Staff stories

My journey to property: Vanessa Rothon

Sarah Gunn

Ahead of her APC, we spoke to one of our regional graduates, Vanessa, who is based in our Queen Square office in Bristol, about her experience as a young surveyor so far and what she hopes the next generation of the industry will look like.

Why did you choose to work in the property industry?

One of my main aims in getting a degree was ensuring that once I graduated I could start progressing into a career straight away. I initially wanted to become a civil engineer, however upon further research, I discovered the world of building surveying and was drawn to the large variety of opportunities that the role brings.

I also was attracted to the option for site and office based work, avoiding the sedentary lifestyle!

How did you choose the right company to work for?

I wanted to have a wide variety of projects whilst also having the support and guidance to undertake these from the get-go. Since starting at TFT in 2018, I am sure that I am in the best hands to help my career flourish!

What future challenges does a role in surveying face?

Interestingly, for my university dissertation, I looked at the barriers faced by women entering or those currently in the construction industry. I found that whilst there have been major improvements in the industry in recent years, there is still plenty of room for improvement!

One of the main issues is attracting more young people into the role, both male and female. During my school years, I had no encouragement to pursue a career in the construction industry nor did I know anyone within it, so it is just down to luck that I have found the career that I enjoy. It is also surprising how few people outside the industry actually know what the role of a building surveyor entails

So how do you think this could be improved?

I think that more information should be made available to young people on the large variety of roles that are available in the construction industry. I feel many people especially women may be sceptical to enter the industry due to several issues: stereotypes of what construction is (men working on site), flexible working, pay gaps etc. Whilst these issues are often mentioned and talked about, a message needs to be sent out that diversity and equality is the best it has ever been in property and continues to improve, so there is no reason why women shouldn’t enjoy a successful career within the industry.

What aspirations do you have for your professional future?

My first aim in the near future is to become a chartered surveyor. I would also love to get involved in more events encouraging young women into the industry of course!

My journey to property: Jordan Molloy, Graduate Building Surveyor and Royal Navy Reservist

Sarah Gunn

What is your role at TFT?

I am a Graduate Building Surveyor but I am also a Communications Information Systems Specialist within the Royal Navy Reserves

What drew you to property, and to TFT in particular?

One of my main focuses is career progression and finding ways to broaden my knowledge of the building surveying practice. However, whilst at my previous consultancies, I found it very difficult to achieve either mainly down to the fact that my ex-work colleagues were from a generation where you would ‘learn on your own accord’.

It was very clear that this was not the case at TFT. Everyone is more than happy to assist with career progression and additional learning which is absolutely great! Another key reason I choose TFT was because they fully supported my role within the Royal Naval Reserves and the charity events that I participate in throughout the year.

And what does that reservist role involve?

The role is typically front line and involves the use of specialist equipment (global radio, satellite communications and military IT systems etc.) to guarantee the secure exchange of mission-critical, and often top-secret information.

Do you feel your role in property benefits from the skills you learn in the Royal Navy and vice versa?

You may not think so on the face of it, but I’ve found many of my CIS Specialist skills come in handy through my role at TFT, for instance: attention to detail, communications, respect and care for equipment, and proper handling of sensitive information.

The subject matter might be quite different, but I’ve found plenty of crossover between my roles in the office, on site and on deployment.

What support does TFT offer you to balance your work and reservist duties?

My role in the Royal Navy means that I am required to commit 26 days a year to conduct training to ensure that I remain at trained strength ‘deployable’. TFT has allowed me to start my working day earlier so that I can have more time in the evenings to continue revising for my APC as well as undertake any reservist duties.

Any challenges with being in the ‘zone’ of each role?

Not overly, I am able to switch on and off in between quite easily. Although, I do have a habit of speaking navy talk (Jack speak) without realising and may sometimes say words without realising such as ‘scran’ (food), ‘heads’ (toilets) or ‘gash bag’ (bin bag). Sometimes I do have to explain what I mean with some of the terminology especially the latter jack word!

What do you think are the biggest challenges to finding the right career?

I think that a number of people falsely believe that only one perfect career exists for each person, but really there are many career possibilities which share similar characteristics. Instead of seeking one career that seems like an ideal fit, I would strongly recommend investigating a number of options that have features in common.

That said, I think the pressure to find a career that you’ll thrive and progress quickly in is really present throughout all educational and early working stages of our lives, not to mention financial pressure from our peers and perhaps even parents who we want to impress. These are so common though and I think it would be unnatural not to feel them!

Any advice for people stuck on the fence between a career in property and something else?

The only advice that I would give is to ask yourself the question ‘what do I want from my career?’.

If the answer is along the lines of, ‘a career that’s extremely challenging, in an ever-growing and friendly field where your skills are always valued and in-demand‘, then construction would be a sector for you!

If you are seriously on the fence then I would suggest pursuing a career within the construction industry and supplement this with lots of hobbies or like me, becoming a Reservist in the Armed Forces (best of both worlds – trust me!).

Sarah Gunn

My journey to property: Kit Lu, Graduate Project Manager

Sarah Gunn

Why did you choose to work at TFT?

I chose to work at TFT as I wanted to work for a company that not only values greatly its employees, but also one that provides significant support both personally and professionally. In addition, TFT provides the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, but most of all, I like how approachable everyone at TFT is.

Would you recommend a career in this industry? If so, for which aspects?

I think a career in property and construction is a great industry in which to embark a career, especially for those who like variety as no two buildings or projects are ever the same.  I also think there is wide range of professions to suit anyone, from architecture and design to surveying and property management, not to mention supporting services such as marketing etc. 

Have you encountered any challenges during your career to date, and if so, how have you overcome them?

Originally, I started out as a Graduate Building Surveyor, but have since changed paths towards a project management role. Initially, I found this new role to be challenging, mainly as a result of the scale and complexity of the projects I began working on compared to previous experience I had. Moreover, there was a lot to the PM role of which I did not have any previous knowledge nor experience. I believe that I have since overcome this by undertaking additional reading and study around the subjects that I did not understand. I also never hesitated asking my TFT colleagues for help when I needed it, not only from the senior Project Managers but also from the wider team.  

What are you most proud of to date in your career?

Whilst I am still at the beginning of my career, I am proud to have been a part of and contribute to a wide range of interesting and exciting projects so far during my time at TFT. 

What would you like to see more and less of in the industry?

I would like to see the industry being promoted further in more schools as a viable career for young people of any background or gender to consider. It would be great to have a more diverse influx of talent entering the industry throughout the next decade.

My journey to property: Pardip Kaur, Business Data Manager

Lastly, we speak to Pardip Kaur, Business Data Manager, to learn a bit about her journey to TFT and why she encourages more women to continue pushing boundaries and add something unique to the property industry!

How did you get into the industry and your role?

I started working in the property industry 20 years ago at RICS within their events department. I was at the RICS for 6.5 years. When I joined RICS, the events were heavily attended by male surveyors, but by the time I left, I was working with females who were on the professional working groups for building surveying and building control.

My profession means I can work within a variety of industries, but it’s because of the wonderful people I have met through the years that I have remained in property circle (some of these are now my close friends!).

Have you come across any particular challenges within it? 

I’ve not really found any challenges within the industry. This might be due to the type of roles I have had and my strong personality. 

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

My experience within the industry has always been a positive one. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it had not have been for the people I met throughout my career. The industry is very open and approachable.  

My journey to property: Jennifer Hobart, Senior Building Surveyor

Here we speak to Jennifer Hobart, Senior Building Surveyor, to learn a bit about her journey to TFT and why she encourages more women to fight stereotypes and continue pushing boundaries in their work and career.

How did you get into the industry and your role?

I went down the standard route of applying to university as an encouraged next step after 6th form but very quickly realised I did not enjoy studying Classics as much I thought I might. As a result, I dropped out and went home. However, I’d always found the architectural part of Classics interesting and somehow found a very tenuous link to surveying.

Surveying as a career seemed to fit with how I saw my work- life going. I didn’t always want to be in the office so getting out and about to see buildings sounded interesting. Though I was quite disappointed when I found out that using the tripods you see on the sides of roads would not be part of the job!

Have you come across any particular challenges within it?

Not really. Though I do recall being told early on that this might not be the career for me… Luckily, I’m stubborn and it spurred me on!

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

Do your research and ask current professionals about the job – there are so many directions you can go in. When I first started at university, I only really envisaged surveying houses for homebuyers, it didn’t even occur to me that there were commercial routes, valuation, general practice etc. Make sure the university you apply to is RICS accredited.

Lastly, always have your phone on your person on site, you never know when you might accidentally lock yourself in a cupboard!


My journey to property: Jacqui Allen, Partner

Here we speak to Jacqui Allen, Building Surveyor and Partner at TFT, to learn a bit about her journey to property and why she encourages more women to continue pushing boundaries.

How did you get into the industry and your role?

I originally did a degree in architecture as I was interested in art, design and buildings. I then re-trained as a building surveyor when I was involved with conservation work at English Heritage.

Have you come across any particular challenges within it?

In my opinion, there are no particular challenges as a female, but I think you need to have a robust personality and be strong to be in the construction industry as a woman. If you know your stuff and do a good job it doesn’t matter what gender you are!

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

Do it! It’s a really varied role and no two days are the same. It is constantly challenging mentally and the opportunity to work on a huge variety of buildings definitely keeps it interesting.

My journey to property: Emily Young, Graduate Building Surveyor

Here we speak to Emily Young, Graduate Building Surveyor, 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?

I have always been fascinated by historic buildings, architecture and the magnitude of some construction projects. I went to college for Architectural Conservation but was unable to do a degree in this so went down the Building Surveying Pathway which encapsulates all I love about the built environment and construction industry!

Have you come across any particular challenges within it?

Being a female in a traditional male environment can be challenging when getting your point across without being silenced or ‘mansplained’, but if you hold your own and are confident in what you do there should be no challenges! We all have the same degrees and do the same work so why should there be a difference between male/female building surveyors.

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

It is a great industry to work in. The variety of workload is challenging but very enjoyable. One minute you could be working on a multimillion-pound project and the next you could be doing a site inspection of a huge empty warehouse in the middle of nowhere. It’s a great job and I am very lucky to be doing what I love every day!

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!

Oliver Morris becomes a UKGBC Future Leader

The Future Leaders program is run by the UKGBC and is focused on facilitating the development of unique leadership skills for a group of the industry’s rising stars. Participants are challenged to develop their problem solving and leadership skills, and to put these practices back into their own organisations to create truly sustainable businesses.

Ollie Morris, Senior Sustainability Consultant at TFT, is one of 24 successful applicants on this year’s programme which kicks off in January 2019. He’ll be provided a unique opportunity to work alongside peers over a 5 month period, to address critical issues facing the industry.

Together the group will be challenged to identify innovative and disruptive solutions for issues like the housing crisis, diversity in the built environment sector, building’s whole life carbon emissions and the circular vs linear economy.

Ollie’s motivation to join the programme stems from his belief that personal and emotive engagement is key to sparking real change and promoting innovation and buy-in from the industry as we move towards a holistic, sustainable future. The leadership skills gained through the course will empower Ollie to further embed sustainable practices across TFT and to engage with colleagues and our partners to interrogate design and construction practices and instigate positive behavioural change.

You can read more about the programme here.

Lisa Gunn

Part of the TFT Family on Day One!

Sarah Gunn

Starting a new job is always a bit daunting, no matter what level you come in at… You find yourself no doubt asking ‘did you make the right decision? What will the culture be like? Will the work be interesting? Will they like you? Will you like them?!’ Not to mention trying to learn everyone’s names, how to work new systems and where to find the cups/toilets/stationary…

With all this going through my mind, I was impressed and immediately at ease due to the warm reception I received from my new colleagues. It seemed every single person said hi to me … I even got calls from staff in other offices to welcome me and offer support if and when I needed it. When I spoke to my team they told me this happened to them too!

What a difference this genuine response made to me – it definitely isn’t something you come across every day!

Now, when we new staff arrive, I think of this and it reminds me to go that little bit further to make them immediately feel like part of the TFT family!