Where you are based for work and what do you do?
I’m group development director for Aster, which is an ethical housing and developer landlord – 28,000 properties in the south west covering Truro to Berkshire – with an ambitious development programme. We aim to provide about 9,000 new homes over the next 6-7 years.
I’m part of the executive board and I am MD of Aster Homes, which is the development part of the business. So I deliver the strategy set by the board and I’m responsible for leading a team of 45 people to deliver that strategy.
Did you specifically train for a specific job?
No I didn’t.
If not, what area of work did you start with?
Like most people in housing I came in by accident – which is a shame really. I started out working with Taylor Woodrow in an admin role. I saw a job with a local HA for marketing and worked my way up from there. Although initially very junior, I have managed to secure promotions via mergers and fell into development by accident early on and love it! I worked my way up some very large organisations and I have had great opportunities to learn from both small Housing Associations to large ones. I came from a socially aware family background and therefore housing fits really well with my personal social purpose. Housing is so diverse – you deal with a very different range of people.
What are you doing now? What’s a typical day?
I provide a lot of guidance and advice to my team. Development can be a fast moving world and often frustrating as there are a lot of processes we have to go through for planning etc. It’s a very fast-moving, changing political environment now and a lot of my time is spent helping re-evaluate business and financial plans. And of course, fighting the cause for development of homes. I spend a lot of time persuading MPs to understand the need for housing. We are dealing with a whole brave new world and there are a lot of new strategies and barriers to overcome.
What are your aspirations for your career in the future?
I am headhunted fairly frequently but I see my medium term future with Aster – it’s a very exciting place to work and I love my team that I work with – both the Executive Board and my own team. Although it’s a difficult time, it’s also exciting. We will be more masters of our own destiny and I would rather be part of a forward thinking organisation at my level, rather than going somewhere to be a CEO. I have no interest in that at all – it would be going backwards for me. We couldn’t achieve what we can achieve here. The intellectual capacity on the Board is key and we have that here and I see my future in a growing Aster.
Can you tell me about a defining moment of your career?
Probably when I became redundant and I left my company just as the property crash came – I found myself without a job and I took time out. I wasn’t sure about housing anymore and I was about to go and work as a paramedic (very different!) and then saw a job in housing and went for it successfully. I’m very glad I took this direction – it has reaffirmed my commitment to housing.
Who helped you along the way? Did you have formal or informal mentors?
I’ve worked with some very inspiring CEOs and other forward thinking people in my time and I was also mentored by Deborah Shackleton OBE (she was a CEO in housing). She was a brilliant mentor. Very down to earth and clever and able.
I also mentor people myself which I think you get as much out of as the mentee does.
What the worst and best bit about your job?
The worst bit is the amount of administrative, policy and legal control that governs us. The best bit is undoubtedly working with the team and the intellectual stimulation that brings.
Have you ever considered a board/NED/trustee role?
I’m a Sponsor Governor for IPACCA – a School Academy Board. It’s effectively an NED role. I chair their business committee.
What helps you to stay interested/excited in what you do?
The people and that we are changing peoples’ lives quite drastically. Making a house available to someone is an amazing feeling!