Graduate of the Month

Graduate of the Month

We hope you will enjoy reading about the exploits of some of our alumni and gain an understanding of what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning! If you are one of our graduates and would like to feature...or would like to nominate someone else....please drop me an email: Scarlett Palmer

Graduate of the Month

  • Our Graduate of the Month for July is Hilton Wong who graduated with a BSc Real Estate in 2014 and is now a Development Surveyor with Savills in Hong Kong.


    SHP: Hilton, you are from Hong Kong, why did you decide to come and study Real Estate in the UK and, specifically, at Reading?

    HW:Hilton Wong Travelling and living in different places and knowing different people fascinates me a lot. Studying abroad wasn’t really an option when I was a kid, but when the time came for me to decide my undergraduate study, I reckon it was a great opportunity!

    Not only could I receive the best education, but I would have the freedom to explore the world and get the chance to meet people across the globe, especially in the UK where there are so many international students.

    The decision to study Real Estate in Reading was actually quite easy to make as Reading is one of the leading Universities in the industry, it has an outstanding reputation across the world, even in Hong Kong. It is impossible to turn down the offer for someone who is interested in the property industry.

    SHP: Do you have any advice for international students thinking of coming to study at Reading?

    HW: From my experience during my university years as a member of the School’s International Welcome Team and the Real Estate Society’s international rep, many international students do encounter difficulties adapting to life in UK. While the language barrier is the major issue, international students often face serious cultural shock when they first arrive in UK and many of them who struggle to adapt to the local culture tend to stay in their rooms.

    I really recommend that international students should be open to meeting and getting to know other people, they can join some of the many societies at the University or even organizations outside. For example, a friend of mine does charity works in Wokingham, while some others join choirs and fellowships in local churches. Many international students live in halls and that will provide them with a great opportunity to know people with different cultural backgrounds, either locals or other international students. They can experience different cultures first hand and, through these experience, they can understand more and learn how to respect the differences.

    I also strongly recommend International students to travel. As universities have month-long holidays between the terms, it is a great opportunity to explore the UK and Europe. There is so much more on offer than one can imagine. Trust me, there won’t be such long holidays after graduation!

    But no matter how packed your schedule is and how many places you travel, there are times when you may feel lonely and homesick. This is very common for international students, especially during their first year abroad, and it is very important not to be overwhelmed by the negative emotion. Try gathering with friends, or find a hobby, don’t just stay in your room!

    Studying abroad is not easy, there is much for one to learn in addition to the academic side. It is a life lesson for you to be more independent and mature. Remember to seek advice and company if things don’t go right. The University offers all sorts of support services so make sure you find out about them.

    An extra little tip for students like me who returned home for work after graduation: Catch up with your local market. As your study in Reading will be heavily based on the market structure and policy of the UK, it will be hard for you to compete with other candidates back home if you do not have any local knowledge. I would suggest you to look for internships back home during summer time to at least have basic knowledge about the market, statutory restrictions and different government policies.

    SHP: You graduated in 2014 and are now a Development Surveyor with Savills in Hong Kong. What have been your career highlights so far?

    HW: After my graduation in 2014, I joined Savills’ valuation department in Hong Kong at their Professional Services team. The main objective of my work is to assist my seniors in preparing valuation assessments for litigation purposes. Most of my work involves compulsory purchases orders in the Lands Tribunal, where my seniors act as expert witnesses to assist the court in valuation assessments.

    One of the highlights of my career so far was successfully obtaining the compulsory purchase order of a large scale residential block for a major developer in Hong Kong after lengthy legal proceedings and valuation “battles”.

    Valuation cases for litigation purposes are very exhausting and challenging as we often have to face the opponent’s valuation expert and we have to justify our valuation assessment to the court. But in return, nothing beats the sense of achievement when our client is satisfied with the judgement and our services.

    SHP: Finally, do you manage to keep in touch with friends from Reading?

    HW: Absolutely! During my years in Reading, I made a lot of friends from around the world and we have kept in close contact. Since graduation, I have been visited by friends from Nigeria and Japan who I met in Reading. I have also visited various friends in their home countries during my vacations, including Taiwan and Japan. Last year, a lot of us from the BSc Real Estate also flew to Malaysia to attend one of our course mate’s wedding! The friendship we built during our university years is truly amazing.

    Here are some of the pictures of our gatherings; showing my trip to Osaka with Mitsuhiro, in Taipei with Jessica and the gathering of Real Estate undergraduate friends to attend our beloved Christine’s wedding in Kuala Lumpur.HiltonW.jpg?mtime=20180625110630#asset:96136

    Finally, I would like to give special thanks to Jane Bachelor (REP’s Career Development Advisor) and Cathy Hughes (Personal Tutor and lecturer) who helped me and other students a lot during our years in Reading. Jane helped me a lot in my career choice and greatly improved my job hunting skills, she even held mock interviews for me! And of course, Cathy, who gave me a lot of advice not only in the academic side but also for me as an international student to adapt the life in UK. Things would have been much more challenging without you two.

    HJC.jpg?mtime=20180625112852#asset:96141


    SHP: Thank you, Hilton, giving us a real insight into some of the challenges that can face international students and some very positive ideas for dealing with them. I'm pleased that your career is going so well and that you are still finding time to keep in touch with the friends you made at Reading.

2018 Profile Archive

Our Graduate of the Month for July is Hilton Wong who graduated with a BSc Real Estate in 2014 and is now a Development Surveyor with Savills in Hong Kong.


SHP: Hilton, you are from Hong Kong, why did you decide to come and study Real Estate in the UK and, specifically, at Reading?

HW:Hilton Wong Travelling and living in different places and knowing different people fascinates me a lot. Studying abroad wasn’t really an option when I was a kid, but when the time came for me to decide my undergraduate study, I reckon it was a great opportunity!

Not only could I receive the best education, but I would have the freedom to explore the world and get the chance to meet people across the globe, especially in the UK where there are so many international students.

The decision to study Real Estate in Reading was actually quite easy to make as Reading is one of the leading Universities in the industry, it has an outstanding reputation across the world, even in Hong Kong. It is impossible to turn down the offer for someone who is interested in the property industry.

SHP: Do you have any advice for international students thinking of coming to study at Reading?

HW: From my experience during my university years as a member of the School’s International Welcome Team and the Real Estate Society’s international rep, many international students do encounter difficulties adapting to life in UK. While the language barrier is the major issue, international students often face serious cultural shock when they first arrive in UK and many of them who struggle to adapt to the local culture tend to stay in their rooms.

I really recommend that international students should be open to meeting and getting to know other people, they can join some of the many societies at the University or even organizations outside. For example, a friend of mine does charity works in Wokingham, while some others join choirs and fellowships in local churches. Many international students live in halls and that will provide them with a great opportunity to know people with different cultural backgrounds, either locals or other international students. They can experience different cultures first hand and, through these experience, they can understand more and learn how to respect the differences.

I also strongly recommend International students to travel. As universities have month-long holidays between the terms, it is a great opportunity to explore the UK and Europe. There is so much more on offer than one can imagine. Trust me, there won’t be such long holidays after graduation!

But no matter how packed your schedule is and how many places you travel, there are times when you may feel lonely and homesick. This is very common for international students, especially during their first year abroad, and it is very important not to be overwhelmed by the negative emotion. Try gathering with friends, or find a hobby, don’t just stay in your room!

Studying abroad is not easy, there is much for one to learn in addition to the academic side. It is a life lesson for you to be more independent and mature. Remember to seek advice and company if things don’t go right. The University offers all sorts of support services so make sure you find out about them.

An extra little tip for students like me who returned home for work after graduation: Catch up with your local market. As your study in Reading will be heavily based on the market structure and policy of the UK, it will be hard for you to compete with other candidates back home if you do not have any local knowledge. I would suggest you to look for internships back home during summer time to at least have basic knowledge about the market, statutory restrictions and different government policies.

SHP: You graduated in 2014 and are now a Development Surveyor with Savills in Hong Kong. What have been your career highlights so far?

HW: After my graduation in 2014, I joined Savills’ valuation department in Hong Kong at their Professional Services team. The main objective of my work is to assist my seniors in preparing valuation assessments for litigation purposes. Most of my work involves compulsory purchases orders in the Lands Tribunal, where my seniors act as expert witnesses to assist the court in valuation assessments.

One of the highlights of my career so far was successfully obtaining the compulsory purchase order of a large scale residential block for a major developer in Hong Kong after lengthy legal proceedings and valuation “battles”.

Valuation cases for litigation purposes are very exhausting and challenging as we often have to face the opponent’s valuation expert and we have to justify our valuation assessment to the court. But in return, nothing beats the sense of achievement when our client is satisfied with the judgement and our services.

SHP: Finally, do you manage to keep in touch with friends from Reading?

HW: Absolutely! During my years in Reading, I made a lot of friends from around the world and we have kept in close contact. Since graduation, I have been visited by friends from Nigeria and Japan who I met in Reading. I have also visited various friends in their home countries during my vacations, including Taiwan and Japan. Last year, a lot of us from the BSc Real Estate also flew to Malaysia to attend one of our course mate’s wedding! The friendship we built during our university years is truly amazing.

Here are some of the pictures of our gatherings; showing my trip to Osaka with Mitsuhiro, in Taipei with Jessica and the gathering of Real Estate undergraduate friends to attend our beloved Christine’s wedding in Kuala Lumpur.HiltonW.jpg?mtime=20180625110630#asset:96136

Finally, I would like to give special thanks to Jane Bachelor (REP’s Career Development Advisor) and Cathy Hughes (Personal Tutor and lecturer) who helped me and other students a lot during our years in Reading. Jane helped me a lot in my career choice and greatly improved my job hunting skills, she even held mock interviews for me! And of course, Cathy, who gave me a lot of advice not only in the academic side but also for me as an international student to adapt the life in UK. Things would have been much more challenging without you two.

HJC.jpg?mtime=20180625112852#asset:96141


SHP: Thank you, Hilton, giving us a real insight into some of the challenges that can face international students and some very positive ideas for dealing with them. I'm pleased that your career is going so well and that you are still finding time to keep in touch with the friends you made at Reading.

Our Graduate of the Month for June is Hugh Tennant who is a Graduate Surveyor in the Portfolio Team at Landsec, focused on the asset management of Westgate, Oxford & Oxford Castle Quarter.


SHP: Hugh, you graduated from our MSc Real Estate in 2017 and started you career working “client side” which is quite unusual. Why did you make that choice?

Hugh TennantHT: The opportunity to work client side was something that I always had liked the idea of and when I got the opportunity to do so I leapt at it. I really wanted the chance to get fully immersed within an asset, covering the many facets of asset management. Therefore, client side seemed the appropriate place to start my working career.

SHP: What would you say the have been the benefits of working client side?

HT: I think I have been incredibly fortunate to work in an office where across one floor we not only have an incredibly experienced and knowledgeable portfolio & asset management team, but also specialist finance and legal teams amongst others. This has enabled me to see sides of property that maybe I would not have been able to otherwise. In addition to this I was fortunate enough to be a part of the opening of Westgate Oxford, something which I believe I was incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to experience.

SHP: How are you finding applying your work experience to the APC?

HT: It has been great up to now. Working in the asset management team has given me an opportunity to experience many of the different aspects of the day to day running of an asset, covering many bases and allowing me to apply my day to day work to various aspects of the APC. From leasing to reporting, budgeting and development opportunities, asset management has allowed me a diverse and exciting set of experiences to date.

SHP: What advice would you give to a student who is thinking of starting work going straight to client side?

HT: I would ask them to think about which aspects of property really interest them and to aim to target a client side firm that will give them the opportunity to work and gain exposure to this/these sectors. If they get the opportunity to do so I would say go for it, you won’t regret it.

SHP: Have you kept in touch with many people from your course at Reading?

HT: Yes, I still see lots of people from the course. For example, over the final weekend of May I took part in a World Record attempt organised by another Reading graduate from the Real Estate Course. Most of us in the attempt were in fact graduates from the course. We attempted to play the longest game of indoor football raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. We played for a total of 40 hours which, as long as it is ratified by Guinness, breaks the existing record. We have sent off our log book and video records so fingers crossed. It was totally exhausting but well worth the effort and so far we have raised more than £20,000 for the MS Society. We are still collecting money and any donation would be really appreciated!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/longest-marathon-of-indoor-football

The image below shows the teams at the end of the attempt and our score 658 - 720 goals!

GWR.jpg?mtime=20180530105707#asset:94731


SHP: Thank you Hugh for taking the time to talk to us. I am sure many of our current and potential students will be interested in your experience of starting your career client side. We'll all be keeping our fingers crossed for the Guinness World record!

Our Graduate of the Month for May is Professor Ginny Gibson who first came to us as a Masters student in 1980 and retired from her role as Deputy Dean of the Henley Business School last December.

SHP: Ginny, you are our first retired Graduate of the Month but I’m guessing that, for you, retirement is a lot more than golf and gardening….

Ginny Gibson

GG: I guess I don't think of it as retirement - more reprioritisation - doing a range of things that I enjoy and feel passionate about.  So far I have taken on a couple of roles:  I'm a non-executive director for a not-for-profit business education group, ABE that works in emerging economies.  It's really interesting to work as an advisor with a great management team and a very diverse group of Board members.  I'm also on the leadership committee for the CREW Network UK, a women's network for the commercial real estate industry.  

The diversity agenda is something I've been always been committed to and the property industry has a long way to go!   But I also now have more time for fun and creative stuff - I do garden, have taken up glass fusing and started to sew and knit again.  It's great to have time for these activities as they are the ones which got put on the back burner when I was working and bringing up our kids.

SHP: You first joined Real Estate & Planning (then Land Management & Development) as a student in 1980. How have things changed over the years?

GG:  That's a tall order to summarise almost 40 years!  The things that stand out for me are the scale, the diversity, the teaching and the links with industry which the department now has.  

When I arrived, there were probably just over 300 students in the department and now there are almost triple that.  The growth has come from an increase in postgraduate students both, full and part-time, as well as a significant increase in PhDs.  The department now has a really vibrant and stimulating student community.  

In terms of diversity, although there is still some way to go in attracting more female students who make up just over a third of the student body, the faculty are now much more diverse. In 1985 when I joined as lecturer, I was the first women on the faculty and that remained so for over 15 years!  Today almost 40% of the faculty are women who are strong role models for both our female and male students.  

Looking at the teaching, when I first started there was very little project work and the classes were very "chalk and talk". Today there are some amazing real world projects.  Employers are not just after the technical knowledge, they want other abilities like team work, time management and other soft skills as these are the attributes which help students to become truly effective professionals.  

Finally, when I started, there was little engagement with the industry except for the graduate "milk round" when firms came to hire graduates.   Today the department works hand-in-hand with industry - they support financially through the Reading Real Estate Foundation, provide mentors for students, host projects and site visits, and fund research that faculty does.  We couldn't deliver the high quality educational experience without them!

SHP: One of the biggest changes was becoming part of Henley Business School.  How do you think that has influenced things?

GG: I had the privilege to be Deputy Dean of Henley for the last seven years.  I think being part of the business school has really benefited REP by creating opportunities to collaborate with other business disciplines - from finance to entrepreneurship.  

Faculty have done interdisciplinary research together and students have participated in Henley wide activities and competitions; it has created a much richer environment. It has also benefited the alumni community as the REP alums are now part of the wider Henley community - over 70,000 Henley graduates worldwide....great opportunities for networking.

SHP: We are now approaching the 50th anniversary of Real Estate & Planning at Reading….would you like to predict what the next 50 years will bring?

GG: One of the things that is constant is that we will always need places - to live, to work and to play....and someone needs to plan, fund, value, manage and generally look after those places so there will be a need for education. The changes will be in the way that education is delivered but it is hard to imagine exactly how... virtual reality development projects, field  trips by flying saucer  ...technology seems to be the key driver.  

REP have adapted over the last 50 years and remained at the forefront of real estate and planning education....I can't see that changing. The place is in good hands with really committed and energetic faculty to continue to drive the department forward.

SHP: Thank you Ginny. All of us who work in Real Estate & Planning have benefited from your very supportive presence for many years and I'm sure you will continue to input into our ongoing development in your role as Professor Emerita.

Our April Graduate of the Month is Haydon Richardson who has recently graduated with an MSc Spatial Planning and Development which he took on a part-time basis while continuing to work as a Planning Officer at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.


SHP: Could you start by giving us a bit of an insight into the life of a Planning Officer?

Haydon Richardson

HR:  As a one of the more experienced Planning Officers at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) I have been tasked with handling a wide variety of development applications, each of which differs in its complexity.

At present I am dealing with several interesting schemes within Windsor’s prestigious historic environment, including the restoration of a Grade II Listed hotel in Windsor High Street and the construction of a commercial ice cream building within the grounds of Windsor Castle itself. 

Just outside of Windsor, I am dealing with a mixed use scheme within Eton High Street. The scheme aims to a restore and regenerate a 2* Listed Building built in the Medieval times, the ground floor frontage of the units are to be shops, which would contribute to Eton’s vibrant shopping parade. The first floors of the building would be flats and to the rear of the site would be public space and several detached residential units. The complex scheme involves site visits, meetings and engagement with several stakeholder including Historic England, our legal and conservation teams, the public, planning consultants, and flood risk consultants.

On the other hand, I am also dealing with more simple applications for household extensions, annexes and other home improvements. Such applications give me a chance to engage with the Borough’s residents. 

In addition to the day to day engagements I have mentioned above, I have attended and presented at development management panels. The panels allow an insight in to the political side of Planning, at panel elected ward councillors discuss and vote on the outcome of controversial schemes in court like setting.

At RBWM I am also lucky enough to have been helped, guided and encouraged through my career progression. Often staff are given the opportunity to attend professional development courses and I personally have begun my APC for RTPI membership, with the full financial and personal support of the Council. 

SHP: You took our Planning Masters on a part-time basis. What was the biggest challenge in trying to combine work and study?

Haydon Richardson

HR: For me, the biggest challenge was balancing my personal aspirations, academic requirements and social needs. Football is my first love and was one of many compromises I had to make during my studies. In the absence of playing 11 aside, I took part in a lot of 5 aside to stay fit and was lucky enough to reach the National semi-finals of the Peoples FA Cup and the Neymar 5’s Tournament. 

On both occasions we were one of the last 4 teams in the country but failed to progress to the final. (Yes! it still hurts). Since graduating I have been lucky enough to find a club and am back playing semi-professional football in the Hellenic Premier League.

SHP: You were working for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead throughout your degree, is it important to have a supportive employer?

HR: Yes. Without my employer I would not have been able to undertake my studies at the University of Reading or meet the many people that I now call friends. The council have granted me study leave on many occasion and have allowed me to leave work early, on those days where I’ve clearly spent all night doing assignments.

Furthermore at RBWM we have flexible working hours, meaning that as long as my daily contracted hours were complete I could in essence come and leave when I wanted. Some days I worked from 7am-3pm, others 8am- 4pm; such flexibility prevented me working late nights and was priceless during my studies. I was also lucky enough to have support from my colleagues. 

SHP: Were you able to relate what you were studying to your working environment?

HR: Not everything I studied was directly relevant to my working life. However oral assessments have undoubtedly improved my communication and presenting skills. Lessons in development viability, construction procurement, and planning negotiation have given me a wider understanding of planning, its stakeholders and the complexities involved with delivering schemes. The study of Planning Law helped with my report writing and understanding of planning’s legal foundations.  

SHP: If you were to sum up your experience at Reading in three words what would they be?

HR: Invaluable, Exhausting, and Memorable. 

SHP: Thank you Haydon, for taking the time to talk to us about the life of a Planning Officer and the importance of achieving a healthy work/life balance...and football! 

Our Graduate of the Month for March is Anna Law who graduated 2017 with a BSc Real Estate and is now an Assistant Land Agent with Strutt & Parker in Cambridge.

SHP: Anna, you have been working with Strutt & Parker in Cambridge since you graduated last year. How have your found your first few months at work?

AnnaLawweb.jpg?mtime=20180226141052#asset:90750

AL: Having undertaken work experience in the Cambridge office over the last couple of years, I was fortunate enough to already know the office and its surroundings. My team (mostly Reading alumni themselves) are always happy to answer my questions and I am particularly grateful to have been given a lot of responsibility over portfolios and projects from the outset.

The 9 - 5 (and more) approach I took to my final year of study really helped the transition to a full-time role. The course at Reading was fully geared towards preparing its students for graduate jobs, with the added benefit of a one-to-one careers advisor within the Real Estate department.

I have already commenced my APC training programme, often meeting with other graduates in the firm, many of whom I studied at Reading with! There has also been a great deal of change within the business since I joined, as a result of the merger last Autumn with BNP Paribas Real Estate. This is a very exciting time for everyone, as it has already presented us with more opportunities to expand upon our business lines and existing contact base.

SHP: What’s been the best bit so far?

AL: Letting my first property alone gave me a great sense of achievement, as it was a longer-term project I managed from start to finish - from putting the property on the market and carrying out viewings, to drawing up the tenancy documentation and checking in the tenants to their rental property. Another highlight for me was drafting and completing the annual budget for a 4000-acre estate, which required a great detail of time and attention to the income and expenditure for each individual asset, including an extensive estate shoot. I was given the opportunity to present this face-to-face to my client, which was nerve-wracking but very rewarding.

I also hugely enjoy the consultancy work, such as researching for and assisting with valuations and appraisals for a multitude of client assets. There are a number of exciting upcoming projects in my portfolios too – including a full refurbishment of a residential property and exploring potential diversification opportunities for a large listed manor house in Suffolk that we manage.

SHP: …and the worst?

AL: Myself and a colleague were undertaking annual property inspections on one of our main portfolios and received a call from a distressed tenant. Overnight, during extreme winds, a neighbouring tree had fallen and crushed their two cars, scraping the side of the property too. Both cars were complete write-offs and the tenants were in a state of shock, so my colleague and I had to use their kitchen table as our office that morning to instruct the required works and make insurance arrangements. It was a real problem-solving experience but unfortunately not in the best of circumstances.

Another, more embarrassing moment would have to be getting my car stuck in the corner of a very muddy field and having to be hauled out by a tenant with his 4 x 4. A classic rural surveyor issue, I know.

SHP: Have you found that what you learnt at University has been directly relevant to your work?

AL: Absolutely. The course couldn’t have set me in better stead for my role here at Strutt & Parker. The first two years of my degree I found to be particularly useful in providing an in-depth knowledge of commercial real estate, features of which I apply on a daily basis.

I find myself constantly referring back to my notes from my final year, particularly those from my Law modules when dealing with commercial leases and residential tenancies. I have also found my notes from the Tax and Estate Finance module absolutely essential, as tax is something my team deal with regularly. Furthermore, undertaking my final-year dissertation with the study area being Cambridge allowed me to explore the region in which I now work. 

SHP: Finally, do you have any particular memories of your time at Reading that you would like to share with us?

AL: The field trips we were taken on in our final year were good fun, despite it always being freezing cold and raining! My personal favourite was the residential trip to Gloucestershire, where we visited a robotic milking parlour and an arboretum, providing us with a varied insight into rural practices.

Beyond the library and lecture theatres, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Ladies Hockey Club –it was always refreshing to head out to other University campuses and blow off some steam on the hockey pitch! My highlight from this was, as Captain in my second year, winning the regional league – the overall result was down to a points difference. The opposition had (incorrectly) assumed victory and were celebrating with champagne, only for it to be confirmed moments later that we had in fact won! Safe to say they were suitably embarrassed.

SHP: Thank you Anna, for taking the time to talk to us. I'm glad that your career has got off to such a positive start and I hope it continues to be interesting and rewarding.

Our Graduate of the Month for February is Chloe Dixon who graduated from our BSc Real Estate programme in 2016 and is now in the Residential team at CBRE. She gives us an insight into her work with a "Week in the Life ....."

A Week in the Life of Chloe Dixon: Residential Graduate at CBRE ...

Monday

Chloe Dixon

I can genuinely say that I wake up on a Monday excited for what the week will hold; no Monday blues here! My role as a Graduate Surveyor at CBRE is hugely varied so I am excited for another interesting week as I arrive in the office on a Monday morning.

After the team meeting, it’s time to get to work; there’s another busy week ahead. I work for both the sales and development consultancy teams, on a range of residential developments, from the pre-planning stage, working through apartment layouts and specification, to finished apartments ready to move into. Our largest current project is c.3,000 new homes. With a team of 120 people we provide a range of client services including marketing, research, sales, lettings and development consultancy. My focus today is a large-scale development in Stratford to the east of London. The task is to price the first phase of the development, so I am busy learning the local market and collecting comparable evidence to help determine my decision on pricing levels tomorrow.

Tuesday

Sophie Ashby gym

Tuesday starts with a journalists’ breakfast to preview the new Sophie Ashby apartments at One Crown Place, a new development in the City. The client has laid on a fantastic feast which has gone down well with everybody including me. Once the overview presentation about the scheme has finished I then mingle and help answer any questions they may have.

After the breakfast, I dash back to the office and start the pricing appraisal of the first phase in Stratford. I sit down with my line manager and run through my initial thoughts at lunch time. The pressure is on to report to the client by Friday.

By mid-afternoon all the graduates and apprentices head off on a tour of high profile London developments. This is the best way to understand the London market and what CBRE Residential is involved with.  

Wednesday

Wednesday starts with an onsite sales and marketing meeting back at One Crown Place. We discuss current sales enquiries and potential buyers from the previous week. We touch on PR and the strategy for the upcoming launch of the next phase. I am amazed by the interior designers, Bowler James Brindley, who have designed the interior of the W Hotel in Barcelona and Sophie Ashby who is renowned in the industry.

I have a meeting with my APC counsellor late afternoon to discuss my progress; I can’t believe time is going so fast and I will be sitting my APC in October. The team I work with are an amazing support which is a help, as most of them have been through this process. I am nervous about my APC, but they ensure me that I will hit all my competencies.

Lincoln-Square-Site-Tour.jpg?mtime=20180125142450#asset:89344:legacyThumbnail

Before I head home after a long day, I work late on pricing a scheme in East London. The responsibility for this one is on me, and I have been liaising directly with the client for the relevant information. This involves me going through the floorplans, considering the floor levels, aspects and specification to deliver the appropriate pricing level for the scheme in the market.

Thursday

Today we are in Pimlico to meet our client to discuss the sales of their scheme, Ebury Place. We worked closely with our research team to create a lifestyle based report, including fantastic restaurants, on the area the potential buyers are going to live in. The client has decided to do some live market analysis, so we spend the afternoon trying the local restaurants. It’s safe to say no one was disappointed!

OBF.JPG?mtime=20180125143854#asset:89346:legacyThumbnail

Before I know it, it’s 5.30 and I find myself at an exciting launch on London’s South Bank at One Blackfriars. We are taking potential buyers around the new show apartment viewing gallery on the 32nd floor. What a fun way to finish with spectacular night time views of St Pauls, and over the Tate Modern, towards the lights of Canary Wharf.

Friday

Friday begins with the weekly team quiz, and everyone is competitive as usual - especially our Chairman. One of the things I love about CBRE is that we still have time for fun as a team.

Once I’m over the fact that I still don’t know the exact number of London Underground stations (there are 270), it’s time to jump on the Jubilee line to South Bank Tower, for the weekly sales meeting with our client. The stunning views from the sales suite over the River Thames remind me of why I came to London and what it means to me to work here.

Once I get back to the office I finalise my report on Stratford and the Director I have been working with hits send on the email, rounding off another busy, interesting and varied week at CBRE. 

Our first Graduate of the Month for 2018 is Anthony Onum who graduated 2016 with an MSc Real Estate and is now a Senior Project Manager with Mudicon Creations in Abuja.

SHP: You came to study at Reading from Nigeria where you had already been working for a number of years. It must have been a big commitment to give up work and move abroad. What motivated you to make the change?

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AO: It was not easy deciding to quit my job to study in the UK, it was a major risk and if real estate has taught me anything, one of them is that “the higher the risk, the higher the return.” I am not one to be complacent, I am convinced inside me, that I am that unique piece in that big puzzle that must be solved to make the world a better place.

In retrospect, I am proud of taking that leap into the unknown. I wanted to find out what being a global professional was all about and the Real Estate and Planning department at the University of Reading, gave me that answer. There is just so much to be thankful for. Receiving a School of Real Estate & Planning African Scholarship, remains for me one of my proudest achievements. I left Reading stronger, empowered, curious and hungry. I say hungry because; in one year, I had discovered so much about myself and the opportunities around me waiting to be explored. I feel that … “I never left Reading, I kept her in my heart.”  

SHP: You graduated in 2016 with an MSc Real Estate and are now a Senior Project Manager with Mudicon Creations in Abuja. Could you tell me a bit about your role?

AO: Earlier in my career I had worked as a junior project manager for Mudicon, so it wasn’t much of a challenge to join the team. Mudicon is a firm that provides architectural and project management consultancy services in the construction sector.

As Senior Project Manager my work is centred around construction and real estate development projects. I lead a team of construction engineers, providing managerial oversights to different projects. However, since Mudicon is not a construction company who directly construct, we serve as project managers for clients who need us to represent them in a project.  It is quite a challenging role, especially as I must combine construction management, project management and real estate development expertise to deliver.

I haven’t been in the role for long and so there is a lot more to explore and room to grow as well. Currently, I am working along side our partners toward a real estate development project to commence in 2018. This is a big one for me, as I shall have the chance to fully put all I had garnered from the University of Reading into full practice.

I would like to also mention that, I am also exploring other spheres and looking to build my own firm and brand. I have been into full time photography as well and I have started working toward starting a real estate marketing and photography firm. I am one of those who see my background and exposure as an opportunity to move beyond the mundane; to be innovative and creative. There is no limit to what any one with a real estate degree from a school like the University of Reading can achieve. I mean, we are trained to become stars and a pacemakers.

SHP: Looking back at your time at Reading do you have any particular memories you would like to share with us?

AO: Firstly, attending Eamonn Darcy’s lecture in real estate economics. Monday 8am every week, we all had to make our way to the agriculture building at the extreme end of the University campus but everyone was fond of that priceless moment. Eamonn made me think and breathe real estate. 

I enjoyed the field trips, the Blue Game (an investment challenge) and all the presentations we had to do. I met great people and had the opportunity to serve as the Postgraduate Faculty Rep for Henley Business School, I was totally immersed in everything inspiring. Beyond the academic atmosphere, I took part in all the Open Days and recruitment exercises and those were unforgettable moments. I also worked with the University of Reading catering services from Dolche Vita to Sport Park to the Library; I was that Nigerian guy with a full hair and a jacket all the time!

Reading is simply addictive, and I mean that in the most positive terms, you come around and you hate to walk away.

SHP: Finally, do you have any advice for international students thinking of coming to Reading?

AO: I have loads of advice to give but I shall stick to a few. If you want a place to mould you and challenge you, then Reading is that one place. The University Reading has such an amazing ambience; from social life to an inspiring academic environment that brings out the very best in you. However, you must be willing to learn the ropes and stay open to what learning is in the twenty first century. The University is highly dynamic and always moving with time and trend, so prospective students must be flexible and highly adaptable to excel.

I must say, every international student should come in with an open mind, the University is hugely multi-cultural, and this is what global learning centres are known for; you will always fit in. Lastly, have a plan just in case things do not go as you expect after graduation. Everything happens so fast, you are in today and it is graduation first thing tomorrow morning.

When you leave your country to come over to Reading, you automatically assume the role of an ambassador for your home country, do all within your power to tell the right stories by your attitude and excellence. Remember, you come into Reading, but it never leaves you.

SHP: Thank you Anthony for such and interesting and positive profile piece. You mention that international students should assume the role of ambassador for their home country while they are in Reading, it would certainly seem that you have extended that to act as an ambassador for the University of Reading now you are back in Nigeria...thank you!

2017 Profile Archive

Our Graduate of the Month for December is Bronnie Edwards who graduated from our MSc Real Estate programme in 2014 and is now a Leasing Executive at Esteé Lauder Companies

SHP: You’ve recently started a new job with Esteé Lauder, I think it’s fair to say that this is not a company immediately associated with real estate in most people’s minds!  Could you tell me about the property holdings of the company and your new role.

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BE: Yes, most people associate Estee Lauder with their own-brand makeup but actually ELC own 25 prestige brands including Jo Malone, AVEDA and Bobbi Brown. They have a portfolio of over 100 free standing stores in the UK as well as a number of pop-ups and other retail activations. In my role I am involved in managing these as well as helping to acquire new sites across the UK. We do everything from liaising with project managers to ensure stores can open on time to working with developers agreeing sites in schemes that are not yet open.

SHP: You joined Esteé Lauder from Cushman & Wakefield. Is the working environment very different?

BE: Totally. I have gone from a retail agency background where most of my day was spent out of the office at viewings/meetings working for landlords in Central London on estates such as Carnaby, St James’ and Rathbone Square. Now, I am far more office based but interact with people doing a huge number of different roles both within Estee Lauder and externally. I have learnt that there is so much more to opening a store from a business planning and distributions side of things, so I am seeing retail property from a totally different, business perspective.

Similarly, going from a company where the vast majority of employees are also surveyors to an ‘in house’ role where there are only two of us, means that I have to approach my job in a different way. On a different note, I would say you just need to look around my office to notice the difference between working for a traditional property company to a retailer, the gender split is very different!

SHP: Finally, this is the time of year when people are considering applying for Masters courses. What would you say to someone thinking of applying for the MSc Real Estate programme at Reading?

BE: I would say that you should not be worried if you do not have a clear idea in mind of where your career in Property will go. It is a hugely varied profession and the great thing about the MSc course and the graduate schemes that most of the bigger companies offer is that you are given the opportunity to learn and try a number of different areas. My experience was exceptionally varied and each new role taught me a lot, even if the skills required did not come totally naturally! I was involved in everything from rights of light and legal meetings to retailer and fashion trade shows. When I was at Reading I did not know the job I have now even existed, so I would say staying open-minded about where your career will go is key.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of the people you will meet at the early stages. I know networking makes it sound forced and disingenuous but actually your network becomes increasingly important as you move through your career and having a large group of people (friends) that you can call upon for help, advice or to share experiences is invaluable.

SHP: Thank you Bronnie for taking the time to talk to me. We wish you every success with your new job.

Our November Graduate of the Month is Liz Bridge, who is a Senior Rural Surveyor with the RSPB

SHP: I think many people will be surprised to learn that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a significant land owner and, therefore, employs rural surveyors. Could you start by telling us a little bit about the charity and the land it owns and manages?

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LB: The RSPB is the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe and has over one million members.  The RSPB works across the UK, saving species from extinction, protecting special places for wildlife and motivating people to add their voices to campaigns.  Reserves are at the heart of what the RSPB does, they’re vital to conservation work and essential spaces for people to connect with nature.

 Currently the RSPB manages 214 nature reserves covering 152,791 ha (377,546 acres) approximately 0.6% of the total UK land area.  One of the strategic aims of the charity is to double the land managed for nature by RSPB from 2005 levels.

The landholding ranges from traditional farmland (arable and pasture) to land restored for conservation use such as reedbed creation projects, forestry, managed realignment projects.  There are additional properties such as offices, residential accommodation, commercial warehousing and workshops.

SHP: …and what is your role in all of this?

LB: I am the Senior Rural Surveyor for the Midlands region of RSPB.  As well as looking after the estate management of the existing Midlands estate, I am involved in the acquisition of land to form new reserves and extend our existing reserves.

Each reserve has a Site Manager and I work with them to deliver their site objectives and meet their budget targets, day to day this could be through reviewing compliance with agri-environmental schemes, negotiations with grazing tenants or lease renewals with landlords. 

I build up ongoing relationships with our landlords and neighbouring landowners which often lead to partnership working or acquisitions.  As a varied estate, those that we work with are equally varied and range from traditional rural estates, farming families, football clubs, parish councils, cricket teams, government bodies and private owners. 

In addition to onsite work, I sit with the Regional Reserves Management team setting the regional objectives and overseeing the estate from a strategic level.

SHP: What projects are you currently involved with? 

LB: One of the main projects that I have been involved with for several years is the acquisition of Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve (NNR).  I negotiated a lease of 200ha of land that makes up half of the NNR in 2014.  I was also a leading member of the RSPB team which won a procurement contract with Nottinghamshire County Council to take on the lease of a further 150ha of the NNR together with the construction of a multimillion pound visitor’s centre.  The final contract provides for the centre, which is under construction now, and will trigger the lease unifying the whole management of the NNR during 2018.

I am also involved in a national partnership programme with Barratt Homes.  Barratt Homes are constructing a 2,500 home development on the outskirts of Aylesbury and are aiming to bring environmentally friendly measures into the homes, gardens and wider development.  A nature reserve will be provided, with visitor’s centre, on the edge of the development which we are currently discussing.

SHP: I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but do you have to know about birds to work for the RSPB?

LB: No, not at all, although an interest in the great outdoors is helpful.  The RSPB employs the right specialists to do the job required. I work closely with our Reserves Ecology department to ensure that our tenants understand the obligations on their management, and that the right land is identified for acquisition.

SHP: You’ve been with the RSPB for almost 10 years, what have been the most significant changes in your role as a Rural Surveyor with the charity?

LB: The organisation has changed and become more business focussed over the last 10 years.  The role of Rural Surveyor has remained critical to the successes on reserves.  There is now a greater emphasis on cross compliance and managing statutory risk on the landholding. 

The one thing that has remained constant is the unending enthusiasm from colleagues across the Society to achieve our aims and ambitions. 

SHP: Thank you Liz, I am sure both our current and potential students will be very interested in your work with the RSPB.

Our September Graduate of the Month is Dolapo Omidire, who graduated in 2013 and is now running his own company

SHP: Since graduating from Reading you’ve been based in Nigeria and have worked for two internationally respected companies – Broll Property Group (affiliated with CBRE) and AXA Investments. Could you tell me about your career progression?

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DO: After returning to Nigeria I was keen on completing my APC as I wanted to take advantage of completing an RICS accredited degree so I looked for companies that would be able to offer me this here while enabling me grow in my area of interest, research. The Broll Property Group, which is CBRE’s affiliate and partner in Africa was an obvious choice and I was able to get a role there for my National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), a compulsory year long service period required by all Nigerian graduates. I spent my first few months doing valuations, which admittedly I’m not the best at but finally got the chance to head to Research when a new team lead for the unit was employed. After the NYSC year, I was retained as a staff member and completed some amazing work for international and local private equity funds and other institutional investors looking to understand the Nigerian and West African real estate market. This involved travel, client engagements and A LOT of writing! It gave me very strong grounding in and knowledge of African property markets and it was priceless experience. During my 2 year stay here, I grew to become the lead researcher and also supported the research team in Broll Accra, Ghana to help institutional investors that required market knowledge.

I decided to move to AXA Mansard Investments, to grow my skillset on the investment side of real estate and also to ensure that I was a well rounded professional. Knowing that AXA IM is the largest real estate asset manager in Europe, when the opportunity opened up I was very excited. I spent most of my time at AXA Mansard Investments evaluating new investment opportunities and looking after an office and retail asset. Given the current state of the Nigerian economy, the office asset was definitely was a handful (fun one I promise) because of complexities with FX debt, a devalued currency, rapidly increasing office supply and fall in oil prices which led to a fall in office space demand. My team worked closely with our partners to ensure that the asset remained prime within the environment and this involved keeping average lease length high, optimising the capital structure and other initiatives to improve the spec of the building as new flashier properties that were delivered wanted to scoop up our tenants!

SHP: What advice do you have for international students looking for jobs after graduation?

DO: For international students studying the course, the reality of not getting a job in the UK after graduating can be a harsh/sad one. Even after completing work experience at CBRE getting a Graduate role there was difficult. Heaven knows how badly I wanted to work in the West End! I probably wore out the super helpful Jane Batchelor [REP’s Career Development Advisor] always going to her office without appointments complaining how I hadn’t found a job. My advice to them would be to apply aggressively, but not to forget that there are always attractive opportunities back home. You just have to look properly. Both roles I worked at in Nigeria were not gotten through the typical application process, but via speculative applications and networking/putting myself out there.

SHP: You have also set up your own company - estateintel.com - how did that come about?

DO: Working in research and having a passion for it, it struck me when there was no platform that provided the information required to make investment decisions. African property markets are opaque and have been so for a while but I didn’t notice anyone trying to do anything about it seriously. I started estate intel in 2014 as a blog but with the strong positive feedback and consistent work, it has grown to become a platform that provides data and research for multiple institutional investors operating within Nigeria and Africa. It still has a lot of working going into it and I am excited about the future.

Interestingly, I realised my passion for research while completing Project 2 in my Projects in Investment and Finance module while at my final year in Reading. Honestly, analysing 3 REITs in Australia, UK and the US and providing recommendations on them was a long and very tedious process. Why on earth would Anupam [Anupam Nanda, Professor of Urban Economics and Real Estate] ask us to do this?! At the end however, after I had completed my analysis and began to pen down my opinion with full understanding each of the companies, it felt great. (FYI – the UK REIT analysed was Great Portland and while I liked the REIT, I was very apprehensive because of their Central London strategy which would be very risky, in a situation like BREXIT).

SHP: You have recently decided to leave AXA to enable you to concentrate on Estate Intel. Was that a difficult decision to take?

DO: Given that I had been running the platform concurrently I was knew the time would come so I was always relatively prepared. The difficulty was finding the right time to make the jump. What I realised though, is that there probably would never have been a perfect time. Now that I have left I think I should have done it much sooner!

SHP: Finally, in three words, sum up your career to dates.

DO: I love research.

SHP: Thank you Dolapo

Our Graduate of the Month for October is Cal Lee, who graduated in 2011 and is now head of Workthere

 

SHP: You recently set up Workthere with funding from Savills. How did the idea for the business develop from a concept into reality?

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CL: I was working in the Commercial Development team at Savills when I first had the idea, about a year on from taking my APC. I saw an opportunity for Savills to use technology to access the fledging start-up market, an area the business had not traditionally serviced. Previously the deals were too small for our office leasing agents to focus on and most deals involved taking flexible office space rather than a lease. I pitched the idea to the business back in 2014 and was successful so Savills put forward a select number of people within the firm to offer advice on different aspects.  I then put together a business plan and we stress-tested the concept before I pitched to the Savills Group Board and UK ExCo Board in May 2016. Following which they provided funding to take the business forward.

In July 2016 I moved from my role in Commercial Development to focus on Workthere full-time and began building a team. We started work on the website, which was built from scratch, as well as creating a brand that would sit under the Savills umbrella and marketing plan for an external launch in February 2017. We’ve now been officially live for just over six months and are a team of four in the UK. We also launched Workthere through Savills Ireland in May and have plans to expand further into Europe over the coming months.  Our progress to date has exceeded our expectation and we look to maximise this with an increased market share.  

SHP:   What has been your biggest challenge in setting up a new business?

CL: There hasn’t really been one big challenge but a series of challenges to overcome. The first was simply moving from the relative security of a career in the Development team to something completely new for the business and a whole new market and sector for me to learn about. The aspect I had the least experience in though was actually building a business, everything from brand, website, marketing and finance – all things that are not necessarily covered on a real estate course, but I suddenly very quickly needed to understand and be knowledgeable about. It has been a steep and quick learning curve on each and I feel I have done a practical business and marketing degree in the past 12 months, but I am very grateful for all the new skills I have learnt in that time.

The least challenging part was getting Savills on board to fund it and incorporate Workthere as a new initiative within the business. From day one they have been brilliant and have provided a strong level of support including board level Directors to help me put together the business plan and now actually run Workthere. This is a new venture for the firm and provides an offer in an area that it hasn’t previously been active so for Savills to immediately support the vision for Workthere was something I am proud of. My guess is that the biggest challenges are still to come, the market is very competitive and we have to work hard to build our brand and make sure we become the number one choice for occupiers beginning their search for flexible work space. 

SHP: You have worked for Savills since you graduated in 2011, how different is it to be your own boss?

CL: I have really enjoyed the step-up to running my own team within Savills as it has always been something I wanted to do. Albeit I am not strictly my own boss, I report into the Head of Transactional Services at Savills as well as the Workthere Board.  

The role however is very different to what I was doing before, where I had a clear path and worked under a Director. They always had the main responsibility of bringing in business and would always make the decisions at the end of the day. Suddenly I was responsible and found myself making final decisions that could impact the future of the business, whilst also leading a variety of work streams and essentially being accountable for the success or failure of Workthere. This responsibility was something I was not necessarily prepared for so early in my career, but it is something I have come to enjoy.  I have learnt a lot about myself in the past 12 months and I am grateful for the opportunity that Savills has and continues to give me.

SHP: You act as a mentor to Real Estate & Planning students, what is the one piece of advice you wish you’d had as a student that you can pass on to our current undergraduates.

CL: There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance and the latter is not something I would endorse at all. But confidence is so important, people will only have as much confidence in you as you have in yourself. I think the biggest thing is to believe in your abilities, don’t be afraid to ask questions, or question what might be the norm. Real estate is an industry that has historically always been a bit slow to adapt to new things, be it new ways of working or new technology. We are in an age now where new talent is continually changing the way we live and work.  This brings great opportunities to students entering the market who have ideas and ambitions to solve existing problems in the industry. The key for them is to have confidence in themselves and in their ideas and not be afraid take them forward, even when they come up against challenges. There will always be people who don’t believe in your idea, and whilst it is important to listen to feedback and be mindful of potential pitfalls, it is equally as important to not to let negativity dent your confidence.  Find those people who do believe in your ideas and challenge you to improve them. 

SHP: Thank you Cal, for taking the time to talk to me. It's really interesting to hear how Savills have backed your idea and enabled you to establish a new venture. We wish you every success.

Our Graduate of the Month for August is Nicole van Zyl who graduated in 2010 and is now an Asset Manager with Cube Real Estate

 SHP: You’ve been working at Cube Real Estate for about 18 months now, could you tell me about the company and your role as an Asset Manager.

NvZ: Cube are a small firm specialising in Property Investment and Asset Management. I work in the Asset Management team which means I am responsible for devising and implementing strategies on the commercial buildings our Investment team buy on behalf of our Investors. These strategies can involve physical changes to the building, a change of use, work to attract a new tenant, re-gearing an existing tenant’s lease or a combination of things. Day to day this means I am liaising with and coordinating external leasing teams, planning consultants, building surveyors and lawyers. Our portfolio ranges from multi-let business parks to shopping centres so the strategies and work involved can vary considerably. In order to keep on top of it all organisation is key!
At Cube we apply creativity to maximize the potential of assets that might be overlooked by other investors. I enjoy Cube’s open-minded approach to asset management - when we buy a property all viable alternative uses are considered and although we must be led by occupier demand we are not bound by the buildings previous use.
As an Asset Management team we recognise the importance of our tenants and do everything we can to help remove the inevitable hassles of occupying property. We focus on providing space that occupiers want and creating a place for their business to thrive. This approach allows us to attract and retain the best tenants while delivering strong rentals and above-market returns in order to keep our investors happy.

SHP: You moved to Cube from Workman LLP. What have you found to be the major differences between working for one of the largest independent commercial property management and building consultancy firms in the UK and a much smaller, more specialised company?

NvZ: I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Workman LLP but wanted a change from Property Management. Thankfully, my experience in the day to day management of commercial property feeds directly into my role as an Asset Manager at Cube.
Working for a smaller company is completely different as you would imagine. It allows me to become involved in all aspects of the business and to work directly with my directors who each have 30 years of experience which to me is invaluable.

SHP: Finally, do you still manage to keep in touch with friends you made while you were at Reading?

NvZ: Absolutely, I keep in touch with most of the friends I made at Reading. I often come across my fellow BSc Land Management [now BSc Real Estate] students in business meetings and at social events.
Having a network of friends who are now working in the same industry really helps, especially at some of those early morning CPD events!

SHP: Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Nicole. It certainly sounds like you are enjoying working life and have found a job that you find really fulfilling.

Our July Graduate of the Month is Leigh Rix who graduated in 1979 and is now Head of Property and Land at Clinton Devon Estates

SHP: You graduated in the 1970s and went to work for the National Trust. Could you tell us about your time there?

LR: I was a contemporary of Professor Roger Gibbard and graduated in Estate Management in 1979 (there were only about a dozen of us who studied the ''rural option '') and joined the National Trust. Following a spell at National Trust’s Head Office in London as an Assistant to the Chief Agent (during which time I worked in ten different offices throughout the country) and passing my Test of Professional Competence (TPC), which was the forerunner of the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC), I was offered a position in the East Midlands.
I was entrusted with a portfolio of small estates and found myself at an early age being responsible for both the staff and finances of these properties. This was a great experience which stood me in good stead when, over the next few years, numerous additional estates were acquired in the region - Canons Ashby, Northamptonshire; Calke Estate, Derbyshire; Belton Estate, Lincolnshire; Kedleston Estate, Derbyshire; Park Hall Estate and Kinder Scout in the Peak District; the Workhouse, Nottinghamshire. All of these provided  new challenges in order to bring them up standard (major capital building work programmes to mansions and parkland restoration schemes) and open to the public (installation of car parks, tea rooms, restaurants, shops, toilets and information centres). A busy time but tremendously satisfying.
The Trust was very keen on personal development and provided some marvellous opportunities - attending Business Management courses at both Cranfield and Roffey Park, a three month secondment to Sydney, Australia working for New South Wales Historic Houses Trust, being a Secretary of State appointee on The Peak District National Park, lecturing on National Trust fund raising cruises and participating as a Trustee in a global not for profit organisation (International Coalition of Historic Sites of Conscience).

SHP: You are now Head of Property and Land at Clinton Devon Estates. What have you found to be the main differences between working for a conservation charity and a family owned estate?

LR: Surprisingly similar but at the same time very different. Both take a very long term view - Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) now has the 22rd, 23th and 24th generations at the helm - with Stewardship at the heart of the vision. Taxation is the main differentiator. In general terms as a charity it is not something the National Trust (NT) has to worry about whereas every single decision on a private estate has to consider the tax position.
CDE operates a balanced scorecard approach, so whilst it holds and manages commercial, agricultural and residential property which are income generators, at the same time it employs wildlife rangers, an ecologist and education officer to manage and assist the public in using the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) on the estate.
Governance is another area where I have found major differences. The NT, probably out of necessity as a charitable body, is enormously bureaucratic. CDE as a family owned estate with professional Trustees and a clear distinction between family and business (refined at the Family Business Faculty at the Institute of Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland) is fleet of foot and provides an environment where decisions can be taken quickly as circumstances demand.
One area which was similar was that of Project Management. Exactly the same skills are needed (and are transferable), whether leading a team on a multi-million pound Heritage Lottery Fund conservation project, or leading a team to pull together from scratch a project to develop a business park and residential development.

SHP: You have recently hosted a visit from our current MSc students. What were your impressions of today’s Rural students?

LR: It was a great privilege to meet the current MSc students and spend a day with them looking at various aspects of management on Clinton Devon Estates. I was impressed with their enthusiasm and the variety of under graduate degrees/experience which they had obtained. All were very personable and I was not surprised to learn most had job offers.

SHP: How will the challenges they face in the work place differ from those you had to deal with on leaving University?

LR: Two of the main challenges they will face in the work place are the increasing pace of change and how to react to political uncertainty. In their careers they will deal with competing uses for land which have not yet even been thought about.
Once they have passed the APC and have a good grounding in their professional discipline, I would encourage them to supplement their knowledge with wider business experience (whether an MBA or greater business exposure) and also develop their interpersonal skills. The profession may teach technical skills but at the end of the day it is about people and finance.
Finally, I would also encourage them to seek opportunities where they can be the ''Leader of the Orchestra'' and provide a service for their client which pulls together the many professions and disciplines connected with land use and development.

SHP: Thank you Leigh, for a very interesting insight into your career so far. You have given both our potential and current students a lot to think about. Thank you also for hosting the study tour visit to the Clinton Devon Estate, the student feedback said it was a fabulous day!

Our Graduate of the Month for June is Camilla Walter who graduated in 2011 and has just started a new job with British Land

SHP: You graduated in 2011 and joined Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), could you tell us a bit about your career to date.

CW: I did indeed – seems like such a long time ago!
I joined JLL just a few months after the merger with King Sturge so it was an experience joining a company that was going through so much change (I can’t begin to explain the IT problems of merging two huge completely different systems!!). Although I was lucky to join a big cohort of over 75 graduates as both the King Sturge and JLL graduates started together which was great.
I started off my graduate scheme in the South East Valuation team for 6 months and then moved to the Corporate Solutions team for 6 months which works with occupiers to provide strategic advice in relation to their occupational portfolios. I worked on the HMCTS (Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Services) account, managing court buildings across the south of the UK – they were certainly interesting inspections to carry out!
For my final seat on my graduate rotation I joined the Central London Retail team working on Lease Advisory work carrying out rent reviews and lease renewals on behalf of landlords and retailers. After a year I sat my APC and thankfully passed, staying on thereafter in the London Retail team permanently as a qualified surveyor. It’s been an incredibly buoyant market and rents along Oxford Street and Bond Street have been increasing at an incredible pace so being involved in that was great fun and I learnt a lot. 

SHP: I understand you’ve had a one year secondment to Grosvenor, how did that come about and did you enjoy the experience?

CW: Having been in Lease Advisory for just under 4 years, I was getting itchy feet to try something new. I didn’t want to leave JLL as I loved the company and therefore I explored options of going on a secondment to a client to learn more from their perspective as well as working on a new challenge that would better a relationship with a key JLL client.
A number of JLL colleagues have been on secondments to the likes of AXA, Land Securities, Deutsche Bank and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to join Grosvenor working on a Retail and Leisure development in Victoria, London.  
I was really thrown into the deep end but absolutely loved it. Having never worked in development before, I was now working as a Development Manager talking to mechanical experts, architects and structural surveyors about gas supplies, ducting and doorway thresholds! But I was still working in the retail sector which I loved and within the London market which I knew well so it wasn’t all completely new.
I spent a year there understanding what a client wants from a consultant/advisor, what’s important to them and what drives them when making decisions. I got to know a number of Grosvenor employees across the business in the various different teams and I learnt about a new part of the Real Estate industry, so all in all it was a great experience.

SHP: And now you’re off to pastures new…

CW: I have just started a brand new role this week as Food, Beverage & Leisure Leasing Manager at British Land which I am really excited about! Being at Grosvenor gave me a taste of what it was like being client side and although not for everyone, I loved it and therefore it was a natural transition into a company like British Land.
Again I''m starting a new challenge but I’m staying within the retail & leisure sector which was my preference and also furthering my skills to build on my L&T and development experience to date.

SHP: In addition to developing your career you’ve also stayed closely associated with Reading and, especially, the Reading Real Estate Foundation and the RG10 group. Can you explain about the group and what it offers to newly graduated students?

CW: I have indeed - it’s so important to keep in touch with Real Estate friends and fellow students from university as you start your new jobs. You never know where they may end up and what business you can do together so this network is crucial as you progress throughout your career.
I''m the deputy chair of the RG10 committee which is made up of former masters and undergraduate students who graduated within the past 10 years. The aim of the Committee is to help facilitate opportunities to network with fellow Reading alumni from the last 10 years – known as the RG10 community - whether at informal gatherings such as the monthly drinks in the West End, or at organised tours of key buildings and development sites across London.
It can be difficult keeping in touch with everyone when people move jobs, and diaries get booked up so easily hence the importance of a group like the RG10 committee who try and help facilitate these get togethers, and give you an excuse to catch up with fellow alumni over a drink.

SHP: Thank you Camilla, our current Part 3 students will just be thinking about graduation now, so hopefully they''ll all become active members of RG10.  I''m pleased that your career has been so interesting to date and we wish you well at British Land.

Our Graduate of the Month for May is George Haworth who graduated in 2016 and is now working with Ingleby Trice

SHP: I understand your job hunting process was not entirely straightforward. Could you tell me how you found your post at Ingleby Trice?

GH: Throughout my time at Reading I had been following the path that the majority do, with an eye on ending up at one of the big 6 companies doing a graduate scheme. For me Knight Frank was the target having done two internships there, enjoying both, and with positive feedback each time. Finding out I had been unsuccessful following the final assessment day, which I thought had gone well, was a bitter pill to swallow. However, it was was probably the best thing to happen to me in my property career to date!
Not getting Knight Frank made me review what I wanted to do, where I wanted to work and how I was going to get a job. I spoke to Jane [Jane Batchelor – REP’s Careers Development Advisor] who recommended a combination of online research and speaking to contacts in industry for recommendations/connections I could use. I was lucky enough to have secured a mentor (Guy Glover, a fund manager at BMO Real Estate Partners) through the RREF mentoring scheme and it was through Guy that Ingleby Trice were first put onto my radar. From then on it was a case of good luck, they were hiring, and good preparation that got me in.

SHP: You’ve now been there for several months now, how are you finding the work?

GH: I have been here for 9 months. I started at the end of June, so earlier than most graduates, which I think was a fantastic idea (in retrospect!).
I love it. Agency as a business line suits my personality, I like the advisory aspect and transactional nature of what I do day to day. The networking and social components of property are also particularly pronounced; person to person interaction was one of the factors that drew me to property initially so to utilize it daily is fantastic.
I haven’t always loved it and it has never been easy. Developing a network and building the knowledge and confidence to advise clients, as well as the professional manner when doing so, is something I still feel myself working on every day and I imagine I will for the rest of my career.
Of the initial hurdles I faced the toughest was that there is no ‘formula’ for agency, it wasn’t necessarily a case of work harder = better results. For me it is this that ultimately makes it so rewarding.

SHP: What are the advantages of working for a smaller, more specialized company?

GH: The advantages of working for a small company are numerous, the key ones being: responsibility, accountability/recognition, exposure and appreciation of the bigger picture.
At a smaller firm by default you form a larger part of the team and hence are given a greater responsibility from the start.  Being held responsible for the outcome of any work you do, whether that is conducting a viewing or advising on an acquisition, means accepting accountability whatever the result and receiving recognition based upon it. Having my work recognized has proven a great motivator to expand my skillset and to push myself for my own benefit.
Arguably the biggest advantage of being at a smaller firm has been the exposure I have gained both in transactions and to the wider market. As a team of six, almost everything I do involves one of the partners. Learning from someone who has been in the industry for 20+ years is again a rare opportunity and affords a level of responsibility and learning that would be hard to find elsewhere.
Lastly a smaller firm pushes you to think about the bigger picture, not just the work you are doing now but the work you want in the future. An example of this would be the encouragement to not only work on letting space we are marketing but to also think about how to bring on board new business for the company, something I hadn’t initially had on my radar as a task.

SHP: Are there any disadvantages?

GH: Being at a smaller firm you don’t have the same support during your APC and you aren’t sitting it in tandem with a large group of other people so it doesn’t stay at the forefront of your mind in the same way. Additionally, because you may not be rotating if it turns out that you don’t like the seat you are in or the team you work with it has a much greater potential for disaster.

SHP: Do you have any advice for our students who haven’t yet found a job?

GH: Arrange a meeting with Jane for advice on not only where you might want to start focusing but also to confirm what your own USPs are. Once you know what you are selling (yourself!) start applying.
The easiest way to get your foot in the door at any firm will be through a contact so explore this avenue first. Property really is a people business and being able to use a network effectively is a skill that everyone should be aiming to develop. There are lots of opportunities to network at industry events run by the department, your friends may have contacts in property and the Reading Real Estate Foundation can arrange an industry mentor for you which is a priceless opportunity – make sure to use them.
Other than that it’s common sense with speculative applications and just making sure to prepare properly. Have a few intelligent questions in the back of your mind to help yourself stand out at interview and to engage with the interviewer, ideally the question will allow you to embellish on your suitability ‘What is the most important property you are looking for in a candidate for this role’ etc.
Lastly, remember that there is every chance the increased challenge you face to find a job now will result in a job more suited to you with a better career going forwards, so don’t panic!

SHP: Finally, what three words would you use to sum up your career to date?

GH: A great start.

SHP: Thanks George, it''s good to hear how you were able to turn your initial job disappointment into such a positive experience. I''m pleased it is all working out for you at Ingleby Trice and hope it continues.

Our Graduate of the Month for April is Mark Emanuel who graduated in 2014 and is currently working in Düsseldorf

SHP: You have been with SEGRO since you graduated and have recently been seconded to their Northern Europe team based in Düsseldorf. How did that come about?

ME: SEGRO continued to offer its secondment programme from the previous year and now I am on a 12- month secondment in SEGRO’s Düsseldorf office and another colleague is in Paris on the same programme. The aim of these opportunities is to allow employees to enhance their skill sets by learning about the working of different business units, as well as experiencing different cultures and learning new languages.

SHP: What have been your first impressions of working in Germany?

ME: Great! I am working with the Northern Europe business unit and working alongside senior colleagues within the business gaining insight into development, investment and leasing opportunities across Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands.
This unique opportunity is allowing me to gain an in-depth knowledge about joint ventures, new geographies and how strategic decisions are made by the Investment Committee. I am thoroughly enjoying the new challenge having already gained exposure to a significant number of exciting projects.

SHP: How do you like working in the industrial sector?

ME: We have 1,200 customers across the group, ranging from small businesses all the way up to large multi-national conglomerates. There is a broad range of customers across different sectors, meaning there are a lot of extraordinary things happening inside our buildings – some of the tours I have been on have been fascinating!
It has been a very exciting period to work both in SEGRO and the wider industrial sector. SEGRO was chosen by the Mayor of London as the preferred industrial development partner for the 86 acre East Plus portfolio. We are also working with the residential sector on existing and future opportunities and multi-storey warehousing is adding another dimension to the industry. It is all very exciting!

SHP: You continue to maintain good links with Reading, I know you have been involved with our Pathways to Property initiative and are now acting as a mentor. Do enjoy interacting with our current and future students?

ME: Definitely. Pathways to Property aims to attract students from diverse backgrounds to gain an understanding of the real estate sector through a Summer School, work experience placement and university sponsorship. It was great to be involved and assist one of the groups to formulate their argument pretending to be a Council, and in one case against a development. 
I was fortunate enough to benefit from the RREF mentoring scheme and having recently been through University, the job process and the APC I felt l that I could share my experience.

SHP: Finally, what three words would you use to sum up your career to date?

ME: Loved every second!

SHP: Thank you Mark, for sharing your experiences with us. It certainly sound like you are enjoying working life and we are very grateful that you are so generous with your time for our current and potential future students.

Our Graduate of the Month for March is Alice Brodie who is an Assistant Land Agent at Strutt & Parker

SHP: You graduated from our MSc Rural Land and Business Management programme in 2016 and have been working with Strutt & Parker for about 6 months. How have you found the transition from studying to working full time?

AB: The transition has been quite smooth. The Masters itself was a step up from my Undergraduate course, but the workload really set me up for a job which requires focus 9-5, and more. Whilst there has been a lot to take on, the team I have joined in the Strutt & Parker St Albans office have helped me every step of the way and have allowed me to take on a wide variety of work, giving me responsibility right from the start. I find that I look forward to every day of work and I enjoy the structure the working environment gives me.

SHP: Are you having the opportunity to put in to practice what you learnt on course?

AB: The Rural Course at Reading crams a huge amount in for just a one year course, so I have been able to use quite a few bits and pieces. I have had to draw upon my Agricultural Law notes quite a lot, drafting residential and farming agreements for clients. Work on VAT is put to practice on a daily basis and the basics of planning which we learnt are frequently tested by applying these to local authorities'' requirements.

SHP: Do you have a typical day?

AB: Well, no not really! My team in the St Albans office manages a couple of large estates, one of which is on the edge of the City. Therefore, my day quite often involves having contact with tenants with any queries or problems they have. Booking repairs and instructing work on let property is a key component of my work. As leaks/faults/problems can happen at any time of day we find that we have to do this throughout the day and ensure that all parties are happy. Recently, I have been out and about undertaking viewings with prospective tenants for some houses we are letting on behalf of local estate owners and farmers. I find these an interesting part of the job as you get to meet a wide range of people and you get to know the properties really well yourself.
Any other time is quite often taken up with many different work areas. Often I am asked to research, comment on and help with a really great variety of topics – water abstraction licences, school insurance, visitor surveys to a tourist attraction. Such a cliché, but one day is never the same as another!

SHP: While you were on the Masters programme you had a mentor, was that a valuable resource?

AB: Yes my Mentor provided me with a sounding board for any queries or worries that I had. She was there to answer any questions I had about the course, about getting a job and then about the transfer to working life. We met a couple of times throughout the year and it was always good to have someone with recent experience of what I was doing to provide reassurance and keep everything in perspective.

SHP: Finally, do you have any particular memory of your time at Reading you would like to share with us?

AB: On the Rural Course after exams we spent a week in the Cairngorms, Scotland. Here we visited a range of estates, from traditional to modern, and also tourist enterprises and conservation areas. We all had to undertake presentations on a particular place we went to, which meant we had to take notes and this kept us on our toes! However, it meant that everyone took a lot in and benefitted a great deal from everything we saw. As it was towards the end of our year we worked hard but we were able to enjoy ourselves and make the most of being in such a fantastic place and with people who by this stage had become friends. It really capped off a fantastic year and allowed us to put everything we had learnt into perspective and really get us geared up to utilising our newly acquired knowledge in the working place.

SHP: Thank you Alice, for such an interesting piece. I''m glad your working life has got off to such a positive start and I hope it continues well!

Our Graduate of the Month for February is Simon Brooksbank who has recently started work at Chelgate as a Public Affairs Consultant in Property and Planning.

SHP: You have recently graduated from our part-time MSc Development Planning (now MSc Spatial Planning and Development) programme. Did you find it hard to combine work with study?

SB: Particularly in my first year, I found combining the coursework and revision for exams while also working at a busy Planning Consultancy a challenge.  Working a full day, and then having to write an essay in the evening was definitely a big commitment.
I was fortunate with my company, Boyer Planning that they were always very supportive of me in my studies and gave me study leave, especially in the lead up to my exams which was invaluable! I found the course to be very well structured and enjoyable with very supportive staff from the likes of Gavin Parker, Joe Doak and Emma Street.

SHP: You have also recently launched Planning Out, a new professional network for LGBT planners. How did this come about?

SB: There were probably two main factors that led me to launch Planning Out with my Co-Founder, Rob Krzyszowski.
Since starting in the Planning Profession, I saw the value of developing professional networks early on.  For 18 months I was Chair of the Thames Valley Young Planners Network.  During this time, we ran some successful events with a diverse range of speakers and subjects, and we saw the network grow as a result.
With the likes of Young Planners, I have found that networking events were most effective where they catered for a particular subgroup or demographic where people are brought together through a shared experience or background.  I therefore saw the value in bringing together people who identified as LGBT.
The other key factor that led me to launch Planning Out was to encouraging greater acceptance of LGBT issues in the workplace.  Despite huge advances in the past 20/30 years, there are still latent issues of acceptance.  This has a direct impact on LGBT people’s levels of self confidence and life chances.  Through having this network, we hope it will help make LGBT workers more productive and effective in the workplace.
In the longer term, we aim to encourage more LGBT people to consider planning and its related fields as an attractive career choice due to its enhanced reputation for inclusivity and acceptance. This will widen the pool of talent from which future planners will emerge.

SHP: Have you had a positive response to this initiative so far?

SB: When I first had the idea of launching Planning Out, I had no idea what reaction I would get.  But the response in the profession has been overwhelmingly positive.  We now have over 200 members, with on average 60/70 professionals in attendance at each of our events.
We were honoured to have Turley sponsor and host our launch event in July last year.  The RTPI have also been incredibly supportive; they, along with NLP Planning, sponsored our Parliamentary Reception with Helen Hayes MP as as our guest speaker in January this year.  We look forward to partnering with other planning consultancies in the future.
We are planning an interesting variety of events this year.  From breakfast seminars to a Summer Gala. Later this year we are excited to have a City Hall event planned with James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, as well as Amy Lamé (Comedian and London Night Czar), amongst others as our guest speakers on protecting LGBT venues.  We have a lot in store for 2017!

SHP: Do you welcome student members?

SB: Absolutely!  While we don''t have any events aimed specifically at students, they are more than welcome to attend.  It is a great opportunity to make useful connections in the Planning Profession, so I would wholeheartedly welcome students to get involved.
We have an active twitter account @PlanningOut which will keep you updated on events and developments of our network.  We also have a dedicated Linkedin page as well as a Facebook page. In order to keep up to date with our events, you can sign up to our mailing list by emailing planningoutlgbt@gmail.com

SHP: Thank you, Simon, for letting us know about such an interesting initiative, I am sure that the Planning Out events will be of interest to both our students and alumni. I hope the new job goes well, perhaps we''ll come back to you at a later date to find out more about it.

 

In a first for this series, our Graduate(s) of the Month profile features mother and daughter Pam Over and Louisa Over. Pam graduated in 1981 and is now CEO of CKD Galbraith, while Louisa graduated in 2014 and is a Rural Surveyor at Savills.

Louisa questions Pam

LO: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the last 35 years?

PJO: Today, there are far more women in the profession. I was one of only six women from a year of 120 when I was at Reading and it actually helped to stand out from the crowd. Now the balance has shifted and as a firm CKD Galbraith has nearly as many female as male surveyors and there are four female Partners, including myself as Chief Executive.
The pace of technology and how that has changed our daily lives has made a big impact. When I was your age I had to dictate everything to my secretary and woe betide me if I got it wrong or wanted to make an alteration. It had to be right first time. Now life is dictated to me by email with instant responses required 24/7.

LO: What has been the most interesting project you’ve been involved with?

PJO: I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with everything from the development of shopping centres, to castles, nursing homes, hotels, skyscrapers, industrial units to auction marts and everything in between. Each project brings a new team of consultants so I couldn’t pick a favourite. The biggest fee was from office building Skypark in Glasgow and it took the longest (six years). In truth, the current projects are always the most exciting and at the moment they range from industrial units in Tottenham to a big distribution shed in Belfast and a salt cave in Leicester.

LO: If you could do it all again what would you do differently?

PJO: I was lucky enough to have a career break of six years to allow me to have three children. I worried unnecessarily that I would never get back into my career but if you apply yourself anything is possible. It is, however, quite some juggling act and the worst case scenario is not being good at either role - Mum or Surveyor. But you don’t get the years of having small children again and they are worth a lot.

LO: What did you think when I chose to follow you into the profession albeit in a different area?

PJO: I was highly relieved you chose a career I could understand and relate to. It’s a very varied, interesting career with endless opportunities so it will provide you with lots of choices.

LO: What’s the biggest challenge facing new graduates?

PJO: New graduates need to avoid being pigeonholed too early. They should try to get the broadest training possible to enable them to ascertain what aspects of the job they are best suited to following qualification.

LO: Where will the profession be in another 20 years?

PJO: I am concerned over the lack of understanding in schools about what a Chartered Surveyor actually does. The RICS should take a stronger lead here and ensure Career Advisors are fully conversant with the opportunities available and the grades required. You followed me into surveying because you could see at first-hand what a good career it is. That’s why so many children of Surveyors follow their parents. This educational issue needs to be resolved if we are to ensure there is a new generation of young people coming into the profession.

 

Pam questions Louisa 

PJO: What is it about rural chartered surveying that attracted you?

LO: You always told me to go into a career in which I had a genuine interest. Growing up in the countryside and being involved in country pursuits led me naturally into a career involving rural assets. I strongly believe that if you are interested in what you do and enjoy it then, chances are, you will be much better at it.
The diversity offered by the rural sector was also an attraction for me. Although I’m a rural surveyor I’m involved with a range of asset types from residential property, commercial and farms. The exposure to this diversity has provided fantastic experience, allowing me to discover where my strengths lie and the areas I find more challenging.

PJO: How do you think your career will be different from mine?

LO: Although the sectors we work in are different I hope my career follows as a successful path as yours has. I’ve obviously only seen your later career where you have been involved with the management of a partnership. From this I’ve seen firsthand how rewarding the peaks and troughs are that management can bring. I hope that I will be as involved with the firm I work for with the ultimate aim of climbing up the career ladder to lead from the top. I think it’s very important that whatever you are doing you make a positive impact and set personal goals. To be able to grow and shape a business would be hugely rewarding.

PJO: What’s the one aspect of your job that you enjoy the most?

LO: I feel very fortunate to be in a career that involves a diversity of people from very different backgrounds who I communicate with on a daily basis. I enjoy building professional relationships within and outwith my firm. A lot of the work I have been involved in is client facing and I find it very rewarding to present to clients and receive praise for hard work.

PJO: You asked me what I considered to be the biggest challenge facing new graduates, what would you say to the same question?

LO: The industry has always been competitive and this is likely to only increase. The ability to stand out from a crowd of university applicants is becoming more and more difficult.

PJO: What advice would you give others starting in the profession?

LO: Seize the opportunities that come your way and always volunteer to help. When starting out in a new job it’s important you show your willingness to learn and help where you can. Employers don’t expect you to know it all on day one but they do expect you to apply yourself. There is a huge amount to take in with a new job but just remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Don’t be afraid to ask.
I’m a strong believer in ‘you get out of something what you put in’. My experience with Savills has been a testament to that and I’ve loved the social and professional experiences I’ve gained over the past two years.

SHP: Many thanks to you both for providing such an interesting and insightful piece, you''ve certainly got 2017 off to a very positive start. Pam very kindly sent us a photo of her cohort who graduated in 1981...I''m sure you''ll all be able to identify her and if any of you spot yourselves do get in touch to share your memories with us.

REP Grads 1981

2016 Profile Archive

Our Graduate of the Month for December is our newest member of staff, Ed Shepherd, who graduated in 2008 and has now returned to us as Lecturer in Real Estate Development

SHP: You graduated in 2008 from what was then the MSc Development Planning programme at Reading. What have you been up to since then?

ES: My first job was on the graduate scheme at GVA Grimley (since rebranded as Bilfinger GVA), where I qualified as a chartered planning and development surveyor in 2010. Because the Reading programme had been RICS and RTPI dual-accredited, I was then able to qualify as a chartered town planner in 2011. Dual-qualification was always the goal, and I was able to get the right mix of experience at GVA to achieve this.

SHP: Why was dual-qualification important?

ES: I wanted to be well grounded in development feasibility and viability issues as well as planning given the importance of these aspects of the development process and the extent to which they interrelate.
While at GVA I got fantastic experience on a wide variety of projects, advising private and public sector clients on development viability and feasibility, affordable housing, local economic development, planning policy formation, planning applications and compulsory purchase. I also had some very knowledgeable colleagues to learn from. This breadth of experience meant that I was able to build a strong foundation of knowledge across development, planning and commercial property.

SHP: You must have started work at GVA during some challenging market conditions. What was that like?

ES: My first day in the office at GVA was in September 2008, just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Starting my career in property as the world economy started to slide into recession made for somewhat of a bumpy ride, but it was also a great opportunity in some ways. I learned a lot about how a large business such as GVA needs to adapt to survive (and even take advantage of) such a significant and prolonged adjustment of the market.

SHP: What did you do after GVA?

ES: I had always wanted to work in a Global South economy, so in 2012 I moved to The Gambia in West Africa with my now wife for a year. While there I researched the Gambian system of land rights and the planning system, and taught development planning and research methods at the University of The Gambia. This was a challenging and very rewarding experience. I really enjoyed the research and teaching and this led me to start a PhD at the University of Cambridge upon my return to the UK in 2013.

SHP: How did you find studying for the PhD?

ES: I loved it. While studying, I also worked part time at a planning consultancy called DLBP. Though working part time while doing a full-time PhD was sometimes challenging, there was lots of overlap between my research and my professional work, and I found this combination of the academic and the practical stimulating. It helped that my colleagues at DLBP were very skilled and that the projects I was involved in were interesting and varied, with a good combination of planning applications and strategic site promotion work.
I completed my PhD earlier this year and began work as a lecturer in the School of Real Estate and Planning at the Henley Business School in November. I’m delighted to be back.

SHP: As someone who has been a student, worked the profession and is now back teaching, what advice you would give to our current students?

ES: Nurture a professional network, keep an open mind and take risks. This combination should help you generate opportunities, recognise them when they arise, and to take advantage of them when they do. Also, ask lots of questions. People tend to be happy to share their knowledge and experience, especially when you are starting out.

SHP: Thank you, Ed, for bringing us up to date with everything you''ve been up to since you graduated, you''ve certainly packed a lot in to a few years! It''s great to have you back with us and we hope you''ll stay a while...

Our Graduate of the Month for November is Brooke Collins who graduated in 2016 and is now Development Surveyor at Almacantar.

SHP: You’ve recently started work with Almacantar, how have you found your first few weeks?

BC: Having enjoyed a long summer travelling all over the world I was ready to start work at Almacantar. Since I last did an internship with Almacantar in the summer of 2015 the projects have significantly progressed, with two of the projects being on-site (Centre Point & Marble Arch Place). This therefore allowed me to immerse myself in a range of tasks within the specific projects, even from day one! Being within a relatively small company allows me to learn something new every day; I feel privileged to be part of a team at Almacantar.  

SHP: What has been the best bit so far?

BC: Seeing the progression of Centre Point since I started working with the team on the project over two years ago was momentous. Meeting with our contractors and sub-contractors on the progression of each project and having involvement in the end design is one of the factors that I love about development. A crucial aspect of enjoying working for Almacantar is feeling so welcomed and comfortable within the company (despite being surrounded by specialists within their field.) This has resulted in me feeling confident to ask questions, thus enhancing my knowledge and understanding.  

SHP: and the worst…?

BC: Genuinely, I have not had a ‘bad’ moment. I am constantly learning and engaging with new people and I am excited to involved with some of the most unique buildings and sites in London.

SHP: I believe that you had a part time job while you were studying and undertook an internship in the summer as well as acting as a Student Ambassador on our Pathways to Property project. What did you gain from these experiences and do you think they helped with the job hunting process?

BC: That’s correct, whilst at University; I worked in sales for an estate agents, Curchods. Having this job proved invaluable to securing work experience and internships, thus my job at Almacantar. Through a range of tasks such as: dealing with both applicants and clients through email & phone calls, viewings, assisting in deals and understanding the residential market within the area, allowed me to establish foundations in professional skills and the manner of which an individual should approach different situations with different applicants, clients & stakeholders.
The work experience and internships that I did throughout my degree (starting with work experience before I started University, followed by work experience in the April of my first year) helped steer the direction of real estate that I wished to purse, which ended up being development due to my experience at Almacantar. This proves just how helpful engaging with companies in the holidays can be.
Acting as a Student Ambassador on the Pathways to Property project allowed me to share my love of Reading University as well as the experience I had gained before and during my studies. I developed: public speaking skills, knowledge of all of the career opportunities in property and it allowed me to network with potential real estate students, career advisers and industry professionals. Having a range of experience, confidence and the drive to succeed in the sector allowed me to pursue my dream of working for Almacantar.
Any experience that you have is key, particularly within real estate, as it allows you to gain an insight into the industry and in time results in the individual gaining a deeper understanding across a range sectors.

SHP: Now that you are in work, do you have any advice for current students who are looking for jobs?

BC: My first word of advice would be to engage with both your peers and equally the staff at Reading University for both the application process as well as in general study, throughout your time at Reading. They are able to help with applications as well as being a contact in the industry; allowing you to learn from their experiences (learning from others should never be underestimated, it is invaluable!).
In terms of looking for jobs, firstly stay calm; everyone is in the same situation. Secondly, make sure that you take time over your applications and apply to companies that you feel you can add value too; there is a company out there for everyone, large or small!

SHP: Thank you Brooke, for such a positive insight into your first few weeks at work. I''m pleased you''ve got off to such a great start and perhaps we''ll come back for an update next year.

Our Graduate of the Month for October is Philip Laney, who graduated from our MSc in Real Estate Finance & Investment in 2007 and is now a Director at Ascension Group and also at Lyvly.

SHP: Phil, could you start by telling me what you’ve been up to since you left Reading.

PL: Graduating from the MSc course at Reading put me on a very exciting path. I started out in the opportunistic real estate private equity team at Deutsche Bank where I was involved in the acquisition and asset management of a range of projects across Europe. After that, I moved on to a more niche fund focussed on residential and hospitality called Realstar Group where I was able to take a key role and build out my soft skills as an investor. At that time I was really keen to share my experience with others, so became more involved in guest lecturing at Reading, which eventually led to me making an online educational platform called Ascension Group. After leaving Realstar, I helped create an entirely new investment group and residential management concept called Lyvly, which completely redefines how professionals can live in major cities.

SHP: You are coming to the University on 13th October to demonstrate your real estate educational platform to our students. What made you go down the software route and how do you see the software working in the market?

PL: Ascension Group is a great passion of mine and something I am really proud of. As a private equity real estate investor I was struggling to hire real estate students and instead, we would be taking grads from Harvard and Wharton, none of which were particularly knowledgeable about real estate but they had good financial modelling skills. So I started teaching real estate grads what they would need to get into investment funds, and that eventually became the online platform. Teaching investment theory and modelling in person is very difficult because it is something people need to work at over time, so it lends itself really well to an online learning experience such as Ascension.

SHP: I see that you are also involved in a new venture – Lyvly. Can you tell us about this?

PL: Lyvly is very exciting. After investing into roughly 1,100 units in London across the residential and hotel sectors, we realised that the existing rental market is really failing tenants. People are looking for a home and community more than they are looking for just a flat with fees attached. So we created Lyvly, which is a private member’s community (a bit like Soho House in a way) where you can live in one of our long term homes without worrying about any bills or essentials, engage with other interesting people, benefit from extra services such as laundry and private chef, and go to unique events. All of this for less than the cost of renting your own flat! We are constantly looking to improve what we offer our members and are probably doing something right, as we have quite a long waiting list for our homes.

SHP: So, two very different projects, anything else in the pipeline?

PL: Great question! There is always something in the pipeline ?. Most of the projects we are working on are associated with Lyvly. It’s such a great concept with huge market potential, and when you consider how much people appreciate their homes, there is so much value still to be created. The sky is the limit when it comes to helping people achieve their life goals through their home environment.

SHP: Thanks Phil, you''ve been developing some really exciting ideas since you graduated and it sounds like there are plenty more to come....keep in touch!

Glory Edozien, who was awarded her PhD in 2009, was selected for the Grooming for Greatness (G4G) Fellowship programme last year. Glory was one of just 12 people selected for the programme, which is open to Africans across the world.

SHP: Could you start by given me a bit of background on the G4G programme.

GE: The objective of the Grooming for Greatness programme is to create a pipeline of future African leaders who are prepared to both confront the challenges and embrace the opportunities on the continent. To achieve this, the Fellowship takes its Fellows through a year-long syllabus of curated programs and workshops, one on one leadership development via access to African leaders who epitomize outstanding success as well as ongoing mentoring, all of which are designed to aid fellows in the development of a compelling vision, for themselves and the opportunity to expand that vision forward.

SHP: What has the Fellowship meant to you and what have you been able to achieve through the Fellowship?

GE: The last year of the G4G programme has been one of self actualisation, personal development and the forging of new partnerships which has created opportunities for cross collaboration on multiple fronts.
The singular most impactful achievement of the fellowship has been a personal one. The realisation that I had the capacity to actually effect change and provide solutions to some of the major issues in my country is sacrosanct. The curriculum helped me see myself first and foremost as a solution provider, hone in on and strengthen my skills as well as give me the confidence to move forward and advance creative solutions, within the right networks.
Three months ago, Inspired by Glory, a personal development hub for women, founded by myself was selected to create a business ecosystem for female entrepreneurs based Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos. The aim of the SME Boutique Women’s Exclusive Club, which is powered by Addosser Micro Finance Bank is to create an enabling environment for female entrepreneurs through the provision of capacity building, mentorship opportunities, access to investors etc. A major component of the club is the business accelerator programme which is providing free and targeted business development and advisory services to a select group of female owned businesses. We hope in the next 5 years to have a club of over 5000 female businesses and trained a minimum of 1000 women.
Glory2.jpgIn addition to the above, Inspired by Glory also spear headed a social media parity campaign during the 2016 International Women’s Day- Nigeria’s First Women. A widely celebrated campaign which featured the first women in Nigeria’s history to occupy male dominated roles.
Personally, I have also seen my capacity as a speaker on women’s issues and personal development gain more credence and influence, having been listed by Ynaija (a celebrated youth platform in Nigeria)- as one of the 100 most inspiring Nigerian women. The list also includes Arunma Oteh (Treasurer and Vice President of the World Bank), Ibukun Awosika (First female chairperson of First Bank of Nigeria Limited) and Chimamanda Adiche (award winning Novelist) and featured on the front cover of Nigeria’s Guardian Life Sunday weekly Magazine as part of the next generation of women expanding the narrative for African women.

SHP: ...and what’s next?!

GE: Consolidation, hopefully. My hope, through Inspired by Glory and other collaborations, is to create a learning and development institute which fosters a culture of life long learning for African women. I believe, creating a culture which infuses self actualisation and continuous learning into our every day lexicon will expand the narrative of what African women are ‘permitted’ to do or become. This in turn will promote gender inclusion and ultimately a more sustainable economy.

SHP: Thank you, Glory, for taking the time to tell us about your year as a G4G fellow. It sounds as if it has been a fantastic opportunity and you have certainly made the most of it!

 

 

Our Graduate of the Month for August is Jack Haining, who graduated in 2014 and is now with Grosvenor. He tells us about his recent six month secondment to the Milan office...

SHP: Can you start by telling me how the opportunity to work in Milan came about?

JH: In August last year I was approached about a less conventional graduate role, and within 6 weeks found myself relocating to Milan. I joined Grosvenor Fund Management (GFM)’s Italian office, working under the Italian stewardship of Pietro Clemente, an experienced GFM Director.
Over the years, Pietro has developed an impressive professional network of trusted agents and lawyers. Indeed, Grosvenor has been active in Italy for over 10 years and under Pietro’s management has developed a strong reputation for trust, transparency and timely execution, all genuine differentiators in the Italian real estate market. As a result we have benefitted from visibility on a large number of potential deals and market information.
There is strong investor appetite to pursue prime northern Italian retail assets in an increasingly attractive Italian real estate market. Interest stems from strong returns alongside greater market understanding, transparency and liquidity and a broadly positive outlook for the Italian economy. In fact, investor appetite across European market sectors is generally strong due to the combined effects of low interest rates, recovering economies and perceived risks in emerging markets.
It was a good time to arrive and I quickly got stuck in, assisting with the sourcing, analysis, approval, bidding and, when successful, acquisition stages of property investment. For me, because the work was transaction driven, it was either all hands on deck or comparatively less busy between times.
Although the work was engaging and fast paced, early on, life was unsurprisingly challenging. I was in a new country, with a new language, home, culture, job and I didn’t know anybody. On reflection, this initial shock to the system was crucial in opening up for me a frame of mind in which I could learn, develop and progress.
At times I had to dig deep to maintain an outgoing, open-minded and resilient approach – all key characteristics when in a new environment.

SHP: How did you enjoy living in Italy?

JH: Firstly, the exuberance, enthusiasm and general love of life that Italians possess is contagious and fun. As the novelty foreigner, I’m sure this was at first exaggerated although it became apparent that the people I met shared a natural flair that was distinctive and something I previously hadn’t experienced on such scale.
Jack on  scooter Simple things like doing grocery shopping and generally understanding the meaning of all of the background noise was a fast track lesson in getting out there and making real the life of deals, negroni sipping and cycling that I had imagined. Although often alone in a physical sense, I was part of a close-knit team of experts based across Europe. To get deals to the investment committee with considered and accurate inputs, the remote team had developed a strong and collaborative approach to get the job done, which I liked. Detail was critical and creativity with asset plans was crucial to producing the most compelling investment case possible.
Life was not conventional – I would often be travelling around Italy on the fantastic Frecciarossa trains covering 300km/h, visiting assets, inspecting properties and meeting Italians. When in Rome, I had to get around the City and learnt that public transport was frankly poor. I found a moped store and decided to take to the two wheeled hairdryer mode of transport, racing around the City, making me feel like a fully-fledged Italian.
In my spare time I managed to meet lots of people and after a translation disaster, I accidently joined an Italian divorcee women’s cycle club. Although not as racy and aggressive as my usual rides, I quickly was integrated into the group, enjoying glasses of wine mid ride and getting involved with bizarre, lively middle -aged dinner parties. I also found time to head out alone up to Lake Como and tackle famous Italian climbs and generally get horribly lost and exhausted.

SHP: So, how would you sum up your experience?

JH: It’s not particularly common to move internationally whilst a graduate but put simply, the business we do is becoming increasingly international. Whether it be our sources of finance, investors, JV partners or even our colleagues, the work Grosvenor undertakes around the world is vast. Interestingly, there are common principles Grosvenor employees apply across the world, while of course approaches and cultures have significant differences. It’s important that local offices are empowered to reflect those local differences with flexibility to pinpoint opportunities and execute most effectively.Jack Haining on a bikeThis is something Grosvenor balances well. A one size fits all model won’t work internationally.
I am incredibly grateful that Grosvenor offered me the opportunity to experience an international placement early on in my career. Having worked at Grosvenor for a year and a half, it is fair to say everyone has developed some form of reputation and I felt fortunate to have developed a strong professional network. When making the move abroad, I found myself starting from scratch, and suddenly it was once again all about first impressions and building professional trust and reputation, which at first was daunting, but in the end hugely rewarding.
The experience on the graduate programme has been fantastic and I could never have imagined the breadth of work and responsibility that I would have been given. The experience was all the better as a result of the people, the coffee and the country in general. Thanks Italy!

SHP: ...and thank you, Jack. It sounds like you have a lot of amazing stories to tell as well as enjoying a great working experience!

 

Our Graduate of the Month for July is Sophie Jackson who graduated in 2013 and is now part of the Valuation team at Savills

SHP: You graduated in 2013 and qualified as a Chartered Surveyor in 2015, how did you find the APC process?

SJ: The APC process is hard but the build up is definitely worse than the interview. The training I received at Savills ensured that I was as prepared as possible and I received a large amount of support from my team and other colleagues within Savills. Although the preparation is daunting, working and revising with other graduates makes the process much easier.

SHP: You are now part of the Valuation team at Savills, could you tell me a bit about your work.

SJ: The team I work in specialises in residential valuations for loan security purposes. We value a mix of single units, residential investment blocks and development sites.
The majority of work focuses on development and more recently I have been involved in valuing sites developed for the private rental sector. The work I undertake is really varied and I’ve been involved in valuing houses and flats in Prime London, country houses, development sites ranging in size from a single house to 500 flats and residential investment portfolios, both within and outside of London.

SHP: You returned to the University in May to join colleagues in running our “team working workshop” for undergraduates. How important is team working in the workplace?

SJ: Teamwork in the workplace is really important. On a daily basis I will work closely with colleagues in both my immediate team and the wider business. Within Savills there are a large number of specialists, and working together as a team allows us to provide a higher quality of service to clients.
Recently I was involved in valuing a large development site, currently in industrial use, in south west London. Due to the complexity of the site and the early stage of development we worked with colleagues in the planning, development consultancy and affordable housing teams. This ensured that we were able to provide a more focussed and specialist level of service to the client.

SHP: Our final year students are just about to graduate and start their working lives, have you any advice on how to make the transition from University to work?

SJ: Before starting work I recommend that you have some time off and a long holiday over the summer, as university holidays are something you will definitely miss!
I would recommend that once you start work you ask lots of questions and don’t be worried about asking something you think you should know the answer to. It’s always better to ask and the more you ask the more you will learn, there is no such thing as a stupid question!
I’d also suggest that you always offer to help others within your team and volunteer to get involved in specific projects and instructions. It can be daunting to shout out that you are interested in working on a specific project but the teams I’ve worked in really appreciate grads who are willing to get involved.
It’s also important to stay in touch with the people currently on your course. Property is a people industry and you are likely to work closely with your peers over the course of your career.

SHP: Thank you Sophie for taking the time to talk to us and also for coming to Reading to help lead our team working event. It sounds like you are really enjoying yourself at Savills and that you are finding work very rewarding. 

Our Graduate of the Month for June is Alex Tollett who graduated in 2014 and is now an Investment Analyst with Bywater Properties

SHP:  You graduated in 2014 and joined Bywater Properties. Can you explain how you got the job and decided that this was the right place to start your career?

AT: Working in the investment property sector is the career path I wanted to follow, after having done an internship with Prestbury. I didn’t think it was possible to go straight into investment – it always seemed like a job you work into; either through the wider fund routes or a lateral move after gaining experience within a consultancy firm.
The Bywater job came up, unsurprisingly, through Jane (Batchelor) and I believe it started with a tweet by one of the principals at Bywater simply stating it was very busy and they may consider taking someone on. It was fortunate timing for me, I was at a wedding reception at the time I received the email and decided to respond straight away. I went through 2 rounds of interviews and got the placement, which was a 9 month rotation, not a graduate position. This was perfect for me at the time because, in all honesty, I didn’t put enough effort into applications during final year so I wanted something to tide me over until the next round, and they were happy to support me through that.
They came to me with an offer after 3 months’ to stay permanently and support me with my APC amongst other things. I weighed this up against offers from a few of the major consultancies and it was a no-brainer for me; it’s where I wanted to be in 10 years’ time, just now.

SHP: Tell me about Bywater Properties?

AT: Bywater is a Propco, so essentially an un-registered property fund. In our case, we have 4 UK based high net worth individuals backing us and alongside that equity, the two principals also invest in every deal we do. We focus on value-add assets, where the profit is driven through development or asset management initiatives. The sector and location as well as timing is something we are very flexible with which gives us advantages in a market of funds with strict investment structures.

SHP: What projects have you been involved with over the last 18 months?

AT: When I joined we were looking at a lot of shopping centres, we bought one at the end of 2015 in Newport and another in Q1 this year in Liverpool. The first project I got very involved with was actually in Reading – we just completed an 83 bed student redevelopment called ‘Saxon Court Studios’ on Church Street, which sold to Empiric a few months ago. Amongst these, we are working on residential developments in London, retail parks in the midlands, two 600,000 sq ft mixed use regeneration schemes and a speculative office development in Belfast.

SHP: Could you describe the typical day of an Investment Analyst?

AT: My job title is quite a loose term as we are a small team, so my responsibilities and exposure is varied.
Half of my time is spent running financial models to test the viability of potential investments as well as monitoring and updating current live projects that we own. Bywater also invest in joint ventures and in some cases we are the asset/development managers. I therefore am involved with reporting and presenting to various boards. I am currently managing 3 assets within the portfolio and 1 acquisition.
On top of this I am becoming more involved with debt broking, which we handle internally. This includes presenting to and meeting with banks to negotiate debt terms on potential purchases.
I spend roughly 2 days a week on the road or in meetings with agents seeking opportunities and getting to know markets. For example; recently we did a midlands trip over 2 days visiting agents and council regeneration teams in Coventry, Derby, Leicester and Nottingham. I also go up to Belfast once every few weeks for meetings with the design team for an asset we own there.

SHP:  What advice would you give to our students who will soon be graduating and starting work?

AT: If you’re going into agency (I work closely with agents), there’s a huge difference between a good agent and a bad one! Don’t be that person that sends one-liner emails to every client in your address book just to get the introduction in early. You’re not selling a ticket, you’re selling a story, give them information and get them interested, learn their requirements and refine what you send them in the future based on their feedback.
Make sure you understand the ethos of your company/team and your boss. It’s best to start off getting in very early and almost over-doing it in terms of working hours, how smart you dress, formality and expenses and then toning it back or ramping it up when you get a good understanding of what’s acceptable.
Keep on top of your APC, it’s not hard to record your diary in 2 minutes at the end of the day, it is difficult making it all up just before your final assessment.

SHP: Thank you, Alex, for taking the time to talk to us. It sounds like your career has got off to a great start and that you are really enjoying working at Bywater.

Our Graduate of the Month for May is Rhian Howells who graduated in 2015 and is now working with Cooke & Arkwright

SHP: Your first career was in Law, what led you to change your career path and become a rural chartered surveyor? 

RH:  I wanted a job which had more direct interaction with the people and places I was dealing with. In law I often felt that I was a step removed from the commercial action in a property transaction.
In this job I spend much of my day speaking directly with buyers, sellers and tenants, or on site at the properties, which I find far more satisfying.

SHP: How did you hear about the MSc Rural Land and Business Management degree at the University of Reading and what made you decide to come here?

RH: I was aware that a number of institutions ran a similar Masters course which would allow me to take the rural surveyor APC pathway, and was trying to decide which I ought to choose. A friend of mine who works in one of the larger national rural surveyor firms highly recommended Reading. 
When I visited for an open day I found the lecturing staff friendly and helpful, and was impressed with the scope of the course. From a social perspective, an added attraction was Reading’s proximity to London!

SHP: Do you have any particular memories of your time at Reading that you would like to share with us?

RH: Our summer field trip to the Cairngorms in Scotland was a real highlight. We stayed in log cabins, and visited a wide range of fascinating rural businesses and estates. In particular, seeing several different Scottish estates allowed us to compare and consider first-hand the effects of different styles of management. To top it off, the weather was gloriously sunny for the whole week, and we all had a great time. It was a really interesting and productive trip.

SHP: You have now been at Cooke & Arkwright six months, how are you finding the life of a rural chartered surveyor?

RH: I am pleased to say that I really enjoy my job. It is varied and interesting, and no two days are ever the same. One day I can be involved in marketing and agency work, the next I might be managing repairs required on a tenanted farm, or drafting terms for a new marine lease for the Crown coastal portfolio. In the past few weeks, for example, I have spent a good deal of time in inspecting and marketing property lots for our auction at the end of April.

SHP: What’s the best thing about your job?

RH: The level of responsibility I was given from the word go was a real highlight. I have my own matters and portfolios which I manage, and I have the primary role in dealing with the tenants, managing the properties, visiting the sites, and negotiating with other agents and lawyers. At the same time I am given a good deal of support and advice from my colleagues.

SHP: ...and the worst?

RH: Work starts at 8.45am…

SHP: Finally, this is the time of year when many people are making decisions on Masters courses. Do you have any advice for anyone contemplating the MSc Rural Asset and Business Management degree at Reading?

RH: Definitely attend an open day so that you can chat to the lecturers, and get a good idea of the course structure and the campus. Henley Business School has excellent facilities, and is located on a lively campus.
I would also recommend getting some work experience with an established rural surveyor’s firm if possible. It doesn’t have to be a large national firm – the smaller firms and high street firms also do an interesting range of work, and it will give you a good idea of whether the career is the right one for you. Additionally, I would recommend reading publications such as Farmers Weekly and Farmers Guardian on a regular basis, as these cover what is going on in the industry very well, and the information they provide will be useful and relevant during the course and in your job thereafter.

SHP: Thank you Rhian, for giving us an insight into the life of a rural chartered surveyor. It certainly sounds as if you have got off to a positive start in your new career. We wish you well for the future.

Our Graduate of the Month for April is Jake Booth, who graduated in 2015 and is now working with Campbell Gordon

SHP: You have been working at Campbell Gordon for six months now; what have been your first impressions of having a full time job.

JB: For me, full time work has been a real benefit, I think the most interesting thing about it is how you’re driven to fill your time with as much as possible. When I first joined Campbell Gordon I was coming to terms with work and the differences from university life, and I was also learning to drive for the first time. I think it really taught me how much you can actually achieve if you pack things into the day; I found it made me a lot more productive… A lesson it definitely would have been useful to learn before starting university!

SHP: Is there anything that is very different to how you imagined it would be?

JB: Honestly I came into the job without a great deal in the way of expectations, I’d done work experience in the public sector as well as large and small private firms and I think that gave me the understanding that all firms work differently, even in the same sector of the industry. I think my tip would be to just keep an open mind at the start and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone, having the core set of skills that studying at Reading gives you is extremely helpful too.

SHP: Students often tell us that one of the advantages of working for a smaller company is that you get more responsibility early on in your career. Has this been true for you?

JB: I’d pretty much always wanted to work at a small firm ever since I did my first work experience at one. I find for me the benefit is that I get to fulfil a multitude of different roles and work on a variety of projects rather than working in one single department. The added responsibility definitely is there at a smaller firm and I think that’s benefited me as I enjoy thinking on my feet and dealing with challenges as they come.

SHP: Finally, do you have any particular tips for University life that you would like to share with us?

JB: I think that the most important tip for students in Real Estate is to broaden your horizons as much as possible while at university. I think there’s a tendency for property students to get sucked in to an almost “corporate” attitude with the course being so vocational and the essential aspect of work experience. This means students can miss out on some of the “university experience” and I actually think they miss a huge opportunity to benefit their CV and job applications. I found that for interviews, the work experience and grades are just tick boxes and that most of what employers want to talk about are the exciting/ unusual things you’ve done, and especially those times when you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone. I think university offers a great opportunity to experience things from different perspectives and to do things that you wouldn’t usually see yourself doing, and I would urge students (especially real estate students) to grab those opportunities with both hands.

SHP: Thank you Jake for taking the time to talk to us. It sounds as if you have settled in well to your new role and are making the most of the opportunities that are coming your way.

Our Graduate of the Month for March is Henrietta Fenton Smith, who graduated in 2014 and is now part of the Valuation & Advisory team at Cushman & Wakefield

SHP: Before you came to Reading you were already fully qualified and working as a midwife. What led to your career change?

HFS: Indeed, prior to starting the MSc Real Estate programme at Reading I was fortunate to have qualified as a midwife and worked in some of the leading maternity hospitals in the country.  I gained tremendous enjoyment and experience from my years practicing midwifery. However, having evaluated what I wanted to achieve in the future, I decided to undertake an MSc in Real Estate in order to facilitate a transition into a career that had long fascinated me.

SHP: Was it very difficult to change from working in a busy hospital environment to being a student again?

HFS: Going back to university was definitely a contrast to life working as a midwife, albeit making the transition was probably easier than I had initially expected. I swapped long hours on the wards for long hours of lectures and study but very much enjoyed the challenge of mastering new subject matter. I was incredibly lucky in having fantastic support from family and friends as well as from the staff and advisors at the university which undoubtedly made the process much smoother.

SHP: What were the highs and lows of your year at Reading?

HFS: I can honestly say that there were no real lows during my year at Reading. On reflection the first term had its challenges in terms of adjusting to the course material and submitting assignments whilst going through the lengthy job application process. It was a demanding term but the pressure eased once I had received job offers and an exciting career to contemplate.
There were lots of highs. I have particularly fond memories of the field trips to Manchester and Madrid which provided great opportunities for our year to bond. A more personal high point was winning the Dean’s Excellence Award for the highest achieving student within Real Estate & Planning.

SHP: You’ve now been working with Cushman & Wakefield for a year, what have you been doing so far?

HFS: Having accepted a job with Cushman & Wakefield (formerly DTZ) whilst study for my MSc I have now been working at the company for 16 months. My first year was spent in the Global Occupier Services team working to provide strategic advice to real estate occupiers. Although my knowledge of what the role entailed was fairly limited prior to starting the rotation I could not have wished for a better first seat. The position enabled me to gain a broad understanding not only of the function of the team but also of the wider business through regular interaction with colleagues and clients across EMEA.
I have recently rotated into the Valuation department where I am gaining valuable experience in preparation for sitting my APC later on this year.

SHP: Finally, did you make the right decision to go for a career change?

HFS: Without a doubt. Although it has required a lot of hard work and determination, for me personally, changing careers was very much the right decision. I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying at Reading and it has proved to be a fantastic platform from which to enter what I hope will be a long and successful career in Real Estate!

SHP: Thank you Henrietta, for a very interesting piece and giving us such a positive insight in what it is like to make a career change. I doubt we will have many students who follow exactly the same route as you but you have shown how it is possible to come to real estate via an unusual route and be extremely successful!

 

Our February Graduate of the Month is James Wickham who graduated in 2005 and has recently been made a partner at Gerald Eve.

SHP: You graduated in 2005, could you start by telling us what you have been up to in the last 10 years?

JW: I joined the graduate training scheme at Gerald Eve immediately after finishing my studies at Reading. I was in the first cohort of, what was then, the newly launched one year planning MSc programme and I went straight to work in the planning and development team. Unusually, this is an integrated team covering both planning and development, and so I have been exposed to a huge variety of work which is one reason why I am here ten years on.  Within three months of arriving I involved in a CPO inquiry for land assembly on the Greenwich Peninsula and I went on to secure planning permission for two of the buildings next to the O2 over the next two years.
Over the last five years, I have become increasingly involved in central London planning, particularly in Westminster.  I have also been able to participate in the development of local planning policy, through work for Westminster Property Association.  Whilst it is never straightforward, I have enjoyed being able to have this broader perspective on development in Central London.

SHP: What would you say has been your career highlight to date?

JW: Seeing any project that you have been involved in from design and conception come to fruition and actually turn into bricks and mortar is always rewarding. One of my earliest projects was a demolition/façade retention scheme in Mayfair that had a long and contentious process through planning.  Finally achieving a permission that worked for all parties and seeing it then get built (and successfully let) was an early highlight. 
Since then, I have been very fortunate to work on some fantastic and high profile projects with great clients and architects.  A more recent highlight is achieving planning permission, with Great Portland Estates and Make Architects, for GPE’s c. 500,000sqft redevelopment of a large sorting office at the east end of Oxford Street.  I was involved at the outset of the project and saw it through discussions with Westminster Council and the GLA, to the grant of planning permission and straight into construction and delivery.  GPE then secured a pre-let from Facebook for all 216,000sqft or so of office space which was one of the biggest Central London pre-lets of the cycle, and which underlined the quality of the scheme; it is great to have been a part of this.

SHP: You have recently been made a Partner in the Planning and Development team at Gerald Eve; how has that changed your day to day activities?

JW: The change has been two-fold.  Firstly, it has made me even more aware of the commercial context within which planning and property development decisions are made, as I have earlier conversations with clients and other professional advisers, especially as we look for new opportunities to develop the business.  Secondly, it has let me focus more on the more strategic aspects of what I do, allowing me to set the direction and be proactive and forward thinking on my projects, rather than purely responsibly for implementation.  
I have taken on more management responsibilities, particularly in making sure that we have assembled the right bespoke teams for individual projects, and making sure those teams are resourced properly. 
I have also expanded my mentoring role and now directly mentor four people within the team.  With another partner we also support our graduates who are undertaking their RTPI APC and provide them with – hopefully useful – feedback and encouragement as they get their submissions ready.

SHP: Finally, you have achieved Partner status at a fairly young age, would you like to give any advice to our current students and recent graduates on what they could do to enhance their chances of rapid career progression.

JW: Get as much experience of as broad a cross-section of the industry as you can, both through lectures/modules and through work experience.  Property is incredibly varied, but also closely interlinked.  Being able to avoid thinking in a disciplinary silo and see the bigger picture will help you to stand out.  For those who are doing planning-focused courses, as I did, this is where the Reading perspective can really come into its own – you will have the opportunity to see planning from a commercial perspective and understand its relationship with the broader property market and development economics. 
You will also hopefully start to develop a network of contacts across the industry.  The more experience and familiarity with this you can get, the better, as this will both set you apart from the perspective of potential employers and help your own understanding and progression.
Beyond that, find an area of the industry that you find interesting and challenging.  Read around it and stay on top of it.  Property is always changing – nothing stays the same and there are always areas of practice that are emerging where you have the opportunity to become an expert, irrespective of the length of your experience. 

SHP: Thank you James for bringing us up to date with your career and congratulations on achieving partner status! We hope the next 10 years are as enjoyable and productive.

Our first Graduate of the Month for 2016 is Izzy Grigg who joined Grosvenor after graduating in 2013 and has recently taken on a new role as Development Manager.

SHP:  While you were a student you were Highly Commended in the Women in Property National Student Awards, can you tell me about that?

IG: I have to admit that this seems like quite a long time ago now, but was a really great experience! In my second year I was delighted to be nominated for the Women in Property National Student Award by The Henley Business School. After being nominated, I attended an interview which included giving a presentation to a panel of judges made up of professionals from across the property industry.  I, along with another Reading student were Highly Commended which was a great result. The whole process was very good practice for going on to apply for internships and graduate positions and also made me aware of the work groups such as The Women in Property Association do.

SHP: You joined Grosvenor when you graduated, could you tell me what you’ve been doing as a Graduate Surveyor.

IG: I joined Grosvenor in September 2013 after graduating from Reading in the summer, and my first rotation was in the South Belgravia team, working in Asset Management. One of my main responsibilities was managing a portfolio of charity offices that Grosvenor supports. This gave me great hands on experience of managing tenants and dealing with lease events such as new lettings, lease renewals and surrenders. I also worked on a large portfolio of properties that were due to be developed in the near future. It was very interesting to work on strategies for intermediate uses prior to the redevelopment taking place.

Having spent a year in the South Belgravia team, I moved to Grosvenor Developments, which is one of Grosvenor’s development teams. I worked on a residential led scheme to develop 11 acres of land that Grosvenor owns in South London. It was a very interesting process, as I was able to attend design team meetings which enabled me to be involved with and understand the evolution of the design process. I also undertook research which helped to inform the appraisals and kept up to date with market activity for comparable schemes. 

SHP: You have just passed your APC  - congratulations  - how did you find the process?

IG: Thank you. I’m really pleased and very relieved to have passed! It is a tough process with lots to learn. I was fortunate as the experience I have gained at Grosvenor was very relevant, which set me up well for the interview. The process is time consuming and seems very daunting when you are going through it but this makes qualifying all the more rewarding.    

SHP: Now you have qualified as a Chartered Surveyor, what are your plans for the future?

IG: I’m really looking forward to getting fully involved in my new role as Development Manager. Since qualifying, I’ve moved teams and am now working on two large redevelopments, one of which is 1-5 Grosvenor Place. 1-5 Grosvenor Place is a Joint Venture between Grosvenor and The HongKong Shanghai Hotels, Limited, and will see the development of a new Peninsula Hotel on Hyde Park Corner. I feel very fortunate to be working on such an interesting project which will have a significant impact on London.

Grosvenor also provides great opportunities for working abroad, which I would certainly consider in the future. Recent graduates have worked in San Francisco, Vancouver and Milan to name a few locations, so there really are great opportunities, which I will be keen to explore when the time is right.  

SHP: Thank you, Izzy, for getting 2016 off to such a positive start. It sounds like you are really enjoying yourself at Grosvenor and that you are finding work very rewarding. We are seeing an increasing number of our graduates spending at least some of their career working abroad, so do get in touch again if you decide to give it a go. We are always interested to hear personal experiences. 

2015 Profile Archive

Saif Uddin graduated in 2010 with a Masters degree in Planning and Development; he is now a Development Manager with Balfour Beatty Investments

SHP:  Your first degree was in Economics, how did you become interested in property and particularly in development?

SU: I grew up in Tower Hamlets in east London, in the shadow of the City and Canary Wharf. I saw the phenomenal transformation of the docklands first hand, going from prolonged decline to become the financial, retail and entertainment powerhouse it is today. It made a profound impression and my love for architecture in the first instance and later property development dates back to my teenage years.

I was fascinated by business and economics and how it relates to the built environment. When it came to choosing my A level subjects I decided to keep my options open, studying Biology and Chemistry on one side and Economics and Geography on the other. Eventually for my undergraduate studies I decided to combine my passions and completed a joint honours in Economics with Human Geography.

I went to Aberystwyth University for my undergraduate studies, a small university town in western Wales with limited development activities. It was difficult to find relevant property development related experience though I was fortunate enough to land a part time role at Ceredigion County Council. Reporting to the director for development and renewal, my role involved collaborating with various developers and reviving stalled developments. Working alongside other team members, developers, commercial and retail operators and other stakeholders, my role was to evaluate and amend site briefs, secure public funding and renegotiate development agreements for approval by the cabinet. Seeing how developers function, the variety of their role and the positive contribution good build form can make made me want to pursue a career in client side property development.   

SHP: What led you to come to Reading for your Masters programme?

SU:  Towards the end of my undergraduate studies I knew I wanted to further my property development knowledge and my decision to undertake a MSc in Development and Planning was strongly influenced by my desire to gain a breadth knowledge of the interrelating process of real estate development and town planning. 

When it came to deciding on the destination it came down to quality, reputation and location, something the University of Reading and Henley Business School have in spades. I did my research and Henley Business School stood out for consistently being ranked among the world’s best business schools and, more specifically, real estate schools. Personally an MSc in Development and Planning with its double accreditation by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) was extremely attractive.

Most importantly however, it was Real Estate & Planning''s close and longstanding relationship with the property industry, the fact it is highly regard by leading employers and its outstanding employment record that put it ahead of the competition. It was an easy decision at the end.  

SHP: following your graduation from Reading youstarted working with Bouygues Development on Hallsville Quarter, that must have been an exciting start to your career. Can you tell me about that, what was involved in your new your role and your progression.

SU: My passion has always been development so I made a conscious decision to pursue client side development roles only, consultancy based role didn’t appeal to me. I was focused on the type of role I wanted and I was ideally looking for a company that would be a good fit.

I first heard of Bouygues whilst visiting France. I know the company was a diverse multinational so when a role came up in their development division I was quick to apply. The role was as for a development officer in Bouygues Development, the UK property development arm of Bouygues UK. Most importantly the role involved the development and delivery of a complex multi-phase project in East London.

The company seemed a good fit and their property development division had a strong focus on growth, primarily focusing on complex mixed-use projects. After a rigorous selection process I was delighted when the role was offered to me, working on a prestigious project was most definitely appealing.

Initially I was in a team of three, together responsible for the design and delivery of Hallsville Quarter. My responsibility in the first instance was twofold, to negotiate and agree the Development Agreement with the London Borough of Newham (the land owner) and to commence design development for submission of a hybrid planning application comprising a masterplan planning application for the entire site and detailed planning application for Phase 1. Hallsville Quarter was a complex project, over 5 Phases the scheme will deliver 1,130 mixed tenure housing units, over 3,000sqm of leisure space, circa 30,000sqm of retail space, a hotel, and 3,000sqm of space for community facilities. Such a complex project demanded a strong professional team so I amassed a professional team comprising the likes of Aecom (master planner), Haworth Tompkins (Phase 1 architect), GVA, Knight Frank and Montagu Evans among others. Working with a strong professional team from the outset was a great experience and helped shape and deliver a successful project.

My role was very diverse, it entailed a full range of activities from initial viability assessment, overseeing design development and planning submission to forward selling of assets, contractual negotiation with the building contractor and, ultimately, construction delivery. The culture at Bouygues Development very much encouraged a hands on approach, employees were expected to participate in all workflows and understand the development process holistically, from initiation to construction completion. Whilst it was daunting at first, it nonetheless provided the perfect platform to learn and gain experience quickly.

A truly mixed-use project, during my time at Bouygues development I delivered the masterplan and phases one and two. Phase 1 comprised the delivery of 179 units of private and affordable housing, a Morrison’s foodstore of over 7,100 square metres, additional retail units, estate management facilities, a CHP energy centre, basement and surface car parking comprising circa 400 spaces and considerable amount of public realm space. Additionally, Phase 2 delivered an additional 349 residential units, fifteen retail and restaurant units, a 196 bed Accor hotel, double basement car park and comprehensive public realm works. The combined Gross Development Value exceeded £250 million and I was instrumental in supporting the disposal of the various assets to the likes of Pearson Pension Fund, Grainger plc, APG Asset Management, Mountain Capital, WM Morrisons Supermarket plc, Accor and One Housing Group amongst others. Working with a diverse group of investor and operators broadened my property development expertise.   

During my time at Bouygues Development I performed well and progressed quickly, initially going from a Development Officer to a Senor Development Officer. Subsequently I was promoted again to a Deputy Development Manager and to ultimately a Development Manager in four and half years. By the end I was leading my own east London focused team, concentrating on securing and delivering mixed use project across East London, a priority business are for the business. Bouygues Development involved a lot of hard work, long hours and the inevitable stress and strain, but above all it provided the perfect environment to learn very quickly, working on complex projects and gaining incredible experience and exposure. As my first role it was definitely what I needed. 

SHP: You have recently moved to Balfour Beatty Investments and are now working on the East Wick and Sweetwater Project, within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. What is your involvement with that scheme?

SU: Building on my mixed-use regeneration experience and expertise, I am now leading the East Wick and Sweetwater project. I am managing a talented team and report to the Joint Venture Director of Development.

To set the scene East Wick and Sweetwater Projects Limited (a joint venture between Balfour Beatty Investments and Places for People Homes Limited) is the London Legacy Development Corporation’s (LLDC) appointed developer for the delivery of East Wick and Sweetwater (EWS), a new neighbourhood being delivered as part of the continuous transformation of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

This transformational regeneration scheme sits to the west of the park, adjacent to the Copper Box Arena and Here East, adjoining the creative neighbourhoods of Hackney Wick and Fish Island. A masterplan planning application for the site was submitted to the LLDC (the local Planning Authority) in September 2015 and I am now developing detailed planning applications for Phases 1 and 2. True to its mixed use nature, Phases 1 and 2 will deliver 424 mixed tenure residential unit, considerable amount of retail and flexible commercial/employment space, community space including a large nursery and estate management facilities together with high quality public realm, car parking and a marketing suite.  

Overall EWS’s masterplan proposal for the entire site comprises approximately 1,500 residential units, of which approximately 35% will be for private sale, 35% will be bespoke Private Rented Sector (PRS) and 30% will be affordable housing. These uses will be supported by a mixture of exceptional retail, employment, creative workspace and community uses. Uniquely, the majority of the 1,500 new homes (over 50%) will be family housing units (3 bed or larger). Furthermore, all private for sale units will be sold domestically to the UK market. This will help deliver a truly thriving community and a destination of choice for Londoners.

To establish this new community at EWS I’ve assembled a team of leading UK architects. To ensure diversity in building design five different architects firms are designing Phases 1 and 2, each responsible for designing two building blocks and houses. They are all working within design perimeters set out in the masterplan developed in partnership with Sheppard Robson and submitted to the Local Planning Authority for approval. The range of contributing architects will ensure a diverse scheme which exemplifies the best of London’s residential architecture inspired by the attractive housing found along the edges of London’s parks. A key aim of the private rented housing is to create a flexible housing option for Londoners, which will provide high quality spaces, amenities and lifestyle opportunities required by occupiers.

As the Development Manager I am responsible for overseeing the ‘front end’ development process, from initial project brief setting, professional team assembly and viability testing to taking each phase through design development process, planning process and ultimately through  various internal company gateway processes and to construction commencement. 

My current role represents a natural step-up from my previous role so I’ve settled in well. Having a talented team to lead from the outset is vital for timely delivery and is also always very fulfilling. Learning from and building on each other’s strengths and expertise is something I actively promote and I encourage the junior members of the team to get involved in as many work streams as possible and put forward ideas and solutions. Whilst my management role means I am no longer as hands on as I once was, I nonetheless make sure I am available to the team for guidance and support whenever possible. Additionally, I attend design and planning meeting regularly to monitor progress first hand and work closely with the wider technical and finance teams to ensure project viability remains healthy and that we are on programme and budget. Overseeing such a large and prestigious project inherently comes with a lot of responsibility and challenges but is certainly rewarding and diversity of the role means every day is an adventure.          

SHP: Finally, it’s been 5 years since you graduated, what are your best memories of Reading?

SU: Obviously Reading gave me a huge head start to my career but to be honest it’s definitely the people. I made some great lifelong friends and seeing all of us progress together in the real estate industry is probably the best legacy of our time at Reading. Beyond work on a personal level it’s great to see friends go on to get married and start families. I would like to think in a few years time we are all going to progress further and hopefully be in position to collaborate more closely.

SHP: Thank you Saif, for giving us such a detailed insight into your career so far. You have certainly packed a lot into the last 5 years and been involved in some very interesting projects. We hope you continue to have such a fulfilling professional life. 

Our November Graduate of the Month is Joelle Allotey who graduated in 2015 and is now working with Levy

SHP: Joelle, you have recently started work with Levy. How does it feel to be at work full time?

JA: If I’m honest, it feels good..at times.

It is all very daunting knowing that you are now responsible for deals, acquisitions and building new relationships with existing clients. But that’s also the very exciting aspect about working within the property sector. It is fast paced and there is never a dull moment. When I started at Levy at the beginning of September I was the only female surveyor, so that definitely hindered me coming out of my shell, despite everyone in the firm being so welcoming. However, you soon realise that because the industry is so personable, it is very easy to settle in wherever you are, and ultimately feel like you can be yourself. Eight weeks in, 2 more graduates have started, which means there are now 7 graduates in total (another girl also joined) and I feel so much more comfortable and at ease.

It also helps that all my friends and I work within a square mile of each other, so I’m constantly catching up with them, meeting up for lunch and nights out. You get to meet a lot of other surveyors this way and it really helps within the networking element of our profession.

Having secured 2 internships at Lambert Smith Hampton and Allsop in the summer of my second year (Summer 2014), I was exposed to potential scenarios within working life. The internships definitely prepared me for the APC process, the ups and downs of working, and the overall social life that comes with working in the property sector.

SHP: While you were a student you completed a profile for the Complete University Guide and in that you mentioned that you didn’t have any family connections with the Real Estate industry. How did you first get interested in property and what led you to come to Reading?

JA: I’ve always really enjoyed the concept of the built environment. As I may have already mentioned, I was very interested in studying Architecture at University. However, I also wanted to consider a course that would enable me to see past the aesthetics of a building, and focus on maximising its use, or overseeing its life, from inception to completion. Having spoken to some friends and family in property, I thought it could be beneficial to look at other courses that involved the built environment. I came across Real Estate, and having researched the success of Reading University, specifically the Henley Business School, I decided to apply for the course. One thing I did pick up on, was that many of my peers knew very little or absolutely nothing about the course. The title of the course was quite misleading, where people assumed I was training to become an estate agent. Although I personally knew it was nothing of that nature, I definitely wish that I had had some more exposure to this type of course while researching courses to study at University.

SHP: You undertook quite a lot of work experience during the University vacations and had Sumer Internships, was it easy to find these opportunities?

JA: Easy to find, yes. Easy to obtain, no. As a student at Reading, you already have the status of Reading University which somewhat propels you ahead, in some circumstances. However, the internship process is just as intense and competitive as the Graduate process. As soon as I started at Reading, I was encouraged to apply for some internships during my second year summer as this would help me in the run up to securing a graduate scheme the year after. All the big firms run their internships during the summer and they normally span from around 2 weeks to 2 months. This was my first taste of the interview process and understanding how to “sell yourself” to employers.

It was very, very hard for me at first, as I was set on not working for a large corporate firm, and frankly decided not to go into the whole process with an open mind. As the applications opened, a lot of my friends were applying away and I finally decided to “try” and apply to some.  The processes are quite long, as we had to undertake many stages that involved tests and assessment centres. I managed to secure an internship with Allsop. I spent 2 weeks with the company, and the experiences I had especially opened my eyes to the social side of Real Estate. I had many opportunities to mingle with other graduates, important members of the industry, as well as gain more confidence.

I also decided to apply to a scheme that was set up by the Reading Real Estate Foundation. It offered paid internship experience, given by some of the larger and smaller names in property, to 20 Real Estate students. I was previously given the chance to work for a company called RealFoundations by the scheme in my first year. Using the scheme in my second year, I managed to get an internship with Lambert Smith Hampton. I spent 4 weeks with the firm and the experience was amazing. I got to work within 3 teams; valuation, public sector and capital markets and became more flexible with my approaches I had learnt during my time at Reading.

SHP: Would you have any advice for potential students thinking of studying Real Estate and Planning at Reading, perhaps particularly for people who don’t have much knowledge of the industry?

JA: I don’t think there is much advice needed. Obviously I would say that when studying anything, especially something that is completely new, it’s best to go in with an open mind. Be prepared of the worst, but don’t be surprised when the best comes about! Reading definitely offers experiences and opportunities that will lead to its students having a prosperous future, so I’d say anyone studying Real Estate at Reading is in very good hands.

I’d also say it is key to be yourself, and not be afraid of that. The Real Estate industry is full of so many characters and personalities. I think it’s key to stand out but for positive reasons.

When I first started studying at Reading, I felt very conscious that I wouldn’t fit in. However, the amazing thing was that everyone was accepting, and all the students had one common trait; we were all very friendly and open individuals. In property, especially as a graduate, it’s all about networking, and making yourself known and generally getting along with people. Funnily enough, to get along with people, it’s a lot easier when you’re not trying to be someone you aren’t.

SHP: Finally, do you have a favourite memory of Reading that you would like to share with us?

JA: I think Reading has given me many fun and worthwhile opportunities. I do also think that some of the best memories must be kept to myself! The Real Estate department definitely know how to enjoy themselves. However, pairing great staff with even better classmates, every moment was enjoyed to the fullest.

SHP: Thank you Joelle for letting us know the thoughts of a very recent graduate. I''m pleased that you are settling in to the world of work and I''m glad that you still seem to find time to socialise!

Our Graduate of the Month for October is Tim Watkins, who graduated in 2002 and has recently set up his own business

SHP: Tim, you graduated in 2002, could you tell me what you’ve been up to since you left Reading?

TW:  I launched my career on the graduate scheme at Nelson Bakewell (now part of Capita), with my first placement in the property management team, looking after a large investment portfolio for a pension fund. It was a great foundation in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of commercial property.  I moved on to the Corporate Real Estate team which was very exciting as the team was advising on several surplus leasehold liability transactions which were a new innovation at the time and provided our client with an exit from several £100 million of leasehold properties they no longer required. I gained a broad experience of all aspects of property from agency to portfolio strategy, from retail to industrial, always focussed on the occupier. I qualified in 2005 and was promoted to Associate Director soon afterwards.

In 2007 I was offered the opportunity to interview for a secondment to cover maternity leave at Sainsbury’s. I thought it would make an interesting change of scene and broaden my career, and I was lucky enough to be offered the role. It was again a very exciting time with the ‘big four’ supermarkets entering a period of intense competition for new space. A few weeks in I found myself helping to negotiate a £1.25 billion joint venture deal with British Land. It was a great deal for both parties and involved me having crash courses on Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities (CMBS) debt and corporate law while finding my way around the processes of two FTSE 100 businesses and… seemingly endless cheese consumption in the early hours!

There was always external pressure on the business to prove they were using real estate to its full potential, so it was decided to setup a new team dedicated to extracting value from the circa £11 billion portfolio (after all this was the second largest PropCo in the UK, not just a retailer). This led to me leaving the consultancy world and going client-side. We spent time analysing the portfolio and developing a broad strategy so we understood where the value was. As well as managing the Joint Venture, where we created several hundred million of additional value during the recession, I focussed on mixed-use development as there was so much potential in the ‘air-space’ above stores. I also became far too acquainted with the complications of dealing with sites which were security for various CMBS portfolios.  It was certainly challenging in a period of business growth, but spending time working with investment banks gave me a greater understanding of the finance world and a new angle in my career.

SHP: What have you enjoyed most about the work you’ve done so far?

TW: I’ve loved (nearly) every minute, property is such a great career with so many varied opportunities and fantastic people. I love the fact that every day is different, always with new ideas and challenges around the corner.  Property is something that you can see and touch. You can be a part of making something better than it was before. You are not stuck in an office all the time, but get to spend time in some great towns and beautiful countryside talking to people from all walks of life.

SHP: You have now set up your own company, how and why did you decide to do that?

TW: I knew I wanted to have my own business since I was at school so it was just a question of what and when.  It’s always difficult to leave the security of a salary and the perks that go with it, but it’s a risk/reward balance and I wanted to take the plunge, to be in control of my own destiny!  In 2012 the pieces of the jigsaw came together and I launched Habitus Group with a friend, Richard Klin (founder of the ground-breaking Urban Share Residential Investment Fund in 2006, the first SIPP-compliant residential scheme in the UK). Habitus specialises in development, mainly resi-led schemes. Since starting the business our work has ranged from a 5-unit scheme up to a 100-unit scheme and we are working on some very exciting land opportunities. We invest ourselves as well as with partners to acquire sites. Additionally, we provide consultancy services to key clients and also own and operate a growing investment portfolio. So far the business is going really well and it’s been a lot of fun too.

SHP: Our new academic year is just starting, have you any advice you would like to pass on the current Real Estate & Planning students?

TW: Enjoy your time at Reading, it will be over quickly. Get as much industry experience as you can, and always take the opportunity to listen to visiting speakers. Learn about different areas of practice and find out how things really work, as well as what makes you tick. Be confident in your own abilities and learn to use your instincts, they will stand you in good stead in the business world. If you can, work on the client side as well as an adviser within the first few years of your career. Remember that you may be a surveyor, but you’re in business. Understanding that business and how you can make it better is how you will succeed.

SHP: Thank you Tim, for taking the time to talk to me. You have given our students a really useful insight into your career so far. I hope you compnay continues to grow and prosper.

 

Our Graduate of the Month for September is Lauren Gibson-Green who graduated in 2008 and is now Associate Partner with Strutt & Parker

SHP: You recently became Associate Partner at Strutt & Parker in Cambridge. I know that you’ve been with them since you graduated in 2008, could you tell me a bit about your career progression.

LGG: I was lucky enough to be offered a graduate position after completing a week’s work experience in the summer between my second and third year whilst at Reading University. As soon as I started my new role, I knew Rural Surveying was for me!  I love the variety and the limited time I spend in the office and instead, out enjoying the countryside whilst assisting a range of my clients. 

In my first two years at Strutt & Parker I trained and undertook my APC where I qualified as a Rural Surveyor in 2010. From there, I quickly made my way up to Associate, assisted by the fact the Partner of the team left a week after I qualified and wasn’t replaced for a year! This gave me the perfect opportunity of proving myself at an early stage and running a small team. A few years later, the then replacement Partner also left, and wasn’t subsequently replaced. I was promoted to Associate Partner in April 2015 and I now run a team of 5 in our Cambridge office.

SHP: Have you seen many changes in the life of a Rural Chartered Surveyor over the last seven years?

LGG: Yes! The rural landscape and opportunities and threats are always changing and as a rural surveyor you have to be able to keep on top of these. The biggest change I have seen over the 7 years is that of energy and people’s awareness, including tenants requesting energy efficient properties to that of Landlords in trying to reduce their energy bills and increase their reliance on renewables. This has led me to become involved in some interesting projects including reviewing a number of large Estates’ residential and commercial portfolios and formulating and implementing a ten year strategy. I am also the regional expert for the East of England for Resources and Energy and a specialist in overseeing the installation of Solar Photovoltaics on both residential properties, large ground mounted systems on farmland and farm buildings.

SHP: We are really pleased that you still maintain links with Reading; you act as a mentor for our students and also come to Reading on a regular basis for our careers events.  When you are speaking to students what advice do you give them? 

LGG: I really enjoy being a mentor and coming back to speak to the students. I try and get across to students what a Rural Surveyor is and what it is that we do in our day to day role. Most importantly I try to get across and break the stereotype that you don’t need to have been a farmer, have a farming background or have a copious amount of tweed or a Labrador!!! (although wellies do help!) Aside from explaining what it is that I do, I act as a sounding board, help with reviewing CVs and try and help students work out what path they want to follow after they have left University. I also try and, where possible, arrange work experience for them within Strutt & Parker in either the rural department or other teams.

SHP: Finally, do you have any particular memories of your time at Reading that you would like to share with us?

LGG: I thoroughly enjoyed Reading and it has given me a fantastic start in my career. One particular memory is when we were undertaking a case study in our final year which included drafting a compensation claim for a client. A friend and I honestly had to ask whether the field in question was a wheat crop or grass! I do thankfully now know the difference.

SHP: Thank you Lauren for giving us an insight into the changing world of the Rural Chartered Surveyor, it is helpful to remind people that it isn''t all tweeds and Labradors! 

 

 

Henry Foreman graduated in 2013 and is now with the retail agency and development team at Strutt & Parker

SHP: Henry, you graduated in 2013 and, after a bit of travelling, started working with Antony Green & Spencer. Would you like to tell me a bit about the transition from University to work?

HF: Following three of the greatest years of my life studying Real Estate & Planning at Reading during which time I made some brilliant friends, found how to balance work with play and gained a strong foundation of knowledge in the industry I had wanted to go into from a young age, I graduated full of excitement for what the future may hold.

Unlike many of my contemporaries, however, I did not start work immediately. It had always been my intention to start my career having lived out of a rucksack for over a year of my life traveling different countries and continents. And so after working for several months I continued from where I had left off before uni when I had travelled for 9 months and I headed out to South and Central America. After 3 brilliant months I returned to the UK ready to start my career. Fortunately I timed this with when the job market was really starting to gather some momentum and, after several interviews, accepted a job with a small property company called Anthony Green and Spencer. They are noted for being the property advisers and development consultants to the Emirates Stadium development.

Although it took a few weeks to adjust to working life, it wasn’t long before I started loving work and recognising the knowledge university had equipped me with being applied in ‘the real world’. In addition, it became particularly apparent that team working in group projects at university is invaluable for when you start work. These projects develop the key skills required to work well as part of a team in the workplace such as establishing roles and allocating work, communication in open discussions, producing high standard work within a short timeframe as well as teaching you the importance of accountability and transparency at all stages of a project to ensure success. This certainly made the transition process a lot easier as you can approach the new chapter in your life with confidence knowing you have a strong foundation of both knowledge and skills.

SHP: I believe that while you were at Antony Green & Spencer you were involved in both day to day and the longer term strategic asset management, that must have been a really interesting way to start your career.

HF: Yes that’s correct, my role was to oversee the day to day property management and longer term strategic asset management of the portfolio. I consider property management to be a brilliant starting point as it allows you to see the implications of various transactions in practice and familiarises you technically with how to navigate a lease. The more strategic scope really allows you to see how you can maximise the value of an asset.

Furthermore, people often seem less inclined to join a small firm but I found that being thrown into the deep end with a large amount of responsibility from the start and working closely within small team allows you to learn quickly and see direct outcomes of your work which was especially rewarding.

SHP: You moved to Strutt & Parker in April to join the retail agency and commercial development team. Could you give me an example of a typical day?

HF: Working in the retail agency and development team means that I do a lot of work both on behalf of large institutional landlords in terms of shopping centre leasing and development consultancy as well as tenants in terms of large retailer representation, whether it be leasing or site acquisition and development. This leads to an extremely varied and exciting day to day role which epitomises what a career in surveying can offer and is why I enjoy working.

My day to day role includes visiting different schemes across the country, finding comparable evidence from the market by either calling agents or doing online research for various investment and rental valuation purposes, report writing and running development appraisals using the programme Argus Developer, answering enquiries and drawing up heads of terms, meeting with clients, agreeing deals, exchanging transactions and obviously networking/celebratory drinks to top it all off.

What is brilliant about being a Graduate Surveyor after studying the Real Estate & Planning degree is the responsibility you can be entrusted with immediately. This is in recognition of the standard of education and applicable knowledge, as well as the high calibre of graduate, that the market has come to expect from Reading University. The degree really gives you a firm foundation on which to grow and develop as you progress through your APC and in your career.

SHP: This is the time of year when young people are starting to look at Universities and degree programmes. What would you say to someone contemplating coming to Real Estate & Planning at Reading?

HF: Why are you still contemplating it? The Real Estate & Planning course at Reading equips you with a strong foundation of practical and applicable knowledge providing a brilliant platform to launch a career in property. Whilst the course is vocational the syllabus is varied so lends itself well to people who are not sure which specific area of property to go into so you can gain a broad understanding before specialising in third year.

In addition I would add that should you decide to do the Real Estate & Planning degree, it is imperative to work hard to make the most of the brilliant opportunity you have but also take advantage of all the co-curricular activities and socialising that Reading has to offer. These activities are a great way to become friends with your course mates and often become a part of working life. After all, often it is the friends you make at university that will ultimately be people you work with when you are older.

SHP: Thank you Henry, it certainly sounds as if you are having an enjoyable and rather busy start to your career. We look foward to hearing how it all progresses, keep in touch!

 

Our Graduate of the Month for July is Joanne Whitlock, who graduated in 1998 and is now living in Kazakhstan and running her own company

SHP: Joanne, you graduated in 1998 and starting your working life following a conventional Real Estate career pathway. What drew you to Real Estate in the first place and do you have any particular memories of your early working life that you would like to share?

JW: When researching Real Estate as a career it offered me a chance to be independent and, importantly, to travel. Since the age of 15 I had wanted to live in Spain so that was an important factor in my decision-making.

My early career took me from Birmingham to London, where I qualified as a Chartered Surveyor. After qualification, I knew that I was more attractive to companies overseas so I started applying to companies with European offices. About six months later, I was offered a position in Madrid to do commercial valuations; a childhood dream come true!  

SHP: You are now living in Kazakhstan running your own company working with international professionals who have English as a second or third language...could you briefly outline your journey!

JW: After surveying in Madrid for 18 months, I knew that there had to be a change. I had become increasingly interested by the world of personal development and coaching and was very active outside of work in an organisation that helped people to learn public speaking skills.

I decided to turn my back completely on property and surveying and work as a public speaking trainer. I had a few local clients and the privilege to work as a visiting professor at an internationally top-ranked business school, which I did for the next eight years.

During that time I met my husband, we moved to a town outside of Barcelona, then we moved again back to the UK, then one final move to Kazakhstan.

SHP: I understand that you offer a specialised e-course, “Property Talk”, which helps people to learn the jargon and terminology of being a property professional, is that something for which there is big demand?

JW: Whilst I offer a specialised course on Property Talk, the majority of my work is about public speaking and building confidence. I had found the terminology of my degree course extremely difficult and I lacked the confidence that I sounded professional in these new circles that I was mixing in. All the courses that I deliver are based on the skills I had to develop in myself as a professional; I just happen to work mainly with people who have English as asecond language.

SHP: Your career has taken you along way from Reading both geographically and career wise, do you ever wish you had done a different degree?

JW: No. The land management course was the perfect course for me. I remain passionate about buildings and business. I loved the flexibility of the work whilst I was doing it and University opened the doors I wanted opening – namely travel – as well as opening my eyes to a completely new world.

SHP: Thank you Joanne, for giving us a slightly different view of what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. It''s good to hear that you were able to use your degree as a stepping stone to your chosen career and that you still retain an interest in business and the built environment.

Our Graduate of the Month for June is Robert Kemlo, who graduated in 2010 and is now with Argent.

SHP: You have been working with Argent since you graduated in 2010. What was it like as a graduate in a development company?

RK: It was great! I was definitely thrown in the deep end but it was really exciting getting stuck in to projects and having real responsibility. My first DM project at Argent was the King’s Cross Filling Station; converting a disused petrol station into a temporary restaurant “Shrimpy’s”. Although a relatively small project it covered the whole spectrum of development from business planning, planning and design through to construction, legals, and asset management. This gave a great introduction to the process as a whole.

I was determined to qualify with the RICS. In a small company that meant being pro-active in organising my APC. I was the only graduate within a company of about sixty-five staff, and three qualified surveyors. Whilst I didn’t have formal rotations Argent were extremely supportive in ensuring I could undertake projects in the areas of the business that would support my competency choices.

SHP: I understand you have been involved with the King’s Cross redevelopment project that must be an exciting development to work on.

RK: King’s Cross is obviously a unique project and it has been incredibly exciting to be a part of this. When I joined Argent we hadn’t completed any buildings so I have been able to see first-hand the huge change in the area both physically and in public perceptions.

The scale of the site also offers possibilities for an approach which may not be possible on smaller schemes. The Filling Station is one example but there is a real focus for creating authentic places that runs through the whole company.

Although I am still involved in Kings Cross much of my focus is now on new development opportunities. These are often large scale regeneration projects and so the same Argent philosophy and approach can be brought to these as well.

SHP:  Could you tell me about your current role as a project manager? I understand you have been involved in bidding for Brent Cross South.

RK: My role really focusses on the development management side of the business, and in particular on debt/equity funding, and new development schemes.

As you mention Brent Cross is the most recent new project that I have been working on. The opportunity we were bidding on was to become the development partner of a 120 acre / 8m sq ft mixed use scheme in Barnet. There is a rare opportunity to create a new town centre, whilst working within the fabric of an established community.

Initially my involvement was around discussions with potential equity funders. This involved understanding the development risks, developing the financial models, and helping negotiate terms with potential funders.

More recently during the formal OJEU bid process I lead the wider Argent and consultant team for our bid for the site. I am delighted to say Argent Related (a joint venture with US Related Companies LP) was announced as the preferred bidder last week.

SHP: You have kindly hosted visits to the site by our undergraduate students, what do you think students can learn from the industry that can’t be learnt from a textbook?

RK: Getting out on site is great for developing an understanding of the importance of the product. Learning about floor to ceiling heights or air conditioning systems in a classroom is in reality boring, but getting on site does give some context as to why these are important.

Seeing case studies of developments and hearing about them from those in the industry (I hope) demonstrates the breadth of what development involves and how these inter-relate. Crucially it can stress the importance of being able to take a step back and look at the business, or development as a whole rather than just its constituent parts.

SHP: I know that you are acting as an industry mentor to one of our current students. With the benefit of hindsight what one piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you were a student?

RK: I was fortunate enough to have a mentor whilst I was at Reading as well so I can’t complain that I didn’t receive advice! 

My advice would be to reinforce just how much property, like most businesses, is all about people and personalities. No matter which side of the table you are sitting people management is as important as any technical skill. Everyone says it so it’s nothing new but it is something that is hard to really get to grips with until practised on the job.

SHP: Thank you Robert, you have certainly been involved with some interesting projects since you graduated. It’s great that you still find time to keep in touch with REP, to host visits for our students and to be an active industry mentor.

Our Graduate of the Month for May is Sarah Isherwood who graduated in 2014 and is now a Planner with Vail Williams

SHP:  Sarah, could you start by telling me how you first became interested in property and how you made the decision to come to Reading?

SI: I have had an interest in property for a number of years as both my dad and sister are in the profession.  Originally I wanted to become an architect however I didn’t think design was one of my strengths so I decided to look at alternative options within the property sector.  My cousin studied Real Estate a number of years ago (when it was still known as Estate Management) and spoke of the great time she had.  After visiting the university on an open day, I was impressed with what the course had to offer along with facilities in which they were taught and I felt it had something different to offer compared to some other courses at different universities.

SHP: You now work for Vail Williams, could you tell me a bit about your role, perhaps you could outline a typical day?

SI: My work very much varies from day-to-day which is what I enjoy about my role within Vail Williams.  I am currently involved in a variety of sized projects in both the commercial and residential sectors.  On larger projects I will assist senior colleagues in drafting planning documentation and managing a large consultant team to ensure everyone is up-to-date on the progress of drafting and submitting a planning application for a development.  On smaller projects, I am responsible for a greater proportion of a project and am required to draft and submit all planning documentation and then monitor the application including liaising with local planning authorities until a decision is made on an application.  I also work closely with other disciplines within Vail Williams which exposes me to different areas of the profession.  Planning is a key part of the development process and therefore I am often providing advice to members of our development, valuation and corporate real estate teams on the development potential of sites from a planning perspective.  Another key part of my role is keeping up to date with the latest changes in planning legislation as these changes occur almost weekly.  Any change could have a direct or indirect impact on any element of the property market and therefore ensuring the team’s knowledge is fully up to date is vital in order to advice clients and other members of the Vail Williams team correctly.

SHP: You had an internship with Vail Williams while you were a student and I believe that led to them sponsoring you to continue your studies and to your present job. Can you tell me how that all happened?

SI: Vail Williams were incredibly supportive throughout my time at university.  I initially undertook a month’s work experience in the summer of the second year in the development team based out of the Birmingham office of Vail Williams.  The following summer I undertook a second month of work experience, this time in the planning team in the Thames Valley office.  This was hugely beneficial to my personal development as it allowed me to experience two different sectors of the property profession in two different property markets.  This time was also helpful for Vail Williams as it gave them time to learn more about me, how I work and whether I would be a suitable candidate for a position in Vail Williams in the future. 

In my third year of university I applied for a graduate position in Vail Williams’ planning team in Guildford.  At this time I was not offered the position as I did not have an RTPI accredited degree.  However they came back a few weeks later and offered me sponsorship if I undertook my final year at the university to study for a diploma in Urban Planning and Development which is RTPI accredited.  Providing I passed my final year, I would then obtain a position in planning team based in the Thames Valley officer working in Reading and the wider Thames Valley region.  This was a great opportunity which I of course accepted and have now been working with Vail Williams for almost 12 months.

SHP: Do you have any particular memories of your time at Reading that you would like to share with us?

SI: There were a whole host of great memories I have from my time at Reading from the course and my experiences outside Real Estate.  I found the course incredibly insightful and there were many elements which I could transfer to day to day working life.  I found the Projects in Real Estate particularly interesting as they were based around real-life situations and problems which as a team we had to get around and solve.  These projects also helped broaden my knowledge of the commercial property market in both Reading and London.  As I now work from our Thames Valley office, this knowledge of the Reading market was a very useful base.  I met some great people at Reading and it’s great to see that everyone is doing so well.  It’s also interesting to see that people are working in such a variety of different areas across the country, not just in London.  A fellow class mate now also works at Vail Williams, within the Corporate Real Estate team and we still often speak of the great times we had at Reading.

SHP: Thank you Sarah, it sounds like your working life has got off to an excellent start with a very supportive employer, it''s great that they sponsored you to come back for the fourth year to get you RTPI accreditation. I''m sure you''ll repay them as a great ambassador for the company and also for Reading.

Our Graduate of the Month for April is James Lunn who graduated from our MSc Real Estate programme in 2014 and is now working with Gerald Eve.

SHP: Could you start by telling me about how you became interested in Real Estate and why you chose to take the MSc Real Estate programme at Reading?

JL: Having grown up in Hong Kong, one of the worlds most vibrant property markets, I appreciated from an early age the impact the property industry can have upon a society. In 2003, Hong Kong was struck by the global epidemic, SARS. Many industries suffered as a result, none more than the property sector. It was a combination of government run initiative schemes and the related work of property developers and real estate agencies that helped restore faith in the market, bringing about its recovery. At this point I began to appreciate the importance of the property sector in Hong Kong’s economy and the significance of the property sector in other economies elsewhere in the world. The MSc Real Estate programme at Reading is second to none, and that became very obvious to me when I spoke to people in the industry, the reaction I received when I mentioned that I was applying to Reading for the masters program really reaffirmed how successful the program is.

SHP: Do you have any particular memories of the course that you would like to share with us?

JL: I have many fond memories of my time at Reading, but two that stand out for me were the Manchester field trip in first term, where at that stage the group didn’t really know each other very well and our time in Manchester really brought the whole group together and made the rest of the course very enjoyably, safe to say it was assisted by an excellent dinner (and a few drinks!) on the first night. And my second memory was our trip to Madrid in the summer, which was a fantastic opportunity to gain an insight in to a recovering European property market.

SHP: What was the job application process like?

JL: Like many other job applications the process is a fairly tedious one, and it certainly takes up a lot of your time. However, in Jane Bachelor you have one of the best career advisors you could ever wish for. I cant stress enough how important she is in helping you through the process, she knows all the crucial bits of information that help you get a leg up in various assessment days. Take the time to read a bit about the company you’re applying to and tailor your application to them. There’s nothing worse than butchering your application by writing the wrong company in the opening line of your application.

SHP: How are you enjoying life at Gerald Eve?

JL: I am just about to finish my first rotation at Gerald Eve, I have been working in our Minerals Department, which is quite a niche sector of the industry. My time has been predominately spent in assisting the Partner and Senior Surveyor in various rating appeals for a number of sites that include quarries, concrete batching plants, asphalt plants and industrial land. This process involves analysing leases and the minerals valuers valuations of the site and then drawing a conclusion as to whether there are any ground for appealing the assessment. The seat has allowed me to spend some time out of the office, inspecting the plants I have mentioned, as well as the occasional valuation. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Minerals Department. Having a very good relationship with Tom Bevan, the senior surveyor in our team, has certainly helped me enjoy the seat as much as I have. I expect to rotate in to the Industrial Valuations team in early April.

SHP: Do you still manage to keep in touch with your fellow students?

JL: I am delighted to say that I have been able to keep in contact with the majority of my fellow students from my Cohort, this has been helped by Kitty Vaughn who has been excellent at organising a number of get togethers.

SHP: Thanks James, for taking the time to talk to me. I am glad you have made such a positive start at Gerald Eve and that you still find a bit of time to socialise with your Reading friends. I hope your next rotation goes as well as your first.

Annisa completed her PhD with Real Estate & Planning in 2014 and is now Senior Research Manager with INREV

SHP: I understand that your Master’s degree was in Finance. Could you tell me how and why you decided to undertake a PhD in Real Estate and what influenced your decision to come to Reading?

ADP: I have always wanted to do a PhD having been inspired by my mother who also holds a doctoral degree. However, I was not sure which field to specialise in. This is why I studied broad subjects namely Business and Finance for undergraduate and Money, Banking and Finance for master before settling on a more focused area for PhD.

I became interested in the area of real estate when I was undertaking an investment course for my master degree. I then decided to explore this field further by focusing on real estate for my master dissertation. Through these experiences, I was then sure that I wanted to undertake a PhD and pursue a career in real estate. 

When I was researching which university to undertake my PhD,  I was not only looking for a place that has a strong reputation for both university and its real estate programme, but that could also provide me with a first class research training, outstanding research facilities and supervision by world-renowned faculty members. Reading ticked all the right boxes for me. Having visited the university, talked to existing PhD students as well as some industry professionals, there was then no doubt in my mind that Reading was the place where I wanted to be.

SHP: The title of your PhD was “Corporate Governance and Asian Real Estate Investment Trusts”; could you briefly explain your topic?

ADP: My thesis looks into whether Asian real estate investment trusts (REITs) suffer from agency problems. It also examines the role of corporate governance in mitigating these problems together with its impacts on Asian REIT performance and valuation. Potential agency problems for Asian REITs may arise from their externally managed structure, business relationships with sponsors and existing regulatory provisions. These problems have been ongoing concerns that could hamper their benefits and development and yet there was still limited research around the area.

SHP: What was your experience of undertaking a PhD in the School of Real Estate & Planning?

ADP: It is true what people say that undertaking a PhD is both rewarding and challenging at the same time. Nonetheless, I have a very fond memory of my time at the School of Real Estate and Planning. I was surrounded by a group of very supportive people that made my PhD journey worthwhile. I was very fortunate to have two really understanding and encouraging supervisors and great colleagues to ride this journey together. Other faculty members also have always been very easy to approach and more than happy to help. 

The School gave me the opportunities and experiences that possibly students in other school or university do not have. They continuously supported my personal and professional development, such as by encouraging me to attend and present at global real estate conferences, attend careers talks from industry leaders, etc. They have also provided me with assistance during data collection by helping me to reach out to their contacts in the industry. I do not think any other university will provide these to a great extent that Reading did.

Overall, it has been a great experience to undertake a PhD in the School of Real Estate & Planning and it will be a memory that I will always cherish!

SHP: I believe you undertook two internships while completing you PhD, could you tell me about them?

ADP: Yes, I had several internships during my PhD programme. One of them was with GIC Real Estate in London. My role was to help the GIC Research and Strategic Planning team to establish a “traffic light” style property market risk indicator for the retail and hospitality markets on a global basis. Prior to GIC, I worked with Consilia Capital to produce a research project that seeks to obtain a greater understanding of the Asia Pacific listed real estate fund performance together with their current and potential roles and applications within portfolio management. These internships have helped me to gain a better understanding of the profession as well as affirmed my decision to pursue a career in industry rather than staying in academia.

SHP: You have now been working for 6 months as Senior Research Manager with INREV in Amsterdam, could tell me about your role?

ADP: Being a non-UK and non-European student definitely posed a challenge for me while searching for a job in the UK and other European countries, as I found that generally many employers were unable to sponsor a working visa. However, as you can see, it is not always the case. The School and its Career Development Advisor have helped me extensively by providing career advice and keeping me informed of the new vacancies that just came to the markets. Given the School and its lecturers’ strong networks and connections with the industry, it came to no surprise that many organisations approach the School directly to advertise their vacancies as was the case with INREV. 

In my current role, my main responsibility is to manage and contribute to the production and development of the INREV annual and ad-hoc research projects. I am also responsible to manage and oversee research projects that we have commissioned to either universities or third party research providers. Some of the research projects that I have been involved with include Funds of Funds Performance Update and the INREV Investment Intentions Survey 2015 that looked into aspirations for real estate investments over the next few years with a special focus on non-listed real estate funds.

The most exciting part about my job is that not only I am able to be involved with various types of research projects with different research topics, but I also get to work closely on these projects with our members coming from different type of institutions (e.g. institutional investors, fund managers, advisers and academics) and similar organisations to INREV in Asia Pacific and North America. I also get to view the industry at macro level and have the opportunity to present some of our work at several events and universities.

SHP: Thank you Annisa, for talking to me about your time at Reading and your current employment. I am pleased to hear that we were able to help you to find such an interesting and rewarding job.  I am sure potential PhD students will find your profile very interesting, particularly those who don''t have a background in real estate and may not realise this is still an option for them. We wish you well as your career progresses and hope you will keep in touch.

Rodrigo Rolim took our flexible part time Masters in Real Estate Investment & Finance, flying in from Brazil for his modules. He graduated in 2013 and is now working for Makro.

SHP: Could you start by telling me a bit about your background and how you came to study at the University of Reading even though you were based in Brazil?

RR: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Urban Planning and have always been interested in land development and urban economics. However, careers in real estate were not popular back in the mid 90’s and there are still only a few academic programs on property market.

After graduation I worked for a couple of years in architecture studios, feeling that something was missing. Oddly enough, in 2005 I came to know about a job opportunity in CBRE office in São Paulo and started as a trainee in property valuation. It didn´t take me long to realize that’s what I was looking for as my career.

At CBRE, I was lucky to be selected for a development program which included an academic degree in Real Estate and the University of Reading was chosen following recommendation of the directors who are chartered surveyors. That’s how I ended up in Reading.

SHP: You did our part time flexible Masters in Real Estate Investment and Finance while working with CBRE in Brazil. How did you combine work, study and a lot of long haul flights?

RR: This was really challenging as, in order to balance work, study and distance, it was not possible to attend more than two modules per year. It demanded patience and determination, but on the other hand gave me the opportunity to be in Reading during these transformational years for the School of Real Estate and Planning.

Nevertheless, I believe it demanded no more from me than from any of my “international” classmates, apart from a bigger time zone difference. I usually would fly from São Paulo on Friday late night and get to Reading on Saturday early evening, so that I had at least one day to adjust to the time zone and catch up with pre-reading before the first class on Monday. I also remember keeping an alarm clock with London local time to avoid missing the deadlines!

In the end, it was a mixture of pain and pleasure I must admit, but it was worth every weekend of study.

SHP: Since you graduated you have changed jobs and are now at Real Estate Manager for Latin America at Makro. Could you tell me about that role?

RR: I believe my experience at the UoR has contributed significantly to my career. During my years studying and working with CBRE, I could help update the valuation practice to an international level by applying and sharing with colleagues some of the concepts and techniques learned at Reading.

This is also true in my current position. As regional real estate manager, my main role is to work with real estate teams in each of the 5 Latin American countries where Makro operates, in order to identify and maximize value of real estate assets. In addition, I am also responsible to ensure best practice in the region. In these sense, for me it is a fundamental aspect of this position to understand the different market environments (drivers, cycles) and also the local market practice. The MSc certainly has contributed to enhance my ability to understand and analyze real estate in different market environments.

SHP: Finally, what are your best memories of the degree programme?

RR: Without a doubt, the people I met. The flexi MSc is a great opportunity to network and exchange culture due to the international audience. I have also good memories of former and current professors of the programme. Recently we had sad news about Professor Peter Byrne… I have a fond memory of this LARES dinner in São Paulo in 2013 in which I sat next to him (thanks to Claudia!) and could enjoy his sense of humor and enthusiasm about the students. What a remarkable man!

SHP: Thank you Rodrigo, for such an interesting piece. You are certainly our longest distance commuter so far and I''m glad you found it all worthwhile.

Our first Graduate of the Month for 2015 is Chris House, who graduated in 2014 and is now working with Cushman & Wakefield

SHP: Chris, could you start by telling me how you first got interested in property and how you made the decision to come to Reading?

CH: I was interested in property at an early age as my Grandad had his own construction company and I had originally wanted to follow in his footsteps. However, after I attended a presentation about the regenerative potential that the Olympics offered to the East of London my interest switched to the socio-economic development that property has to offer. This was reinforced within my studies and a small amount of work experience really helped to confirm my interest, and that I wanted a career in property.

When I was researching real estate courses at University, I spoke to a few contacts I had made in the industry and they were all highly complimentary about studying at Reading. After I visited I was impressed with the fantastic facilities that the Business School offers students as well as the connections to the profession through the Reading Real Estate Foundation (RREF) and also the thought leadership within the teaching staff.

It has only been since starting my career that I have realised how fortunate I was to study at Reading. We are given opportunities and experiences that most other students do not have; for example, the Mentoring Programme and Evening Lectures that RREF facilitate. It’s these openings that put Reading in a leading position, as not only do you receive a first class education but there are numerous opportunities to build your network and understand more about the profession.

SHP: While you were here you were awarded a Reading Real Estate Foundation Access Internship at Cushman & Wakefield. Could you explain about the Access Internship and how you benefitted from it?

CH: Yes, I was awarded an Access Internship with Cushman & Wakefield through RREF. The scheme aims to widen access to the property profession by giving students experience within a range of real estate firms through a formal internship; applications are open to those students who may otherwise face obstacles in securing experience.

My internship at C&W was over the summer and I was incorporated into their own internship programme. It was fantastic experience and I learnt a tremendous amount about the company, what it is like working in the profession and it also gave me a better idea of what I wanted from a career in property.

After the internship I was offered a graduate position at C&W. I had undertaken other placements over that summer with Gerald Eve and Savills; but I had found that C&W was where I felt I was most suited; so I was thrilled to be offered a place on their graduate scheme. Having this offer at the start of my final year was a real help as I was able to focus on the degree, allowing me to achieve First Class Honours. Given this it’s probably not surprising to know that I am incredibly grateful to RREF for all the opportunities they provide.

SHP: You have now been working for 4 months, how was the transition from student life into the world of work?

CH: I must admit that there is certainly a step-up between the worlds of University and work. Although the course at Reading helps to prepare you as there is a focus on practical experience, especially in the final year, as graduates we are still quite ‘fresh’ and so need to learn quickly. In my final year I had a lot of reports to produce which needed a professional working style; that helped to smooth the transition into the world of work.

It is known that the property industry is very social and there are a range of events put on for graduates to get together and network. This social aspect is very similar to University. Having said that it’s important to remember that you often have work the next day and so need to get to bed at a more reasonable time.

SHP: Finally do you have any particular memories of Reading that you would like to share?

CH: University has been one of the most enjoyable times in my life and I have made many lifelong friends, both in and outside of the real estate degree. There are a number of staff who were important; however, I must say that Jane Batchelor (Careers & Development Officer) was key to me succeeding. Jane always gave fantastic advice and was a real help when I was making important decisions throughout my time at University. I am very grateful to her.

The third year was a particularly demanding time, and so being able to celebrate everybody’s achievements at Graduation was fantastic.

SHP: Thank you, Chris, for getting 2015 off to such a constructive start; I''m glad that you have such positive memories of Reading. I hope that you continue to enjoy work and we look forward to catching up with your progress in the future.

2014 Profile Archive

Dr Victoria Edwards graduated 30 years ago and is now (amongst other things!) Programme Director for our MSc Rural Land and Business Management programme.

SHP: Many people will have seen the recent photo on REP’s social media of your year group getting together for their 30th anniversary of graduating. How have you all managed to keep in touch?

VE: That’s all thanks to Jo Wilkes – the glue who keeps up together!  People tend to keep in touch with whoever they first shared a hall of residence with, who was in their group on their final pathway, and then, later, whoever they come across in their professional life.  It’s more difficult to get everyone together, but once Jo sent the first email out, the list just snowballed.  We all met up again three years ago and then again this month as 2014 is the thirtieth anniversary of our graduation year.

It was really good to see how quickly people connected again after all these years, and that we still shared the same (often childish) sense of humour. We have all gone on to do very different things. Most people are still in property of one sort or another (many in leading roles) although Andrew Clark is now a professional photographer in Colorado, Susan Evans runs a chain of hairdressers, people will know Linda Bennett as ‘LK’………..and I’m back at Reading!

SHP: So what has been your career path and how did it lead you back to Reading?

VE: When I left Reading I didn’t go far – I went to Dreweatt Watson Barton in Newbury (now Carter Jonas) to do my professional exams. It was a fantastic grounding, not just because of the variety of work, but also because it was a small firm, still family-run.  There was no formal ‘CSR’ policy, but ethical practice ran through the entire firm in everything they did.  I still visit Desmond Barton, who is now over 90, even though I only stayed with DWB for a couple of years. 

From there I took a Commonwealth Scholarship to New Zealand. I was very young (an August birthday meant I graduated at 20) and desperate to travel. In those days it would have been frowned upon to give up a good job to go travelling, so taking the scholarship was a great excuse to see half the world on the way and half on the way back. It was a fantastic time to study in New Zealand – the government were reforming all of the public sector and re-writing the resource management acts – I was living in a land use policy laboratory. New Zealand’s tiny population meant that anyone with any interest had a large influence – my thesis was on native forest on private land and I found myself advising the Ministry of Forestry on policy. 

It was a bit of shock when I got back to Britain and had to take my place down at the bottom of the ladder again! I took an academic post at Portsmouth University so that I could keep up my policy interests through research and consultancy. I taught at Portsmouth for twenty two years, combining my teaching with research and public sector work (I became a Countryside Commissioner, Forestry Commissioner and sat on the Burns Inquiry into Hunting), but I kept my connection with Reading and in the early 90s did a part time PhD back in the ‘Department of Land Management and Development’.  When I left Portsmouth in 2010, Roger Gibbard contacted me to see if I was interested in coming back to Reading. By then Roger was Head of School, and ready to hand over management of the rural courses.

SHP: So how has the programme changed since you were at Reading and how do you see it continuing to develop?

VE: Well there are elements of the course that have remained the same, especially the lovely visits to neighbouring estates: I quite often experience a sense of deja vu when we visit Englefield, Yattendon or Stratifield Saye estates and I find myself looking at landscape I stood in front of thirty years ago.  But in other respects the course is very different.

First of all, we now have the MSc Rural Land and Business Management, a conversion course for graduates wanting to go into the rural real estate profession. Also, the rural world has changed so much. In my day, diversification comprised growing Christmas trees or running a B&B on the farm. Our students now study renewables, festival planning, vineyards, retail, and large scale tourism development. Development also plays a larger part in the course.  As distances have become smaller and the countryside has become more developed, a rural surveyor is just as likely to find themselves involved in a large scale residential development, business park, motorway or rail scheme

SHP: Finally, what would you say to potential students – both undergraduate and postgraduate – who are thinking of coming to Real Estate & Planning to follow one of our Rural pathways?

VE: Well, obviously, you need to be interested in the countryside and generally ‘love the land’. Apart from that, despite the changes over the years, I suppose there are two things that still attract people to the rural profession. First, it’s the involvement with people. We used to say that you need to be able to speak at ease to the lord (or lady) and the gardener: that holds true today, although nowadays it’s just as likely to be a rock star or hedge fund manager.  Also, if you are interested in a job where no two days are the same, it will suit you: it’s the variety of work that attracts people to the rural profession, and that has grown exponentially.

SHP: Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about your "journey" Victoria. I hope our current students are still keeping in touch 30 years after they graduate!

Avi Orenstein graduated in 2011 and is now working with GVA as part of their City of London Investment team

SHP: You graduated with a first class degree in Investment and Finance in Property. Was it the investment pathway that attracted you to Reading or did you only become interested in this area after you started your degree? 

AO: It was an aspiration of mine to work in property from a young age as it has been inherent in my family for generations. It started with my grandfather who came here after the war to work with Benzion Freshwater to build his London property empire. It wasn’t long till my father and his brothers got involved in the industry and now me! Growing up with the world of property around me helped develop commercial awareness and an appreciation for what a vital role property plays in every aspect of the economy, society and environment.

I chose to study at Reading because the programmes are held in very high regard by leading employers. I felt that the property Investment and Finance route would best equip me for a role in an ever diversifying industry, where the association between real estate, corporate finance and capital markets was becoming ever more relevant. The programme is structured very well with the right balance of real estate fundamentals and finance theory; and the quality of the teaching and support you receive is outstanding.

I graduated from Reading, not only with a great degree, but with a comprehensive understanding of the application of finance and investment in the context of real estate. This has benefitted me throughout my career and particularly in my current role in the City Investment team.

SHP: You have been with GVA since you graduated in 2011, how has your career developed?

AO: I joined GVA on a graduate rotation programme. During my training I gained significant experience in the Office Agency, Valuation and Development Consultancy team. I worked across all the main property sectors on projects around the South East, but with a focus on the Central London market.

I was fortunate enough to be given a lot of responsibility from the start. I assisted with high profile clients and once in a lifetime projects including Kings Cross Central, The Bedford Estates and the Northumberland Development Project. This made my job extremely satisfying and rewarding. The variety of the job was something that I also particularly enjoyed – my experience ranged from providing letting advice on a 1,000 sq ft office suite to assisting with the valuation of Westfield London or offering viability on a proposed 230,000 sq ft City of London office development.

After two years of training, I successfully completed my APC and qualified as a Chartered Surveyor, when I was offered a permanent role in the City of London Investment team. I now advise on all aspects of property acquisition, investment sales and development in the City of London and surrounding areas.

SHP: Has the recent merger with Bilfinger Real Estate impacted on your job?

AO: It’s a very exciting time to be with GVA. The recent merger with Bilfinger is going to truly push it into the international market, creating a pan-European real estate advisory firm to take on the big Anglo-American advisory companies. This deal is part of a strategic plan to develop a leading international consultancy and management offer with representation in every major commercial centre in the world.

Bilfinger already boasts integrated services and consultancy with a strong expertise in property, asset management among an impressive client base which includes RBS, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, AXA, Union Investment and IVG. This merger is likely to positively impact my job, as Bilfinger are committed to growing the transactional capability of the company, especially in the London market. Therefore the prospects for me and the team look very promising and I’m really looking forward to what the future holds. 

SHP: Many thanks for taking the time to talk to me, Avi, I''m sure both current and potential students will be very interested in what you say. It certainly sounds as if your career is progressing very positively at GVA and I hope that the merger opens up even more possibilities for you.  

Our Graduate of the Month for October is Katherine Norton who is Director of National Development with Savills

SHP: Could you start by telling us how your career has developed since you graduated in 2004?

KN: After graduating I joined Savills'' graduate scheme and rotated through five departments: International Investment, Valuation, Management, Retail Agency and Development. All the departments provided great experience, were fun teams and I learnt a lot.

I particularly enjoyed working in the Development team as it gave me the opportunity to work on commercial and residential projects and offered a mix of Consultancy and Agency. So, I was delighted to be offered a permanent job with the team after my APC.

I have been at Savills for 10 years now and I am a Director managing the Mixed Use Development Team. I love the challenge and the variety of projects that I work on, examples include: advising The Bedford Estates on the development options for a site on Tottenham Court Road, reviewing the relocation strategy for the Royal Brompton Hospital in Chelsea and obtaining planning permission for a c.1m sq ft development in the London Borough of Sutton.

SHP: You are currently Director of National Development with Savills; could you explain a little about that role and outline a typical day?

KN: Thankfully my days are varied and no two are the same, but typically I start by reviewing emails and making sure I am organised for the day ahead as more than half my time is spent in meetings at client’s  offices, with architects or on site. 

Every week, we have a team meeting either to discuss billings and new projects or to review the market e.g. what sites have been acquired by developers, what is coming to the market soon and which developers have requirements. It is important that we are fully up to speed with what is happening in the market so we can identify early opportunities to advise clients on new development projects. 

Part of my job is Development Management which means I appoint and manage design teams on behalf of clients, to prepare schemes for planning applications. So frequently I have meetings with architects, town planners, quantity surveyors and engineers in order to progress schemes designs for development sites across London.

I will either have lunch at my desk or catch up with a developer or agent somewhere close to my office in the West End. 

The afternoon usually involves meeting with clients either to review scheme designs or update them on negotiations for the sale of a property. Often, once I have helped a client achieve planning permission to develop their site, they decide to sell or seek a joint venture partner. This is when my job is to market the site and find a development partner. For example, on behalf of a fund, I am currently negotiating a development agreement to select a developer for a retail and residential scheme in Covent Garden.

At the end of the day I will catch up and respond to emails. Sometimes I work late in the evening but more often I am running out of the office for some exercise or a drink with a friend.

SHP: You have maintained close links with the University of Reading; you regularly come to talk to our students and are involved in the team working workshop (for which Savills sponsor a prize). How have things changed since you were a student?

KN: I really enjoyed my time at Reading and had great academic and personal support whilst I was studying; hence I am keen to stay in contact and support the University. But I am not alone, as I am one of a large network of alumni that stay in contact with the University; and this network is something Reading has made a real effort to develop further since I was a student. Meeting and listening to people from the industry is a great opportunity and allows students to hear first hand what the job involves, what is happening in the market and take on board their advice.

The Real Estate department has always been good at helping students to get jobs but I think now it is even more focused on giving practical advice. For example, helping people with job applications and interview training. Also advising students where and how to get work experience at an early stage and at a variety of different companies.

The mentoring scheme has also been introduced since I left the University and is a fantastic and easy way to make contacts in the industry and start a relationship that can be continued after graduating. 

Finally, Pathways to Property is a great new initiative that the Reading Real Estate Foundation has successfully introduced to help promote diversity in the property industry.

SHP: What positive attributes do you think our students demonstrate and what areas have “room for improvement”?

KN: Reading students are well prepared for interviews, submit good applications and have lots of work experience. However, I think some of the applications we receive do not always differentiate themselves to show what it is that really interests them about property e.g. is it a new development in their home town or did their work experience really inspire them to pursue property as a career? It doesn’t have to be a high profile project or something featured in the Estate Gazette, just something that you are genuinely enthusiastic about. Individuality helps us in our decision making.

SHP: Finally, do you have any advice for anyone planning to come to Reading to study Real Estate & Planning?

KN: 

  1. Take advantage of the mentoring programme, it is a fantastic way to get an insight into the industry, make a good contact, possibly get work experience and for general advice to help you understand what you want to do in the longer term.  
  1. Everyone says this but really try and understand valuation, it will make things a lot easier when you start work! 
  1. Get as much work experience as you can to establish contacts, find out what part of the industry interests you and to help with getting a job.

SHP: Thank you Kat, for taking the time to talk to me. I am sure that both potential and current students will find your piece very informative. We look forward to seeing you back on campus soon!

Oliver Donaldson graduated in 2012 and is now in the Retail Services department at Cushman  & Wakefield

SHP: Could you start by telling me how you first became interested in property and why you chose to come and study Real Estate & Planning at the University of Reading?

OD: It was a career which I actually only knew existed in my last couple of years at school. Being the ambitious, but often distracted teenager, I realised that the real world was about to hit me and that I needed to decide on a career. At that point, even though I was torn between going into the navy or into business, I was confident that I wanted a career which was going to be both practical and entrepreneurial. Following a visit to the school’s careers office and a couple of weeks work experience, I discovered that property, and particularly the development and commercial sector, was my new found interest and an exciting career opportunity.

Before applying, I made contact with industry professionals who made it apparent that Real Estate at the University of Reading was a strong and reputable programme. Now that I have been working in the industry for almost two years, I can look back and say that the course and its teaching staff readily prepare you in all aspects of the industry, making the transition from the lecture hall to work very smooth.

SHP: I understand that you took part in the Reading Real Estate Foundation access Internship scheme. Can you tell me a bit about the scheme and what you feel you got out of it?

OD: One of my first impressions of the industry was seen through the Reading Real Estate Foundation where I was given the opportunity to experience, first-hand, the advantages that Reading provides. The mentoring scheme, internship scheme, as well as exceptional teaching, are all contributing factors to what makes Reading the great course that it is.

I was fortunate enough to get a four-week internship between my second and third year in the City Investment team at Cushman & Wakefield. Then, I was asked to stay on for an additional four weeks in the City and subsequently, offered place on the graduate scheme just before completing my final year at university.

The scheme gave me a broad view of the City Office market and what it was like working within the industry, whilst also giving me an idea of what I wanted from my career in property. It also added value to my studies by making my work more industry-applied and professional.

SHP: You are now working in the Retail Services department at Cushman & Wakefield. What is your average working day like and what do you enjoy most about your job?

OD: Each day has been very different to the next and the past two years have flown by. When I joined Cushman & Wakefield in 2012, I started in Central London Management. I was then moved to City Office Investment and, just recently, to the Retail department. Each department has been very different and the skills learned in each make up what is needed to be a chartered surveyor. In the past two months, I have been working with TfL. In this role, I am involved with letting their retail units across the entire London Underground network. In this particular role, I am responsible for the marketing of the properties through to securing the deal with the tenant. Most of my day is spent creating particulars and reports, going out on inspection and meeting with the client to give updates on the progress of lettings. Dealing with everyone from the local business man on the street in Whitechapel to the large chain coffee operator in Hammersmith, my role is quite diverse.

The most enjoyable thing about the job is that there is always a challenge and an interesting aspect that it is not limited to the office. There is a great emphasis to get out of the office to meet people, share information and create networks. I have had the opportunity, through networking evenings, sports events and skiing trips to meet some very likeminded people and make friends.

SHP: This is the time of year when potential students are starting to think about applying to University. What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of putting Real Estate & Planning at Reading on their UCAS form?

OD: It is certainly worth the time and effort you put into writing your application and I think it is important to be able to find a way to differentiate yourself from everyone else that is applying. Support your qualities and passions with examples and achievements, rather than just saying you’re good at or interested in something – anyone can just write that on a form! Do your research into what might interest you, and yet be flexible in your studies and career. Property is a broad industry and you will most likely find aspects of it that you never knew about, but will want to find out more about or pursue further.

If you’re fortunate enough have the opportunity to study at the University of Reading then just go for it and get stuck in! Ask questions and learn about those things which interest you. They are a great few years both socially and academically, so make the most of every opportunity you have in and outside of the course. The University is made up of exceptional teaching facilities and excellent and well-renowned teaching staff (including my tutor, Joe Doak) which provides the foundations for a career in property.

SHP: Thank you very much, Ollie, for taking the time to talk to me. I''m pleased to hear that you have such positive memories of your time at Reading and that your career is going well. I''m sure our potential students will find your thoughts very interesting.

Professor Roger Gibbard has been associated with Real Estate & Planning, in one way or another, since the 1970s and has recently been made a Professor.

SHP: Roger, would you like to start by briefly outlining your long history with Real Estate & Planning?

RG: I was a student here in the late 1970s on the BSc Estate Management course, a forerunner to today’s Real Estate programme. I took the rural option in the third year. I was taught by some great and inspirational teachers: Peter Byrne, Andy Baum, Alan Evans, John Murdoch to name just a few who might be still known to current students. Having worked in rural practice and got RICS and CAAV qualified then I came back in the late 1980s as a part-time valuation lecturer and as a research assistant to Neil Crosby.

My involvement just grew from there really, to an increased part time role, looking after the rural package, then admissions tutor for Real Estate, then School Director of Teaching and Learning and finally Head of School from 2010-12. Somewhere in between I negotiated a full time position and gave up a previous career in farming and rural consultancy. As a student it never was my intention to have a career in academia – I didn’t do a Masters, or a PhD, something very unusual for people starting off in a University career today.

SHP: What have been the main changes you have seen in our courses since your undergraduate days?

RG: Much more coursework! I only remember doing one piece of assessed coursework in my three years here; it was all about exams in those days. We did a lot more law too – three years of compulsory modules, not only in land law and landlord and tenant, but also contract, tort, constitutional law, and planning law. We didn’t get any careers help in those days - the Department didn’t have a careers advisor, so you were left to your own devices - and it was largely a case of hand-written application letters.

I was one of a cohort of about 120, of which only 6 were girls. That’s been a big change. And I don’t think we had any overseas students at all, and certainly no international staff. The profession was quite parochial. We didn’t have the backup of a world-leading alumni organisation either; our students now really benefit from the input of the Reading Real Estate Foundation.

Quite a lot was pretty similar – traditional lectures, backed up with tutorials - but obviously (dark ages) no computers, no email, no mobile devices (apart from pretty basic calculators). You had to invest in a copy of Parry’s Valuation tables. Everything was done with pen and paper.

The focus of our courses has changed and they are now far more about business and finance, rather than the technical construction and valuation stuff we learnt. I think this means that many more of our graduates are seeing Real Estate as a general business passport, and going on to do more diverse things in industry. There is also far more emphasis on acquiring skills, such as teamworking and presentation skills; we did none of this. So today''s REP graduate is far better equipped to go out there and earn fees with confidence from day one, and to progress their career quickly.

SHP: Your role as Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning in the Henley Business School gives you an oversight of future developments across the University. How will these impact on future students?

RG: There is a big building schedule, despite money being tight. The library is due for a massive development, and Henley Business School building should get a large extension in the near future.

Technological advances will translate to teaching methods – so expect far more online provision, e-submissions and e-marking and feedback. I expect that the study day will evolve to encompass evening lectures, maybe some classes starting at 8 rather than 9am, to enable better use of teaching rooms.

Preparing students for the workplace is second nature in REP, but is a relatively new objective for other disciplines. Henley Business School has a role to play across the University in sharing its knowledge and experience in this area. So I think a lot more students from other parts of the University will be studying with us for some of their time. Internationalisation is a big driver too – so I expect far more study abroad opportunities, a more internationally-diverse student (and staff) body, and much more international content in the curriculum as the professional globe shrinks.

SHP: Our courses continue to be a popular choice for Undergraduate and Postgraduate students; what do you think Real Estate & Planning offers that continues to draw students?

RG: Clearly REP enjoys a unique relationship with the surveying and planning professions – as evidenced by RREF and our enviable employment stats. The staff are all enthusiastic, dedicated and knowledgeable in their specialisms. And as a student you will, by and large, be studying alongside similarly capable and committed colleagues. Being part of a Business School is probably a good draw, especially for overseas students, but being seen to be part of a liberal, well-established, financially sound University is equally important in keeping us ahead of the competition.

SHP: Thank you Roger for sharing your insights with us and congratulations on your recent promotion to Professor Gibbard!

Alice Hare graduated with a BSc in Rural Property Management in 2013 and is now working with Bidwells

SHP: Alice, you graduated in July 2013 and are now working as a Graduate Rural Surveyor for Bidwells in Oxford. Could you tell me about the life of Rural Chartered Surveyor?

AH: My days are never the same, the variety of my job is what I enjoy the most. Being a rural surveyor allows me to get out in to the countryside regularly and meet a huge variety of people.

SHP: Had you always planned to go down the “rural route”?

AH: Before I arrived at University I was relatively set on following the rural pathway, however I particularly enjoyed the planning and development elements of my first and second year. These modules encouraged me to do work experience in London for development companies, which the University assisted me in obtaining. I enjoyed my experience in the city however I quickly established that London wasn’t for me. I did work experience with Bidwells too, I really enjoyed my two weeks in the Oxford office, the smaller office allowed me to work alongside the most experienced people as well as graduates. It was my work experience that helped me make the final decision to follow the rural pathway, however the first 2 years at University have given me a broad knowledge and understanding of the other aspects of real estate which I apply on a daily basis.

SHP: What do you enjoy most about your work?

AH: I enjoy the planning and development elements of my job most, it allows me to be creative and look at agricultural land and building from another perspective. Within our team we follow development projects from the initial ideas through to completion, with regular site visits. This is particularly rewarding, allowing me to see ideas developed around a desk become reality, tackling all sorts of hurdles with planners and contractors on the way.

SHP: Finally, would you like to share some memories of your time at Reading?

AH: During my final year at Reading, we focused on Rural Surveying, we visited a number of farms and estates; my most outstanding memory is visiting the Queens herd of Jersey cows and watching the robotic milking parlour. Outside of the classroom Reading offers a huge range of sports and social clubs, and the Real Estate department has the benefit of a one-to-one specialist careers advisor. I enjoyed my time at Reading and it has most certainly given me solid foundations for my career, as well as lifelong friends.

SHP: Many thanks for taking the time to tell us a bit about the life of a Graduate Rural Surveyor Alice, I''m glad that your career has got off to such a positive start and we wish you well in the future.

Fernando Martinez graduated with an MSc Real Estate Finance in 2012 and now works with Hatfield Philips.

SHP: Could you tell me a bit about your early career history and why you decided to take the MSc Real Estate Finance course

FM: Yes sure, before coming to Reading I worked for almost five years in the corporate finance team of a Bank issuing securitisations, corporate bonds and commercial paper for companies in different industries. From the different deals I was involved in, the real estate deals were always the deals that I enjoyed the most so I decided to specialise my career in Real Estate. After giving it a lot of thought I realised that the best way to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics of the real estate markets and become more “employable” was by doing a Masters course, so I started looking for American and British universities with a good reputation in Real Estate Finance, and that is how I found the MSc Real Estate Finance from Reading University which, in my opinion, has the best programme with the right balance of real estate fundamentals and finance theory.

SHP: Are there any particular highlights from your time at Reading that you would like to share with us?

FM: It was a very fun year but if I have to think of one I would say the field trip to New York; we met very senior people like the Global Head of Real Estate Research from Prudential, we went to the World Trade Center with the developer that is managing the entire project, we attended to a dinner with the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and in general we met very interesting people. Also because we were only a group of around 14 I think we got along really good during the year but especially during the field trip

SHP: You completed your Masters in 2012, how has it helped your career progression?

FM: My objectives of doing the MSc were to “get” into Real Estate and to get a good job in London, so after almost two years since I graduated I can say I have achieved both and I believe a great part was due to the Masters and to the reputation Reading has in the real estate industry. Apart from that in the long run I think the MSc gave me the basics of Real Estate which is something I will always use in my career

SHP: Your current role is as an Associate Manager with Hatfield Philips, could you outline what that involves and, perhaps, give me an example of a typical day.

FM: I am part of the Real Estate team at Hatfield Philips which is one of the largest commercial real estate primary and special servicers in Europe. My team is an in-house advisor, so our main responsibility is to assist the loan asset managers in the real estate aspects of every workout. My days are usually very different, one day I may be inspecting a property in Germany and the next day having a meeting with a loan asset manager to discuss asset management initiatives for a property or instructing and reviewing new valuations.  It is a job that I really enjoy because I’m involved in different aspects of the real estate markets and I am constantly learning

SHP: Finally, what would you say to someone who was considering taking a career break to study for a Real Estate Masters at Reading?

FM: I would say that if he/she is looking to pursue a career in Real Estate Finance, Reading is one of the best options to get started; that it offers a prestigious faculty staff, a balanced programme, an extensive network of real estate professionals and that it is at 30 minutes from London which is, in my opinion, the most exciting property market in the world.

SHP: Thank you Fernando, for taking the time to talk to us. I''m glad that taking our MSc Real Estate Finance was such a positive experience for you and we wish you well as your career progresses.

Sarah Cohen graduated in 2006 and, after 8 years at CBRE, has recently joined Savills.

SHP: You have recently joined Savills Central London retail team as a Director. How are you enjoying your new role and what does it involve?

SC: I am loving it thanks! I was at CBRE for almost 8 years. I had a great time there, however I believe you need to keep pushing yourself to achieve more and sometimes a change of scenery is the best way to do that!

I am a Director in the central London retail agency team at Savills acting for landlord’s and tenants across London. I have previously advised Westfield on both of their existing schemes (London and Stratford), Capco on the repositioning of Covent Garden to attract new brands to the UK including Burberry Brit and Opening Ceremony and global firsts including beauty and fragrance stores for Dior, Chanel and Burberry. I have worked for Chelsfield on their ownership in Knightsbridge and Land Securities, advising them on all their London assets including One New Change pre and post development, Bankside and Victoria.

SHP: Until your move to Savills you had been with CBRE since graduating in 2006, would you outline your career progression.

SC: I started at CBRE as a graduate in October 2006. I spent a year working in the investment valuation department (at the time, this was mandatory for all graduates at CBRE). Following this I moved into the retail department. I started my time here in the shopping centre leasing team, where in addition to the Westfield schemes, I advised Land Securities and Hammerson on Cabot’s Circus, Bristol, The Mall in Luton, ING on County Square Ashford and Cosgrave on The Liberty Centre, Romford.

After three years in the shopping centre team, I was asked to pitch with the central London team at CBRE on Land Securities One New Change, a retail development in the heart of the city of London. Having won that instruction and worked hard to deliver a 100% fully let scheme on opening (indeed the only scheme to open fully let in 2010), I moved over to join the central London retail team at CBRE, where I was promoted to a Director in 2012.

SHP: What have been your career highlights so far?

SC: There are probably three career highlights for me to date.

The first was a letting in The Liberty Centre, Romford that I did to a nail bar. This was the very first letting I ever did  and the sense of achievement of taking a vacant unit and being able to deliver a letting for the client was something that still drives me today.

The second was working on One New Change. This was the first instruction that I was involved in from pitch through to delivery. Being part of a team who collectively won an instruction was quite special for me. The fact that we were able to perform on it and take a scheme that was 8% leased at the point of our appointment (12 months before opening) and deliver it 100% leased for the client was a highlight for me.

The final highlight was the first instruction I won independently. Having recently moved to Savills there is a personal pressure to perform early on. Through client relationships, proactive thinking and a slightly more entrepreneurial flare, we have just been appointed by Tribeca Holdings and Ashkenazy on the leasing of Old Spitalfields Market following their purchase of the asset last year.

SHP: Finally, if you were speaking now to someone thinking of coming to Reading to study Real Estate & Planning what would you say?

SC: Make sure you undertake work experience in the holidays. Companies are increasingly using work placements as “first round interviews” – if you can get a placement and impress, it will pretty much guarantee you a second round interview for a job on graduation. Couple that with positive internal references and it will make securing a job far easier!!

SHP: Thank you Sarah, for taking the time to talk to me. I''m glad that your career is progressing so well and I hope you continue to enjoy it as much as you have so far.

Freddie Clifford graduated in 2012 and now works with Deloitte in Dubai.

SHP: We are keen to let prospective students find out a bit more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. You work as a Business Analyst with Deloitte, could you tell me a bit about your role and what you might do on a typical day?

FC: Since moving over to Dubai to join Deloitte in September 2012, my role has involved a variety of surveying disciplines – in a largely similar way to the graduate rotation process back in the UK. I started out working in valuations, with most of our work coming from Saudi Arabia and Qatar as well as the UAE itself. Around a year ago, I moved over to the consulting team, which has involved a range of engagements including development advisory and appraisal, strategic real estate consultancy and some bespoke market research engagements. I’ve found this side of the business particularly interesting as there’s so much development and activity going on in the region, particularly in the UAE, and increasingly in Qatar working towards the 2022 World Cup.

Typically, a day might involve internal meetings, a site visit, client meetings or networking – usually accompanied by the obligatory chunk of desk time working on deliverables and keeping up with emails. As we take on work across the whole of the MENA region, the team tends to spend a lot of time travelling, depending on the location of the project or site we’re working on.

SHP: You are based in Dubai, what’s life like in the United Arab Emirates and how does it impact on the type of work you do?

FC: As you’d probably expect, a lot of aspects of life in the UAE are different to the UK – the most obvious of which is the climate. Whilst it’s very pleasant for most of the year, the temperature can reach around 50 degrees in the summer, which can make site visits pretty uncomfortable!

Cultural differences are also important; the UAE is a Muslim country and religion is a big part of many people’s day to day lives. Whilst the UAE is a lot less conservative than some of its neighbours, and tolerates most aspects of Western lifestyle, it’s still important to respect and be mindful of the culture and laws of the country.

Work-wise, religious holidays can sometimes be challenging as local clients will often shut down for a week or more during the major holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and most offices are required by law to reduce working hours during Ramadan.

SHP: What advice would you give to students who are thinking of working abroad?

FC: If you are already thinking of working abroad, then I would fully recommend it - the lifestyle is great and the opportunities to travel and broaden your experience can be extensive. Additionally, you are likely to be exposed to a variety of international clients and professionals you might not encounter in your home country - particularly at an early stage in your career - which for me has been a really valuable learning experience.

That said, there are challenges – the administration and organisation that comes with starting work in a different country can be a headache, with everyday things like opening a bank account, renting a flat or getting a phone sorted taking a lot of time and effort.

Overall though, if you’re prepared for the initial admin and find the challenge of adapting to a completely different environment an appealing one, then you are likely to have a rewarding experience working overseas.

SHP: Finally, do you still manage to keep in touch with the friends you made whilst at Reading?

FC: Obviously keeping in touch is a bit more difficult when you’re further away – though whenever I’m passing through London I really enjoy catching up with friends and course mates and seeing how everyone is getting on. I think it’s really important to maintain that network of graduates and professionals from Reading - whether you’re working in the UK or overseas, property is still a social profession and the network of contacts you have is one of your most valuable assets. I also still keep in touch with my industry mentor (a scheme I found really helpful, particularly whilst applying for graduate positions) and try to catch up in person whenever I’m back in the UK.

SHP: Thank you, Freddie, for taking the time to talk to me. It’s very interesting to hear from a graduate who has started their professional life working in a different country and a different culture. I am sure that other students who are thinking of working abroad will find you experiences useful.

Louise Binks was Highly Commended in the Women in Property National Student Awards while she was at Reading. She graduated in June 2013 and is now working with CBRE

SHP: Could you start by telling me a bit about your background and why you chose to come and study Real Estate & Planning at the University of Reading?

LB: Property was a career I fell into rather than it being an aspiration from a young age. I didn’t have any family or friends in the profession and initially when it came to choosing a degree I was unaware of the opportunities a career in real estate could offer.

After choosing to study A levels in Geography, History and English, I particularly enjoyed the City Management module on the human geography course. I originally thought that I wanted to do a degree in Town Planning, but after spending a weeks work experience with the local council’s planning department the role wasn’t quite what I thought it would be and I felt that I would be better suited to working hands on with real estate assets, instead of in a regulatory role. I went on to do some research trawling through prospectuses and went to a variety of open days across the country.

When visiting Reading I was very impressed with the quality of the Open Day, Reading’s high rankings in the various university guides spoke for themselves, and the connections within the industry were unrivalled. I was convinced that it was the place I''d like to spend the next three years of my life.

Property wasn''t very well publicised at school and my friends thought I was going to university to become an ''Estate Agent'', an argument which I am still having with people now. I was hoping to help change this and have been given the opportunity to go back and visit my secondary school in the coming months to present to year 12 students, in order to raise awareness about the property industry as part of CBRE’s Project Promotion initiative, in which CBRE aim to target 150 schools and colleges engaging with students to promote commercial property & surveying.

SHP: Would you like to share some of your memories of Reading?

LB: The friends that I made at Reading were what really shaped my University experience. We had a very outgoing year group especially on the course and always had a jam packed social calendar.  I was the social secretary for the Reading Real Estate Society so had to organise various themed socials for my peer group.

I found moving to London was made easier because of the network of friends that I had built throughout my time at Reading. But university wasn''t ALL about the social side and I did really enjoy the course. The lecturers were all very friendly and down to earth people with a genuine passion for what they do.  Also there was a great variety in the modules we studied, and the course was very hands on which helped to develop a very practical skill set needed in the real estate industry.

SHP: While you were a student you were Highly Commended in the Women in Property National Student Awards, can you tell me about that?

LB: Yes, during my second year I was delighted to be nominated to represent Reading University in the Women in Property Student Awards. The process involved an interview and a presentation to a panel of judges, made up of property professionals from different areas of the industry. It was quite a nerve racking day as I had never had a property focused interview before, so it was extremely good practice for applying for internships and the graduate recruitment process.

Sadly I was just pipped to the post for the prize but was Highly Commended along with another Reading student, so a great result all round! The Women In Property Association who run the award aim to nurture young talent and provide support to women progressing in their careers. A similar initiative exists at CBRE, the Women''s Network which has been a resounding success, hosting a series networking events targeting female clients and supporting personal and professional development opportunities, which I am lucky to have the benefit of.

SHP: And finally, are you enjoying the life of a Graduate Surveyor?

LB: I have really enjoyed my time on the CBRE graduate programme so far, although I would be lying if I said there isn’t a touch of nostalgia for the old student lifestyle. The first 6 months have flown by but I’ve already been involved in some very exciting projects and been given my fair share of responsibility. For my first rotation I sit in the Residential Valuation team where I am largely dealing with new-build residential developments in Central London.

Although coming from a commercial background and having no prior residential experience I have found my time in this team incredibly interesting.  The Central London residential market is currently booming and it’s an exciting opportunity to work in an area of the CBRE business which is experiencing such considerable growth.

My day to day jobs include going on inspections, finding comparable evidence from the market by either calling agents or doing online research, report writing and running development appraisals using the programme Argos Developer. I am currently considering where to go for my next rotation which starts in September, but will certainly be very sad to leave the residential team.

SHP: Thank you Louise, it''s great to hear that you are enjoying the challenges of work. You have always been a great ambassador for Real Estate & Planning and it sounds as if you are now taking on a similar role at CBRE!

Fred Drabble has been working with GVA in a variety of roles since he graduated in 2005. He has recently returned from a very interesting career break.

SHP: You took our 4 year BSc Real Estate with MSc/Dip Urban Planning & Development graduating with a Distinction in 2005. Why did you decide to opt for the 4 year programme and what do you think you gained from the extra year – apart from a Masters of course!

FD: Looking back, I think the Masters gave me additional flexibility to shape a more varied career. The BSc Real Estate course gave me a fantastic grounding across the property disciplines but the Masters gave me a more in depth understanding of planning and development issues. When I started my career, I began training as a Planning and Development Surveyor and became a Chartered Member of the RICS in 2007. With the Masters as well though, I was able to gain more core planning experience, which led to dual qualification with the RTPI in 2008. Planning has become more interdisciplinary in recent years, with issues such as development viability key in negotiations. To be a good planner therefore you need a good understanding across a number of fields and that is why I would encourage people to gain as varied qualifications and experience as possible. I know that it has helped me a lot.

SHP: You went from University to GVA where you are now an Associate Planner and Surveyor. How has your career developed since you left University?

FD: Although I have been at one company for near nine years now, I actually feel that my experience has been very varied (helped by the diversity of the BSc and the MSc as I mentioned). I began in the ‘regeneration’ team, which involved providing development advice to public and private sector clients. I have always been interested in the social and economic issues in planning and so I then also gained experience carrying out socio-economic assessments and assisting local authorities and other quasi-governmental bodies carrying out their evidence base to support policy formulation and feasibility studies. For the last four years however I have worked in our ‘Central London Planning Team’, focussing on providing very commercial planning advice in respect of major Central London residential, commercial and mixed-use developments. I have enjoyed this variety and the feeling that you are helping to shape London (even in some little way!). When you are dealing with such high values and so much money is at stake, the pressures can be great of course but I have always enjoyed the challenge.

SHP: I understand that you recently took a career break and went to Latin America to teach English – can you tell me a bit about that.

FD: Yes, I think that although I enjoy my work very much, I never wanted to look back with any regrets and this was something that I always wanted to do. I flew to Mexico City on my own in November 2011 and travelled through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and then spent Christmas in Cuba before setting off again through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. I was fortunate to find a teaching position in Chile working for the Chilean Ministry of Education and lived in the north of Patagonia for six months before finally travelling back home via Argentina and the beaches of Rio and Brazil. It is impossible to describe an adventure like that in words here, other than to say that it was the greatest experience I have had. I would encourage anyone who is thinking of doing something like that, whatever it may be, to do it when they can. You have to spend the majority of your life in work and so make the most of any opportunities. I felt however that I had earned the opportunity and I was incredibly lucky to have a supportive boss who allowed me the chance to go away and keep my contract open. I will always be grateful for that, although it was a shock being back at my desk!

SHP: If you were talking to someone who was thinking of studying at Reading what would your advice be?

FD: I would of course say go for it! As I say, I always felt fortunate to have studied at Reading, as the courses really equip you for the variety of work that there is out there… plus you will have a good time along the way!

SHP: Thank you Fred, for a very interesting perspective from a graduate who opted for our 4 year programme. I''m glad your career has progressed in such a positive way at GVA and that you were able to enjoy a career break and still have a job to come back to!

Candice Matthews Graduated in 2006 and has recently been promoted to Director at DTZ

SHP: You graduated in 2006, could you start by outlining what you have been up to in the last 7 years.

CM: After graduating in June 2006, I started on the graduate programme at DTZ in September that year. I spent my first two years rotating between the residential agency, development and valuations teams before qualifying in October 2008. 

During my graduate rotations, it was the development side which attracted me the most, advising landowners on how to optimise the value of their assets, either through a specific disposal program, or by working within multi-disciplined teams of architects, planning consultants and build cost consultants to achieve planning consent.  A big part of this involved working with other teams across DTZ (offices, retail, hotels, student) which was fantastic as it not only enabled me to build up my internal network, but also allowed me to develop an understanding of each different use and how they may be included alongside residential in a development.

Over the next two years, my interest in development continued to expand and I became increasingly interested in what happens to sites after they have been purchased by developers. Overseas investors were accounting for an increasing proportion of new build investment sales, and agencies from JLL to Savills and Colliers were capitalising on this by taking projects out to Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to target these buyers direct.  As DTZ geared up to launch similar services in these Cities, I was lucky enough to be seconded to the region to sit within our local sales teams, build up our infrastructure and capabilities in these markets, and run sales projects for major clients of the firm. This was an unbelievable opportunity and a huge challenge but taught me a lot about the enormous impact on overseas investment as well as some of the challenges of working in different countries and cultures. 

Since returning to London at the end of 2011, I have been able to split my role between development and new homes, allowing me to advise right through the development life cycle from site acquisition through to the sale on new residential apartments. I remain heavily involved in DTZ’s international new homes and travel regularly to the Far East and to new areas where we hope to expand.

SHP: I understand that you have recently been promoted to Director at DTZ. Congratulations on that and perhaps you could share some tips on how to achieve such fast career progression.

CM: Thank you. I have been extraordinarily lucky in my career, not only with the people I’ve worked with and the clients I’ve worked for, but also the growth and changes in my team and sector which have given me a fantastic platform to develop from.  

It’s very difficult to narrow down tips for quick career progression but a few things which I think I would advise are: 

1)       Find an area that you are genuinely interested in so that you go the extra mile because you want to, rather than because you have to. Reaching out for opportunities and making the most of them unfortunately tend to require some long hours. You will find it much easier to if you are enjoying it! 

2)       Don’t underestimate the value of a good attitude and strong work ethic, particularly when delivering the less interesting tasks. Your directors will be much more likely to offer you opportunities if you show you can deliver the basic tasks effectively and without making a fuss. 

3)       Always look for ways to deliver projects better than they were being delivered by the person before you.  That doesn’t mean completely deviating from the task you have been given but suggesting improvements shows initiative and can separate average graduates from exceptional graduates. 

4)       Find a good mentor or role model. This is a piece of advice given to me by one of my clients when I was newly qualified and has been hugely instrumental in helping me get to where I am today.  This can be anyone from a parent to a colleague or someone in a totally different team or sector who can help you to navigate through your career and give you the confidence to take on new challenges. 

5)       Never be afraid to ask for help. It’s totally normal to feel out of your depth at times, particularly if your career is progressing quickly. What’s important is knowing your limitations and being confident enough to seek advice. I still bounce ideas off my team and ask them to sense check things on a daily basis.

SHP: What responsibilities does your new role bring?

CW: The main difference is that rather than just leading particular projects, I am much more involved in the overall running of the team, contributing to things like the team business strategy, recruitment, finance and managing individuals, as well as linking the team to the wider DTZ business. 

I also have greater responsibility for bringing in new business and building client relationships which requires me to delegate much more to our more junior members of staff.  

SHP: Do you still manage to keep in touch with friends from your University days?

CM: Funnily enough, over the past two or three years, more and more people from my year group at Reading seem to have gone into the residential sector which means I come across a quite few of them all the time! From the 2006 and 2007 graduates for example, three now work for a national housebuilders, one for a niche residential developer, one for the residential team at JLL and one for the development team at LSH.  

Apart from through work, I still regularly see my best friends and housemates from Wantage Hall. It’s great to see that whatever sector they’ve gone into, they all seem to be doing really well.

SHP: Thank you for getting 2014 off to such a positive start Candice. I am sure both our potential and our current students will find your piece, and particularly your progression tips, very interesting. We wish you all the best for 2014!

2013 Profile Archive

Our December Graduate of the Month is Jason Turner who graduated in 2010 and has recently started working with Deloitte Real Estate.

SHP: You graduated in 2010 looking back what do you most remember about your time at Reading?

JT: I carried out the three year Undergraduate Real Estate degree (formerly known as Land Management) and for the first two years, in addition to work, there was a lot of socialising and sport, and well in the final year work became a little more important

The calibre of training and staff at the university is also something that I distinctly remember, alongside how well the course is structured. It is only when you spend time in the industry you truly appreciate how professional and well respected the staff are and how structured the course is to prepare students for a career in the industry.

SHP: I believe your industry mentor helped you to get your first job, could you tell me a bit about that?

JT: Yes, I was fortunate as my mentor (Andrew Hogge at Cyril Leonard) helped me tremendously.  We had a couple of meetings throughout my final year, where we discussed areas where he could assist in my University work, alongside talking about my career aspirations.  Andrew assisted in providing me with some work experience at Cyril Leonard, in their Investment and Development Team, as well as setting up work experience at another niche investment firm.  After graduating I applied to a number of firms with the assistance of Andrew and his industry contacts. This resulted in an interview at Lawson and Partners who offered me a graduate position in their National Investment Team.

SHP: You have recently started work with Deloitte Real Estate, how does your new role differ from what you were doing at Lawson and Partners? 

JT: At Lawson and Partners I was in the National Investment Team, where I was predominantly involved in the student accommodation sector. I provided occupational and development consultancy advice, alongside acquiring and disposing of existing student accommodation blocks and development sites with planning permission for student accommodation. The remainder of my time was dedicated to assisting in acquiring and disposing of residential, retail, industrial, and mixed use properties throughout the UK.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Lawson and Partners and it was a fantastic experience to work at a niche company.

I have recently started at Deloitte Real Estate where I have joined the Central London and National Development Team to follow my interest in development. My current role comprises of providing professional consultancy advice on major development sites in London, many of which will shape London’s skyline. My role also comprises of acquiring and disposing of predominantly residential and mixed use development sites throughout the UK.

SHP: What do you enjoy most about your job with Deloitte Real Estate?

JT: I mainly enjoy the fact that I am in a service line (Development) which really interests me because there are so many dimensions to the work and every development site comes with its own challenges. Deloitte Real Estate are instructed on some of the most prestigious development schemes throughout the UK and it is exciting to be involved in such high profile projects.  I also enjoy interacting with a wide range of other internal and external professionals and liaising with them throughout the development process.

SHP: If you were speaking now to someone thinking of coming to Reading to study Real Estate & Planning what would you say?

JT: If you have got the grades and an interest in the built environment then go for it! The course is varied and well-structured with the option to tailor your third year towards your particular interests. The course is highly regarded within the industry and so you can’t go wrong when you graduate with a Real Estate and Planning degree from Reading.  The course sets you up for a career in a fantastic industry which is sociable and there are so many pathways you can take with different service lines and sectors to suit almost every individual. I would thoroughly recommend it!

SHP: Thank you Jason, for taking the time to talk to me about your career so far. I''m pleased to hear that our mentoring scheme worked so well for you and that both the jobs you have had since leaving Reading have been so rewarding.

Our Graduate of the Month for November is Dr iur Christine von Schildt who has recently completed our part time Real Estate Masters

SHP: First of all – congratulations Christine. You have won the RREF Distinction Award prize for graduating with the highest distinction in your Masters Programme. Achieving this in your second language in only little more than one year is an incredible achievement.

CvS: Thank you, Scarlett, I still feel very honoured for obtaining the Award.

SHP: Could you start by telling me a bit about your career history?

CvS: My career launched with a listed, mid–cap development and construction firm. I was accountable for evaluating and resolving legal matters associated with construction, planning, lease, and related contracts for Residential Real Estate. Through an immediate interest in the industry, I quickly grasped a strong passion for the business, prompting me to engage in the development of a "360–degrees" view to maximize my understanding of the industry fundamentals.

As my career grew, I joined an organization entrusted with one of the largest development projects in East Germany, Magdeburg''s new industrial and residential town structures. In this role, I continued contributing my legal expertise, followed by a position as Credit Consult Specialist for Commercial Real Estate. Through this experience, I was successful in driving down my employer''s default risk as a result of rapidly learning and applying critical elements of economic and financial implications pertinent to developing and negotiating workout and turnaround concepts with customers, banks, lawyers, project managers, and external advisors.

I further enhanced my expertise in real estate by embarking on an opportunity as Risk Analyst for Project Finance deals in London and hotel financing in Munich. At the request of the company, and in support of the firm transitioning from their main focus in international business, I accepted yet a new challenge, participating in the restructuring process with full accountability for a considerable part of the non–core real estate portfolio.

These experiences have served to strengthen both my knowledge and qualifications spanning a broad range of operating functions, critical to my contribution in driving the company''s profit after risk and reengineering situations. My passion has been, and continues to be fuelled through learning and success of all my endeavours and the challenges I have met.

SHP: Why did you decide to study for a part time Real Estate qualification?

CvS: Earning my Ph.D. on Intellectual Property Rights on buildings while working full–time, I realized that investing in my future through part–time studies would be the appropriate course of action for my career. 

My goal of working for a Global Real Estate organization has influenced my decision to pursue the required international qualifications. I clearly defined my path of working and attending on–going education on a part–time basis, culminating in the determination that my capabilities and drive would support my efforts and results in attaining my targeted goals without sacrificing my full–time employment.

SHP: You are based in Germany, how did you hear about the part–time courses at the University of Reading and why did you decide to study here?

CvS: I conducted extensive research to identify schools that concentrate on real estate and planning, leading to my decision to attend Reading. Based on the option to attend part–time, the in–depth curriculum offered, coupled with their ranking as an internationally recognized and reputable institution for real estate, this was, without question, the ideal situation for me. Additionally, I had the good fortune of contacting the Programme Administrator, Mrs. Mary Williams, who proved to be an integral resource and considerable factor in my choice to enrol in the programme.

SHP: Was it very difficult to combine study with a full time and demanding job?

CvS: The flexibility of the programme is structured to accommodate work–life schedules. The curriculum is designed to support individual needs in terms of study and work obligations with nearly no time constraints for completing the Master''s course.

Although this course is designed as such, I place value on meeting the challenges of my business responsibilities with those of completing my studies on a timely basis and therefore persevered in achieving both, my educational and professional targets, with challenge and success as my drivers.

SHP: What did you enjoy most about the courses and what do you think you have gained from it?

CvS: Exchanging experiences amongst Real Estate professionals from all over the world – the UK, Canada, Botswana, Kenya, Syria, Hungary, Italy and the USA. Gaining insight and knowledge of very different business backgrounds was the most inspiring aspect of the Master Programme. This was evident in the brilliant Investment Appraisal Module, held by one of my favourite professors in Reading, Neil Crosby.

The academic and professional level of the presenters clearly justifies the excellent reputation the School of Real Estate and Planning enjoys. In addition the support offered by the administrative staff, including those responsible for the library, is outstanding.

During my time in Reading I have gained the professional knowledge I was expecting to receive with my application, enhanced by rich experiences from an international set up and a very enjoyable working environment. My gratitude extends go to everybody who has made this Master Programme such a great experience.

SHP: Thank you Christine for a most interesting interview. It is so useful for potential students to hear how you managed to combine work and study. I am pleased that the course has lived up to your expectations and we wish you well with the next step in your career.

Cameron Frazer graduated in 2012. He is now working with Lambert Smith Hampton based in Reading.

SHP: As you know we are keen to let prospective students know more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. Could tell me about your job with Lambert Smith Hampton

CF: I started at Lambert Smith Hampton 12 months ago, and the opportunity came through a 2 month internship I had previously carried out in the summer holidays between second and third year at Reading. The internship came about through speculatively applying to undertake some work experience, which in the end, has resulted in securing a Graduate Scheme.

I sit in the agency department of LSH’s Reading office which involves acquiring and disposing of commercial Real Estate for our clients. Primarily I work within the office market and have transacted around 43,000 sq ft of offices in the last 12 months in numerous deals.  

On a day to day I will spend a large amount of time on the phone speaking to applicants seeking offices, update clients on how marketing campaigns are going for each property, undertake research on the markets we cover (i.e. take up and availability) and generally support the team in any way I can. As a graduate surveyor, I think it is important to throw yourself into the deep end and always ask for more work in order to learn as much as possible and gain broad experience.

SHP: What aspects of your job do you enjoy most? 

CF:  Since starting I have enjoyed working in commercial property a great deal. Agency is a very rewarding part of the business, as each transaction is different and getting each one over the line is exciting.

I have also come to learn that property is a very sociable industry (especially agency) and there are plenty of corporate functions and networking events that are a lot of fun. It is important to be sociable within the industry as you need to share information with your competitors to gain key deal information.

SHP: It’s a year since you graduated from Real Estate & Planning, would you like to share some memories of Reading? 

CF: I had three great years at Reading, largely down to the social calendar!! I was a member of the football club for all three years; captaining a team in my second year and was Vice President in my third year. Being a member of a society really helped integration into University and the socials were great fun. 

Also, I found the course to be very social and there were plenty of evenings out / Real Estate Socials that made going to lectures and working together much easier. I do not think I would have worked as hard had I not got on with my course mates so well.

SHP: Do you have any advice for students currently studying or considering studying Real Estate?

CF: Apart from the obvious of securing a 2:1, Work Experience/Internships is absolutely essential. 

I am an obvious case of how work experience can secure a Graduate Scheme role. 

Also, having spoken to various colleagues and other industry professionals about graduate recruitment, they would all look for relevant industry experience. Given university holidays are long and regular (and should be enjoyed) there is no harm in doing 2-4 weeks in your first summer and 2 months in your second summer. Work experience in your first summer will stand you in good stead for year 2 internships which will, in turn, help with gaining a Graduate Scheme position with a good company.

SHP: Thank you Cameron, for taking the time to talk to me. I hope our current students take note of your advice on gaining work experience, it has obviously paid off for you. I really like the "before and after" photo shot. Just to explain to readers, the photo of the left is taken from your student record when you first came to University and the one on the left from your current LSH staff profile...it shows what three years at Reading and a year of work can do to a person!

Our Graduate of the Month for September is Hannah Bennett who graduated in 2012 and is now working with Lambert Smith Hampton.

SHP: It''s now just over a year since you graduated from Real Estate & Planning, what are your first impressions of "the world of work"?

HB: I remember for the first couple of months of working I was so tired! It''s a big transition going from lie-ins and taught lectures to early starts and real responsibility, but you do get used to it after a month or so. I was pretty daunted at the prospect of taking on lots of responsibility before I started my job at Lambert Smith Hampton, but the nature of the REP course prepares you really well for the everyday jobs you have to do. Also, the property world isn''t all work and no play, which is a real plus point - there''s always plenty going on outside of work!

SHP: You were one of the first cohorts of students to have an industry mentor, did you find that a useful link?

HB: The Reading Real Estate Foundation mentoring scheme is such a good concept - particularly if you don''t have many existing contacts in the property industry. I was very lucky with my mentor in that she helped me to gain work experience with The Crown Estate, which undoubtedly helped me when it came to job applications. I''m still in touch with her and it was great to have someone in the industry to give advice on things like choosing modules and the job application process.

SHP: If you met a 17 year old who was thinking of taking a degree with Real Estate & Planning at Reading, what would you advice be?

HB: Go for it! I really don''t think you can go wrong with the Real Estate & Planning course at Reading - it''s very highly regarded amongst industry professionals, you will be taught by lecturers who are at the top of their field, and the course itself is very practical. I was originally attracted to the REP course because it has a business focus, and covers a breadth of broader areas such as Economics and Law, as well as more technical, property-focused topics such as valuation and investment appraisal. Plus the support you get from the REP department is invaluable - the mentoring scheme and careers advice service make a big difference and really helped me when it came to applying for jobs.

SHP: Thank you Hannah for letting us know what you''ve been up to since you graduated. I think our current students will be interested to hear about the transition to full time employment and it is encouraging to know that you felt that your degree prepared you well for the challenges.

Loris Tinacci graduated in 2010 and is working in the City with Kinney Green.

SHP: We are keen to let prospective students find out a bit more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. How has your career progressed in the last three years?

LT: Since graduating in the summer of 2010 I have been working in the City for Kinney Green, a niche 40-year old Central London advisory partnership with additional offices in Midtown and the West End. Having joined and remained with the Professional team I have worked on a number of interesting projects over the past two and a half years, involving peatfields, offshore wind farms, aqueducts and commercial properties in Central London directly impacted by Crossrail. I passed my APC earlier this year having received excellent structured training from Kinney Green and am now a Member of the RICS and an RICS Registered Valuer.

SHP: What do you like most about your work?

LT: The variety and vibrancy of work and the fact that senior people consistently put trust in me to do a proper job. I had no idea I would be working on such significant and diverse instructions from the word go. Just a few weeks into the job for example I was given the chance to contribute to a conference with leading barristers, and last year I attended a hearing in the Lands Tribunal which was highly educational.

For those wondering about what it is like to work for small to medium sized firms, I think there are a number of key benefits. Along with the close-knit feel and being granted more autonomy and flexibility, I think joining such a firm provides the chance for graduates to get noticed and take an active interest in the business.

SHP: I understand that you have recently got involved with the Reading Real Estate Foundation mentoring
scheme. It is great that you have offered to do this, how is it going so far?

LT: I think the Mentoring Scheme is inspired and highly relevant in the current arduous job market and economic environment. My mentee and I have met a number of times in Central London and have visited the RICS HQ at Parliament Square and Hogan Lovells'' London HQ with other mentors and mentees which I think we both found beneficial. I continue to emphasise the point that making contacts along the journey is such an important process and is fundamental to success in the industry. It is all about having that ''edge'' and/or acting in a way that goes beyond what the many other people out there are doing striving for jobs. The Mentoring Scheme acts as one of these windows of opportunity by allowing students to interact with professionals in the marketplace, and that is highly valuable.

SHP: If you were speaking now to someone thinking of coming to Reading to study Real Estate & Planning what would you say?

LT: I would say that I can only go by my experiences at the University, but I don''t think I could have had a better time. The course was challenging but well-balanced, and I made some great friends both on the course and throughout my time in halls and in my second and third years. I have spoken to people who weren''t overjoyed with their University experiences elsewhere, but I found that Reading provided that campus feel that I was looking for, had approachable lecturers and staff, and took an active part in helping me secure a job at the end of the degree.

SHP: Thank you, Loris, for taking the time to talk to me about your career. I am glad that you have found such an interesting and rewarding job and I''m really pleased that you are managing to find the time to "give something back" and be a mentor to a current student. I am sure potential students will find this piece very interesting.

Joanne Wilkes was an undergraduate in the early 1980s and is now Head of In Town Retail at F&C REIT Asset Management.

SHP: We are keen to let prospective students find out a bit more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. Could you tell me about your career has progressed since you graduated?

JW: A former Reading graduate gave me my first break and employed me as a graduate in a Retail agency practice, based in London''s West End. We acted mainly for retailers specialising in Landlord & Tenant and agency; it was the mid 1980s we were in the middle of the Thatcher boom and the markets were flying. I remember agreeing a number of rent reviews where the rents had literally doubled over a 5 year period.


It was a different world. Still no mobile phones and no computers on your desk - just a phone and a secretary and you got on with it. I qualified and stayed with the firm for just over 5 years but at 26 wondered if there might be more out there than just retail property - much as I liked it. An opportunity came up with one of the major investing institutions and I applied and got offered a job to manage a mixed portfolio of retail, offices and industrial investments. I spent the next 3 years travelling the length and breadth of the UK, learnt a huge amount, but the call of retail was too great and I headed back to retail and in particular to asset management of large shopping centres for the rest of the 1990s.


I am still in retail today and now head up our In Town Retail Asset Management team of six asset managers. We cover the entire UK and act for various investment clients with over 300 holdings under our control. I am still very hands on but my job also requires a great deal of people management skills too, motivating and guiding my colleagues as we extract value for our clients across their various portfolios.

SHP: Could you describe a typical day and what do you like most about your work?

JW: Today was a fairly typical day. It began early, at a networking breakfast and market presentation hosted by one of the major consultancy practices. A quick inspection of one of our investment holdings close by on the way back to the office and then straight into a meeting to agree a price to offer for a property adjacent to one of our client''s existing holdings, which will open up a number of redevelopment opportunities if we can buy it.


After that I joined a meeting with one of our Fund Managers and the Fund''s independent valuers to give them updates on some of our asset management initiatives. Then I went to a meeting to review the consumer marketing direction of one of our largest shopping centre investments and finally came back to the office again to catch up on emails, phone calls and a couple of informal chats with team members to agree their recommendations on a couple of lettings and what to do about one our tenants who looks like they are going to go out of business in the very near future.


No two days are the same. I like days when we have some successes, but you have tough days too. I still get a buzz out of doing a great deal and ultimately making money for my client.

SHP: Looking back what do you most remember about your time at Reading?

JW: The great friendships, particularly in the faculty, and which I still cherish today both personally and professionally. We had a reunion a couple of years ago and 80 of us, who had started off in 1981, turned up. There is a huge bond amongst the graduates, a great affection for our time at Reading and I think enormous pride about our collective achievements.

SHP: If you were to give some advice to a young person thinking of coming to Real Estate & Planning what would it be?

JW: A Reading Real Estate & Planning degree carries tremendous clout in the Real Estate business and offers tremendous opportunities in your future career path. At times you will have to work hard but take time to step back and enjoy the other experiences that University life can offer. It''s still very much a people business you can know everything there is to know about the technical side of the business but if you can''t communicate or get on with people you are going to struggle. Good luck! You''ll have a blast!

SHP: Thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. It is interesting to hear from someone who graduated a while ago and has made such a successful career in property. Our current students will also be interested to learn that you were in the same student cohort as Dr Victoria Edwards, our Director of Rural Programmes. Victoria has "kindly" unearthed this photo of you during your student days!

Our Graduate of the Month for June is Sanjay Bremakumar who graduated in 2008 and is now working with Almacantar as a Development Manager.

SHP: Could you tell me a bit about why you chose to come to Real Estate & Planning at Reading?

SB: I was fortunate in that I managed to secure a week''s work experience at the Savills'' Esher office when I was studying for my GCSEs. From that short stint I knew Real Estate was the right career path for me. My secondary school hadn''t had too many students in the recent past who had pursued a career in the industry; however, their alumni database was fantastic and they managed to put me in touch with a former student who had been through the BSc Land Management programme at Reading. I was aware of a few other universities that offered the course, but the pedigree associated with Reading in the surveying world is second to none. Reading was also the perfect distance away from home (not too close for my parents to pop in too often and not too far away for me to miss out on some home cooking!)

SHP: Looking back what do you most remember about your time here?

SB: I remember enjoying the fact that the work was not repetitive and that it was manageable. Organisation was key to surviving and getting the most from my three years. The modules were incredibly useful and relevant to what I do now. I grasped the Investment Finance modules with not too much difficulty but really struggled on the Planning side - ironically I now have at least 3 planning meetings per week. It just goes to show that your interests and strengths can change.

The work-life balance is definitely in your favour in Real Estate - ''work hard, play harder'' and that philosophy definitely gets replicated up in London. The social culture at Reading gets magnified when you move up into town as a graduate surveyor. Although I must admit a few of my London surveying peers have tried to sneak back to the Reading Union on more than one occasion.

SHP: You graduated in 2008, could you tell me a bit about your career history over the last 5 years

SB: During my 3 years at Reading, I worked most Summers at Savills in the London Residential Development team. This set me in good stead when it came to applying for graduate positions at real estate firms in late 2007/early 2008. Without my work experience, it would have been tough to a job offer. Firms could afford to be incredibly picky in the recession. My advice would be to get work experience wherever you can. I had a number of interviews/assessment days from a variety of real estate firms (agency and client-side). However, the interviews that really stood out were my two with Knight Frank - I came out actually thinking I had enjoyed them! Needless to say I accepted the Knight Frank job offer, the day I received it.

My first rotation at Knight Frank was in their fund management arm, Rutley Capital Partners. I was part of the Finance and Funding team. Unfortunately Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy two weeks before I joined the team and the shocks were hitting the equity and debt markets. My six month rotation was therefore cut in half. However, Knight Frank offered me the unique opportunity of being seconded to Land Securities'' London Development team for the remainder of my 6 month rotation. I was one of the first two graduates to be seconded from Knight Frank and it was an unforgettable experience. Land Securities is the largest listed Property Company and I built up a fantastic network of contacts there and also gained an invaluable insight into the demands of a client - which would help me in an agency seat. My rotation lasted a lot longer than the estimated 3 months, eventually making it back to Knight Frank London HQ a year later. The remaining rotations were short stints in the Central London Valuation team and the West End Development team, the latter offering me a permanent position. The variety of my four rotations and the mentors within each helped me to pass my APC.

Pretty soon after qualifying with Knight Frank, I was approached by Land Securities to re-join them permanently as an Investment Manager in the London Portfolio. I worked on both the acquisition and disposal of the company''s West End assets. The West End portfolio was incredibly diverse with a high percentage of development projects as well as some very unique assets like the Piccadilly Lights.

After a few years in this role, I moved to Almacantar, a Central London property investment and development company, which specializes in large-scale, complex investments with the potential to create long-term value through development, repositioning or active asset management. I joined the team as a Development Manager working on some fascinating projects including Centre Point and Marble Arch Tower.

 

SHP: You are now working with Almacantar as a Development Manager, could you outline a typical day

SB: I haven''t had too many typical days as I have only been here for a little over two months! My responsibilities are to make sure the developments that we undertake are profitable, achievable and sustainable. Development Management is possibly one of the most diverse roles that a Land Manager can undertake. Usual days are filled with back-to-back meetings (hopefully with a break for lunch). We meet our professional team very regularly; sometimes we can have well over 100 individuals helping us through a project. The teams often consist of architects, agents, marketing advisors, engineers and quantity surveyors to name a few. It is important however to always set aside some desk time usually towards the end of a day - which will inevitably involve going updating appraisals, responding to emails and addressing any issues that arose during the day.

SHP: And what do you like most about your work?

SB: Variety. Property is anything but monotonous. No two buildings are the same, no two clients are the same and the market is only the same really once in a cycle. With all these permutations and the evolution of legal and planning systems - there is so much to get to grips with before you can put a spade in the ground and start developing.

I''ve been fortunate to work for some great companies and with some even better people. The London Real Estate industry is a pretty small community and there are so many opportunities of working with these people. Some of my best mates are in property and most of us came through the ranks of Reading. The social aspect of surveying shouldn''t be a big driver to take on the course but it will inevitably be a benefit. I used to enjoy playing cricket prior to Reading, but unfortunately was always injured in time for the Summer season. In fact the first time that I was not injured was the first Summer working in London.

Consequently three other Reading real estate alumni and I decided to form a cricket team - Carpe Vinum CC. The team has had probably 80 different people through its ranks, of which, by coincidence 40% are probably involved in Real Estate. So it is more than likely that if you come to Reading or end up being a surveyor and you enjoy cricket, you will probably end up playing for our team!

SHP: Thank you Sanjay, for such an interesting piece, you have shown what a variety of work is available to recent graduates. You have certainly been very busy since you left Reading, I''m glad you have still managed to find time for your cricket!

Our May Graduate of the Month is Sara Goy who graduated in 2011 and is now an Investment Surveyor with Jones Lang LaSalle.

SHP: Could you tell me a bit about why you chose to come to Reading and anything that you particularly remember about your time with us?

SG: I actually came to Reading to study Psychology and Biology but the course wasn''t really for me. The decision to switch to the Investment pathway of Real Estate was one of my best to date. The course''s reputation within the University, friend''s rave reviews and the job prospects at the end were all excellent reasons for switching.

I was heavily involved in the Ladies Hockey Club during my four years at Reading, I ran the club in my third year and then managed the finances in my final year. Most of my fondest memories and best friendships came from the time I spent on, but more so off the pitch, with many of the players also being course friends. Over 50% of the committee when I was President were real estate students.

SHP: We are keen to let prospective students find out a bit more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. You joined Jones Lang LaSalle after graduating in 2011, how has your career progressed in the last two years?

SG: I started my career as a graduate at LaSalle Investment Management, a sister company to Jones Lang LaSalle, working with the Fund Management team on a couple of their smaller funds and also asset managing a portfolio of properties in the South East. This gave me an insight into how, as a Client, we assessed opportunities and drove value through active management of the underlying property in the portfolios.

My second rotation on the graduate scheme moved me into Jones Lang LaSalle''s City Investment team and allowed me to see the other side of the property industry; from an agency perspective. I now work for Client''s, looking to buy and sell on their behalf within the City of London, but I also sit within the Development sub-team where we look at development opportunities, advise on head lease re-gears and assembling sites for re-development.


I am now looking to take my APC in September and (hopefully) qualify as a Chartered Surveyor.

SHP: What do you like most about your work as an Investment Surveyor?

SG: It is really hard to put my finger on one reason why I enjoy my job, there are numerous reasons. Being
an Investment Surveyor is great socially, you are actively encouraged to get to know the market you work in, which includes the properties but also the people (both agents and clients), after studying at Reading I often find this means socialising and working with friends.

As one of my Directors always says "agency is urgency" and he is right, you have to think quickly on your feet and that can throw you out of your comfort zone, but it provides an environment that encourages fast learning and there is no place for boredom.

SHP: If you were speaking now to someone thinking of coming to Reading to study Real Estate & Planning what would you say?

SG: What a great idea!! The course offers such a variety and choice; you will take modules in valuation, law, development, planning, investment and economics (to name a few!). Then you choose your final year specialist pathway where again you will have a great variety of subjects that you can tailor to your interests and strengths.

Having graduated and become a Reading Alumni I really appreciate what a recognised brand Reading Real Estate is in the property world. Colleagues and Clients from graduates through to the senior directors come together at Alumni events throughout the year, giving a great opportunity to catch-up with friends and meet new people with a common bond.

Finally, surveying is a great career with so many avenues to explore, the graduate schemes available allow you to try out different departments so you don''t have to specialise too early, and most importantly Reading will give you the support and encouragement to make sure you secure your place in any of the top Surveying Companies.

SHP: Thank you, Sara, for taking the time to talk to me. You certainly seem to have found a career that you really enjoy. I am sure potential students will find your piece very interesting.

Our Graduate of the Month for April 2013 is Richard Fell who graduated in 2012. After he has completed his MPhil at the University of Cambridge, he will be starting work with Tristan Capital Partners.

SHP: Could you start by telling me how you decided to come to Reading to study Real Estate & Planning?

RF: Before coming to Reading, I was actually a night club doorman, so coming to study real estate was definitely a strong move; working on nightclub doors helped me fund my degree, but it was never a ''career'' option. I always knew I wanted a fairly practical job, and real estate edged out mechanical engineering on oil rigs (I didn''t fancy being out in the North Sea for the next decade). Before making my UCAS applications, I contacted a number of real estate professionals, and they all said that the course at Reading was unrivalled in its ability to prepare you for a strong career in the industry. I''m certain now that I made the correct decision, especially given the career prospects the course has given me.

SHP: What are you lasting memories of your time at Reading?

RF: My defining memories of my time at Reading must be trips abroad. First year involved going on rugby tour to Prague; the old adage of ''what goes on tour…'' remains, but the mere fact that we didn''t play any rugby speaks volumes. Additionally, during the summer of my second year, I interned in a merchant bank in Amsterdam, a superb experience which didn''t teach me much Dutch, but certainly taught me a lot about the practical side of investing and perhaps more about Heineken…

SHP: I understand that you have won a prize for your dissertation; can you tell me about that?

RF: Yes, as I type this I am sat in Wiesbaden, in Germany, having received the Aareal Award of Excellence in Real Estate Research this morning. The award seeks to recognise and incentivise young real estate researchers, and somehow I managed to scoop the Bachelor/Master thesis prize this year. I had the good fortune of being supervised by Professor Simon Stevenson, a pre-eminent researcher on my dissertation topic, who kept me on the straight and narrow. I chose to do a dissertation in my third year because I was interested in real estate equities and how they behave, however the research quickly got out of hand, leading to my lecturers suggesting I make an application to the award.

SHP: You graduated with a first class degree last summer and are now at Cambridge taking a Masters course, what was your motivation to continue with study?

RF: When I was at school, I wasn''t too keen on formal education, but the course at Reading changed that. I developed a passion for real estate finance during my undergraduate degree and wanted to ensure that I was fully prepared to do a PhD in a decade or so when I fancy a break from work. I think I''d like to lecture at some point in the future, and it seemed like a good opportunity to fill up some gaps in my knowledge, whilst also opening my eyes to some new research ideas.

SHP: What are your plans post-Cambridge

RF: I''ve been fortunate enough to secure a role with a real estate private equity fund manager called Tristan Capital Partners, who have also just launched a real estate equity hedge fund. I will be starting on their Analyst programme in September, where I will be involved across the investment process, learning from seasoned professionals. I''m looking forward to now put the theory I''ve learnt into practice, and hopefully have some fun on the way. Non work-related, I really want to go to the football world cup in Brazil next year, so hopefully I can save some cash when I start working to facilitate that.

SHP: Thank you Richard, you certainly appear to have made the right career move in deciding to leave the doorman job! I hope that one day we''ll be able to welcome you back at Reading; perhaps to do a PhD or maybe as a member of staff! In the meantime we wish you well with your MPhil and starting work at Tristan Capital Partners.

Our Graduate of the Month for March 2013 is Joanne Barker who graduated in 2012 and is now with Smiths Gore.

SHP: As you know we are keen to let prospective students know more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. Could tell me about your job with Smiths Gore?

JB: A career in surveying allows you to gradually specialise in different areas with every surveyor having a slightly different role even within the same company or same office. My role is in the management of rural estates on behalf of large institutional and private clients dealing with day to day management of their holdings as well as overall strategic estate management.

SHP: What aspects of the life of a Rural Chartered Surveyor do you enjoy most?

JB: Every day is different, with plenty of opportunities to get out of the office come rain or shine. The clients I work for have very diverse portfolios, in any one day I could be dealing with anything from farms to allotments, sports grounds, shooting rights, houses or even roman forts! This brings with it many opportunities to meet new people, be it through meetings with clients, tenants or contractors. Smiths Gore also has a really good in house training programme which provides regular opportunities to meet colleagues from other offices.

SHP: It''s just 8 months since you graduated from Real Estate & Planning, would you like to share some memories of Reading?

JB: University has so much to offer and Reading is no exception so I left with very many good memories. Final year was very focused on rural practice and we had some fantastic visits as part of the course - including a day at Windsor where we saw the Queen''s milking parlour! On the social side - weekends away with the Sailing Club, nights out in the union and town, dinner parties with the girls, the list goes on...

SHP: Thank you very much, Joanne, for letting us know what you''ve been up to since you graduated. You seem to have fitted very happily and very quickly into the world of work...we hope your career progresses well.

Our February Graduate of the Month is Mike Rogers, who came to Reading in 2008 and is now working for Strutt & Parker

SHP: Thank you Mike, for agreeing to be our February Graduate of the Month. Could you start by telling me why you chose to come to the University of Reading?

MR: I visited Reading on an open day and although I intended to study Business Management, I also visited the Real Estate department and spoke with some of the lecturers. It was those conversations that influenced me to choose to study Real Estate. I thought that a degree in Real Estate would lead to a very specific career and a clear path at the end of university which is very useful as career choices can be very difficult. The university itself is also great with its easy links to London, and the reputation of Real Estate & Planning made the choice very straightforward.

SHP: You graduated in 2011 looking back what do you most remember about your time at Reading?

MR: In my second year at Reading I was selected to do an internship for CB Richard Ellis in their Shanghai office. This was an incredible experience and one that I often find myself thinking back to. I learnt Mandarin for a year as an optional module and so it was the perfect opportunity to put into practice my language skills that I had learnt from my course. I worked in three different departments during my two months there and managed to see a lot of Shanghai through both work and at weekends. The property market at the time in Shanghai was faring much better than many other countries, especially the UK which was fascinating to see. Being a part of the Henley Business School stood me in very good stead for my application.

The opportunities that are available at Reading are endless both within the course and with the university as a whole. Not only is the course one of the most respected in the country, being at Reading also gains you access to such a wide range of opportunities and experiences. For my first year I rowed for the University which was a great way to meet people and to keep active. During my second and third year I was an Officer Cadet on the University Air Squadron where I learnt to fly and had the opportunity to represent the Squadron in various sports. The Air Squadron is something that I think more people should apply for because there is so much on offer, and you get paid to do it!

SHP: We are keen to let prospective students find out a bit more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. I know you are currently working for Strutt & Parker in their newly formed Resources and Energy division. Could you tell me a bit about what led to that post?

MR: I did a few weeks work experience for Strutt & Parker in their Cirencester office during my summer holidays whilst at Reading and again after I had finished my final exams. The partner in charge of the Cirencester office informed me that they were looking for a graduate to start working in a new team being formed in response to the growing impact of the problems surrounding energy within the Real Estate sector. This was not an area I was especially familiar with but as I researched these issues further I developed a real interest in this field. I started at Strutt & Parker''s head office in London in August 2011 and have enjoyed it ever since.

By choosing to study Real Estate and selecting the Investment and Finance route at Reading, I am able to apply a lot of the knowledge I gained at university to my everyday work. A particularly useful skill which I learnt at Reading was presenting the results of a financial analysis of a client''s investment in a report. This is something which comes up often in my role at Strutt & Parker and I feel very fortunate to have gained experience of this type of project during my time at Reading. It prepared me well for entering the working world and meant that I had confidence in my work from the start.

 

SHP: Could you describe a typical day and what do you like most about your work?

MR: As a department we advise our clients, whether they are commercial property owners or country estate landlords, on how to both mitigate their risk associated with energy and invest in energy efficiency or renewable energy technology to improve their property and hopefully to make a financial return in the process. Since I started, my role has mostly focussed on Solar PV which can be applied to a variety of different properties. A typical day could include writing reports for clients who are looking to reduce their energy consumption and invest in Solar PV, where it is my role to guide them through the process and to identify how they could take advantage of renewable energy. On the other hand, I am often out of London on site visits looking at various sites on client''s land and discussing the possibilities of building renewable energy projects (such as Wind and Solar Farms) with developers. My job is completely different from one day to the next which is why I find it so engaging. I was also very lucky to be part of the department from its beginnings and have therefore been able to witness its growth over the last year or so which has been hugely rewarding.

SHP: Where you see yourself in five years'' time?

MR: Since I have been working with Strutt & Parker in their Energy team I strongly believe that my career will remain within the energy sector as it has strong links with real estate and also it is a sector which will continue to grow. My internship in Shanghai was an unforgettable experience and I hope to one day work abroad, perhaps in the Far East again.

SHP: Do you have any advice for students currently studying or considering studying Real Estate?

MR: Gaining work experience is totally invaluable. I think my advice would be to try and get as much experience as possible, in various areas of the Real Estate sector. Although studying this course provides a clear industry to work in, there is such a range of areas within it, and the best way to decide on the right one for you is to try out working in a few different ones. It also allows you to expand your CV and build up contacts who could potentially be a huge help when it come to applying for jobs. I would also encourage students to make full use of all the facilities and opportunities which are on offer at Reading as they are second to none and again provide a great platform from which to make decisions about the future.

SHP: Many thanks, Mike, for talking to us about your work with Strutt and Parker and also about what you got up to while you were here at Reading. You have certainly made the most of the opportunities that came your way.

Our first Graduate of the Month for 2013 is Fiona Cohen, who came to Reading in 2006 and is now working for Jones Lang LaSalle

SHP: Thank you very much, Fiona, for agreeing to be our first Graduate of the Month for 2013. Could you start by telling me a bit about why you chose to come to Reading and anything that you particularly remember about your time with us?

FC: I chose to study at Reading because of its reputation as world leaders in Real Estate among the property profession, which was confirmed by various employers during my work experience. I enjoyed the diversity of the syllabus, from valuation to sustainability. The content catered to everyone teaching the fundamentals for subjects such as Law and Economics and
allowed me to get a feel for what I enjoyed before specialising in my final year.

SHP: We are keen to let prospective students find out a bit more about what can be done with a degree from Real Estate & Planning. You joined Jones Lang LaSalle after graduating in 2009, how has your career progressed in the last three years?

FC: Prior to graduation, I attended the Reading Real Estate Careers Fair and met representatives from HR for a number of property companies. Aided by the Careers Services team at Reading, I made applications and prepared for interviews. I was fortunate to be offered a position on the graduate training scheme at Jones Lang LaSalle, which enabled me to work for 6-12 months in various departments, including LaSalle Investment Management, Retail Agency and Valuation Advisory with some of the most well regarded professionals in the industry. This experience was invaluable in order to pass my APC (Assessment of Professional Competence) and in deciding the pathway I wanted to specialise in. The company also provided a support network comprising a Counsellor and Supervisor to oversee that I received the necessary experience and a structured revision programme. As a result, I passed my APC first time in April and I am now a fully qualified chartered surveyor!

SHP: What do you like most about your work?

FC: Having qualified in April, I work in valuations specifically focussing on retail and leisure assets (which as a girl I have a particularly keen interest in!) I enjoy the diversity of the work, whether it is being on site for inspections or in the office writing reports. Furthermore, the purposes of valuation vary from bank loans to purchase and sale. I like that it covers a multitude of disciplines, such as reading legal reports or collecting comparable evidence. There is also a problem-solving element as every property is unique and requires a different approach.

 

SHP: Could you talk me through a typical day?

FC: I tend to get into the office at 8:30 and read through any emails and the EGi (Estates Gazette online) headlines as well as preparing a task list for the day. Valuations follow a process and depending on the type of property it can take anything from a day for a small high street shop to a few weeks for large shopping centres to assess the value. Often I will have been assigned a property to value and having inspected it, I will undertake due diligence. This requires me to read reports on title, environmental surveys, building surveys and to examine planning documents to assess the impact on value. I will also collate comparable evidence by speaking to colleagues and using the internet in order to determine the estimated rental value and appropriate yield. Once this has been discussed with other colleagues, I will choose an appropriate method and input the information into software to determine the value. Usually, a report is also written documenting the findings and assumptions.

SHP: Where you see yourself in five years'' time?

FC: In five years, I hope to have continued building on my existing knowledge and training that the company has provided through CPD (continual professional development) offered internally and externally, working with our research team and learning from colleagues. I would like to broaden my experience through valuing a range of assets across property sectors. I will endeavour to develop my network of contacts and be given greater responsibility with a view to becoming a director within the Valuation Advisory department at Jones Lang LaSalle.

SHP: Do you manage to keep in touch with Real Estate & Planning?

FC: I have remained in touch with Real Estate & Planning since I left Reading through contact with lecturers via email and social media and attending events set up by RG10 (a sub-group of the Reading Real Estate Foundation, comprising alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years) which offer lectures by esteemed property professionals as well as networking opportunities. Furthermore, I have maintained friendships with others that I met when studying at Reading University who work at a range of companies and meet on a regular basis on a social level and for business purposes!

SHP: Thank you very much Fiona, for getting us off to a great start in 2013 with such an interesting piece.