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It’s a man’s world

Ok since I rarely write about work I decided to do so now cos…. the last two weeks have been pretty difficult!

We are launching two more Colonies in June this year – one in the city with a view of the Petronas Twin Towers at Star Boulevard, the other in Mutiara Damansara. Which means that both are currently in building phase.

My job is to basically lead the creation of all our spaces (from conceptualization to end). So I’ve been doubly busy this year since we’re running two projects at the same time. *screaming emoji wtf*

To give you a little background, my job is not just coming up with the concept or the design of the place.  It’s everything involved in creating the space.  Once Fatty and his team have signed an agreement with a landlord or developer, the entire thing is passed on to me.

My job is to:

  • Deal with the landlord and building management to secure approvals before we start building
  • Make sure our ID firm submits architectural and engineering plans for city council and BOMBA licenses and approvals
  • Manage the given budget and make sure everything we want fits into it
  • conceptualize the design theme for that particular space and come up with mood boards.  That means I start pinning!!! I have lots of secret boards on Pinterest hahahaha.
  • Review the designs presented by our ID.  Revise until completely happy with it
  • Make sure that all drawings are complete – mechanical & engineering, plumbing, elevations, 3D renders, etc
  • Manage the timeline. I basically hassle everyone involved to make sure we finish the project on time.  Each Colony’s renovation takes 2-3 months which usually amazes everyone
  • Ensure the space is not only beautiful, but functional.  This means also managing the IT (phones, internet) parts -which honestly I still suck at and have no idea what everything means and only have Nitaya to thank she seriously handles like 95% of it wtf; outfitting the kitchen if we have an in house cafe; installing CCTV ;and a security and access system
  • Planning and choosing the furniture, flooring, textiles, art, and other decorative elements

My job is to basically hassle everybody to do things la wtf.

Up till now, I’ve completed three Colonies with the help of Hoe & Yin, our designer and architect.  Colony 4 threw me a complete curve ball.  From here on, Imma be very honest about the problems I face at work, the mistakes I made, and what I’ve learned.

I’m really bad at confronting problems that seem insurmountable to me

It’s also why I procrastinate so much wtf.  So many followers think that I’m a god at balancing my shit. Lol please wtf.  A terrible trait of mine is I tend to ignore a problem and hope it goes away, which obviously never works wtf.

Back in college it was so bad that whenever my bank statements arrive (and dealing with anything financial really scares me), I just tossed them in a drawer, unopened. O_O  I never looked at them and this was the time before Internet banking ok.  Ten years on, I thought I’d got this bad habit in hand but clearly I don’t.

I genuinely like our designers as friends… and I have trouble working with friends.  When our design renders were delayed, instead of chewing someone’s butt out, I assented, in order not to create conflict.  I was completely overwhelmed to be honest, by people who kept assuring me that everything would be ok.  I wanted to believe it so I closed my eyes and convinced myself we would catch up later.

But when the design is delayed, it affects the costing, the drawings and overall timeline of course.  We completed our costing late and then only realized that we couldn’t afford it.  By then it was too late to revise without losing a lot of time or money.

Outdoor venues are really hard to pull off

For Colony 4, we secured the penthouse level of Star Boulevard, a gorgeous new building, that has a view of the Twin Towers. We also had the entire rooftop to do whatever we wanted with it.  And our floor has double height ceilings.

The entire building is seriously good looking wtf.  Double height ceilings, and floor to ceiling windows that let in tons of light.  The rooftop was a dream too!

Before it turned into a nightmare wtf.

Colony 4 is our biggest project ever.  Biggest floor area, biggest budget all.  We get quite a lot of enquiries for bigger events that we can’t accomodate cos our event spaces are not big enough, so Fatty decided he wanted the rooftop to be a designated event space.

Our budget this time is a lot bigger than before so although I wasn’t completely sure, I went ahead with it.  But here problems started mushrooming up.  First, the rooftop was split level.  Which meant that to create a decent event space that could potentially also cater for weddings, we had to level the roof.  Which means we have to pour concrete to make the whole floor same level.  Then we had to put in new flooring.

Then I started visiting outdoor wedding venues.  I realized that nobody just had an outdoor space.  With our unpredictable Malaysian weather, every outdoor venue also had a backup indoor space to escape to if it rained.  So I explored the cost of getting a glass roof in, to keep away rain but still have a view of the city skyline.  But glass roof cannot exist without walls ma wtf.  So I have to build walls too, which essentially makes it a complete building in itself wtf.  And building a structure like that is expensive!  Then got structure already I need to install aircon and lighting or else everyone would suffocate inside.  And IT access so everyone can IG stories.  And we haven’t even started decorating the place and buying banquet furniture.  All this not gonna pay for itself yo wtf.

There were other things too.  Since the ceilings were double height, it basically meant we had to build everything up to double height too.  Which means double the cost.  T3T  Since we had those double height ceilings, it seemed a waste not to build a mezzanine.  Mezzanine means more structural work.  Lastly, our design itself was just cost a lot to execute.

With everything included, the final came up to RM 2 million over budget.  *screeching sound effect* *suffers heart attack*

It was bad wtf.  Fatty was hounding me to slash costs, and Katrine and I were trying so hard to cut, but with what we wanted to do, there was no way we could fit it into the budget.  Fatty was telling me I needed to penalize the designers and that we might need to scrap the whole project if we cannot cut it down to size. And if we did, we’d lose so much money cos we’d already begun work. T_______T

It was a dark day wtf.  I had never been in this situation before and I realized that there were still so many things I don’t know.  And I couldn’t see a way out of it.  Cut my own salary ah wtf.  I actually offered but Fatty said I siao wtf.  Cos cut ten years also cannot cover lol.

 

Mansplaining is real

I would say partly cos of the digital and social media industries I’ve been immersed in are majority women, and partly cos I wasn’t woke wtf, but I’d never noticed “mansplaining” and its close cousin, “talking over women”, until I started working at Colony.

In contrast to advertising and marketing which is quite female dominated, construction is a man’s world.  I’ve had contractors refuse to answer my questions because “she wouldn’t understand”, and building managers not look me in the eye, decline to shake my hand, but then become damn brother with Fatty.  One manager even acted like I wasn’t there the whole time, until I asked him a direct question.  Even then he replied without looking at me!  I felt like tearing off his facial hair to be honest.

I’ve also had men brush me off with a supposedly reassuring, “don’t worry I’ll work it out with Tim” wtf as though my concerns don’t count, and I shouldn’t worry my pretty little head about it wtf.

Which helps me understand Katrine, our designer, a little more.  I’ve heard stories about her being difficult and I’ve personally seen the way she rips into vendors lolol but it doesn’t seem like she has a choice.  Maybe that’s what she has to do to get things done in this male dominated field.  If I do this longer, I might be the same.

*

In the end, we managed to find a solution for the problem that’s even better than what we originally wanted.  And we just have really amazing designers on board.

This is the design for our reception and concierge area!  By 161 London.

And our lounge area.  A pretty different style from what we’ve done so far. :))) What do you think guys?

So all’s well that ends well wtf.   But Colony 4 wasn’t the only issue – I had some issues with Colony 5 too one week, and after I managed to fix them and keep on, Colony 4 started banging on my door fml.  Hahaha it was one thing after another and we ain’t done yet wtf.  That’s why I haven’t released any new blog post or video in two weeks. T_T

This blog post is really just to jot down what happened.  And we’re off to Shanghai tomorrow!

 

  • Christine

    Don’t even need to mention work, I experienced the same thing doing my OWN HOUSE RENO wtf. The contractor who does my bedroom goes to my husband for the smallest thing instead of me when we made it clear from the start that I’m the point of contact.

  • StaircaseWit

    Hi Audrey,

    Maybe Tim already does this, I don’t know, but I think he should really emphasize to the contractors and building managers that any questions or concerns you have should be addressed directly to you and not to him. When you are meeting them in-person and they only address him, even when you are asking the question, he should redirect the conversation to you by asking you, directly, “What do you think?” If they brush you off, he should get in touch with the person and explain politely, but firmly, that they should respond to you only when you are bringing up a concern, and that if he has any issues, he will ask himself. And he should stick to that as much as possible.

    I think this is the only way they will listen. I got the idea from a radio show I was listening about car repair (it’s called Car Talk) where a lady called in and said that the mechanic only talks to her boyfriend if he comes with her to the shop, even though it is her car and she is asking the question. The hosts suggested that the boyfriend should just tell the mechanic straight up, “I don’t know anything about what you’re telling me, it’s really my girlfriend’s car,” so that he is forced to talk to his girlfriend.

    It sucks that it has to be this way. It sucks even more that if you are strict, they will call you difficult. As if any of these men aren’t being difficult and inefficient on top of it all also!