Women in Surveying – routes to a new career

women in surveying

Women in Surveying

Hear the words ‘Surveyor’ and do you think ‘Man in a high vis vest with a clipboard?’ Think again.

Vickery Holman is a property business employing mainly surveyors – and a lot of them are female and many of them are under 40. We talked to some of our women in surveying roles about how they discovered surveying as a career and the route they took.

‘I sort of fell into building surveying.’ Explains Kirsty Worden, who has been working in the Truro office for nearly 7 years, ‘I was made redundant from a contract management role between Falmouth commercial dockyard and the MOD. After a short stint with an asbestos surveying company, I joined Vickery Holman as a project management assistant.  A few years later, I asked my manager if I could train as a building surveyor.  Unfortunately, my BSc in Physics wasn’t enough for the professional qualification I would need (Assessment of Professional Competence) so I completed a Building Surveying Masters with UCEM.  I am happy to say that I have now completed and passed my APC in June 2020, which was a significant moment. The variety is what makes the job great – though clambering around on scaffolding in the rain isn’t too much fun!’

The route into Surveying is rarely straightforward. Often, someone leaving school or University takes a job in a property-related business and discovers they have a keen interest in property. ‘I took a year out after A Levels as I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I worked in an Estate Agents and within months knew I wanted to work in property. After two years working there. I started a full time degree in Property Development and Planning. Now I’m at Vickery Holman, I enjoy the variety of the work and property types, as well as being out on inspections, not stuck at my desk all week!’ explained Samantha Johnson, Head of Valuation.

Rebecca Cook also went down the route of working for estate agents, getting a summer job at 16 with Kivells. Finding that she enjoyed the variety, Rebecca found a permanent Saturday position at Stags. ‘Once I completed my A-levels I accepted a full-time position at Stags and after a couple of years, I signed up to UCEM to undertake a degree in Real Estate Management, while continuing to work full time. I have always enjoyed doing viewings and going on site visits so my role with Vickery Holman brings all of that.’

Not knowing what career to follow after school seems to be a theme for many surveyors. ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do after completing my A levels, so I got an office junior position at a firm of surveyors who did agency, some professional work and management. I loved the excitement of doing deals, so worked my way up and they sponsored me to do my degree in Real Estate Management at Anglia Ruskin in Essex part time whilst also working full time. This was pre the recession in 2007 so things were flying out the door! I enjoy the variety of going to different places, seeing different properties and talking to so many different people about themselves and their businesses. I stuck with agency because although it’s tough and there are lows, nothing beats the thrill of doing a deal for me!’ explained Joanne High, Commercial Property Agent in the Plymouth office.

Christie Harvey was studying law, business and geography A levels and realised a common denominator throughout the subjects was property. She decided to follow her instincts and studied BSc (Hons) Real Estate at UWE in Bristol for 3 years full time, doing a placement with Stags in the summer. Vickery Holman were at her final year careers fair so Christie was able to gain a winter work placement and then secured a full time graduate position in the Truro office after she graduated in July 2019. ‘I have loved every minute of it!’

Anna Simpson has been in the Plymouth office of Vickery Holman for almost 8 years and is part of the Agency team. ‘I was the same as many others, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do. After A-levels, I did a winter ski season and then worked in a restaurant waitressing. A friend was working evenings in the restaurant and started doing work experience with Vickery Holman and she encouraged me to apply for a job as a building surveying assistant – I didn’t even know what a building surveyor was at that point! About 6 months later, she switched to building surveying and I moved into Agency, I loved the excitement of property deals and getting to go out on viewings and inspections. I have been promoted since then and completed my Assoc RICS in 2018. I’d love to progress to MRICS in future through an experience route. ‘

Not everyone gets in property straight from education. Pip Walker explains that she tried other careers first. ‘I was a latecomer to surveying, I finished my A level’s and didn’t know what I wanted to do so started working in retail and worked my way up to become a manager and then eventually a visual merchandiser and buyer. When I was about 26 I decided that I wanted to change my career path as I wasn’t particularly passionate about retail. My mum was an estate agent and my dad a surveyor, so I had been surrounded by property talk all my life but I was never pushed towards a career in it. I was also aware that both my parents loved their jobs and this made me consider if surveying would be a good choice for me too. I then joined an estate agent in London and became a sales and lettings negotiator. I knew quite quickly that I wanted to pursue a career in property, so while continuing working full time I applied for a masters at RAU in International Real Estate, which incorporated working in Hong Kong too. I genuinely love working in property. I think general surveying is a great area to work in, as there is so much variety and you also get to meet lots of different people along the way.’

Jane Falkner had a very alternative route into surveying. ‘I became interested in housing after my mum had a house built when I was about 8.  Fast forward 10 years, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career, but really enjoyed Geography and it seemed to offer entry to a number of different careers paths, so choose that as my degree at Leicester University.  During the summer between my 2nd and 3rd years, I worked as an estate agent in Exeter and really enjoyed it, but not the selling! I applied to lots of surveying firms during my third year, and whilst unsuccessful in getting a graduate surveyor role, I did get offered a job as a research analyst in a West End firm, Cluttons, working in Berkeley Square (which coming from a very small town in Devon was very exciting!).  After 5 years in property research and a 6 month secondment to IPD (now MSCI), I took a year out and did a full-time PgDip in Estate Management at London South Bank University.  I went back to Cluttons as a Graduate Surveyor, based in their South Kensington asset management department dealing with high value central London residential property for estate clients – I loved it and knew I had made the right decision to move away property research!’

Jordan Kennedy is lucky enough to have a father who is a structural engineer and had her helping him on surveys as soon as she was old/tall enough to hold the end of a tape measure! Jordan actually did a degree in History but took a job as a Lettings Agent in London, followed by a 7-year career with Jackson-Stops. ‘Very fortuitously, the company had a valuation department and I became very good friends with one of the surveyors and watched closely as she went through her APC. I started helping out in this department, started my MSc in Real Estate at UCEM and embarked upon the APC myself. I always wanted to return home to Cornwall though and circumstances in 2019 encouraged me to take the leap! Vickery Holman gave me the chance and I can definitely say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made! ‘

Chantal Molony also did an unrelated degree and then found herself working in property. ‘After  going to University College Dublin to do a BA in Philosophy and Information Studies, I ended up working as a PA to one of the Directors in BNP Paribas Real Estate in Dublin for a year and half and really enjoyed it.  I was working in the Professional Services department assisting with valuation and rent review work.  Fortunately, I got on very well with the Director and he approached me asking whether I would be interested in the company sponsoring me to do my Masters in Real Estate.  I was delighted to accept and after taking some time out to travel, I started my MSc in Real Estate in Dublin Institute of Technology which I completed over 2.5 years while also working full time at BNPPRE.  It was tough going at times but well worth it when I came out with the qualification at the end of it! I also love the variety of the job in the Bristol office, getting out and about seeing different properties and meeting some very interesting people along the way.  Also, a great way to see and explore the countryside when you are a foreigner!’

Madi Hartery moved to Bristol from Swansea in 2015 to study Property Development and Planning at UWE. ‘I literally scrolled through the University’s degree options and researched whatever sounded interesting.…I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do. I joined Sanderson Weatherall in Bristol in 2018 straight out of University and sat primarily within their valuation team up until October 2020 when I was very fortunate to have been able to secure a role at Vickery Holman and even though I have only been here a few months, I have loved every minute of it!’

One factor that comes through loud and clear is that none of our female surveyors had considered working in property while they were at school. As one commented, there was no mention at all of surveying when she had her employment counselling in secondary school or even at college. Given that construction and property is such a big part of everyday life, it doesn’t appear to be a career that women are encouraged to consider.

That might be starting to change, at least in the South West, since our surveyors have started talking to schools about surveying as a career and they are keen to get more women into property.

To talk to us about a career with Vickery Holman, contact Kate Gordon here.

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