“Don’t underestimate the positive impact you can individually make within your role, regardless of what it is.”

Published on 31st August 2016

Julie WassJulie Wass Customer Service Senior, Ongo Homes

With a deep routed commitment to customer care, CIH Rising Star 2015 Julie Wass is Customer Service Senior at 10,000 home social landlord Ongo Homes.

Julie started working in housing after a recommendation of the industry from a friend already working within it and has never looked back.

Julie believes that the invention of ‘calorie less chocolate, would make her life easier. Her advice to those starting out on a housing career is, “Don’t underestimate the positive impact you can individually make within your role, regardless of what it is.”


If you weren’t in your current role what would you be doing?

That’s a good question, who knows! I expect that I would have ended up working in the voluntary sector but I am sure that I would not have had the same development opportunities in such a short space of time as I have done within the housing sector.


What was your first ever job?

At 16 I had two jobs and studied full time at college. I worked as a kitchen assistant for the local authority working at various Local Authority owned venues. I never saw this as work but more of a hobby with the benefit of being paid because I got to learn how to cook and cater. I still use the skills learned every day and I throw a great dinner party!  I also worked in a pharmacy dispensary where I learned loads about the prescription of medicine and found it fascinating. When I wasn’t working I studied a secretarial diploma at college. You can probably tell I didn’t have a specific direction at this time and I was happy just having a go at whatever opportunity came up!


How did you end up working in the Housing Sector?

When I did get a bit of career direction I aimed to secure myself a permanent role with the local authority in Children’s Services.  When I achieved this I enjoyed the role and I learned a lot but I shortly wanted to progress. As previously mentioned, I had a friend already working in the sector who explained to me about the values of Ongo Homes and their commitment to customer care. As these were my core skills and my work experience was transferrable, I applied for a position within the Customer Service Team and was offered the job!


What’s on your list of things to still achieve in your life/career?

Well I am really quite early on in my career and am still around the bottom rungs of the ladder so to speak, so there are loads. I have a 10 year development plan that includes achieving a degree in housing, masters in something other than housing and reaching a senior level position – but there is a lot of work to do before I achieve any of that! I suppose ultimately though my main goal is to have done some great work which has had a really positive impact on people’s lives, people I work with and within the community.


What’s on your desk?

I am a clear desk operator so usually nothing! But literally on my desk, right now I have a jar of nuts, a jar of green tea, a lego pencil case and my car keys. That doesn’t mean I don’t have lots of my stuff about the place though, my office walls are covered in pictures and quotes, I even have a mannequin in the corner with its own dressing up wardrobe!


What would be your perfect day away from work?

Doing something active and outdoors – hiking, biking, climbing anything like that getting some fresh air, the weather doesn’t matter to me either, some of my best days out have been in the pouring rain with grey skies all on my lonesome! Although for a totally perfect day I would have my partner and a picnic with me too!


What’s the best thing about your job?

I get to use my creative and quirky personality to lead on fresh approaches to solving complex problems. This would be impossible without the freedom to innovate which I enjoy every day. Every day I have variety which challenges me and means I am continually learning and developing my skills. Ultimately though my role, with a customer focused caring aim gives me satisfaction that I can provide positive experiences in people’s lives.


What was your worst mistake and what did you learn from it?

Another great question! I think mistakes or plans not working out as you hoped seem the end of the world at the time but when you put it into context in the grander scheme of things; they are not as terrible as you felt at the time. I would say a mistake that isn’t learned from is a bad mistake. I have had lots of plans that haven’t worked out or looked back at a situation and thought I could have handled that better. I practice reflection and it really helps to put things into perspective and plan how better approaches to situations in future with self awareness.


What single thing would make your life easier?

Calorie less chocolate…….


Which 3 celebrities/Politicians would you not want to be stuck in a lift with and why?

I generally take the stairs as lifts have a risk of sticking and putting me in that sort of situation! I don’t know who I would hate to be stuck in a lift with – probably John McCririck if he was nose picking! It’s much easier to think who you would like to be stuck in a lift with, not that I would ever want to be stuck in a lift at all!


What advice would you give to someone starting out their career in Housing?

Don’t underestimate the positive impact you can individually make within your role, regardless of what it is. There are many ways to make positive impacts directly and indirectly which all stem from being approachable, reliable and accountable.  Another thing would be not to fear making mistakes too much, if you do, when you make them it will be harder to recover – see these as opportunities to show how you professionally recover from the rough, as well as get on with the smooth!

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