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Interview With a Professional in Property and Construction: Katie Kershaw, Overall Winner, BYPY15 and Director, Node Urban Design

News Categories: aspire

What was your first job?

Working in the Villa Village, the club shop at Villa Park. Remuneration extended to my season ticket, a King Size Snickers and the Sports Argus on the way home, which at the time constituted all of my basic needs.

Did you ever imagine to be undertaking your current role, if not, what did you want to be doing?

After a brief, early notion that I would become a nun (early influences: Catholicism, the Sound of Music), my teenage geography nerd dreamed of working at the US Geological Survey or writing for National Geographic. My more practical side sought out a university scholarship working in audit at Arthur Andersen, which taught me a phenomenal amount, including that to be happy, I needed to find a career path that I was truly passionate about. I went back to what I loved: geography. I can still remember my total joy at discovering that urban design was a career. The teenage geography nerd has never stopped colouring.

Which parts of your role are the most enjoyable and which parts are the most challenging?

Like many jobs, managing timescales, budgets and competing interests are the key challenges; a little patience and diplomacy go a long way! One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is having the chance to be inspired by visiting new places and indulge one of my hobbies of photography whilst working. I have also loved being part of growing a business from the start. However my favourite part of my role is design work: thinking creatively about the future of a site or area. There is very little more satisfying than visiting a completed project you are proud of that you have played some part in.

How do you balance your working and personal life?

It is not easy. It may not be popular but my best tip is to get up early. I wake up at 5am every day as I know that the hours before 9am are when I have the greatest level of control over my day. It also has the added benefit of making commuting as a cyclist in Birmingham marginally less treacherous.

What advice would you give to a young professional wanting to progress in your industry?

It’s a constantly moving environment, so it is essential to keep up to date with new advancements, together with changes in policy and legislation by reading widely. Twitter is really useful for this, if used correctly! Aim to develop an expert knowledge of something – but if possible it can be a great advantage to diversify your skills through continued learning. I am also a huge advocate of mentoring. Finding someone you respect and trust to act as a sounding board is invaluable and playing this role for others is a privilege. But the biggest piece of advice I can give is to be passionate. Let your enthusiasm and interest fuel your work life and inspire those around you, and you will always be in demand.

What do you hope to be doing in ten years’ time?

I hope we will have made Node into a major design consultancy known for creating great places across the world. On a personal note, I would like to have added to my boardroom experience, perhaps with a national board appointment. It would also be nice to think Villa might be back in the Premier League…

What’s the best tip or piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Be yourself. The real you always has much greater impact than any role you can cast for yourself.

Oh – and interdental brushes: you won’t look back. Thanks Mom.

What do you enjoy the most in/ about Birmingham?

If you’d asked me a few years ago, I might have told you my beloved Villa, but I doubt any real Villa fan could claim to regularly enjoy football these days. I’m still there, regardless. For public space, I love the Jewellery Quarter, Cannon Hill and Highbury Parks and my favourite (remaining) buildings are Alpha Tower and New Street Signal Box. But what I love most is that Birmingham is and always will be my home.