Nicola (pictured far left) is currently working as the Role Model for our Brown Girls with Drills – a 7-week project building a shed from scratch at our community allotment in Firth Park, Sheffield. She has lived and worked in Sheffield for the majority of her life. She’s an animal lover – if she wasn’t doing what she currently does she would have been a vet! She is a complete home bird, so you’d often find her with her family, baking, or doing some home DIY. Most importantly Nix loves helping people, aiding others to achieve their goals and seeing people smile.

“It’s a bit cringe but it’s the truth! Knowing that others are happy makes me happy. Seeing the ladies at group working together, enjoying learning new skills and building the shed, it’s been really fulfilling experience for me.”

How do you describe your work as a Brightbox Role Model for this project?

The general gist of it is that I’ve been working with the ladies teaching them how to use different types of tools, teaching them about material specification and talking them through if they’ve encountered any problems through the DIY, that kind of thing and basically just a group where we’re all kind of making stuff together. Remembering that it is a continuous learning process and that it’s alright to ask questions.

You’ve worked as a workshop technician before, do you enjoy being creative in your job?

Yeah yeah I do enjoy it. I’ve worked in the field for about ten years maybe and there’s been times when you don’t enjoy it, and sometimes I think you can fall out of love of being creative and making things. I’ll admit recently I did fall out of love with it.  I don’t see myself as much of a creator and I’m not much of a builder – it were always just a part of my job and I think doing this especially, with this group – Brown Girls with Drills, it’s kind of really made me fall in love with it again.

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Brown Girls with drills

Have you done any workshop leading before?

Sort of. I worked as an Assistant Technician at Sheffield Hallam University for about ten years, I still work there now but in a different department. Part of my job there was to demonstrate how to use different machinery and using certain tools, working with groups and on a one to one level with students so that was my experience. This is the first project I have taken a full lead on by myself.

What surprised you about this project?

From my experience of working in a technical  hands-on, male dominated industry… a lot of the time, women especially, tend to be quite shy about trying out the machinery. So I like the fact that everyone in the group here is more than willing to have a go. The energy feels like everyone is confident and determined to get stuck in – they’re really excited about it! That has made me excited too because I was quite apprehensive myself at the beginning coming in, I didn’t know what to expect – skill levels, etc. It’s not so much about the skill levels, it’s more about that everyone is willing to learn and to chip in, that’s what’s really surprised me about it and it’s been a really positive factor. It’s been a really good surprise and just how much I’ve enjoyed it. it’s nice being outside, the allotment space is really nice and I look forward to coming every Saturday morning and working here and catching up.

“If you work hard and you keep at it, things will come to you and you can achieve your goals.”

You only live a short walk away from the allotments, what is it that you love about Sheffield?

It’s my home. I’ve lived all over the country, when I was younger we moved about quite a lot and to me it’s just my home. I think I like how multicultural it is, I like how it just feels like a really big village and there’s all walks of life in Sheffield and it’s really easy and comfortable here. I’ve been to a lot of different places and you don’t feel as comfortable and to me it’s always been very friendly and it’s northern and it’s got that northern attitude about it and yeah it’s just home and I can’t imagine being anywhere else other than Sheffield and I know it’s a big world but for me I just feel so comfortable here.

Clearly Sheffield means a lot to you! I wondered if there is anything you would change about Sheffield?

The hills. It’s so hilly it’s unreal. No, I’m joking I don’t think there’s much I would change about it… I would probably, even though it is quite an accepting area – I would make it more so that there wasn’t so much division across the wards. I still think there’s still quite a lot of division across Sheffield across cultures, like you find pockets of areas that are predominantly Asian or Eastern European. We’re a global community now so it should represent a global community, we shouldn’t appear to be segregated from each other just because of where we live. That’s the only thing I’d change.

What would your advice be to someone who is trying to pursue a career but are struggling to reach that break-through moment?

My advice would be, stick at it, I think now it tends to be a culture of ‘oh well it’s not working, I’ll do something different’, which is brilliant, it’s nice to have that attitude but if it’s what you really want then persevere, it will come to you eventually. That’s it you know, there’s no plan to life, things just happen. If you work hard and you keep at it, things will come to you and you can achieve your goals.

Written by:


Fatima Shahzad


Placement Student – Transforming and Activating Spaces (TAP), University of Sheffield




Elle is a creative based in the lovely city of Sheffield. Elle is eager to grow, play and learn with each community. “Communities will be involved in all parts of design and delivery. Their voices will create the toolkit for co-created events and programming.”

Read Elle’s story

Our Role Models are fantastic people representing what Brightbox is all about! Through our events, Role Models will share their skills, knowledge and passion (this can be within their industry of work, previous experiences or even through their self-taught hobby). They may share this through leading a hands-on workshop with the local community , 1:1 mentoring with our Young People or hosting a Q&A for budding students about the world of Engineering!

You might never of lead a workshop before, but you’re a fanatic DIYer, or know everything about composting. Maybe you’re a roofer by trade or used to work as a child-minder? Your lived experience is important to us and your community, and we’re always looking to hear from you. Keep checking our blog for upcoming opportunities!

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