Stella Cocaro: The Key To Success Working In A Male-Dominated Industry

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 4 April 2022

canibuild General Manager Stella Cocaro says when it comes to competing and making your mark in the male-dominated industry of tech and construction ‘confidence is key’.

The 42-year-old business woman from Kellyville in NSW, Australia, has successfully built two construction businesses while raising four children under the age of 12. Ten years after working as a teacher, she swapped the class room to join the male-dominated construction industry. Together with her husband Tim, she co-founded RESCON – one of the largest granny flat companies in New South Wales, Australia, and later the online platform canibuild.

Realising that with the right technology, builders could sell quicker and easier with fewer overheads and errors, they launched canibuild – a venture-backed, hyper-growth Prop Tech company that helps builders to check site feasibility, and costs.

Via ThisIsEngineering on Pexels
Via ThisIsEngineering on Pexels

Here, she shares her top tips with Women Love Tech about how to get ahead in a male-dominated space.

How have you overcome the hurdle of being a woman in what is traditionally a man’s world?

Firstly, acknowledging that I have the skills and not being hesitant to portray that in any environment. I have a strong personality and have the confidence to speak to any group in any location, whether it be in an office setting or on a job site. Also, I can admit if don’t know something and seek advice. Finally, I understand and speak the construction language. I come from Western Sydney and have been raised by migrant parents. I am rough around the edges so I blend right into that environment!

What inspired the change from teaching high school, to moving into the construction industry?

While teaching, Tim and I developed properties (townhouses, single homes etc.) across NSW/ACT and QLD for ourselves. We enjoyed the flexibility of work hours and money, and decided to start RESCON granny flats and sell to external clients, as we saw potential in the affordable housing sector.  While I loved teaching, I am very entrepreneurial and love the concept of working on something that can change an entire industry and in turn, lives.

You’re undoubtedly busy, how do you take care of yourself and balance the demands of work with your personal needs and mental health?

Life is hard and we are all dealing with personal challenges in our lives, so I haven’t fully figured this out! Here is what’s working for me currently:

1. I try not to sweat the small stuff.

2. I try to get outside and go for a walk on my own every day. I don’t listen to music but instead, listen to the environment. I have so much noise in my life that it’s an opportunity to just breathe in the air and listen to the world around me.

3. I have an amazing business partner who happens to be my husband. I share my thoughts and worries with him, and his energy and support keep me going.

Stella Cocaro
Stella Cocaro
What are the changes you’d like to see in the industry to encourage/support more women?

Titles. For example, a woman who works on the ‘books’, processes payables and receivables and is involved in cost control should not be called a ‘Bookkeeper’, but rather a Financial Planner. A woman who handles the intricacies of the contract (variations/notices/etc) should be called a ‘contracts administrator and not just ‘admin’.

How would you describe your leadership style? Is it different from your male counterparts?

​I have very high expectations for myself as well as every member of the team. I am not interested in micro-managing, so it is very much a hands-off leadership style. I am to the point (I have been called blunt) and I don’t beat around the bush! And you leave every conversation with me knowing exactly where you stand. My male counterparts have been described as nice – I don’t get described that way.

What’s the one piece of work-related advice you’ve received that really made a difference in how you think and act?

From a very young age, my Dad taught my sister and me that to be successful and have control over your own life and choices, you had to go out and make your own money. Never rely on or expect anyone to support you financially.

What advice do you have for the next generation of women looking to enter this industry?

Confidence is key. Treat yourself how you wish others to treat you. And of course, never undervalue your achievements, your skills, knowledge, and talents.


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