Wearing The Hard Hat and Breaking The Stereotype

The construction and development sector has historically been a male-dominated industry. The notion that men are physically stronger than women largely contributed to this state of affairs, and the industry organically grew to appear more welcoming for men in all areas – from the construction site to management roles.

But one woman is challenging the stereotype. We spoke to Denise Micallef Xuereb, Construction and Development Director at AX Group, to find out more about her story and her experience on the ground.

You have always been involved in the family business and AX Group’s business streams are diverse. What drove you to steer your career specifically towards construction and development?

When AX The Palace project was underway, I was asked to supervise the works in the new guest rooms as part of the hotel operation duties, to help with the final phases of the finishing and fit-out works. The job immediately drew me in. Despite the intensity and the challenges, the adrenaline and finally seeing the project materialise was extremely satisfying. At the end I did not think twice, and I have not looked back.

When was your first time on a construction site?

I was quite young when I used to accompany my dad around sites, eager to spend time with him and enjoying the change of scene from my weekly school routine.

In the years that followed, the first real site I worked on, was at The Palace where I was responsible for the completion of new guest rooms as well as the complete fit-out of the top floor restaurant. I just had three months to make the areas habitable and ready for use. I vividly recall standing in this open space which was nothing but bricks and concrete. It was a daunting start but an excellent experience on which I kick-started my career.

How does it feel to work in a mostly male-dominated industry?

In the early days I remember it was challenging for me to stand my ground and I had to prove my worth more than others – not just for being a woman but also for being the boss’ daughter. By time I earned the respect of my colleagues and peers, through professionalism, expertise and the right attitude. And well, grind and sheer determination too.

Can you tell us more about the mason course and what compelled you to do it?

Well for those who know me, know that I am not one to shy away from any task. During one of the conferences on the industry where I was advocating for contractor licensing, a contractor asked a question to a panellist; ‘’Having no contractor license prevents me from working as a contractor but if I have a builders’ license, am I allowed to work and hire others?’’  And the answer was yes.

Having already managed AX Construction for a number of years, I found the answer absurd and realized that to manage the company I would need a builder’s license.

A month after I applied for the course. To be honest the journey was much more enriching and insightful than when I set out to do it, and today I am grateful I did it all.

There are a lot of outdated perceptions that might keep women away from the construction industry. What is your experience of this?

In recent years I have seen a higher percentage of women join the industry, as architects, engineers, surveyors, project managers, site supervisors, consultants and contractors. The sector is wide and there is so much scope for more women coming on board as both skilled workers and professionals. I believe we have a responsibility to change this perception. At AX Group, diversity and inclusion are core values and we encourage women to work towards achieving their dreams and career plans in any field.

How can entities improve the representation of women in this sector?

Education has an important role to play on two fronts. The first is to educate workers and professionals in the industry to improve the image and safety standards of the industry. That on its own will make the industry more appealing. Secondly, exposing particular roles to girls at a young age at school will make these jobs more approachable and reachable.

What are the most exciting moments of working in the field?

The adrenaline rush. And seeing a project grow from a dream, to an idea, onto a plan, and then its execution. And after blood, sweat and tears, it’s done. The most satisfying moment of all is sitting down among the end users in the space you once dreamed of and that you played a key role in; among workers in an office block, employees in a new hotel or tourists enjoying afternoon tea in a newly transformed space.

Which of your projects is most meaningful to you?

The Palace will always be my number one, much like a first love! But my true learning curve and baptism of fire remains working on the new Parliament Building. Not only was it my first holistic project but it also set new benchmarks in local construction management.

Who were your role-models throughout this journey and which valuable advice did you heed to build your career?

My father is my ultimate role model. He has taught me that everything is possible. He always supported me in all my dreams from a very young age. His most valuable advice was to treat your job as an interest, almost as a hobby and to enjoy every moment. I also collaborated with an English woman, a project manager whose composure, strength and convictions were so powerful and admirable that she impressed me greatly as a young woman starting off into the big world of construction. Her aura still inspires me today.

Will you introduce your daughters to the industry, in hope that they will follow in your footsteps?

I will always encourage my girls to follow their dreams and work hard to reach them – no matter what they are. And I will make sure they get a good education, good core values and life skills so that they are able to make their own decisions and choose what is right for them. Having said that if you ask one of my daughters today what she wants to do when older, she will probably say a builder or an architect, because she is exposed to these roles through me. But I will always remind them that they can do anything they want if they set their mind to it.





AX Hotels Sliema Got Talent

Oftentimes, work takes priority over everything else in our lives. The passion to succeed in our career can push us to forget other important aspects in life, including our own mental and physical well-being. That’s why it’s vital to have activities outside of work which ensure that we embrace a harmonious work-life balance. Although it is sometimes difficult to do so, it is always possible.

Andy Tanti, Our Director of Sales at AX The Palace, proves that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Apart from fulfilling a very challenging role at work, handling familial responsibilities, and reading for a Master’s Degree, Andy has also taken on coaching U6 children at the Mellieha Football School. Take a look at what he has to say about taking on this enjoyable but challenging role.


Why specifically football?

“I started playing football with my hometown club Rabat when I was six or seven years old, eventually leaving the club to pursue my career in hospitality. I cannot say that football is my favourite sport; that spot is dedicated to water sports. However, over the years, I have followed club and international football, and eventually, when my boys started playing, I was hooked again.”


How long have you been coaching?

“I have just started my second season coaching at the Mellieha Football School. During my first season, I was an assistant coach with the Under-8 team. This season, I’m coaching the Under-6 group. At this age, it is important to support their development through exciting and enjoyable training sessions that promote involvement and encourage kids to fall in love with playing football. My goal is to instil a sense of team spirit, collaboration, and the ability to deal with different and challenging situations whilst promoting children’s creativity and skills.”


What inspired you to start coaching children?

“I wanted to help my boys, Xandru, who is nine, and Gianni, seven, improve their skills and technique. So essentially, I started coaching to be able to help them. Luckily, my girls, Emma and Nina (I have four kids), did not ask me to help them with singing, dancing, or ballet!”


How do you juggle your time between family, work, studying, and coaching?

“It’s a daily challenge to balance everything whilst allowing enough time for my family and myself. My typical day, including weekends, starts at 5.30am to work on my Master’s Degree thesis for about 2 hours, have a quick breakfast, get ready, and leave home for work by 8am. The workday can be rather intensive, but at the same time gratifying. I try to leave the office by 6pm, which gives me enough time for an end-of-day swim at Xemxija, where I spend most of my summer evenings with my family. I coach on Mondays and Saturdays and play 5-a-side football on Wednesdays and Friday evenings. My children’s extracurricular activities generally take up every other minute during the day!”


Sports and extracurricular activities are very important, and children can be quite a handful! How do you personally benefit from this important role you were entrusted with?

“I have 14 kids in my U6 team. Keeping their attention while explaining different exercises and ensuring that they perform those same exercises correctly is a daunting task. It certainly takes a lot of patience – in fact, I had never imagined having that much patience! Coaching and playing football allows me to switch-off work and everything else for a couple of hours. Apart from the physical benefits, it’s a unique opportunity to take care of my mental health.”


What’s your advice to anyone out there who finds it difficult to juggle work and extracurricular activities?

“Maintaining a balance between work and non-work activities is essential for our mental well-being. I have learnt to manage my time better by colour-coding my daily calendar, so it becomes easy to identify time slots I can dedicate to myself. It is easy to fall into a vicious trap where you try to convince yourself you don’t have time or cannot do something. So start, give it your very best shot, do everything with passion, and time will find you.”




Cultivating a Knowledge Sharing Culture

During the month of September 2022, a workshop was held between the IT department and the Business Transformation Unit, along with AX Group CEO Mr. Michael Warrington and AX Group CFO Mr. Albert Bonello. Throughout the session, numerous suggested projects and incentives have been presented and discussed. Various subjects, including cyber security, networking, cloud & hardware infrastructure, and internal/external user experience, have been covered.

During the workshop, team members provided more innovative ways of improving and introducing new technologies in order to give our employees the most effective tools. However, evaluating the effects of these technologies on our clients and residents. Thus, integrating the needs of our internal employees with those of our customers.


What collaboration means in information technology?


In the context of information technology, collaboration refers to any circumstance in which numerous participants (individuals, teams, or departments) work together to accomplish a common objective. Collaboration between the IT Department and the Business Transformation

department entails keeping business leaders, stakeholders, strategic partners, and IT teams engaged in order to create business results, effective collaboration, and efficient project management.

The IT Department and the Business Transformation department are committed to working together to help the team achieve a shared mission.