There's never been a glass ceiling that could hold back Liz Watson. She's gone all the way to the top all over the Waikato in her chosen trade as a roofer.
She has knowledge, experience and qualifications, co-owns her own company, and has topped it all off by being named New Zealand Tradeswoman of the Year.
Liz, 33, is a founding member and committee member of New Zealand Women In Roofing (NZWIR) as well as a member of the National Association for Women in Construction (NAWiC).
She and her long-time partner Dan Stone, 32, co-own Hamilton based Stone Roofing Ltd. Dan is company director and a qualified roofer while Liz is company manager and a roof cladder.
But she is not a business partner just to do the books - she spends no more than one day a week in the office. The rest of the work week she is on the tools on a roof top with her team.
To have a chat with Liz, Waikato News had to track her down to a house build in Nawton where she was installing metal roof tiles.
She could have been just about anywhere in the Waikato. Ask her where she has done roofing jobs and the list sounds like it could be a verse from the country song I've Been Everywhere: "... Te Kauwhata, Ngāruawāhia, Waharoa, Whatawhata, Matamata, Morrinsville, Matangi, Cambridge, Karāpiro, Kihikihi, Pirongia, Pokeno, Paeroa,Taupiri, Thames, Taupō, Te Awamutu, Huntly, Miranda, Otorohānga."
She says time management and being committed to her employees and the clients is vital. So it is just a quick chat during afternoon smoko.
Liz has her trade qualification in metal tiles and is working towards being qualified in wall and roof cladding with a roofing apprenticeship through the workplace training organisation Skills, where she was trainee of the year in 2016.
Starting as a young teen, it has been a long, hard journey for Liz to get to where she is today. She says a positive attitude and a determination to excel has seen her through.
"Stick with it, gain knowledge and get qualifications," is her advice to other women thinking of a job in construction.
"The rewards will come. I feel proud of what I have achieved. It is hard work, but I get treated the same as everyone else, not babied or bullied," says Liz.
"One of my main goals is to have an all-female roofing team – but one of my steps to get there is I have to get fully competent (so I'm fully trusted without question) and get that wall/roof cladding qualification – which I'll have by March.
"What would I tell other females who want to join a trade? Call me," she says. "Let's make the dream happen and make a start to the all-girls team.
"At NZWIR we have teed up a volunteer all-female reroof which I'll be leading, which is happening through Habitat for Humanity and takes place at the end of January."
Liz's mum Yvonne died when Liz was 14 and Liz left Hamilton Girls High School when she was 15. Soon after she took her first step in the industry helping her then boyfriend Dan doing roofing jobs at weekends. During the week she had a job bagging metal and pumice products at a builder's yard.
"But I worked at lots of other civil construction jobs along the way, from the stop/go lollipop person to driving heavy machinery, laying drains and building roads."
Of course the skills do come in handy at home, where she has paved the yard and built a flash dog kennel. She and Dan live in Hamilton with their 8-year-old daughter Yvonne Annie-Lee.
Whānau is important to them and having a good work/life balance with flexibility is a main reason they started their own family-run business.
She and Dan have been working together for a long time, and have known each other since they were small children. Both are from the Far North – Ngāwhā Springs, near Kaikohe.
Both have iwi links to Ngāpuhi and Liz also has links to Ngāti Kurī
"When I was young, I came to live with my grandma in Raglan: I went to Peachgrove Intermediate and then to Hamilton Girls High."
So, what was it like being named Tradeswoman of the Year at the glittering NAWiC Excellence Awards event, at the Royal NZ Yacht Squadron HQ in Auckland?
"I was just happy to be nominated, I was up against four other finalists, a builder an electrician, concreter and a cabinetmaker," says Liz
"They called out my name and everyone was looking at me and saying 'its you, its you'.
"I couldn't believe it, I was just laughing."
Any regrets about becoming a roofer?
"None at all, but I still think roofing is the hardest trade - working all day on an angle at heights and bent over."
At least it helped keep her fit for her other love - netball which she takes as seriously as her work career, and she does enjoy having an outlet that is all hers.
She was a Verdettes Premier player for the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons in Hamilton.
"This year I decided to have a breather; roofing with metal tiles is very body gruelling – giving 110 per cent at work all day and then having to dig in and find another 110 per cent for our games," says Liz.
But she did fill in with the Verdettes Old Girls team this season.
"Then I became a full time team player for one of the new exciting Mixed Netball teams where the players are all Waikato representatives and/or NZ reps.
"So, even though I wanted to have a clean break from committing to a team, I just couldn't quite hold back 'cause I love it so much," she says.
As a teen she was also a Waikato netball rep and was chosen for the NZ Maori team; although she never played a game as "my life ended up in a shambles at young age, so I ended up working instead."
Although that hasn't worked out too bad. What next for work goals and Stone Roofing Ltd?
"Dan and I want to move on from sub-contracting, bid on bigger jobs and expand the business.
"The aim is to pass on our skills and eventually be selling the roofing products and getting clients ourselves," says Liz.
They already have one apprentice – Carlos Wilson, 16, – who they are helping towards gaining qualifications.
Finally, what does company director Dan think of his company manager and apprentice roofer?
"She is really good – one of the best; she's got her metal tiles qualification and getting her roofing one."
He says sometimes people are having a laugh on a job site.
"Liz used to be like, 'are they laughing at me'; but they are not; its is just a normal having a laugh at work.
"Liz is good at what she does and well respected."
Then smoko is over and Liz gets her team back to work.
The Roofing Association of NZ says Liz shows what happens when you enjoy what you do and you are driven to improve yourself and inspire those around you.
"I am not surprised at all that she has received such an accolade as Tradeswoman of the Year," RANZ chief executive Graham Moor says.
"Liz is a great listener who values the help she can get from her connections in the industry. RANZ is very proud of Liz - another in the extending line of wāhine toa (warrior women) that have been part of RANZ since its inception," he says.
"She is a shining example of the younger generation of roofers coming up with a humble, hardworking, grateful, positive attitude along with a determination to excel."
The National Association of Women in Construction NZ (NAWiC) said it received a significant increase in entry numbers for what was fifth annual Excellence Awards, this year in partnership with The Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation (BCITO).
"It's wonderful to be able to celebrate and acknowledge some of our top women working in the New Zealand building and construction industry," Awards Convenor Stacey Mendonca says.
"Women are positively impacting all aspects of our industry," President Jenny Parker says. "The finalists' own organisations, communities and whānau should be extremely proud."
"The NAWIC Awards are a testament to the strong dedication and work ethic of all women in construction, and a fitting way to celebrate just a few of their achievements," BCITO chief executive, Warwick Quinn, says.