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March 3-7, 2026

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Katie Kelleher: We Can Be Better for the Workforce



Katie Kelleher, aka “Katie Cranes”, an increasingly prominent, award-winning figure in the construction industry joins Taylor White from Ken White Construction for what turns out to be her first visit to the podcast today. Katie’s journey from a sales background to her current role as a crane operator and technical development officer exemplifies the importance of seizing opportunities, and embracing career transitions. Her experiences within the industry shed light on the challenges faced by women in traditionally male-dominated fields, underscoring the need for greater representation and visibility.

By leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn, Katie advocates for diversity and inclusion, inspiring others to pursue careers in construction and challenging stereotypes along the way. As Katie shares her firsthand experiences, the discussion highlights the multifaceted challenges encountered by workers in the construction industry. From gender disparities in personal protective equipment (PPE) to the lack of workplace flexibility, Katie emphasizes the need for tailored solutions that cater to the diverse needs of all workers. Through anecdotes and reflections, she demonstrates the importance of addressing seemingly small issues that can significantly impact workers' comfort, productivity, and overall well-being. Ultimately, Katie's journey serves as a powerful testament to the resilience and determination required to effect meaningful change in the construction sector, driving towards a more inclusive and sustainable future for all workers.


  • Katie's transition from sales to construction
  • Advocating for diversity and inclusion
  • Leveraging social media
  • Navigating career transitions
  • Overcoming adversity
  • Empowering the next generation
  • Driving positive change
  • Challenges in construction

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Episode transcript: 

Taylor White: You’re advocating for women in construction, 100%. But the things in my brain that you're talking about as well, too, obviously, minus a few, it advocates for just people in construction. It's like, "Hey, this is how we can make the industry better." You're not here being like, "No, screw the guys that have been doing it forever and putting up with the junk and the women coming in, “Well, we want this treatment." You're like, "No, hey, there's stuff we can do to make women's lives better on a construction site, for sure. But this other stuff that I'm talking about, it's actually good just for everybody.”

Katie Kelleher: It's got to be everyone. In order to make any change, it has to be everyone.

Taylor White: Welcome back, everybody, to the CONEXPO-CON/AGG Podcast. I am your host, as always, Taylor White. This podcast is brought to you by our good friends over at Komatsu. With me today, I have someone who is actually a first guest to come on for a second time. So I'm super happy to introduce today someone who has received awards such as the Infrastructure Apprentice of the Year, We Are the City Rising Star Awards, and was also named among WES’ Top 50 Women in Engineering. Katie Cranes. Thank you for being on for the second time.

Katie Kelleher: Thank you for having me. I'm really excited.

Taylor White: We have a little bit of history that goes back. You've been on the podcast, but also, not only that, we were on a panel together at the last CONEXPO.

Katie Kelleher: Yes, that was an experience for me. It really was an experience.

Taylor White: I mean, you kind of took over the show, though. You had the spotlight on you like you were on a billboard. It was a pretty surreal experience.

Katie Kelleher: No, that's a lie. I never took over the show. When I showed up to do that panel and I saw you turning up and Matt Stanley, and you both had your entourage with you, I had never seen anything like that in my whole life. So I definitely didn't take over the show. I was blown away by you guys.

Taylor White: Yeah. Well, I guess the feeling is mutual then, but I guess for the second time around and maybe for people who might just be tuning in or kind of listening, I’d like for you to give a little bit of rundown on kind of who you are and what you do.

Katie Kelleher: Yeah, no problem. My name is Katie Kelleher, and I'm based in the UK if you can tell from my very London accent. I started life as an apprentice around 10 years ago now as a crane operator. I still work in construction. I’ve changed role slightly. I still work in lifting, but I'm technical and development officer now, which sounds kind of wordy compared to crane operator, but, yeah, still going.

Taylor White: So sounds like, Katie, there might have been portions of conversations that did make a reminder a little bit, but I actually thought– So me and Katie talked before, a little bit of pretext. And up until now in the podcast I was saying, “Oh, she's been on. She’s been on.” And she corrects me and says, “I’m just going to stop you there. Thank you, but I haven’t been on the podcast before.” I must be thinning about because we’ve had conversations over Zoom and stuff just with the panel and everything. So that must be what I was confusing that was. So my bad.

But I guess, first time, explain how did you get into the position of Katie Cranes? How did you get into working with cranes? How did you start your career?

Katie Kelleher: It's real random and I think most women that I’ve spoken to come in to construction randomly. I don’t think very few of us plans and went in to construction and then it was the same for me. I went to university and did English literature. Came out, fell into sales. Did sales for about 10 years, selling different things like magazine spaces and mobile phones. And I ended up in recruitment, putting out trades and labor. So brick layers, plaster and plumbers. And I kind of just sat there one day and I was really sick of sales. I wasn't a very good salesperson. I’m not great with money, but I'm good at talking so I guess it kind of got by. I thought, could I work in construction? It was like a light bulb moment. I didn't have any women that I knew that work in construction, so it was a leap for me to think I could do this, why not? I didn't really know what I would do and I really didn’t know what I would be good at. So I didn’t have any qualifications, I didn’t have any experience, I didn’t have any tickets. And I thought, what if I send out my CV to a few different places and see if anything sticks? And I was lucky. People often think, walk around London looking at cranes, thinking, “Well, I really see myself up there. This is fantastic.”

Taylor White: You don’t? 

Katie Kelleher: And it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t this life long journey. It was just an opportunity. I got a phone call one day while I was driving home from work saying, “How do you feel about being a crane operator? We’ve got an apprenticeship.” So I was like, “Okay. Just leave that with me. Let me just sit on that for a while.” And yeah. That’s kind of how it all started. I got on and I thought, “Could I be a craner for real? Will I really be good at it or I’ll be really rubbish at it?” But someone has offered me a bit of an opportunity to try and change my life. Maybe I should go for the interview.”

Taylor White: That takes some form of like– You have to have this thing in your brain where you’re adventurous or you’re seeking– I don’t know. It’s just impressive. It’s not something kind of like what you’re saying, you were just like, “Hey. I’m going to go into this.” You got to have something in your brain that’s like, “I’m different from everyone else. I’m going after this.”

Katie Kelleher: I don’t know. I think I was just, if I am at least, desperate to get out of sales. I had been trying to get out of sales for years and years and I thought, |Well, let’s go to the interview and see what happens with this job.” So I turned up to the interview and there were notes of glance there. I was all men. And I was like, “Oh, Christ. I don't fit in here. Why am I doing this? What am I doing here?” But I went through with it. And it was at that moment where I thought, well, anyway, I just thought, I'm not going to get this job anyway. I'll go through the interview and see what happens. There's no way they're going to offer me this job. And I already had a job. So I was kind of like, well, you don't try, you never know. And then I got this phone call saying, "We are really impressed with you. We'd like you to start the apprenticeship. We think you'd be good, we think we can move you on to management at some point. You've got these qualities and all this lot." And the first thing I said was, "It's not because I was the only woman in the room, was it? Is that why you offered me the job?" Because that's where your mind immediately goes.

Taylor White: Is it good luck or–

Katie Kelleher: Was I the token?

Taylor White: Yeah, exactly. That's interesting. That kind of came up is just so cool because you were actually, correct me if I'm wrong, but you were the first female on the lifting technician apprenticeship.

Katie Kelleher: I was, yeah. So I was the first female on the lifting technician apprenticeship. The first female my company had, I believe.

Taylor White: That's wild.

Katie Kelleher: It was crazy. And you quickly realize that you are a little bit different. You know, what sites are like and I doubt sites in the UK are that different, but you kind of realize that you're a little bit unique, maybe, and you're in an interesting position. This is the polite way of putting it.

Taylor White: Yeah, no, I totally get where you're going with that. And 100%, that's what I mean. It takes some serious strength even to do that. So then you got your lifting technician apprenticeship, then you're like, "Hey, now I can operate cranes, now I'm a crane operator." How does that process work? Do you start by being the person on the ground rigging stuff up, or do you just hop into a crane? Can you operate a big crane or a small crane? I don't know, nothing.

Katie Kelleher: It's an interesting one. So what’s interesting was in part of my new job, I’m actually rewriting the apprenticeship that I did so it’s quite come full circle. When I started, I was the first cohort that went through, so the very first group of people that did this apprenticeship. So as part of the lifting technician apprenticeship, I did tower cranes, I did crawler cranes, I did mupes, I did slinger signaler, so on the ground and loads of other stuff that I don't use anymore. And then once you've done your apprenticeship, the time of college was about three months. We work in our yard after that. So you work in the yard slinging. I did tower cranes, I did crawler cranes for a while, until you get your confidence up and you're a little bit more competent. Because it's quite fast track in the UK with tickets. It's like, "Here's your ticket, go on, crack on." Whereas a good company will try to build you up a little bit to do that. And then I got my first construction site after that, and I decided I wanted to do crawler cranes, rather than tower cranes. That wasn't my bag.

Taylor White: So the crawler cranes are the ones that have wheels.

Katie Kelleher: No, they're the ones that have tracks. I do have a mobile ticket as well, which has wheels, but I don't have a HGV to drive it on the road. So the ones on tracks, not the sky high ones, although–

Taylor White: There's so many, right? What was your journey then? Because at the time of doing this, then you started doing LinkedIn, and then you started gaining a ton of attention on LinkedIn and social media. So was that strategic where you're like, "Okay, hey, I think I'm kind of in this unique position, I kind of want to share more about it,” or, “Hey, I'm passionate about cranes. Now that I'm in it, I want to share about that. Let me put that online," because that kind of shaped and evolved, I feel like the brand, the person, Katie Cranes.

Katie Kelleher: It did. And it was really strange because I was on LinkedIn prior to this job as a recruitment consultant, and nobody wanted to talk to me, nobody wanted to connect, nobody wanted to hear from me because I was selling. When you're selling something, obviously people aren't interested. Although I realized throughout my whole life I've been selling, but it's in a different guise, it's a lot less obvious now. And with social media, I just noticed when I googled "crane operator," it was all men. It was all men. Plasterer, plumber, painter, whatever, all guys. And I thought, "We need to flood images out there, I need to get more images of women doing different things out there." And I noticed people were kind of interested in what I was doing, and they were interested in cranes. And my following slowly started to creep up. And the first site I was on was a Crossrail site, which was a big project in London, the new Elizabeth line, named after Queen Elizabeth. It was quite a substantial project, which came with a lot of government funding and things like that. And they kind of pushed me forward for a lot of things. So when we'd have government officials come on site, they'd say, "Right, you're going to meet them, go and say hello," and you kind of get put in the limelight a little bit.

Taylor White: That's so cool.

Katie Kelleher: It's a really strange place to be in because you kind of go, "Oh, it's just because I'm a woman." And I remember the other crane operator who used to share the crane with, and he was like, "Why are they always putting you forward for these things?" And I was like, "Maybe it's because I can talk to people. Maybe it's because I have that ability to have a half-intelligent conversation and talk about what we're doing here and things like that." And I like to think it was that rather than I'm just a woman with pink hair sat on the crane somewhere on a construction site.

Taylor White: It has to be, though. It's not just that they're putting somebody in spot like that. I mean, someone such as yourself. Obviously, you're a good talker. You can speak, know how to handle yourself. So I think that obviously plays a huge role in that, too. When did you see a takeoff on social media, especially because LinkedIn, correct me if I'm wrong, was your first large following. And then from there, it's been building on all these other platforms.

Katie Kelleher: Yeah. And LinkedIn is still the biggest, which is strange because I feel like it's one of those places that is a bit harder to excel on. I can't excel anywhere else but LinkedIn. So kudos to anyone who has a good following anywhere else. I think it's because I was talking about cranes and construction and being a unique woman in construction in a crane kind of thing. People hadn't seen that before. A bit like, "I didn’t know women operate cranes." Even when they offered me the job, I thought women don’t operate cranes because you weren't taught that in school. So I gathered a following that was outside of construction as well as inside of construction, which kind of blew it up.

Taylor White: That's awesome. So now, would you say that your social media, same with me as well too, you showcase what you want to showcase. What would you say are you advocating for or are you showcasing? What’s your thing?

Katie Kelleher: You know what? It's changed. When I first got in crane, I was like, "Anyone can do this. Why aren't more women doing this? This is fantastic. I'm earning triple the money. I’m doing this fantastic job. I can operate a crane." Which is between me, you, and everyone else, it's the only thing in my life I have done really well. I feel like I just skated through everything else. But crane operating was the one thing I excelled at. And I thought, "Why aren't more people doing this?" That's where it all stemmed from. Then, women in construction. We need more women in construction. Those was my early thoughts. And then later on, you become a bit hardened and more aware of things going on in the industry. I moderate a group called "Women on the Tools," and you read people's stories, and you got horrendous things are happening to women on construction sites. Why is this happening?

Then, the number of women in construction hasn't changed in the UK in 20 odd years. They haven’t changed. And it's not because we're not getting more women in, which we are, but because we can't keep them. So, why can't we keep them? What are we missing? There are fundamentals on the construction site, little things that can make a big change in people's lives where we're just missing a trick on. It even comes down to school talks. I'm selling this as a dream to these kids. I’m absolutely selling this to a dream. And these awful things are happening to people. Am I setting these kids up for failure? And I started to feel a little guilty about it. And I just thought, "Yeah, we need more women. We need more diversity." And then you go sit back and you go, “Oh, no. We need to change things.” It's not a case of pushing people. And we can push as many people into the industry as we want, but unless we change how we do things, we’re never going to get any more people. There are skill shortages. And, “Oh, we need young people.” But no, we need to change how we do things to get people.

Taylor White: What are those things?

Katie Kelleher: Some of them are really simple. I talk often about my first day on site, and it was horrendous. It was so bad. I don't think anything can set you up for it. I got a text message to turn up at half past 7:00. It was a big site in central London, with a tier-one contractor. I turned up and I looked and the guys were like, “Yeah, you got this.” Okay, right. So I walk into this room, it’s a room full of men, there’s a guy at the front talking. They all turned and looked at me and stopped what they’re doing and I’m like, “What am I doing?” So I just carried on walking through the room because I thought, “Oh, this must be the right place. This is where they told me to go.” I got to the back of the room, eventually, they all turned around and continued their meeting. I slid down the back wall into almost like a fetal position on the floor, and then I started questioning myself. I’m like, "What the hell are you doing to yourself? Why are you doing this?"

And I was not even in the right meeting; I was in the induction. But unless you've been on site, you don't know what you’re stepping into. You don't know what an induction is going to be. You don’t know the right place you’re going to be. And then I went on site and everyone was staring at me, and it was like a real big pressure. And you go from operating a crane in a field while in college, operating on a safe yard to being on a site in central London, with these massive tall buildings either side of you. And you’re thinking, "God, I hope I don't stick this into anything. This is going to be awful if I stick this crane into the shopping center next door.”

Taylor White: It is a possibility.

Katie Kelleher: You know what? It felt like a possibility. Between the crane there was a bit of wood, and then there’s a footpath, and then a big building. It’s that close. And in my head, it was even closer than that.

Taylor White: The margin for error was there.

Katie Kelleher: For ages, it was just, like, a big pressure. So for me, I think, okay, people new to construction, they don't know what they're walking into. People have this expectation when they get people in construction that they've been there before, they know what they're doing, they know what they're going to be, and they don't. You go to an office, you start a new office job. People go, "Oh, this is Katie. Welcome, Katie. Here's your new desk. Here's your new pen. Here's your pad. Everything okay? The bathroom's over there. All right? Everything all right? Shops down the road.” And you get all these nice things. You went into construction, everyone's like, "Get on with it." And it's these small little things. And then you go to bathrooms, women's bathrooms on construction sites, like, lord, sometimes there are women's bathrooms, sometimes they're used as a storage cupboard. Sometimes the site manager has the key. You have to go and ask the site manager for the key so you can go to the toilet. I shared a bathroom on a barge with welders for a while.

Taylor White: Beautiful.

Katie Kelleher: Yeah. And I was like, "Oh, God." So I'd like, try a wee just like twice a day and hold it all day because I didn't want to use the toilet because it just stank so bad. And then there's like, women's PPE is horrendous. It's horrendous. I was lucky. Operating a crane, you get given a big jacket, comes over your hands, you get in the crane, you take it off, you're fine. You put the heater on, everything's all right. Undo your trousers because they're not flexible, they're not comfortable. But if you're a woman, electrician, plumber, bricklayer, someone doing something with your hands that needs you to be a bit flexible, and you're wearing man's PPE that looks like you borrowed it off your dad for the day. There's these little things that we can change to make people's lives better and less uncomfortable. Things that make people want to get up to work and go to work and not think, "Oh, God, I've got to wear those oversized shoes and that oversized jacket again. How am I going to do my job properly?" Or, "Oh, God, I have to go and ask for the key to the toilet. I hate doing that." And I've been privy to information about people working on railways, and there was an email chain of women who were all emailing each other asking how to best dehydrate themselves so they didn't have to use a toilet. And these are the little things.

And then we go on to other things, like flexibility. As an industry, we're massively inflexible. We're massively not understanding when it comes to the workforce. I'm really passionate about the workforce. Yeah, it's brilliant. The people in the office are fantastic and everything, but I'm very passionate about the workforce because I think it's a really unheard voice. We don't talk to these people, we don't ask how they're feeling, we don't ask what they need. We just expect them to plow on like workhorses and get things done. There's no flexibility in the workforce. I remember having a conversation and there was a CEO of a well-known car. I talk forever. Sorry.

Taylor White: This is perfect.

Katie Kelleher: This CEO of a well-known company, I'm at this event and he's talking about the next generation and how we get them in and what we need to do and all this lot and how well they're doing. Just patting himself on the back. I stuck my hand up and I said, "How are we supposed to inspire the next generation into an industry that gets up at 5:00 in the morning, but doesn't get home till 7:00, 8:00, 9:00 at night, five, six, seven days a week? How do we inspire the next generation into that?" And he looked at me and he thought, and he went, "Oh, if you need to come in a bit later in the morning or leave a bit earlier on a night, you just ask your site manager." I'm like, "Where the hell is he going with this?" Like, this wasn't what I asked. Or “If your site manager won't do any. I used to do swimming, but if your site manager won't do anything, just email the CEO and ask them.” I think, "What planet is this guy living on? Does he actually understand how the workforce works? How hard they work, how many hours they are?" I mean, when I was in a crane on site, I'd be putting 70-hour weeks in, week and week and week and week again. And these are the problems.

I understand. Some people want to work all the hours under the sun. It's more money, I get it. But they might come to a point in their life where they've got children, where they've got elderly people to look after, where they've got a partner who's sick, where they need us to understand and give them some allowances so we don't lose them out of their trade, out of their job, out of the things they've spent the last 20-30 years doing. Rant over, sorry.

Taylor White: No, I love it. I love your angle. And this is why. And this is coming from me, I like your angle because you're not so much like– You’re advocating for women in construction, 100%. But the things in my brain that you're talking about as well, too, obviously, minus a few, it advocates for just people in construction. It's like, "Hey, this is how we can make the industry better." You're not here being like, "No, screw the guys that have been doing it forever and putting up with the junk and the women coming in, “Well, we want this treatment." You're like, "No, hey, there's stuff we can do to make women's lives better on a construction site, for sure.” But this other stuff that I'm talking about, it's actually good just for everybody.

Katie Kelleher: It's got to be everyone. In order to make any change, it has to be everyone. It has to be Dave, it has to be Sandra, it has to be Peter. It has to be open to everyone. Nobody's trying to be exclusive. PPE. Men have problems with PPE as well. It's not just women who have problems with PPE. PPE isn't a one-size-fits-all. Men have bigger hands. Men have smaller hands. Men have smaller feet. Men have bigger feet. It's everyone. It's everyone. Flexibility needs to suit everyone. This is why we're losing these people. This is why we have skill shortages. This is why young people can't learn off the older people because they're dying to retire. They just don't want to do it anymore.

Taylor White: Yeah, it's so true. I love everything you're saying. And I think that the mindset that you have, it's like such a winning conversation. And I can get down with it because what I have a hard time with sometimes is if somebody just wants to advocate for one or the other, whether it be guys saying, "Girls, they can't get special treatment," and the girls being like, "Well, we need special treatment or this or that." I like that. It's the inclusiveness. It's like, "Hey, there's stuff we can do to make this better and that better, but as a collective, it can all be better." Like flexibility because there's a lot of guys now, especially even those that work for us, that they're like, "Oh, women need more time to look, pick up their kids from daycare." It's like, "Well, it's a changing world.” And a lot of the time, maybe the woman is the breadwinner and the guy needs to leave work. We see a lot of that difference now, even just from when I was growing up and the workers that we had when I was 5, 6, 7, 8. It was like, "Oh, the wife's picking up this, the wife's doing that. The wife's–" Well, now it's changing, and it's like, "Oh, I got to pick up my kids from daycare at 3:30 today." And just. So it's kind of just everybody. Anyways, it's super refreshing hearing that, Katie.

Katie Kelleher: Look, it's got to be everyone. And like I say, your mindset changes. The longer you see things going on, the longer you speak to people who work on site. And, yeah, I am a woman, obviously. So I do understand about women's problems, maybe slightly more. But the majority of the problems that we have in industry and the majority of problems around skill shortages and getting people into industry, it has to be inclusive. We have to bring everyone to the table. I mean, women, I mean men, I mean different religions, I mean different colors, I mean everyone. It just has to be inclusive or else we're going to come up against a problem. We've already got a problem.

Taylor White: Yeah, 100%. I think it was just after CONEXPO, I remember seeing on your social media, you're like, “Hey, I'm switching roles.” Was that just after or ust before?

Katie Kelleher: It was April. So it was April that I completely changed job roles.

Taylor White: So it was a month after CONEXPO?

Katie Kelleher: Yeah. And it was interesting.

Taylor White: So how did that come about?

Katie Kelleher: I guess COVID kind of changed things a lot from the crane. So obviously I was a crane operator. I worked on some substantial projects, really enjoyed it. And I guess the problem was I started being asked to do more things, so more school visits, more interviews, more different things, which my company at the time loved. It's good exposure. I'm always fairly positive, so it always goes down quite well. And then I did my Appointed Person ticket. So the appointed person, I don't know if you have the same role or whether you call it something else, but the appointed person plans the lifts and does all the lift planning and everything, oversees the lifting team, so, still very much in cranes. And then when COVID hit, everything kind of changed for me, and I was put on furlough from the site I was working on. So I was still being paid, but I wasn't working. And they asked me, would I go back and run their LinkedIn page, because I was doing that on the side as being the AP and the crane operator and things like that. And I was like, yeah, fine. So I started down that route, and then I was dealing with slinger signalers, and then it just all kind of changed again. And the CPA, the Construction Plant Hire Association, reached out to me and they said, would I be interested in joining? They're going to make a new role, technical and development officer. And I thought, you know what? It come at a time where I was kind of questioning what my next move would be. And I'm a great believer in pushing forward. Keep pushing forward as much as you can. And I was kind of like, well, what's going to happen to me now? I'm not in a crane. I don't feel as useful as I used to feel. It's a real weird position I’m in. And then this came up, and I was like, that could be a really good move. That could be a really good move. And they're really nice people. So I took the jump.

Taylor White: That's awesome. So you said at the beginning that you're looking at the apprentice program that you took yourself.

Katie Kelleher: Yeah. How weird is that? So I was in a meeting on Thursday. I was in a meeting on Thursday because we're rewriting the apprentice program. There's, like, a big working group full of us just to make it more obtainable. Because what happens is I think people aren't using it as much as they used to, and it was kind of hard for people to pass certain segments of it. And I guess this was 2014, 2015, when this apprenticeship was written, so it's time for a revamp.

Taylor White: What were some of the issues on it that you saw? Maybe some different sections of it that were more difficult to pass.

Katie Kelleher: Yeah, I don't overly know. I think they changed it slightly and I think them obtaining proof of what they were doing on site and getting their portfolio together and they just weren't passing it. It was almost like a stopper and it was taking too long to get people through. So I think a lot of companies started to stop using it, so there weren't as many lifting technicians going through it as there were at the start. So it's just time for a revamp. But it's quite exciting that I get to influence the next lifting technician apprenticeship, which is–

Taylor White: That's wild. Is the number still super scarce for women that are taking the course? Is there much activity on that front?

Katie Kelleher: In terms of crane operators there's still a limited number of women. I like to think I brought a couple in.

Taylor White: That was what I was going to ask. Do some people reach out to you and are like, “Hey, I've gone into this because of watching your stuff or seeing you advocate for this.”?

Katie Kelleher: Look, early doors, there was one point. This is a random story. I was in a garden center in the pet shop area a bit, and I was buying fish because I used to have fancy goldfish. So I was in there buying fish. Stay with me, stay with me.This goes somewhere, I promise.

Taylor White: Okay.

Katie Kelleher: I'm in there buying fish and I'm up at the till and there's this girl serving me and she's like, “I follow you on Instagram.” I'm like, “All right.” And she was like, “Yeah, you're the crane operator.” I was like, “Oh, yeah, I am.” She was like, “I'd like to be a crane operator.” I'm like, “Awesome.” I was like, “Let's do this.” But she's been operating for about seven years herself now. So tower cranes. And then recently I've had a couple of other girls that I met through at Trainers. So a girl I met through there, she's just done the crawler crane course at the old company I used to work for. And she's out on one of the big sites in London doing crawler cranes now. So I like to think I've had a little influence on the numbers, but they're still massively low. They're massively, massively low female crane operators. I think we all know each other because there's just not that many of us.

Taylor White: Yeah, that's wild. Is there anybody that you look up to or mentor? I'm always interested in that. Because the idea of starting social media, at least for me, came at 2:00 in the morning one night when I was sitting on the couch and watching some guy plow snow on YouTube. And I’m like, “Hmm, maybe I could showcase something.” Was there a click moment or somebody who weren’t promoting the construction industry, or just doing social media, or something that you kind of looked up to? Where’s you’re like, “I want to do that as well.” Or giving you this extra push to do what I should be doing right now.

Katie Kelleher: No, and you know what? I wish I had a really cool answer for that. What pushed me to do it was just the absence of women in construction. That's what pushed me to set up my Instagram and doing the LinkedIn and everything. It was the absence of role models for young people, and that's what drove me to do it.

Taylor White: You said that wasn't a good answer, but that’s an amazing answer. That's awesome. It doesn't have to stem from something. And you're saying it just stemmed from seeing a lack of something so it came with it and now I get to do this.

Katie Kelleher: Yeah, I suppose it's a good and valid reason than any to start on social media. But I just felt that young people need role models. They need to see– I’m not saying I’m a role model because I wouldn’t tell anyone to follow my path. But they need to see people doing a variety of different jobs. They need to know that the doors are open for them in any industry they want to go in. So I created these stickers that I take to schools, with a picture of me as a crane operator saying "Girls can't what?" It's just to say that girls can do whatever they want to do. If you want to work in construction, go work in construction. If you want to operate a crane, a digger, or a dozer, you go do it. Nobody's stopping you from doing that. And it all stemmed from that.

Taylor White: I love that. What is a typical day like for Katie Cranes?

Katie Kelleher: At the moment, it's a lot more mellow than it used to be, which isn't a bad thing. I guess I'm flexing my brain a little bit more than I used to. The Construction Plant Hire Association, where membership association is the basis of what we do. People join us mostly because their insurance companies tell them to join us. We offer rental terms and conditions that they like to buy for for plant hire. But off the back of that, we also run a lot of interest groups. The Tower Crane Interest Group and the Crawler Crane Interest Group. We bring together manufacturers, plant hire companies, together to point out guidance documents. So we provide a lot of guidance documents. I spent a lot of my time reading these guidelines, documents, editing, and going through them and making sure that everything is okay and that it makes sense and it’s all legal. And a lot of my time is spent doing these kinds of things now. And working on apprenticeships, I guess it’s a lot more stressful on my brain but a lot easier on everything else.

Taylor White: Yeah, and that's a natural progression. For me, it sounds like such a good opportunity for you. You’re like, “Okay. I’ve been doing this. I can still do what I want to do on social media and advocate for stuff. But this actually might give me a better quality of life and pursue that angle.” Which is super cool. I love that you work with apprentice programs. Because we take on a lot of co-op students here. I actually have one starting soon. I’m not sure if you have a co-op program, but co-op is we have local high schools and when students are in grade 11 or 1, they have the option of doing a course for a semester, so half a year called co-op. So basically for a full day, they go out and work somewhere. They’re not getting paid, they can, but most of them around 90% they’re not getting paid. They’re just getting out and gaining experience.

They’re not allowed to work with family, if their parents own the business. They’re not allowed to work with anybody that they have any history of knowing. I have two guys at work with me, full time, that did co-op with me in highschool and then flipped over and stayed. I think that it’s just such an important course to get young kids and students to go into a field.

I have tangents as well, too. I remember when we first started, my father was like, “I’m going to have that. Can you hear that never end machine?” I’ve been around construction and that’s dangerous. I'm 100% guided and watched. But I said “Dad, that's the point. We don’t have much and we’ll just be standing on site watching because we’re here for two weeks.” That’s the point. The point is to get them exposed to show them what it’s like. What are the people like on site? What's it like to be on the job site? Little things everyday when we show up we take for granted. People don’t know what it is like to being on a job site. What’s it like showing up on the first day and everyone’s staring at you smoking a cigarette eating a sandwich? It’s crazy. And that’s what I love about what you’re doing because I just think it’s really important. And that part just really sticks with me of what you’re doing. Do you have something like that there?

Katie Kelleher: I guess it’s like what we call work experience where we go off a week and we work somewhere. It’s usually for free. I skived out on it in school and I was sick. I just couldn’t find anything. But I think you’re absolutely right. And I think it’s a chance to show people what we do and that is one of those great chances. Because quite often, people don't understand. And I don’t know about where you are but in the UK, working in construction or trades and on the tools is not seen as a great career. Teachers would always say, if you don't work hard, you'll end up there. Or your parents would say. It was kind of that narrative, and I get really upset when people go–

Taylor White: I'd like to hope that with people like yourself, it's changing through exposure online, but it's just getting at the older generation. When you go to them and be like, “Hey. I kind of want to run machineries.” “Like really? No, you’re going to go to a university, you’re going to get this. Or to a college.” Well, I don’t want to do that. But you’re right. It sucks because it's looked down on.

Katie Kelleher: It is looked down on and it's so annoying to me. And even when I hear people talk about when I do these school talks and things with other people and people say, “Oh, it's not all muddy boots and hard hats and PPE, and it's not all that.” But no, it is all that. Yes, you can work in the office, yes, you can do CAD, you can do drawings, you can do architecture, you can do all this. But the majority of what we do needs to be done on the ground by people. They need to be done by hand. So telling people, “Oh, you don't have to be muddy. It's not all muddy.” The best times of my life I've had are on site. The best cracks, the best laughs, the best people I've met are through working on construction sites. And people go to me, “Do you miss operating a crane?” I said, “I bloody do miss operating a crane because it was the one thing in my life that I knew I was good at.” Do I miss working 70 hours a week? Hell, no do I miss working 70 hours a week. But yes, I miss doing what I was good at.

Taylor White: It's true. And I'm the same as well. I'm such an advocate for blue-collar, the site, the camaraderie. And I look at it a lot of the time, it's like, well, it's a privilege that we get to go out. We're out on some of the most beautiful, nice days where everyone else is maybe stuck in an office, but we're also out there on the worst days when everyone else is in an office as well, too. So there are a lot of trade-offs back and forth. But I truly believe, I mean, blue-collar has fed my family for three generations, and I argued with a past girlfriend's parents before, and they always kind of looked down on my workers and talked poorly about my team, our guys and girls. And I remember always just never saying anything or sticking up because I was younger and not until I was older, and now I have kids, it just really hit me. And I was like my father, my mother, everybody, our family ate and survived, and still does, from the backs of blue-collar work. And I think that that is so important to kind of not lose sight of.

Katie Kelleher: My father's a bricklayer by trade. He doesn't do it anymore. He's getting on in years. But he's a fifth-generation bricklayer. A real craftsman. Can do anything with bricks. You know, that kind of thing. I'm not just talking about knocking up a house. I'm on about he could do real fancy things with bricks. And I guess growing up, I never quite understood what that meant. And we'd go into London, and he'd be pointing at these buildings, and he'd say, I built that. I built that. You see that brick–

Taylor White: Classic dad driving around.

Katie Kelleher: And I never understood how good that felt. But now I got. I'm like, if I go to road station, I am like, “I built this station. I built it. Me. Yeah.” There were hundreds of other people. We just ignore those. It was me. I built it. I built this. I changed the way people live in London. I changed their lives for the better by being a part of that project. I built part of a sewer. I was part of building a sewer that changed the River Thames in London to be cleaner, to be better for the environment, and to help the people around it. That you can say things like that are one of the best things about our job and one of the best things about being blue-collar, on-site, doing what you have to do.

Taylor White: What is next for Katie Cranes?

Katie Kelleher: It's a good question. And I always feel like when I talk to people, people expect me to have crazy plans. And we talk about social media and plans that were never planned. I don't feel like anything in my life has ever been planned. And most of the time, I feel like I've gotten through life on a wing and a prayer, and I'm still winging it. And I guess whatever I've done, I always feel like a little bit of an imposter. And I'm always shocked when things go really well. Like when I got invited to CONEXPO with you guys. Blew my mind to be in Vegas talking about these things with people like you. I was like, “How do I get these opportunities?” And every little thing that I do, everything that I get invited to, absolutely blows my mind every single time. And I am so grateful that people think of me to do these things. Honestly. What's next? I don't know. I mean, I've got my own podcast, not nowhere near as popular as this one, which I really enjoy. And I think I'm going to keep up with that. But that's mostly about telling stories.

Taylor White: What's the name of that one? Where can people find that?

Katie Kelleher: It's Tales from the Hook. So it's on Spotify, on Apple, and a very cranny pun there.

Taylor White: I like it.

Katie Kelleher: It's about people. I love people, and I love getting different people in from different areas of the industry to tell their stories because that's the best way to sell the industry.

Taylor White: I totally agree. Okay. People can find you at Tales from the Hook. Where else can people find you, Katie?

Katie Kelleher: They can find me on LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, everywhere. Katie Cranes. Yeah., everything's on there.

Taylor White: I appreciate you coming on the podcast today, Katie. For the first time, not the second time. Just to be clear, next time you come on, it will be the second.

Katie Kelleher: I know I talk a lot. It feels like I've been here for three.

Taylor White: After this, I'm going home. I don’t know what I'm getting confused with. But anyways, Katie, thanks for coming on. This podcast was brought to you by our good friends over at Komatsu. Of course. You take care, Katie. Thank you.

Katie Kelleher: Thank you.

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