Kieren Mahjail joined architecture firm BDP 11 years ago, at the height of the recession, having just completed her studies. For the Dezeen Jobs careers guide, she describes her experience in the industry as a young British-Asian mother.
Majhail joined BDP as an architectural assistant. She recalls the effect the recession had on the construction industry, which meant “most Midlands practices were hit by redundancies.”
“Luckily BDP seemed to be more resilient and was still hiring.”
Now an architect associate, Majhail works with a small studio team of 27, on projects ranging from strategic masterplans to residential-led regeneration schemes.
“I get to work for one of the largest architecture practices, with approximately 1,200 staff worldwide, and yet be based in a smaller studio which feels very much like a family, so I have the best of both extremes.”
One of the biggest challenges Majhail faced during the early years of her career was the feeling of not belonging in the construction industry.
“This feeling was amplified by the fact that typically I would be the only young woman and most commonly the only Asian at meetings and events,” she said. “Coming from a working class background and not having an inherited established network also didn’t help the sense of not fitting in.”
Since then, Majhail has set up both BDP’s and RIBA’s Future Professionals Network, was recently RIBA Journal Rising Star and is an advocate for diversity in the workplace, “for all minorities, not just women”.
“I think diversity is something that needs to be tackled at different levels, there isn’t a sustainable short-term fix,” she said.
“We need to go into schools and raise awareness of jobs and routes into our industry so people from more diverse backgrounds are aware of the careers in architecture.”