

4. …and where do you see yourself in the next six years?

My most immediate goal is to register with the Architectural Registration Board and make the big step from Graduate to Architect. This will take some dedication to study over the next few months.

Beyond that, I hope to keep absorbing from studio leadership about how projects are run and run successfully. There’s so much to learn – especially when it comes to contract management – and my understanding of this will be critical to making the next step into leading projects.

Finally, I am really enjoying being involved with the Sports and Recreation portfolio and hope to continue to assist Hames Sharley in developing our industry presence in that area of architecture.

5. Do you have an industry mentor or someone that has influenced your career in some way? If so, who?

Since taking on the 62 Currie St project back in 2018 with Leon Gouws, now Adelaide studio director, I’ve had the pleasure of learning from this meticulous architect who is focused on delivery for clients.

I also do not underestimate the influence of all my ‘desk buddies’ over the years. First, it was Gilbert Rouelle and his ample patience as I learned the ropes on Revit. He was also the observant soul who identified that my bubbly soul might suit being a member of the HSSA Social Committee. Next, Roberto Garcia, the former design lead in HSSA, from whom I desperately tried to absorb as much creativity as possible. Today, it’s Kathy K, a project leader new to the studio, who deals with clients with such a calm confidence that I can only hope to replicate.

Quote from Madeleine Steele, Graduate of Architecture, Hames Sharley

6. In your opinion, what are the main qualities that make for an effective leader?

Understanding why people are the way they are and react to situations the way they do, helps us understand the complexities of our workplace. For that reason, I believe empathy, emotional intelligence and compassion are critical to being an effective leader. There are many facets to this, and I have much still to work on, but at the end of the day, I really do enjoy connecting with people. Hopefully, this is something I can develop further as I grow into new leadership roles.

I’ve also learned that proficient communicators make good leaders, especially in our industry. Being able to pick up the phone on the hard days, have a conversation and move towards a resolution is a daunting but critical skill for individual and collective success on a project and around the office generally. I can’t deny I’ve run away from conversations before, but without fail, hindsight always makes me wish I’d spoken up earlier. I look around me, and it’s those in leadership positions that are making the tough phone calls.

7. What’s the best piece of advice that you have received?

Fake it til you make it! I am blessed with pretty good self-belief, but like most, I still suffer from severe nervousness in certain situations like giving a presentation or walking into a room full of industry leaders for networking. Yikes! But, whether it’s on the start line of a race, performing on stage or presenting to your colleagues, the feelings we get in these situations haven’t changed too much since we were little kids. So, make the first step or say the first word with confidence, even if its not real on the inside. Take a leap of faith and just begin.

And if it doesn’t go to plan, I try remember the feeling will pass. There’s a resilience that comes from stuffing up so many times. I can remember every single time I’ve lost my place, stumbled over my words or said something that hasn’t gone over well. The more times you put yourself out there, the more examples you’ll have. Unfortunately/fortunately, I have a lot of experience to tell me that as bad as it seems at the time, it’s always over eventually, and the amazing thing about adrenalin is that once you’ve started, the end seems to come a lot quicker. Sometimes remembering that can get you through.

8. How do you demonstrate leadership at Hames Sharley?

When I demonstrate leadership at Hames Sharley, first and foremost, I focus really hard on being a good teammate. Sometimes that means being captain, sometimes vice-captain, but often it’s more about encouraging those around you and staying positive when the pressure is on. As designers, we live a life of deadlines. If we’re going to be successful, we must be able to rely on and trust each other every step of the way, so a few words of encouragement or confidence-giving can go a long way.