Thursday 15th March 2018

WISH Blog - New Blog From WISH Sponsor JLL

By Rosie Dennis

I recently read an article that described a career as a journey that is 'increasingly restricted by the terrain around it', and I immediately related to this statement, recognising that my brief career journey so far has been eased and slowed by smooth surfaces and ruts.

I started my journey as a real estate graduate, specialising in rural estate management. My first graduate position was as an Assistant Estate Manager in Sussex. Having grown up in rural Devon, with a love of the countryside, this was my dream job, and it was well within my comfort zone.

The ruts, however, came thick and fast. I quickly realised that this wasn’t what I wanted to do, and that the dream was not reality. I felt more constrained than I did comfortable, in a sector that, in my experience, did not particularly welcome diversity, and had a particular ‘view’ of  women (being told in my performance appraisal that I must wear skirts and heels – even when I was out visiting farmers – was probably the icing on the cake for me!)  I certainly felt I was in an environment where I wasn’t going to thrive and improve.

Reflecting back on these ‘ruts’, I made a decision, took a risk on a temporary role, and grasped an opportunity in residential surveying, which I was lucky enough to be offered at JLL in Affordable Housing.

I now work in the Affordable Housing team, having moved from conducting viability appraisals for new build residential and mixed use developments in and around London to performing valuations of supported living housing for acquisition and loan security purposes. I have had to learn the basics; section 106 agreements, aspects of the London Plan, borough wide affordable housing criteria and other affordable housing policy, which was certainly out of my comfort zone and has definitely been rocky terrain for me.

I have found working in social housing both intensely rewarding and, at times, challenging, but I love working in a sector that makes such a difference to so many people.  The need for social housing is constantly growing, with areas around the country (particularly London) becoming less and less affordable. That’s certainly a problem I identify with! A large percentage of the population now live in housing that comes under an ‘affordable’ model, be it owned through shared ownership or rented through a separate affordable or social rented model – so I certainly feel that I am doing something purposeful.

My experience is that the sector is hugely diverse and accepting of different backgrounds and points of view – and working for JLL I work with clients across a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Even just from a valuation perspective, we work with a huge range of clients, from REITs, to Local Authorities, to Registered Providers of affordable housing, which means there is a huge breath of knowledge to learn from.

I think there are huge opportunities also for women working in this field. Unlike in my first position, I have found a level playing field, and in fact more opportunity. I have also been able to utilise my previously established networks and relationships. In fact, I have been in touch with colleagues, even from university, with whom I can share ideas and who influence the way I work today. It is also a field that makes a great conversation starter, of course!

I could describe working in social housing as almost like being a cog in a much larger machine. A machine through which we are all working toward a good social purpose. The terrain that I have covered, be it rough or smooth, has enabled me to learn and grow hugely, and personally I would recommend taking a risk and stepping out of your comfort zone once in a while. You never know where you might end up!

About the author 

Rosie Dennis

Rosie is a Graduate Surveyor at JLL, currently working in the valuation side of the Affordable Housing team. She began in the team a year ago initially working on viability appraisals for new build residential and mixed use developments and has since moved to a new role valuing supported living housing stock for loan security and acquisition purposes. She began her career working in rural surveying and made the move into residential surveying a year ago.


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