In our series of ‘5 minutes with…’ interviews, we meet the people behind the projects:
What does project management mean to you?
It means creating and leading a team, providing guidance, direction and support, while helping them identify and overcome obstacles and enabling them to get the job done. I always put particular emphasis on understanding the client, and making their lives easier by providing solutions, not problems.
Which clients do you work with?
I work with investment funds, principally Federated Hermes and Columbia Threadneedle at present.
Why did you choose to work in the commercial property sector?
I like the challenge it presents, and the need to adapt to changes in the market whether the influences are economic, social or responding to consumer trends. The property around us has to evolve with lifestyle changes in order to provide spaces that enhance the way we live, work, shop and socialise. I am always keen to embrace new ideas and technologies, so the ever-evolving world of commercial real estate is a perfect fit.
What has been the standout moment at Workman so far?
I am proud that as a firm, we have fully embraced and integrated ESG into our service lines and business model. ESG must not be perceived as a sticking plaster solution, and we cannot risk greenwashing. Environmental change needs to be integral to everything that we do, both in business and in life. It’s imperative that we look after the planet for generations to come.
Tell us how you have put your project training to its best use on a Workman project?
During the restoration, reconfiguration and refurbishment of an occupied listed building on Glasshouse Street, London, I balanced the needs of multiple stakeholders with different interests: freeholder, owner, joint venture partner, existing tenants, future tenants and neighbouring occupiers, while also considering the aims of the client’s business plan within the constraints of the building, occupational leases and statutory requirements.
Not only did we deliver the right product to the market and fulfil the business plan, we also remained sympathetic to the heritage of the building, and preserved relationships with stakeholders
What has been your biggest project management challenge, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge was carrying-out repairs to a fully occupied listed building with Regent Street disease. The remedial works were hugely disruptive and although there is a huge amount that can be done to mitigate disruption, some is inevitable.
We organised regular meetings with all the tenants who had different, and in some cases conflicting, priorities to explain what we were doing, why we were doing it, took time to understand their business and operational requirements and navigate a path that enabled the project team to deliver the project on programme, within budget and with the satisfaction of all stakeholders including tenants.
The personal touch may take a little more time, but the rewards are worth it.
What are your spare time pursuits and how do they contribute to your role at Workman?
I have three young daughters that I encourage to think about the world around them and to ask questions. I need to be able to explain matters clearly and simply to them so that they understand. This sometimes means explaining the topic a number of different ways and/or approaching the topic from different directions.
The same skills are needed for my role at workman. I need to be able to clearly communicate thoughts and ideas to others, and equally to understand their outlook on the world, which in many cases is different to my own.
What has been your most significant achievement outside work, and what did it teach you?
Returning to University to study Building Surveying after becoming disillusioned with my first degree, and career path, in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. This meant uprooting my life, moving away from friends and family (again) and going back into education, which was hugely disruptive at the time.
It taught me that focus, commitment, and a desire to achieve the best result possible are worth it.
What’s your favourite building worldwide, and why?
The Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Its ornate medieval gothic architecture, coupled with pioneering structural principles are an incredible achievement for something that was constructed 800 years ago. The scale, standard of workmanship and attention to detail are awe inspiring.
It was saddening to see the fire of 2019 destroy so much history, but I am pleased the Cathedral is now being restored to its former glory, ready for a grand reopening planned for 2024.