Standing out from the crowd
Chief executive Pam Over and her daughter, Louisa, a rural surveyor, both alumnae of the University of Reading, discuss the opportunities and challenges of the industry then and now.
Louisa: What's the biggest change you've seen in the last 35 years?
Pam: Today, there are far more women in the profession. Graduating in 1981, I was one of only six women from a year of 120 and it actually helped to stand out from the crowd.
Now the balance has shifted and as a firm Galbraith has as many female as male surveyors and there are four female partners, including myself as chief executive.
The pace of technology and how that has changed our daily lives has made a big impact. When I was your age I had to dictate everything to my secretary and woe betide me if I got it wrong or wanted to make an alteration. It had to be right first time. Now life is dictated to me by email with instant responses required 24/7.
Above: Pam was one of only six women out of 120 graduates back in 1981.
Louisa: What has been the most interesting project you've been involved with?
Pam: I've been lucky enough to be involved with everything from the development of shopping centres, to castles, nursing homes, hotels, skyscrapers, industrial units to auction marts and everything in between. Each project brings a new team of consultants so I couldn't pick a favourite. The biggest fee was from office building Skypark in Glasgow and it took the longest (six years).
In truth, the current projects are always the most exciting and at the moment they range from industrial units in Tottenham to a big shed in Belfast and a salt cave in Leicester.
Louisa: If you could do it all again what would you do differently?
Pam: I was lucky enough to have a career break of six years to allow me to have three children. I worried unnecessarily that I would never get back into my career but if you apply yourself anything is possible. It is, however, quite some juggling act and the worst-case scenario is not being good at either role - mum or surveyor.
Louisa: What did you think when I chose to follow you into the profession albeit in a different area?
Pam: I was highly relieved you chose a career I could understand and relate to. It's a very varied, interesting career with endless opportunities so it will provide you with lots of choices.
Louisa: What's the biggest challenge facing new graduates?
Pam: New graduates need to avoid being pigeonholed too early. They should try to get the broadest training possible to enable them to ascertain what aspects of the job they are best suited to following qualification.
Louisa: Where will the profession be in another 20 years?
Pam: I am concerned over the lack of understanding in schools about what a chartered surveyor actually does. The RICS should take a stronger lead here and ensure career advisors are fully conversant with the opportunities available and the grades required. You followed me into surveying because you could see first hand what a good career it is. That's why so many children of surveyors follow their parents. This educational issue needs to be resolved if we are to ensure there is a new generation of young people coming into the profession.
Pam's questions for Louisa
Pam: What is it about rural chartered surveying that attracted you?
Louisa: You always told me to go into a career in which I had a genuine interest. Growing up in the countryside and being involved in country pursuits led me naturally to into a career involving rural assets.
I strongly believe that if you are interested in what you do and enjoy it then, chances are, you will be much better at it.
Pam: How do you think your career will be different from mine?
Louisa: Although the sectors we work in are different I hope my career follows as successful a path as yours has. I've obviously only seen your later career where you have been involved with the management of a partnership so I've seen firsthand how rewarding the peaks and troughs are that management can bring. I hope that I will be as involved with the firm I work for with the ultimate aim of climbing up the ladder to lead from the top. I think it's very important that whatever you are doing you make a positive impact and set personal goals. To be able to grow and shape a business would be hugely rewarding.
Pam: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing new graduates?
Louisa: I graduated in 2014 and while the industry has always been competitive, it is only likely to increase. The ability to stand out from a crowd of university applicants is becoming more and more difficult.
Pam: What advice would you give others starting in the profession?
Louisa: Seize the opportunities that come your way and always volunteer to help.
When starting out in a new job it's important you show your willingness to learn and help where you can. Employers don't expect you to know it all on day one but they do expect you to apply yourself.
There is a huge amount to take in with a new job but just remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Don't be afraid to ask.
Extracted from an article originally produced for Reading University's Graduate of the Month series.
Pam is Chief Executive of Galbraith and is part of the firm's Commercial team. Based in the Edinburgh office she has over 30 years' experience of commercial property specialising in asset management and development for a wide range of clients.