Inspirational Woman: Sue Kershaw | MD, KPMG Infrastructure Advisory Group

Sue KershawSue’s drive and energy has delivered multi-billion-pound major construction, property and transport projects in the UK and overseas.

As a widely experienced professional Programme Manager and Civil Engineer, Sue is acknowledged as being an influential leader and is now president of Association for Project Management and a visiting Professor at UCL. She works at Board level in both the private and public sectors and is a strong advocate for working closely with the supply chain, modernising construction methods and diversity and inclusion.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I was born in New Zealand and lived with my family in Nigeria and Pakistan, following my Father who was building hydroelectric dams. I am one of four girls, but we were always brought up as people! One is a teacher, one is a doctor and one is a priest. We joke we only needed a fifth as a lawyer to complete the set of professionals.

At KPMG I am currently working on large-scale infrastructure projects, leading the specialism of progressively (i.e. in real time) assuring the main outputs are fit for purpose. I am making this the core of my KPMG portfolio.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, but I always had an eye on the future, and learned quickly what I was good at and enjoyed vs the reverse! I also rapidly warmed to working on projects because of the bonhomie of the teams, the varied type of work they provided, with a clear beginning middle and end, rather than the opaqueness of corporate life.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, my first boss said on meeting me: “I hate women and I hate women engineers even more.” I soon discovered there was only one way to go from there: up!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement was being selected as the first female president of the Association for Project Management. I am so excited about what APM can achieve now it has chartered status, and I look forward to representing it and being part of it growing from strength-to-strength to match the influence of the bigger professional institutions.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Dogged determination and relentless pursuit of successful delivery of projects.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is a fantastic opportunity to help others and be helped by people outside your normal circles. I would thoroughly recommend it as the best ‘phone a friend’ you can have.  I prefer an informal style and flexible approach rather than a rigid programme.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Have 50% women on all FTSE 100 boards.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Never give up, even when things get tough you will get through it and learn from the experience.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I am a Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor at the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management at UCL, and I am looking forward to lecturing the students and helping the staff, as well as promoting the concept of ‘progressive assurance’ in their project management toolkit.

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