Women Inspiring Women ~ Meet Diane Boon

#IWD2021 - International Womens' Day March 8th 2021 - The campaign theme: #ChooseToChallenge

For this years campaign I have chosen to support and champion fellow Business Women, and have dedicated the month of March to promote and share their journey and challenges in business.


From challenge comes change.


I am delighted to share with you my inspiring interview with  Diane Boon, Director of Commercial Operations, Cleveland Bridge UK 


I am the Commercial Operations Director at Cleveland Bridge UK. I joined the company in 2015 but the business itself has been specialising in the design, engineering, fabrication and construction of steel bridges and complex structures since 1877. We have a proven record of innovation, helping to create some of the world’s most iconic structures from the Victoria Falls Bridge and the Wembley Stadium Arch to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and The Shard in London.

Today, the business is part of the Al Rashaid Group and we are extremely proud to still have an advanced manufacturing centre in Darlington in the UK as well as facilities in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

 

1. What attracted you to Cleveland Bridge UK? 

Cleveland Bridge has constructed and contributed to some of the finest landmarks across the world. 

The business is a great ambassador for the British engineering industry, and the North East, and we proud to champion the importance of local supplier networks.   Having worked in the engineering and construction industry for over 20 years, I was absolutely delighted to join the team.  


2. What have been the biggest challenges you have had to face as a Woman in Business and how have you overcome them?

I have faced many challenges in my career, but I can honestly say that none of them related directly to me being a woman.  I refuse to let my gender define me.  To be a woman in engineering – as with everything in life – you have to work hard but so do the men.  

Ours is a remarkable industry but the sector needs to do more to raise its profile, in order to make itself more appealing to future generations.  

By building up the prestige of engineering and holding it in the same high regard as our European neighbours, the UK engineering workforce would no doubt begin to see a much stronger and swifter change in terms of gender representation within engineering. 

This is something we firmly believe in and why we pro-actively work with STEM and other groups to positively promote diversity and inclusion within the industry.  


3. Many women are feeling overwhelmed at juggling their professional and personal life, do you have any tips to share to restore the balance?

Achieving a successful work-life balance is something we can all struggle with. It takes a great deal of planning and organisation to get it right. Unfortunately, pre-conditioning and archaic views that responsibility for the home and children is a ‘woman’s job’ can also take its toll. 

I have been lucky enough to have a true partner who like me believes that responsibility for the family is down to both us and therefore shares the role equally.  If I have one tip, it is to be honest and brave - communication is key.  

COVID-19 has also put a spotlight on working practices, as individuals and parents alike have had to juggle new ways of working and manage everything at home and in the workplace. This has been difficult for everyone and I hope leaders will accept that we can offer more flexibility in our approach to work and that it does not necessarily mean less productivity.  


4. What has been your greatest mistake in business and what did you learn from it?

Early in my career my biggest mistake was not trusting my own abilities and instinct. I was afraid to speak up due to my youth and inexperience, like many people I was nervous I would say the wrong thing. Those who know me, will say this was short lived! 

Mistakes are a fact of life. The important thing is to admit when something has gone wrong, this is the only way we can learn from them and move on. This is an ethos I continue to instil into my team today. 


5. What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

Do not allow your passion for your business idea to blind you to neglecting the basic essential requirements … namely research, research and then research some more. You should have a clear version, objective, and a timeline but I cannot stress enough how important it is to know your customers, market, and competition. 

Be bold, be brave and be truthful with yourself about the progress you are making and be prepared to fail. Just make sure you have plan in place so you know what to do should the worst happen. You will not be alone in having to pick yourself up and start again, some of the most successful business icons failed several times before realising their dreams.