Rutendo Manyundwa

Rutendo Manyundwa

The Empower Programme: supporting underrepresented groups within Kier.

Interviewer: Harrison Bartlett

You might’ve seen LinkedIn posts from Kier employees who have taken part in our Empower Programme and wondered exactly what it is. Well wonder no more!

Harrison Bartlett caught up with Rutendo Manyundwa, a graduate quantity surveyor here at Kier to find out more about the barriers people from minority ethnic groups face in the working world, what the Empower Programme consists of and the learnings that can be taken from it.

One of the many privileges of my role is that I get to sit down and have a chat with so many different, brilliant people across Kier, and Rutendo was no exception. With an extensive history across the construction and waste management industries, it was fascinating to hear all about her story.

“Funnily enough, quantity surveying wasn’t actually something I’d imagined doing when I first entered the working world after school,” Rutendo smiles. “I was on maternity leave, and anyone who’s ever been on mat leave will tell you it can really put things into perspective, and I realised I didn’t want to return to my old job. So, I was online looking for a new challenge and stumbled across an advert for a quantity surveyor – it looked like an interesting role and the idea of getting out and about visiting construction sites really appealed to me.” she says.

Rutendo joined Kier in September 2022 as a graduate quantity surveyor, enrolling onto our two-year graduate scheme. “Joining on the scheme has been a great way to get exposure to different parts of the role, and I can see it will really support me in achieving chartership - something I’ve noticed Kier are really passionate about supporting with,” says Rutendo. “The interview process was competitive and had many phases, like many graduate schemes do, and I remember being really nervous before the process started but once I got into it I was really enjoying working with other candidates and meeting potential team mates,” she adds.

Like many construction professionals, Rutendo explains how her family inspired her, reminiscing about her father’s work as a civil engineer and crediting him for her initial interest in quantity surveying, “the idea of being part of a team that could oversee a project from the very beginning up until it’s finished, just like dad did, sounded amazing, and I can confirm it’s brilliant!”

After chatting more about the influences our parents have on our lives - long after we think we’re fully grown adults who can make decisions for ourselves - we move onto talking about Rutendo’s experience on Kier’s Empower Programme.

“It’s ultimately the business’ way of building a workforce of more confident people, especially for those from underrepresented backgrounds,” she says. “It works on your presentation skills, team working and networking skills, as well as giving you exposure to our senior leaders at Kier through the reverse mentoring section.”

Each Empower participant gets paired up with a member of Kier’s senior leadership team, giving both parties the opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other. Rutendo was paired with our chief people officer, Louisa Finlay, a prospect which at first seemed daunting for Rutendo, “I wasn’t sure how easily I’d be able to relate with Louisa as our roles are so different. I was nervous on how to approach her and about the prospect of meeting a member of our Executive Committee, but as soon as we met, we hugged and started to chat, and I was immediately at ease!”

Over the course of the programme, Rutendo and Louisa created a positive relationship, “Louisa was very attentive and keen to hear about my lived experiences as a woman of colour, not only at work but life in general,” Rutendo says. The mentoring gave her a platform to help Louisa understand more about the challenges underrepresented groups face and what needs to be done to support them going forward. “I came out of the programme really feeling like I left a mark,” she says proudly.

It's clear that the Empower Programme has had an impact on Rutendo, with her crediting the programme with improving her confidence and offering newfound skills and connections which will further her career. “The ability to network with people across the business has been invaluable, I’ve made some fantastic connections off the back of it,” Rutendo adds.

“Something I wish I could tell my younger self is to not doubt myself so much,” she explains. “That was something I took from the Empower Programme; don’t stress or worry about things that you cannot control and, most importantly, be yourself and don’t change for anyone.”

Rutendo’s experience on Kier’s Empower Programme was one that I thoroughly enjoyed hearing more about, from the skills it has helped her develop, to the confidence it has given her – it’s a truly brilliant programme.

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