A Case Study: Realising my Potential in the Property Industry – Sophie Woodard, Surveyor at JLL

Posted on: 28 July, 2016

Sophie Woodard, a recent UCEM student, tells us more about her experience of balancing full time work with studying the PGDip in Surveying. Sophie recently graduated in July with a Merit.

Sophie’s story

Sophie WoodardBefore I even considered a career in the Property industry, I studied Psychology with Criminology and originally had aspirations to be a Criminal Psychologist. Whilst looking for roles as an Assistant Psychologist, I took a job within a family run property business and quickly found that I had a strong interest in the Built Environment.

I took on more responsibilities in the office and rotated around each department picking up work from property management, agency and even from the in-house solicitor. It was then that I realised I had stopped applying for other work because I was happy where I was and had a passion for property.

There wasn’t much scope for progression in the small family run business, so after leaving to take a role as a Housing Officer in London – which gave me further experience, albeit residential – I knew that I wanted to work within the commercial property sector and began working at Lambert Smith Hampton in Cardiff. It was there that I progressed to Assistant Surveyor and began to look at options to gain a RICS accredited qualification in order to become Chartered.

My colleagues have always been very influential. Working alongside Directors and Associate Directors has really pushed my drive and ambition. With this, I set myself personal goals to progress within the industry. A number of my colleagues recommended UCEM to me, and in particular the PGDip in Surveying programme. Knowing this programme would give me the knowledge I needed to pass my APC – across all relevant areas such as valuation and law – I chose to study it alongside continuing my full time work.

I have just completed the PGDip in Surveying with the programme taking a total of two and a half years to complete. Although the course has been extremely challenging, the rewards far outweigh the labours. I definitely lost a number of weekends to assignment writing, however I would not have it any other way. The feeling of receiving the mark you deserved for the effort you put in is so rewarding. I cannot describe how proud of myself I am to have graduated. Long distance learning takes a lot of commitment, as the only person to push you is yourself. It absolutely pays off though.

My favourite module was Landlord and Tenant Law as I found it extremely relevant for what I do on a day-to-day basis. Law is very much a logical problem solving process, which is the way I like to approach my work. Studying with UCEM has assisted my APC process immensely and I found that I had a good base knowledge of valuation before gaining experience in that field, which helped me understand the processes.

I am now working as a Surveyor for JLL in its Cardiff office in the Property and Asset Management department, having taken on the role just over a year ago. I manage a portfolio of retail parks, office buildings and industrial estates located around South and West Wales.

It is hard to describe a typical day in property management as the role is so varied and we often have to deal with emergencies that we have no way of preparing for! I like to get out as often as possible to visit my properties and meet tenants so not every day is spent at a desk – it’s great to get this option to be out in the field as well as office based.

When I am at my desk I could be dealing with anything from a tenant complaint to managing substantial building works or handling a tenant’s request to sublet. A lot of my work involves client liaison and UCEM has helped me gain valuable written and communication skills, which I am constantly putting into practice.

The one thing I would say to anyone considering online learning is “you can do it”. It is perfectly viable to fit in the studying with a full time job and hectic social life. I have met people on the programme who are working full time, studying and looking after small children, but they are still managing to complete the assignments and revise for the exams. The support staff at UCEM are incredibly helpful and will assist with queries and provide advice on any issues that affect your learning.

I started my career as a secretary and I am now working as a Surveyor – (hopefully) soon to become Chartered. You of course need to be prepared to put in the time to achieve good results, and the best way to approach the work is to plan in advance. It is important to be confident as it can be hard to return to studying, especially if you are starting the course having been out of education for some time. You may not realise it but the skills that you have picked up during your undergraduate degree or during full time employment are enough to fully equip you for what lies ahead.

For anyone starting out, my advice is that hard work and persistence pays off. Apply to as many graduate schemes as possible but if you are unsuccessful, it isn’t the only route in. Admin jobs can often lead to other things, you’ve just got to stay focused and get noticed by the right people. Ensure that you are a seen as a valuable asset to your employer and they will want to invest in you.