An interview with Anita McKinlay, Studio DB

Head of Projects at Studio DB, Anita McKinlay. With more than 14 years experience in project delivery, Anita heads up the project delivery team, overseeing the execution of all projects and ensuring a positive customer experience. Anita has a calm, collaborative approach, which promotes effective coordination and communication between DB teams, trades, and clients.
14 Apr
Studio DB
Q and A

What changes have you seen in the construction industry in the last decade?


Technology absolutely, for example the rise of BIM, and project management software. It’s been great to see new software being embraced by the bigger companies which help filter down to the smaller operators.  At Studio DB, I’ve been excited to see the company not only auditing the systems they currently use to ensure they are still relevant but researching and implementing new software such as SalesForce and Procore. Procore in particular has been really beneficial for my team and our subcontractor partners. For example, we’ve been able to move away from having printed drawings on site to freely giving access to the latest drawings to subcontractors, and being able to automatically notify them when there are changes.  

Health & Safety

The move from health and safety as a tick box exercise to having it become a real priority and the shift to also include wellbeing. Initiatives like Mates in Construction are important in helping to prevent and bring awareness about construction related deaths, as well as promoting overall mental wellbeing which is so important in a tough industry with many internal and external pressure points. It’s been so great to see large numbers of people working in the construction industry willing to train with Mates in Construction to upskill themselves on how to have those brave conversations and connect those struggling with people and services that can help.  

New Zealand is globally famous for being one of the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to construction. What are you seeing in the market at the moment in relation to cost increases?

Obviously supply and demand is a huge issue at the moment with the residential and commercial industry dealing with Covid related freight and shipping delays which in turn is driving up costs. The market can only absorb so much and in the last six months we’ve seen suppliers having to increase their costs which affects everyone from supplier to customer. We are advising our clients to place orders now for projects being delivered next year to limit their exposure to price hikes.

Speaking with property professionals it seems that more often than not design & fit out projects are delivered late. What do you  do at Studio DB that is different from anyone else to ensure projects are delivered on time?

We have the advantage of time. Time with our clients to understand what they want, and time to plan. DB offers workplace strategy, design, and build services so we have a good idea from the very start of what the client is wanting and if there are long lead time items, for example – lifts, we can flag these up to the client and order early. Sometimes we discover unexpected issues on site during the fit-out, that’s the nature of construction, but we also usually are able to identify issues early by bringing technical resources early on to inform design choices and avoid unnecessary costs and delays. It is the power of having a team being able to provide insights across all the disciplines involved in workspace projects.

Can you tell us about a specific project that you loved. What did Studio DB do for the client that was special?

Blackbull Markets – a great client and great fit-out. I especially loved the whiskey bar and fish tank features as well as the amazing water views which our design made the most of.

New Zealand is experiencing one of the most severe shortage of skilled labour in history. How are you finding the labour market at the moment and what does Studio DB to attract and retain its talent? 

There are still candidates out there, and now more than ever there’s always jobs for good people.  If DB just wanted a warm body in a seat, then we would probably find the market a bit easier. But rightly so, we place a big priority on getting the right person, the right personality, in the right team, at the right time.  We are very conscious of forward workload and ensuring the current team isn’t overburdened so we are always recruiting, even if we don’t have a position open right now, we are constantly thinking about who else we might need on the team and when and seeing what candidates are out there.  Retaining talent is as important as finding candidates. While everyone has different drivers there’s a number of things that DB does to help the team feel happy and fulfilled at work for example flexibility of working from home, DB bought lunches three days a week, an emphasis and promotion on good team culture, and a clear mission, purpose, and set of values. One of the best things I’ve found about working for DB is the ability of the directors to take on feedback and implement new ideas and processes very fast. When you’ve come from big companies like myself, being able to get something approved within days rather than in weeks via multiple people, is very empowering.  

What advice would you give to companies looking to engage in a new workplace project in these special times? 

I would say definitely consider it, a new office or refurbishment can make a really positive difference to your team and productivity. The next thing I would advise is to engage the Workplace Strategy services of DB to understand the kind of space you need to enable your team to be most effective. We can assist with things like workshops, landlord, and lease negotiations. Also what you and your team think you want and need, and what you actually need can be quite different and the WPS utilises real world data and calculators to bring objectivity to the discussion. Finally – give yourself lots of time – the earlier you engage with DB and the more time you give us to come up with a design and budget that encompasses your vision, the better.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just that despite the lingering cloud of Covid, I’m actually really excited about 2022. DB has a solid pipeline of work and as always I look forward to working with our great team to bring the projects to life.

Want to see more?

View all

We would love to chat!

Tell us what’s on your mind. Give us a call or send an email. Whatever works best.