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News & opinion

4 JUN 2018

Julie Fittock: returning to the workplace

Meet Julie Fittock, a chartered surveyor working for Cushman and Wakefield, as part of a team contracted to carry out Property Portfolio Management for the London Borough of Bromley.

What inspired you to become a surveyor?

Largely a mixture of fate and curiosity. My childhood dream was to be an actress in musical theatre!

Careers advice at my girls’ grammar school was very limited. I found that my A levels temporarily exhausted my interest in the subjects concerned, so I started looking for more interesting courses to study at degree level: law, surveying, business studies, cultural studies and film studies were all avenues of enquiry.

An open day at Leicester Polytechnic explaining the course content of BSc (Hons) Land Management hooked me in. I was not disappointed.

Early career

My first surveying roIe was as a management surveyor for a small private company in Maida Vale, London. I was immersed in all aspects of property management. Along with the professional activities comprised in the management of commercial properties; the planning, provision, and documenting of services for mansion blocks of apartments. After a year, I joined the ranks of public sector surveyors, working in the property department of the London (now Royal) Borough of Greenwich for the next eight years.

It has not been totally plain sailing for me to return to surveying after a gap of over 20 years. More of a journey!

What could make a difference to ‘returners’?

Perhaps being linked with a buddy or mentor at the time I returned to the profession may have provided impartial support at this time. RICS could consider cross organisation buddy or mentoring schemes for small firms, or teams, if suitable matches could be found with no likely conflicts of interest. This is not a gender specific issue. Career breaks can occur for a number of reasons. In property the cyclical nature of the property industry, and thereby the jobs market, can force some surveyors to look elsewhere for employment in recessionary times. Companies struggling to recruit qualified surveyors may wish to list their posts on education websites or publications to try to coax talent back into surveying.

Why is diversity and inclusion important?

I believe that when organisations are staffed in a way that reflects the diversity of the population, and the clients and communities that they serve, the products that are provided better reflect the needs of the whole of society.

In our profession those products are buildings fit for purpose and satisfying demand; a sustainable built environment; and public realm promoting health and wellbeing. If those factors are in place, returns on investment and enhancement in company share price and corporate social responsibility ratings will surely follow.

From the perspective of considering the gender imbalance at board levels in property companies, one explanation may be that women, who would otherwise have been able to demonstrate the experience required, may have left the profession, after becoming chartered surveyors, and not returned. I am aware that quite a few of my female peers, from both my degree course and with whom I worked at the London Borough of Greenwich, have left the profession, either to raise their families or to pursue other career goals. Most now work in different sectors of education!