Welcome to the drainage industry – my world of work

The phrase ‘a woman working in a man’s world’ is fast becoming less and less relevant says Lanes area development manager Sian Wyn Jones, if her experience is anything to go by.

To mark International Women’s Day, we’re showcasing the work of women who work at Lanes, the UK’s largest independent drainage specialist.

Sian has worked as one of the two area development managers (ADM) at the Lanes Chester/North Wales depot, which delivers services in Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales, since 2015.

She says: “The drainage industry has, traditionally, been quite masculine, shall we say. But I’m getting many fewer reactions from people about me being a woman, which is a positive sign.

“I don’t feel at all that the conservative nature of some people is affecting my ability to do my job or how much I enjoy what I do for Lanes. Everyone has challenges at work, men and women, not just me.”

Sian is well placed to know the direction of travel of workplace trends. She started working for Lanes aged 18, as an administration assistant, but was made redundant in 2000.

She was not away for long. A year later, she was asked if she wanted to consider coming back, and she jumped at the chance. Later, she was promoted to be the depot’s works coordinator.

Now, as an ADM, she is responsible for winning new business and supporting customers who rely on Lanes Chester/North Wales services, including drainage surveys, drain and sewer unblocking, sewer excavation, sewer cleaning and no-dig rehabilitation through pipe lining.

Many of Sian’s customers are large industrial companies, including the many chemical businesses located in Cheshire and on Merseyside.

Her long experience in drainage means she has the expertise to advise these large companies about all aspects of wastewater site drainage and the maintenance and repair of industrial pipe systems.

The job gives her a buzz and a big sense of achievement, she says. She is right in the middle of one of her biggest packages of work – delivering a comprehensive drainage upgrade for a nuclear materials processing site.

“Delivering these big, six-figure contracts for large businesses is very rewarding,” says Sian. “But I am just as pleased to be able to give fair and honest advice to domestic customers about simple drain blockages.

“There are a lot of crooks out there, and I take pleasure in making sure local people, some of whom may be elderly, vulnerable, and at risk of being scammed, get the service they need at the right price.”

Sian always seek to develop trust with clients by being transparent and honest about the services Lanes delivers. And, she admits, perhaps being a woman helps that process.

She says: “I think some people trust you more because you’re a woman. I certainly don’t do the hard sell, that’s not the Lanes way. I am honest with clients. We’re there to give expert advice, as a company.

“If I don’t know something, I ask a colleague. Our customers like the fact that a bank of know-how is there to draw on. In today’s world, no one can know everything.”

Sian appreciates, also the way Lanes allows her to work flexibly, so she and her partner can share the responsibility of looking after her two young sons.

She says: “I have to put up with a male environment at home than at work! I love the drainage industry. Every day is different, and new challenges come along all the time. It’s not an environment to be bored in.”

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