My childhood was filled with holidays based around stately homes and castles. There was always a day out with a tour of a building and that, I suspect, is largely where my passion for architecture and history came from, writes Ann Clarke of Claremont.
The moment I knew that property was for me came after a particularly mixed few years right at the start of my career. I tried my hand at university but quickly realised it wasn’t for me and found myself in need of a job. Given my interest in buildings, but unsure of which direction to take, I joined Liverpool City Architects where, with the help of a brilliant mentor and team, I flourished and learnt that a career in buildings wasn’t limited to becoming an architect at all. I was surrounded by landscape architects, building surveyors, contract mangers, interior designers and the multidisciplinary environment really captured my interest.
From that I decided to train as a building surveyor and found myself working with a housing association; it’s there that sexism was rife and I was subjected to what by modern standards would be described as bullying and harassment. My boss wasn’t interested and my experience ignored. I was a young woman in what was then, very much a man’s world. Looking back, that’s when I must have known that a career in property was definitely for me, as I stuck it out and refused to let infantile behaviour derail me from my career or studies. I discovered my dogged determination.
Fast forward a little and, after a stint in Singapore with my husband, I found myself in London working for an interior designer and it’s here that my interest in and love of interiors was borne. Relocating back to the North West, I arrived at Claremont, initially as part of the creative design team. The boss at the time, Steve Chamberlain, spotted my love of design coupled with problem solving early on. Finally something clicked. I’d found the right environment and the right discipline – solving clients’ spatial challenges. You could say there were two ‘moments I knew’ – the moment I knew that property was for me even in the face of adversity, and then when I discovered a passion that has made the last 30 years of my career the most rewarding and challenging time.
For those considering a career in property, my advice is not to worry if it takes a while to find your niche or the role that plays to your strengths. I didn’t hit my stride or discover my passion until I was in my late twenties. False starts are nothing to be ashamed of as that’s often how you learn more about yourself and gain a more rounded and valuable view of the industry along the way.
Such is the property industry skills gap, that I think as employers we need to do more. We have a duty to really know our staff and help them to thrive by being flexible and supporting their ongoing learning ambitions. There’s been several times we’ve recruited someone to do one job, but quickly realised they might be better suited to something else and have supported them to that end. Keeping an open mind and giving employees opportunities beyond the confines of their core roles can help to unlock extra skills, build meaningful careers and keep people within the property profession as a whole.
Over the years, I have nurtured a lot of young talent and have always given them as much exposure to clients as possible. Organisations that keep young talent away from clients are failing them – that’s how they learn and grow and develop their problem solving and communication skills. It’s only by giving youngsters opportunity and responsibility that we stand to attract the brightest and the best.