Welcome to ‘The DEI Digest’ with Romey Oulton, a Q&A focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment.
This Q&A series is an opportunity for our North American Consultant Romey Oulton to discuss Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Built Environment with lead changemakers in the space who are championing DEI. Each week we will ask burning questions, providing a platform to share career advice, discuss innovative strategies to overcome challenges, and how to lead by example.
Sensera Systems® designs and manufactures solutions for real-time job site intelligence. Their flagship products include compact-solar/wireless cameras and software that provide end-to-end solutions for visual monitoring. They serve Construction, Government, Energy & Utilities, and other industrial markets.
Their Construction solutions help general contractors improve jobsite productivity, safety, risk, security, and collaboration. Over 1,000 general contractors use our technology every day. Their integrations with Procore, Autodesk, PlanGrid, and others provide a more comprehensive solution and simplify workflow.
Over 100 cities and municipalities across the U.S. use Sensera solutions to improve their public works, law enforcement, and community engagement.
What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?
To me, diversity, equity and inclusion means that we are drawing from a wide variety of people backgrounds and experiences. Whether that is gender, ethnic background, social status, level of education, political views, etc. – we are consciously seeking out those different perspectives and including them, so that we can draw from and learn from that additional insight. This is important so that we are not working in a vacuum but rather learning from all the differences. Our world is not one thing/one flavor/one perspective and we all need to be conscious of others around us if we want to grow. Diversity, equity and inclusion are key to our growth and change as people.
What led you to Construction Tech?
I saw an article that was posted and followed Construction Tech on LinkedIn. I am often looking for fresh perspectives, interesting articles and thought leadership in the Construction and Technology industries.
What strategies has Sensera Systems implemented to ensure there’s a sense of belonging, equity, and inclusion? What tangible results have you seen come from these efforts?
As an executive team, we have tried to make sure we are fostering an inclusive culture by encouraging open and respectful communication, promoting teamwork, and actively discouraging discrimination or bias – making it very clear publicly in our company meetings that we are all working together and focused on having a very inclusive and open environment. We have also made it clear that we will not tolerate anything other than that. We solicit anonymous feedback from all employees on how we can make the company better – whether that is environment, policies, available programs, etc. We do also offer college reimbursement so for those that maybe otherwise couldn’t afford it, or wouldn’t have the opportunity, there is a break there for continuing their education. Overall, we try to have a very open door policy across the board in all departments and with all levels of staff – whether that is the executive staff or otherwise. The intention here obviously is that people will feel comfortable coming to us and expressing wants/needs/likes/dislikes.
We have actually seen employees feel comfortable coming to any member of the team to vent, talk, share positive feedback and we have also seen a good use of the anonymous feedback email and have implemented various ideas that have come from that. When people feel like they are being heard and acknowledged, they are much happier and they are ultimately better employees.
Why is it that the construction industry is deemed ‘slow’ or ‘resistant’ to adopting technology?
The reality is – we have been building buildings forever without “technology”. A lot of the people in the construction industry still have a bit of a bias to technology – thinking that It’s unnecessary, it’s expensive, they can do a good job without it, that technology will replace them – and while we can build a building without technology – why would we, when we can build so much better WITH it. Also, technology isn’t ever going to replace people. We will always need people in the construction industry, jobs may shift, new jobs may open up – but there will never be a full replacement of people by technology.
Is this justified?
I think it’s maybe, if not justified, at least understandable and fair to give people space that are feeling this way. I think once people see the advantages of some of the new technologies and how they can help them execute better and more efficiently, then you can start to move the needle with those people a bit and change minds over time and with evidence to support the advantages of tech.
If so, what are some of the barriers you’re seeing?
Barriers: Cost, learning curve, desire to learn, budget within project, age demographics – all of these add to the barriers that limit tech adoption.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pivot from traditional construction to ConTech?
I would say go for it! I think a huge advantage of someone coming from the construction space to ConTech is that they have perspective and understanding of how people in the field feel and what they are thinking, so it gives that person that is pivoting really great insight and perspective on how to best approach those folks and how best to relate a need to them. This isn’t someone coming from the tech space trying to explain this cool new technology that they must have – this is someone who has walked in their shoes, that understands the struggles that they are going through on site.
What will be the biggest trend in the ConTech space in 2023?
Greater adoption of technology
What will be the biggest challenge?
Lack of adoption of technology
Let me explain 😊 I think in 2023 we are already seeing really active trends of greater adoption of technology all across the board (more than ever before). HOWEVER, it is still our biggest challenge. There is a high amount of tech fatigue amongst field workers. They are inundated with new technology for this or that constantly and knowing what the best products/services are, can be overwhelming and can start sounding like a broken record.
Growth plans for Sensera Systems?
Sensera has very aggressive growth goals year after year. We are actively increasing our headcount in all departments, we are very well saturated throughout North America and while we do some business in many other countries – we are looking to expand throughout the globe even more. There is so much room to grow! Even with our best customers, there is always room for more growth within our existing client base. We are always working to stay on the cutting edge of technology and are always striving to offer the best product for our clients needs on site.
Tell us about your approach to talent acquisition and culture, and how it has changed over the past few years?
We are always open to good talent. Period. Ultimately, we want folks that fit within our company culture, but we also want individuals that bring their own unique characteristics, to add to what we’ve already built so far. It’s changed over the past few years simply because we’ve been able to be more aggressive about who we want to hire, what we care about including in our company and we have been able to solicit more highly qualified candidates. We also have been able to offer more to our employees in the way of benefits as the years have gone by.
What programs, organizations, societies, events etc. are doing the best job at supporting women and minority groups in the construction/tech space?
I always feel like Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) does a great job of inclusion as well as New York Build with their focus on Diversity in Construction and of course organizations like the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). ALSO – Women in Construction Week takes place during the first full week in March every year and having awareness like that throughout the industry has inspired many general contractors and companies in the construction space to celebrate and recognize women in industry. I think that’s really valuable and needed in order to encourage other women who might be considering moving into construction.
What’s been your high and low points as an entrepreneur?
There have been so many of both. Ha! You know, failures in the moment always seem so overwhelming, but if we are really learning from all of our experiences, the failures are the greatest teachers. I have learned so much from the times that things went wrong. Winning is always fun and I’ve been very lucky to have many successes throughout my career and specifically with Sensera, but when I look back on it all, I am simply feeling grateful for the entire journey – the good, the bad, the ugly – all of it. The smartest people that I’ve ever met all have one thing in common and that is, that they are always continuing to learn – they’re never done learning, even when they are at the top of their game… AND THAT is what I intend to do for the rest of my career.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t know that I feel guilty about any of the pleasures in life! Haha I love listening to live music – whether that is a big show or just a small band in a dark bar – live music is the best, I don’t know how people live without it!
And favorite song?
How can I pick just one song!?! There are so many, that’s impossible to answer!! But in light of this conversation – IMAGINE (John Lennon) has always been a top 10 favorite of mine – always gets me choked up whenever I hear it, without fail. What a simple and sweet message, the world would be a better place if we could all internalize the lyrics of that song.
LMRE are specialist PropTech recruiters, if you need help growing your business or making any key hires please get in touch via the form below!