If you’re thinking about working in the homebuilding industry, then a role with the land department might not always be the first thing that springs to mind. Liz Cunningham, land manager at new homes housebuilder, Miller Homes, explains why it could be perfect for anyone looking for a varied career which gets them out from behind a desk.
How did you train for your role as land manager?
I was keen to study something vocational at university as I didn’t want a career which would see me sitting behind a desk from 9-5. I had a real interest in property and loved watching programmes like Grand Designs, so I decided to study Property Agency and Marketing which is an RICS accredited degree at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.
It was a small, rural university which meant I had great access to the lecturers and I also took full advantage of the work experience opportunities that came my way, something that I would advise everyone to do. My degree opened up a lot of different routes into the construction industry and at first, I didn’t really consider working for a homebuilder, but I do love my job.
After university, I initially became a graduate surveyor, working on residential and commercial property and development land. This gave me a really good, broad understanding of the industry as a whole. It was then I realised how much I enjoyed the developmental land side of things so once I qualified as a chartered surveyor, I was keen to follow a specialist route.
What does a typical week look like for you?
This is a great role if you’re looking to get out and about as one of the key parts of my job is discovering new land opportunities by going out to look at sites.
Communication is vital as you need to be able to work with different teams across the business, discussing upcoming and ongoing land opportunities, from the ones we have just started looking at, to the deals that are nearly finalised and construction is due to commence imminently. Catching up with lawyers and planners is also an important part of the job to ensure everything is on track – so you do need to be very organised.
When I am in the office, my time is spent preparing land bids, reviewing legal contracts and drafting presentation packs for our board so they can review land opportunities. I also work on the handover process with our production team so once the land purchase is complete, they can start the next phase of work before the building work begins.
I’m always on hand to answer questions and because every land deal is different, it really does feel like you’re always learning something new.
What advice would you give to other women looking to enter the profession?
When I did my degree, the class was made up of a 50/50 split between men and women although I would say the building industry as a whole, is still quite a male-dominated profession.
I am starting to see a lot more women in land teams across the industry and through networking events, it has been good to build relationships with my female counterparts so we can support each other in the industry. It’s important that we lose some of the perceptions about women in the construction industry so that it does become the norm – although I don’t feel that it has ever been a setback for me.
For other women entering the profession, my advice is don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid to just go for it. Our industry seems pretty positive so have confidence and knowledge in yourself and your skills.