Females can Land key role in housebuilding
Housebuilding brings with it a plethora of diverse roles and opportunities for those considering their future career path. For ambitious Amy Savage at Linden Homes South East, she has found her experience of working in the sector an exciting one. She describes her fast-paced journey and the impressive career progression which she has seen during her time with the housebuilder.
Amy always saw herself going into property, inspired by popular culture and programmes on television as well as seeing her family’s successes in quantity surveying. She explained: “I always thought I’d go down the estate agency route or take some sort of sales role, however I undertook work experience in this field and realised it wasn’t for me.”
Amy always had a flair for numbers, which spurred her on to study Maths, Business, Physics and History at College resulting in her opting to enrol at The University of Hertfordshire to study a B.A degree in Economics. Her course included a year out in the industry which allowed her to gain a year’s worth of work experience with Galliford Try.
The placement year gained Amy a wealth of experience and allowed her to carve out her niche and perfect role: “My placement year was invaluable. To begin with I was offered a role in project management which took me out to a building site in Clapham for a few months from September to December. The conditions were quite different to anything I’d done before, especially in the cold winter months! Although I loved seeing the developments come to life, I spoke with my line manager and told them I didn’t feel that project management was for me. I then learnt about Linden Homes, Galliford Try’s housebuilding division and an opportunity to transfer in January for three months to the company’s land department. I absolutely loved it!”
Amy completed her remaining nine months in the land department and impressed the team so much with her skills that she secured herself a job as a Trainee Land Buyer with Linden Homes for when her degree course was complete. “It was so good to know I had a job to go into. I also enrolled on the company’s Graduate Development Programme which gave me a good support system starting my first ‘real’ job. I built close relationships with the eight other people doing the 2-year programme at the same time as me. We all worked in different disciplines which means I now have buddies across the business when I have questions in those other fields.”
As for education pathways, Amy feels that University was the right route to adopt. “For me, Uni was the right thing to do. I don’t think you need to go to University these days, however, moving away to University does teach you lots about yourself and gives you a confidence booster. I would say though, it’s hard to apply theory to the real working world. I did most of my learning and deciding what to do with my career, on my placement year. That was the real experience and when I came back from my placement year, I had learnt how to apply these theories to a working scenario. I went from getting 2.2 and 2.1 marks to getting a First-class honours degree!”
Amy explains that the industry is small but offers lots of promise for those looking for a secure role with impressive career progression, particularly females: “The property industry is a small world and it pays to network and build up your contacts. I have gone from Trainee Land Buyer to Land Buyer, to Land Manager in just two years, whilst doing my graduate scheme. Land isn’t typically a female career choice, but I’d encourage those considering their career options, to not rule it out!”
Although traditionally the industry is weighted towards men, that is not something that puts Amy off. She explains: “My economics course was 80-90 per cent male dominated, but that doesn’t faze me. You just have to get on with it. I think it did prepare me for the industry having less women in it, but I don’t think twice about it. We have different strengths, skillsets and approaches to bring to the job. I find we have different priorities and this makes for a good mix to ultimately reach a better solution. For instance, I tend to look into the finer details, which can sometimes make a big difference on a project we are working on.”
Since joining Linden Homes as a full-time employee in 2015, Amy has worked on a number of interesting projects across the South East of England and she says that every day is different: “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t love it! In my job, you get to do a bit of everything. I am still running the numbers, which I love, but I also get to work directly with architects, construction, sales and planning specialists. There are lots of varied interactions and I really love that mix. Working in land and planning is joining at the start of each project so it’s really exciting to be a part of that journey as it kicks off.”
For those looking for a varied role, Amy recommends housebuilding and specifically land as a solid career choice. She explained: “Housebuilding has so many assets to it and my role is so diverse. Every project is different, every day offers a new challenge, but we are all in it together and that’s a great feeling.”
Amy spends 75 per cent of her time in the office and the remaining time out meeting with landowners, architects or visiting proposed sites to assess how a project could work in practice: “A typical day involves speaking with landowners and councils we have deals with, running viability checks on proposed sites, making offers on parcels of land, through to sales research and collaborating with agents to understand a local market. I get to review responses to our briefs from architects, and work on the design and layout of new sites too. It’s creative, strategic and requires a real mix of skills.”
When asked about challenges along the way, Amy admits that her biggest test has been her confidence. She explained: “Although University did give me some good grounding on how to interact with and present to people, the confidence to present to a room of board directors only really comes with experience in the work environment. My job requires real people skills to connect with different contacts, but you need the ability to negotiate and confidence to secure the deal. Straight away I was presenting in management meetings or pre-bid meetings to company directors; the only way to get over those situations is to do it and from there your confidence grows.”
Out on site with Lisa Francis
Women in Property Case study
For Assistant Site Manager Lisa Francis, there was no time like the present to make the move into the housebuilding industry as a main contractor. After many years as a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, Lisa decided earlier in 2017 to use the experience she had gained previously, to go into the equally challenging role of site management at Linden Homes’ development Kennell Farm, in Basingstoke.
Having studied Graphic Design, a career in the construction industry had not been at the forefront of Lisa's mind, with her most recent role more focused on servicing the sector, as Managing Director of her own landscaping business. However, having made the ambitious decision to change careers, with young children dominating her time, Lisa comments on the support and investment she has received as an individual from Linden Homes:
"I am infinitely grateful to Linden Homes for the belief they have had in me and giving me this opportunity. It is really encouraging to see large names such as Linden Homes offering opportunities to women wanting to embark on a career in the sector, and due to this, more and more women are joining the field and dispelling the myth that it is a male-dominated industry.
"For women looking to start their career in housebuilding, my main advice would be to keep an open mind and be prepared to keep learning every day and get stuck in. It is a demanding industry and requires a huge amount of multitasking and the ability to spin several plates at once – however, if there is one thing women are good at, it is multitasking!"
Based on Linden Homes Thames Valley's largest site, comprising 310 homes in total, Lisa's days begin with contractor and supplier briefings to kick off the day's operations. With the Longacre site now partially occupied, Lisa's role demands the careful balance of liaising with existing residents, greeting prospective buyers whilst also juggling programmes with suppliers and contractors.
Linden Homes is committed to investing in women such as Lisa to ensure they are equipped with the skills they require for a long and prosperous career.
Andrew Hammond, Linden Homes’ Divisional Chairman, commented: “Lisa is a real testament to the training and support that is offered to on-site staff, and is one of Linden Homes' success stories when it comes to encouraging women into the sector. We are pleased as an organisation to have such a network of committed and hardworking female site staff, and will continue to invest our time and resource into team members such as Lisa.
"The belief that housebuilding is a male-focused industry is continuing to shift, and we are very pleased to be playing a part in making this happen. Our ongoing support of the National Women in Property Student Awards is a tribute to the pride we take in encouraging women into the field and we hope to see more and more on-site staff such as Lisa finding their feet with Linden Homes."
Raising the roof, raising expectations
Linden Homes’ trainee programme
An increasing number of young people are reconsidering their options when it comes to starting a career in the housebuilding sector. As more and more organisations are providing alternative avenues and routes towards their aspirational career paths, gone are the days when a young person had to be a graduate to step on to the career ladder.
Through Linden Homes' flexible Management Trainee Programme, Jemima Marsh (20) who is a trainee quantity surveyor has been able to find her feet in the sector and find out more about the career she wants to pursue.
After finishing her studies at Godalming College, where she secured three A-Levels, Jemima was unsure of her next move. As such, much to her surpise, she found herself in the construction industry when she was appointed as a Business Administration Apprentice in Linden Homes’ Customer Care team. Just a few months into this role confirmed that this was the industry for her, and one that she wanted to progress and excel within. From there, she decided that she wanted to join the Management Trainee Programme.
Jemima comments: "Within my role in customer care, I learnt a huge amount about the industry and the business. From liaising with the existing quantity surveying team as part of my customer care position, I discovered that the quantity surveyor job role really appealed to me and one that I wanted to gain experience in.
“The team was really supportive when I suggested joining the Trainee Programme and upon starting it was ensured I was visiting development sites and getting the right kind of exposure straight away. The Linden Homes team is one that you can feel confident you will progress within, and my colleagues have continued to do everything to ensure I am supported and receiving the best guidance."
Now a trainee quantity surveyor, Jemima's role is varied from conducting site visits to liaising with stakeholders, to placing contractor orders. Alongside her job role, Jemima is also studying for an HNC in Construction and the Built Environment at Guildford College to ensure she is equipped with the toolkit she needs to build foundations for a strong future.
Jemima continues: "I'm experiencing a very different side of the business and the housebuilding journey to that of my experiences in the customer care team. I love visiting sites to see the bigger picture and how the processes all come together. Combining that with the college course that Linden Homes is supporting me on is allowing me to learn everything at one go– but at my own pace, as per Linden's flexible approach to training."
Tom Nicholson, Linden Homes’ Divisional Chairman East, commented: "It is great to see Jemima enjoying such a positive experience as part of the Trainee Programme. We are committed to helping young people into the industry, and we are seeing an increase of young women like Jemima embarking on their careers in the field.
“We take a case-by-case approach to all of our trainees, to ensure they are provided the right guidance and balance of education and on-the-job experience, to kick-start what will hopefully be a long and prosperous career for them in the sector.”
As part of Linden Homes’ pledge to support young talent in to the industry, the housebuilder is sponsoring this year’s Women in Property’s National Student Awards.
Women in Property case study: Caroline Johnstone
Following several years working in the banking sector, Caroline Johnstone decided to follow her passion and peruse a new career in the property industry that she enjoys to this day.
Caroline (32) is now Group Sustainability Manager at Galliford Try, the parent company of award-winning national housebuilder Linden Homes.
For one-and-a-half years she’s been based in Abingdon with wide-ranging responsibilities in her field including defining sustainability policies and strategy, ensuring legislative compliance, sharing best practice and running improvement initiatives.
Her route there wasn’t straightforward. She studied psychology at the University of Sheffield and, through the Mountbatten Institute, secured an internship in New York with investment bank UBS. She impressed, was offered a position there, and over the next five years worked in cities including London and Hong Kong.
“But it wasn’t something I was passionate about,” remembers Caroline. “I fell into it, really, and when the recession hit it made me question if it was the career I wanted. There were job losses at UBS and, although I kept mine, in the end I decided to leave.”
After six months travelling in Africa she returned to Oxford, where she still lives with her husband, this time with her sights refocussed on a fresh career in project management.
A master’s degree at Oxford Brookes University followed, in Project Management in the Built Environment, which included delivering a dissertation with the topic of sustainability at its heart.
Caroline explained: “I found a job on a construction and housebuilding company’s graduate scheme and although it was going back to being a graduate, it was a foot in the door. I discovered I preferred office-based work to site-based work and when the scheme was finished I was promoted to Sustainability Manager.”
Caroline’s story is the kind of achievement Linden Homes is trying to reproduce around the country through sponsoring the National Student Awards 2016: a search by the Association of Women in Property for the industry’s most promising student.
Being a woman in what is still a male-dominated industry hasn’t fazed Caroline. She said: “I honestly have had no issues with it. Instead, it’s just been important to have the right skills, work hard, and engage in teamwork – just like any good employee. I feel that when I’ve performed well and pushed myself it’s been recognised.”
She points to comments by Sheryl Sandberg, now the chief operating officer at Facebook, who argued that women often underestimate their abilities, with the result that there are fewer female business leaders.
In fact, Caroline believes that the property industry, with its culture of continual skills development by learning on the job, is well suited to women by providing opportunities to learn and gain the confidence to take on fresh opportunities.
“There’s a supportive network among women too,” she adds. “I am quite passionate about the whole diversity agenda myself; we all have to work together. It gives you different outlooks, which add value to any organisation.
“There is the need for technical skills in property, but a lot of it is also around the softer skills, like communications and teamwork. Women have a massive amount to offer.”
Andrew Richards, Linden Homes Group managing director, said: “Caroline came to Linden Homes from a very different industry but has learned her skills and now plays an important professional role in our organisation.
“I think Caroline shows the opportunities that are open to women; not just the jobs that are available but also the training, development and range of choices. Women have a huge amount to offer the property industry and we can’t afford to miss out.”
Women in Property case study: Lisa Knapp
Fate and hard work have proven to be the key factors in the career of award-winning housebuilder, Linden Homes’ Lisa Knapp, a woman in the property industry who has proven resilience and an eagerness to learn can reap rewards.
Lisa has been able to use this determination to succeed to its full advantage; progressing her career to become a quantity surveyor at top five housebuilder Linden Homes.
After briefly considering a future in midwifery and unsure of which career path to take, Lisa took a year out after her ‘A’ levels to ponder her future. This decision proved a crucial turning point as she accepted a position in the housebuilding industry, as a trainee estimator.
“The role really helped me decide what kind of job and career was right for me,” she explained. “I was exposed to a wide range of the different aspects of housebuilding, from land bids and build budgets to the more technical and surveying type roles. I was hungry for as much knowledge as possible and was constantly asking questions!”
After ten months in the role Lisa decided this was the right time to go to university, further her learning and obtain a professional industry qualification.
“When I finished my degree I badgered all my contacts from my work experience days and was lucky enough to hear about a commercial assistant role at Linden Homes from an ex-colleague. I got the job and worked my way up from there.”
Now at the tender age of 27, Lisa has a BSc (hons) degree in quantity surveying from Liverpool John Moores University. She joined Linden Homes in 2011 and works for the Chiltern region, based in Harefield.
“I think if you work hard and aren’t afraid to ask questions you are respected regardless of your gender. That’s certainly been my experience anyway. It’s been encouraging to see more women come into the more technical roles in the industry. We have a different way of approaching problem solving which complements the existing skills in the sector – it all adds up to the best home for the customer, which is ultimately what we are all trying to achieve.”
Lisa’s advice to young women (and men) considering a role in the industry is simple: – “work hard and you will succeed, drive your own progression and continuous development and you will be rewarded with an interesting and well-paid job – something we all aim for in life.”
Tom Nicholson, Linden Homes’ divisional managing director, said: “Lisa’s story is the kind of achievement Linden Homes is trying to reproduce around the country through sponsoring the National Student Awards 2016, a search by the Association of Women in Property for the industry’s most promising student.
“As well as facing a skills shortage in construction there is a diverse range of opportunities for women both on and off site in the industry and they have the knowledge and capabilities to help tackle the issues we face and build the homes we need.
“We have recently been recognised as a leading employer of new talent. For the second year running, as the housebuilding division of Galliford Try, we have been named one of the top 100 companies – for graduates to work for by the UK’s leading graduate job review website, TheJobCrowd’ which reflects our commitment to nurturing the next generation of talent.”
Described as the 'TripAdvisor for jobs', TheJobCrowd website hosts thousands of reviews, all written by graduate employees at companies across the UK. Its league table is unique as it is based entirely on employee feedback. Areas considered include company culture, training, career progression work/life balance, environmental awareness and benefits. According to TheJobCrowd, this means that companies included in the list are “really, truly, the best places to work.”
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