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#SheBuilders: Top 20 influential women in Middle East construction

Diversity and Inclusion By Olga Litkovets, Global Director of Business Development and Marketing – 20 March 2024

Olga Litkovets leaning in a cantilevered table in our Dubai office with her pink coat


Olga Litkovets in office

Olga Litkovets

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To celebrate the spirit of International Women’s Day, Construction Week Middle East has proudly presented a tribute to the remarkable achievements of 20 influential women shaping the region's construction landscape. Selected by the editorial team, these trailblazers have been chosen for their profound impact on both their organisations and the sector at large.

We are proud to share that Olga Litkovets, Global Director of Business Development and Marketing was selected amongst this group of inspiring female leaders. Hear more about Olga's journey, her contributions and advice for young professionals below.

Can you share your journey and the challenges you faced in reaching your current position in the industry?

I have been in the Middle East for the past 16 years, with most of that time spent working in the construction industry. People who achieve great things and create an impact with their work have always inspired me, and so I have always made an effort to connect with those people and ask for mentoring, or even just have a conversation and ask a few questions. I have also been very lucky to be part of some very strong and successful teams. It is always said ‘you are a combination of the people who you surround yourself with’. So, I made sure I stayed active and curious and always put in the extra effort to not simply be doing a good job, but to be exceptionally good. Sometimes that meant sacrificing some free time or working harder, but with such amazing people around me, this is always enjoyable. I think because I love my job with its creativity, constant change and connection with people, to me it never feels like merely a job, and I am so proud when our projects or initiatives connect and inspire people.

Since I joined Cundall, I've been fortunate to work with like-minded people to look beyond simply the current work and bottom line to have an eye on the future. The purpose and values of the organisation are so deeply rooted into our culture that our hard work brings us all together, uniting us to create sustainable future for the built environment and the world.

I think the biggest challenges have always been presented by the market or economy - these external factors are ones which we had to adapt to, and as a result I had to drive a different strategy for the team. Through the Global Financial Crisis, Covid, an oversaturated market and tough competition, these externalities always cause businesses to evolve and adjust. Only the best can survive.

Health and wellbeing also became a key area of focus. Since we are all human and external factors like Covid or war affect us, I always make sure that I take care of my team and also myself to support us all in any difficult situations. It's great to have mental health first aider at every Cundall office and they drive initiatives that help people to de-stress.

What are some contributions you have made to the construction industry?

In my role, my greatest pride is I have made a significant contribution to brand visibility and overall business growth. I have developed marketing and client strategies to support business growth in a range of organisations. Also, being part of leadership teams has given me an opportunity to contribute and influence overall business strategy and direction.

I am proud that I have organised multiple collaborations and campaigns that help industry professionals to connect, to become inspired and to make a positive impact.

Among those are our "Perfect Project of the Future" collaboration with ALEC; the "Cundall Inspirations" campaign with remarkable people from different industries and backgrounds; and "Cundall Conversations", which involved leading organisations in sustainability sharing their approach to making our built environment sustainable and their reflections on the COP28 talks. These are just a few highlights, but most importantly, we have consistently connected and collaborated with some incredible people to make a positive impact on our future. Also, as a Chair of the EMENA Board at Cundall, I have driven initiatives and collaboration not only on the local and regional level but internationally.

It brings me joy to see talented engineers, including those who are very often shy but are geniuses in what they do, get visibility in the industry. It's only by sharing our knowledge and innovations we can make meaningful progress and take others on the journey. Working on winning awards for those people, then seeing them go on the stage receiving an award for their outstanding work – this is why I love my job so much. In total I have worked on over 40 industry award wins.

Who has been your biggest inspiration or role model in your professional life, and why?

There are quite a few inspirational people I could name, and the first who comes to mind is Richard Stratton, EMENA Managing Director and Partner at Cundall. Richard moved to the Middle East and set up Cundall in the region 16 years ago, knowing no-one here at that time. His passion for engineering and readiness to do whatever it takes to make his work a success is truly inspiring. His personal experience, and his support and encouragement has driven me to step out of my comfort zone many times. I have seen that people follow him well beyond our region, and many have joined Cundall because they want to work with Richard.

I also had a pleasure to have several mentoring sessions with Kristina Zanic, a well-known architect and incredibly strong and inspiring woman. Her story is incredible, and we all know her work. She is a true inspiration for many women in our industry and beyond.

My grandfather was the biggest inspiration for my career. He was a very successful executive in the construction industry in Ukraine, who built his career from nothing, coming from a family of six kids with one pair of shoes to share growing up during the second World War. I will always cherish the times when we had conversations about his work, and hearing his stories about the things that made him so strong.

What do you think can be done to encourage more women to pursue careers in construction?

I think women need to connect more with the younger generation to inspire and share our journeys. Also, we need to support each other. There is already a huge shift occurring in our industry, and there are now so many women-led networks available for us to join. We need to make sure we all contribute to those and be active supporters.

What is your number one advice for young women professionals entering the industry?

Never be shy to ask questions, be curious and put yourself forward - the best opportunities will find those who are not afraid.

Where do you see the future of women in the construction industry, and what changes do you hope to see in the next decade?

I hope we will move forward with less talk around gender in our industry and more talk about our achievements, and conversations about the drive to keep impacting industry for positive for people of any gender. I also hope that women who are currently in the industry will collaborate and unite their forces to inspire young girls to join the journey.

View the full list of trailblazers included in Construction Week's list here.