Real Estate Management MSc
After studying a degree in English and Psychology, Claudine found herself working as a Personal Assistant for a property development company which sparked a deeper interest in the property industry. With support of her employer, she went back into education to change career direction and train in Real Estate Management.
“My journey to where I am now wasn’t a conventional one. I’d initially completed an undergraduate degree in English and Psychology. The career path I’m on now was something I never thought possible for me, thinking only men could do the role. Once I let that misconception go, I realised I had the skillset to pursue a career in property, and I was determined to do the job well.
I hadn’t always dreamed of going into the property industry. It wasn’t until I was working for a property developer in Birmingham City Centre that my interest in the sector piqued. I started working as a Personal Assistant, but I quickly developed a love for the industry and started picking up extra responsibilities and doing the work of a surveyor but without the relevant qualifications.
I started to look into degrees that would give me a better chance of progression in my career, and that’s when I discovered Birmingham City University. I was fortunate to receive a loan from my employer to pursue my postgraduate degree, which helped me to go back into education.
The lecturers were friendly and extremely helpful and the university itself was so well equipped. I found myself in the library a lot because I loved the breakout areas. It also helped being around everyone reading and studying, as it helped me to focus more.
Still, the prospect of going back to university was daunting. I was already juggling being a mum and working part-time, and I wasn’t sure how I'd juggle study as well. The only way I would describe it is, “you just manage, and you do it.” There were days when I was exhausted, but I stayed focused on the end goal and got myself there.
Although the number of women in our industry is growing, it is still very male-dominated. There are also many individuals that also have a family background in property and have lived and breathed it from a very young age. However, it is important to recognise that talent can come from all walks of life and actively encourage diversity into our sector, because it’s what makes our industry thrive.
Since graduating, I changed companies and started the Development Assistant role above at national development business, Godwin Developments. Within a year I was promoted to Development Manager and now I am an Associate Director of Commercial Development. I’ve been in the role for three and a half years now.
I have a fantastic network of industry contacts across a range of positions, specialisms and end users. Although there are so many different roles in property, it’s a tight-knit community where everyone knows each other and is very supportive of one another.
My most recent experience has been leading the Roadside and Retail Development sector in our business. The role involves securing development sites suitable for a variety of consumer brands – and working with the delivery team to see them through to practical completion. I cover the full development cycle all the way to the exit, working with institutional investors on the investment sales of our sites.
I started on my university journey with so many different people, and we were all starting on various levels. I thought I’d be one of the older students, but there was such a breadth of people on the course which was lovely to see. You can start in property from any walk of life, with zero experience and no prior knowledge – and still be a success if you are driven enough and not give up on your dream. Everyone on my course was very friendly and welcoming, and we were all very supportive of one another.
Property is an exciting and rapidly evolving industry. I can confidently say the course equips you very well for what we will meet in the real world. The various modules prepared me well for everything I now do on a day-to-day basis. I probably did not appreciate how and when I will need all this knowledge; but there are so many aspects of my role which were covered by the course. For example, going out for measured surveys, and group work in the development module which was a solid foundation for collaborating with consultants, and a law-focused module which was super valuable, and it is now a major part of my role - whether it is buying, letting or selling a completed development.
I focus particularly on fast-growing brands such as Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Brightside, Lidl and McDonald’s, helping them grow their national footprint and reach new customers. I also have close relationships with many EV (Electric Vehicle) charging providers that are growing the UK’s car charging infrastructure – and ultimately supporting us to transition to a greener future.
I love the fact that every day in this role is different. As no two parcels of land are the same, each project has its own challenges, so it is mostly about problem-solving, teamwork and coming up with workable solutions. I could be on-site one day with the design team, the next in a board meeting presenting a site, then negotiating rents with an end user, or chasing a lawyer on a contract, sitting with investors discussing funding options, and finally at a relaxed networking event with my colleagues having a glass of wine
I work in a rapidly evolving industry with so much potential for growth – with so many opportunities that arise all the time. Whilst ideally, I would love to continue expanding the team, my focus is on accumulating knowledge, experience and relationships across the board. My ambition is to have the most diverse team of people around me. From different backgrounds, both socially and in terms of gender and ethnicity. I am certain if we all focused on it, we can build a much better property industry.
My advice to anyone considering studying at BCU is to go for it - you’ll meet a wide range of people who you will ultimately work with. I recently met with a couple of my alumni, who are both doing great, one works the investment market and the other is a land agent. It’s lovely to see them doing so well - we can look back on our university life and reflect on how far we have come together.
I AM BCU means having the tenacity and drive to know what you want and the determination to achieve it, whoever I am, and wherever I come from.”