Women In Business: Dipalee Jukes

May sees the fifth of our ‘Women In Business’ series, focusing on Dipalee Jukes, the Co-Founder and Director of Ground & Water, a geotechnical and environmental consultancy providing expert technical advice to the construction industry. In short, they work out the best way from an in-ground perspective on how to build and clean up contaminated soil and groundwater.

Dipalee has worn every possible hat at Ground & Water over the past 12+ years, from site technician, engineer, salesperson, HR manager, financial director, and office admin. Today, she solely focuses on being a business leader, focusing on the company and team’s organisational health. Her days are spent mentoring and coaching her team, seeing clients, and doing strategic work to grow the business.

In the early years, Dipalee had no idea where her career was going to take her, “I didn’t have the self confidence or belief back then to think I would be leading a geotechnical engineering company. I knew I wanted to have a career that could work around having a family as I got older and give me freedom of flexibility, and I didn’t see that happening working for someone else back then.”

It has become apparent after speaking with a selection of Women In Business, that we all face barriers in our careers and it is important to speak about these. “My biggest challenge has been being taken seriously as a 5ft2 petite Indian woman in the construction and engineering industry, which, let’s face it, has been predominantly white and male. I didn’t fit in from day one and I felt intimidated on a regular basis. To this day, I still get the odd correspondence addressing me as Mr Jukes. Many people assume you are a man if you have Director as your title.”

Dipalee also explained that early on in her career, she got told by a woman that she was too pretty to be an engineer! She has also unfortunately, been subject to racism once on site. Looking back, she explained that there had been some tough times over the years and she had to overcome her own self-limiting beliefs, which were compounded by the behaviour of others in the industry.

“Grit, determination, and persistence got me through the tough times. If I failed at something, I got up and tried again, I just kept going, there was no other choice in my head. My livelihood was on the line. Ground & Water has been like my first child, I have shed blood, sweat and tears for it over the years. You do whatever it takes for your child.”

Managing a work / life balance

Dipalee admitted that managing a work/life balance is still very much a work in progress. “With three young children, a house to run, the business and other commitments outside of work such as being parent governor at my children’s school, 95% of things are scheduled into my weekly calendar and I like to plan at least 1-2 weeks ahead, sometimes longer. It is the only way I can accomplish everything I want to and need to get done. My husband and I go through our calendars on Sunday evening to ensure we are clear on expectations of each other for the week, who’s doing which pick up and drop off for school and clubs, who’s cooking dinner, etc.”

Dipalee believes that the key to making it all work is allowing herself enough time for self-care, such as meditation, reading, exercising, journaling, ensuring she has the energy to show up the way she wants to every day.

Encouraging Other Women In Business

“The best piece of advice that I’ve ever been given would be to keep learning and invest in your personal development, it will reward you both in personal and professional life and it will enable you to become a person of value.” Dipalee tries to read books, listen to podcasts and audio books, watch webinars, go to seminars, and networking events. She believes that the more information you immerse yourself in, you will become a sponge and learn more.

If I had to give advice on women looking to grow within the company or industry they work, then it would be to be courageous in asking what you need and want. Push outside of your comfort zone! No one is going to fight your corner as much as you can.

Over the years, Dipalee has noticed that more females tend to suffer with confidence issues, have a bigger lack of self-belief and greater imposter syndrome. “My advice would be to face your fears, practice makes progress. For example, if you are going for a promotion or new job, you don’t have to know how to do it 100% before you apply, but you do have to go armed with the right attitude, desire, work ethic, discipline, and values. These are far greater attributes than skills alone and women often sell themselves short.”

Ethnic Diversity In Engineering.

This is a big issue, and only one Dipalee is getting to grips with now. “I am acutely aware that I am now a role model for the other women in my team, perhaps other women in my industry, whether I like it or not. I realise that I have a duty and responsibility to use my experience and platform to speak up about diversity and make a positive difference.”

“My plans include teaming up with some other female Indian engineers across the engineering industry to promote engineering careers to females. We will be launching a podcast at some point this year to talk about this topic. My plan is to use the podcast as well as social media, blogs, interviews and virtual/in-person talks to bring more awareness to the industry. I would like to work with schools and colleges, in the future, as I believe the key is to have these conversations early on with young girls, going back to grass roots and going into communities to change peoples’ perception of what an engineer should look like and teaching them the types of careers they could have.”

What is next for Dipalee Jukes?

My 2022 goals include completing a few half marathons, doing the 3 peaks challenge with my work colleagues, achieving this year’s financial targets set out for the business, growing my team, reading 42 books (my age), making headway with my podcast and other projects to promote more females / Indian females into Engineering, ensuring I spend quality time with my family and having a few holidays.

If you would like to find out more about Ground & Water, then please visit their website.

If you would like to feature in our Women in Business Series, then please get in touch.

Read our other Women in Business interviews here: Cat Archer Underwood, Terrie Hounsome, Lizzie Smith, Suzanne Bungard, Sue Dilworth.

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