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.
4M Analytics is the first digitized & up-to-date map of subsurface and above ground utilities. Their technology, a combination of satellite imagery and artificial intelligence, is the tool that enables them to do so. Its ability to scan and detect visual evidence of existing buried utilities (documented or undocumented), shines a light over the type, route and location of utilities passing through your project.
What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?
To me, DEI is about fostering a culture where everyone in the workplace feels comfortable and feels a sense of belonging regardless of your race, age, gender identity, beliefs, etc. Within your working environment, you have a level of respect for your unique voice and feel you are valued for who you are as an individual. It’s so important to have folks from different backgrounds to bring fresh thoughts and ideas that are all coming from a different perspective.
What makes 4M’s brand and voice stand out from the crowd?
Creating a database of utilities above and below ground in a one stop shop platform has carved us out as truly unique since it doesn’t currently exist. The nature of how forward thinking and disruptive 4M’s brand is makes us unique. The founders looked at an antiquated process and said, we can make that so much more connected, so much better. As 4M’s CEO, Itzik Malka, often says, we are building “the system of systems, the network of networks”. It is connecting these systems and networks into one entity. It’s a big vision and it’s fascinating to have a front row seat to watch it taking shape and truly turning into that single source of truth. And as a brand, when we approach the market in a human to human way connecting as people and engaging them with entertaining and informative messages to showcase the possibilities, it’s a much more welcoming way to show the vision.
How/Why did you first find yourself leaning into the construction and contech space?
Coming from an IOT company, I was intrigued by the construction space’s wide open opportunity to truly embrace technology to make the world a better place. One specific example was the story one of the founders of a ConTech company would always share about a cancer center that a large hospital system was able to build 3 years ahead of schedule due to implementing a technology to manage their capital improvement program. It saved them thousands of dollars just in implementing a technology to help them better manage construction assets. That’s thousands of people whose lives were impacted by having that treatment center available sooner than expected. That’s a powerful and inspirational industry to lean into.
What’s your main piece of advice for those who are marketers in (or breaking in to!) the ConTech space?
Get to know the people who are your ideal customers and the why the thing you have to offer is going to make them look like a hero within their organization. As marketers, we get immersed in the demand generation and lead capture grind, and don’t always think to meet the people who are impacted by the technology you’re offering. It’s the human to human story and why it’s important to them that brings in that sense of pride in what you’re doing.
Why is it that the construction industry is deemed ‘slow’ or ‘resistant’ to adopting technology? Is this justified? If so, what are some of the barriers you’re seeing?
It really varies across the industry. I’ve seen champions within organizations who make it their mission to utilize technology to better the company, the industry and the people it impacts. Then I’ve seen others who have not yet embraced what technology can do for their business. Those who figure out the process gaps and then embrace the technologies that can improve the process will come out ahead of the game. As we struggle through labor shortages, we need to figure out how to make up for that, and technology can help in some cases. For example, with 4M Analytics, we can show utilities above and below ground on an easy to export map from the comfort of your computer… a couple clicks of the mouse will bring up water, sewer, gas, electric, telecommunications lines and in some cases abandoned lines just by using the AI conflation engine we built to pull together a multitude of data sources. The alternative is to have a utility coordinator spend weeks if not months trying to collect public records, the as-builts that may be outdated and even then, the picture painted front his information won’t tell the entire utility story. And that’s just one simple example.
What are the challenges of implementing DEI strategies at an earlier stage start-up?
I think that part of the challenge of getting a true DEI initiative set up within a startup, especially an early stage startup, is that you’re still trying to lay the foundation for the business, the goals, and benchmarks for each department. DEI requires the same dedication and metrics. You have to be able to set benchmarks for measuring your DEI initiatives or else how do you measure success? It take time and commitment to put these initiatives into pace, so not only do you need to have champions for the DEI initiative, you need leadership champions to help make it part of the fabric of the company.
Are you seeing any specific trends ConTech start-ups you think are rocketships?
I am absolutely fascinated by the tech behind 3D printed houses. It’s quick, cheaper than traditional building and requires less workers, which is huge for an industry suffering from a labor shortage. Very curious how that will evolve over the years.
What’s been your successes and challenges as a female entrepreneur?
Some successes for me as a female entrepreneur would include being a part of building up 2 marketing agencies, one of which was quite successful and is still around today over 6 years after I left. The biggest challenge I have found so far is the balance. As a working mom, it was a huge challenge to balance being a mom, wife, marketer and friend (yes, we ladies still need our GNO). If it hadn’t been for having an amazing partner in my husband to help balance out family life, I don’t know that I would be where I am today.
What is your guilty pleasure? Favorite song? Favorite fish?
Guilty pleasure… well, I recently picked up a rather peaceful hobby. Spending the day out on a diving charter, exploring the ocean and all the amazing creatures that call it home is such a relaxing splurge. Underwater, there are no emails, phone calls or Slack messages to answer. It’s just you and the fish…and an occasional shark. It’s a decompression and peace that I enjoy as often as I possibly can.
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