My mantra has always been that there is no clear map to success. It is more of a meander to the finish line, picking up skills and experience along the way, writes Chithra Marsh of Buttress.
My career in architecture has been just that. Not a particularly remarkable start, but a series of moments that steered me towards the right path.
My parents were first generation immigrants from Bangalore in South India who worked hard and settled comfortably into suburban London life. Not strict but with high expectations when it came to my education.
Their first instinct was to strongly encourage me to be a doctor. Much to their disappointment, I was more interested in pursuing an art-based career.
My dad was a major influence. A public health engineer at Ove Arup & Partners in the 1970s, on the odd occasion he would take me into work and would encourage me to spend time with the architects as “they’re far more interesting”, he would say.
I loved sitting in a sea of drawing boards, with a hint of cigarette smoke in the air. The characters I met were kind and encouraging and let me help out by doing a bit of dyeline printing. At that age it wasn’t a passion for architecture that grabbed me, but a love for the art and energy of the architect’s studio.
Years later, I gained a place studying architecture at Thames Polytechnic. While I enjoyed learning about design as a student, it wasn’t until I entered professional practice that I really understood what being an architect meant. I had a fantastic mentor who encouraged me to build my network and trusted me to run my own projects. He taught me that architecture was as much about personality and building solid relationships as it was about being a skilled designer. It was then that I knew I had made the right choice.
A couple of years after I had qualified came the biggest opportunity of all. My husband and I were invited to set up and run Broadway Malyan’s Manchester office. We relocated over 20 years ago and the city is now most definitely home for us.
I recognise that the opportunities offered to me so early in my career were a real privilege, so I make sure I say “yes” as often as I can – you never know what direction it may take you.
As chairman of the North West branch of Women in Property and as an ambassador for social enterprise, PLACED, I’m passionate about creating opportunities that will allow the next generation to build their careers and have their say in the evolution of the industry.
I am now in the next stage of my journey working at Buttress. It is a studio full of talented, bright individuals and I’m enjoying working with and learning from them. Long may it continue!
- Chithra Marsh is an associate director at Buttress and chairman of Women in Property’s North West branch, promoting diversity and inclusivity in the industry