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My journey to property: Natalia Ford, Senior Sustainability Consultant

We’re celebrating #BalanceforBetter this International Women’s Day to help inspire a more diverse range of people to consider how they can help shape the future built environment.

To begin, we spoke with five ladies from across TFT who each represent different roles and experiences. They reflect some of the exciting roles within the industry as well as the different backgrounds which can set somebody up for a career in the world of property and development.

Here we speak to Natalia Ford, Senior Sustainability Consultant, to learn a bit about her journey to TFT and why she encourages more women to continue pushing boundaries.

How did you get into the industry and your role?

Whilst living in Spain for a few years, I worked in various property-related industries including real estate, architecture, construction and development and it left an impression on me – mainly a negative one – as much of what I saw was development done terribly!

I then came back to the UK to do a masters in Environmental Management and whilst half way through the course I realised that the industry I knew the most about had some big, hairy problems, so I decided to specialise in built environment issues.

I applied to the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) for an internship which eventually turned into a full-time role and I spent six years learning about how the industry works and how it is currently facing up to environmental, social and economic challenges.

Have you come across any (other) particular challenges within it?

Other than the stark, intractable challenges of our future climate, soil health, biodiversity, bioabundance, energy security, urban poverty, social equity, physical and mental health and how the buildings we create contribute to that…?

Yes, there are undoubtedly challenges both in the work itself and in being a woman in a male-dominant sector. But probably the main challenge is convincing people that things do not have to be done in the way things have always been done and that it’s worth exploring where the business opportunities and value can be found in a “business-as-unusual” scenario.

Do you have any advice to give people who don’t know too much about it or who are considering going into the industry?

For the sustainability industry, I would say eternal optimism and patience is quite helpful!

More broadly though, genuine curiosity and enthusiasm goes a very long way even if you don’t consider yourself to have a lot of knowledge. Often employers will recruit people they feel have potential, so don’t worry about not knowing everything yet!