THRIVHER INTERVIEW: LAURA WINTER

Updated: May 21, 2018




Thrivher Achievements:

  • 2014: After multiple career changes, returned to University to complete a Masters at age 27 – achieved MSc in Building Surveying with Distinction.

  • 2015: Awarded authorship of the RICS Sustainable Procurement section on isurv, the accredited online information service for property professionals.

  • 2016: Published within the RICS Building Surveying Journal.

  • 2017: Chartered Building Surveyor at age 31.



Thrivher Dive:

  • I can't start the day without: My 1 hour morning routine

  • Best read of all time: Life in half a second by Matthew Michaelwicz

  • Non-negotiable: Yoga and/or exercise

  • TOP music track that sets my heart on fire: Gold Dust, DJ Fresh & Ms. Dynamite

  • Most random job: Bungee trampoline instructor

  • My mindful habits: My 1hr morning routine and yoga.

  • I’m most afraid of: Clowns!

  • What’s your go to for fun: Hula Hooping




THRIVHER MOVES:


Back to the beginning of your career journey, what did you first focus your studies on?

My first degree was in Human Geography. I’d never grown up thinking about a specific career. I felt this degree offered transferable skills which I could apply to many different roles, but there was never an end goal. I was never looking to produce maps, or analyse population data!



After realising Human Geography wasn’t for you what did you decide to do next?

I went to do a TEFL course, which was teaching English abroad. I did the long course and then went straight to Japan on my own and I lived there for a year teaching. The children were from the age of three to seven, and they weren’t allowed to speak a word of Japanese except for one hour a day. It was as challenging for me as it was for the children, because there was no communication at first. By the end of the year you could have a full conversation with even the three year olds. It was really incredible to witness. I lived with a Japanese family; a single mum and her two young children and slept on a tatami mat on the floor – it wasn’t easy - but what an experience!



Did you want to pursue teaching after your experience in a Japanese school?

Before I went I was considering going on to teaching, but that experience did clarify that teaching wasn’t what I wanted to do in the long-term. I’m really glad I did that year abroad to realise that because if I’d done Teacher Training here in the UK I think that would have been a bit of a step back.



What did you decide to do when you realised teaching wasn’t for you?

I have had so many careers! [laughs] At this stage, I still wasn’t sure but my parents both worked in finance so I thought it must be in my genes, so I decided to apply for the Barclays Graduate Management Programme. The interview and assessment process was incredibly long-winded, but after a gruelling few months I was offered a place and I started on my training for bank management. Having been there only three months I realised it wasn't for me, but I don’t like to give up. By month ten I recognised I was fighting myself, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was this job that made me realise my career couldn’t be desk bound, which is why I then decided to give lettings and property management a go.


Having been there only three months I realised it wasn't for me, but I don’t like to give up. By month ten I recognised I was fighting myself, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I started as a lettings negotiator and then transitioned up quite quickly to Assistant Branch Manager. I really enjoyed that role, I was always out and about and I felt there was more to come, but then I was offered a fantastic opportunity. My father had expanded his business out to Cyprus and offered me a position there, so I left and lived there for a year. During this time I completed a Diploma in Public Relations to improve my knowledge and performance in this temporary role. When I returned to England I knew I wanted to go back into property, so found a role with a wonderful Estate Agents and progressed with them to become a Senior Negotiator and Property Valuer, whilst also assisting them with their PR.



What was the turning point that made you want to take your career to another level?

On a daily basis I saw all of the building surveyors coming in and out and I realised “this is it – the professional property career I’ve been looking for. I could do this.” I looked into it, and realised I would have to go back to University again. As I was over age 25 and this was my second degree, there would be no student loan available. I would need to finance it myself. For a number of months I let this put me off as I worried about the expense of it. And then I pretty much had a crazy epiphany and that was when I read the book – Life in Half a Second – the author’s message struck me, now is the time! So I pushed all my “what-ifs” aside, applied to University and took out a sizeable career development loan. Within three weeks of application, I returned to University and never looked back!


the author’s message struck me, now is the time!


What did your family and partner think when you told them that you wanted to go back to Uni?

I think my parents felt that I’d been hopping around jobs and feeling a bit lost for some time. On this occasion it was clear I had thoroughly researched the various opportunities available to building surveyors and was sure this ticked all the career boxes. They were thrilled I had the guts to do it. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) was a little apprehensive at first because of the debt and inevitable impact on our shared income, but ultimately we could see that in the future it would be a benefit to both of us and he was the most incredible support the whole way through. I could not have done it without him.



What were your biggest fears going back to university?

I guess it was odd, it was such a strong feeling. I wasn’t ever concerned that I wouldn’t enjoy the course or end career - that was not a fear. My fear was that I was actually putting us into a large amount of debt and I’d only just paid off my previous student loan! I was terrified that I would be putting us in a tricky financial situation, and this in turn put me under immense pressure to succeed. But I did the maths and saw how we could make it work and actually it’s worked out now better than we could have imagined. So, a well worthwhile investment. I truly believe you will reap the rewards of investing in your education. So it was a fear, but it was unfounded. Having gone through this experience, my advice is go for it - always invest in your education! Don’t be afraid.



My fear was that I was actually putting us into a large amount of debt and I’d only just paid off my previous student loan!


Once you finished your masters what kept you on track to keep accelerating your career?

I got my Masters, and I had been offered places on two graduate programmes with well acclaimed property and construction consultancies. However there was still a lot to learn. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve studied; on the job - actually being a consultant surveyor - it’s quite different. There is so much to learn and when I first started, I felt overloaded. Frequently, after work I would find myself saying, "Oh what a long, stressful day, I deserve a glass of wine", but I could see it was not helping with anything.


In November 2013 I got engaged. My fiancé and I were so excited! We started planning the wedding and looking at how we were going to finance it, which was when we had a bit of a reality check. We had to pay off the career development loan along with all the other bills, my long commute, and with myself on a trainee wage – we thought “how are we going to pay for a wedding?!” So we sat there and we reviewed all of our spending and I said, “You know what, I’ve wanted to cut out after-work drinks, and I can see we’re spending most of our money at the weekends; going out, socialising, getting taxis, trains, hotels, I think this is the thing we could cut”. So we both cut alcohol out of our lives for two years. This massively improved my focus and drive to succeed in my new role, and I regained my drive; I decided I wanted to study to attain Chartership as soon as possible and began working towards it immediately.



I think this is the thing we could cut”. So we both cut alcohol out of our lives for two years.


My husband and I only intended to cut alcohol for one year to help save for the wedding. Our honeymoon was at a beautiful all-inclusive island resort and there on the beach we both looked at each other and I said “Shall we keep going? I can go for assessment next year and it would help us save for a house deposit?” And we both agreed it was a great plan! So there we were, in this swanky five star, all-inclusive (all you can drink) hotel and we were sipping away at our virgin cocktails! Some people think we’re crazy, but it was the best decision. We managed to save a large chunk of the deposit ourselves and with additional help from our wonderful family, we bought our first home in Spring 2017 - it’s been brilliant! We have been enjoying a drink or two again since I attained Chartership, but nowhere near as much. I feel like it’s completely changed my perspective on alcohol. You do not need it to have a good time and it doesn’t help destress you - it actually makes stressful situations much worse.



How much studying did you have to do?

During my Masters most weekends I was locked away studying whilst my husband would go out with his friends. I was completing a full time course whilst working part time which was challenging to accommodate. However studying for chartership was an even greater challenge. I didn’t go out and socialise for a whole six month period towards the end. Every weekend was spent studying, the pass rate was very low at only 56%, and I was determined to succeed first time around. I thought, if I put everything into it now, then surely I will get there. And it worked! It also really helped that my best friend Bella (who is a doctor) was studying to become a GP at the same time. We helped encourage one another through.



studying for chartership was an even greater challenge. I didn’t go out and socialise for a whole six month period


How does it feel now to be working in something that you feel passionate about?

As they say in yoga, I feel like I’m living my Dharma. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s wonderful, you get such a sense of purpose and I can’t really describe how fulfilling it is. Even if my day has been long and challenging, I always feel I’ve really made a difference and that it’s all been worth it. I’ve realised how important it is to find work you love. You must follow your heart, even if it means changing jobs umpteen times like I have, keep doing it until you find what you want to do.



You must follow your heart, even if it means changing jobs umpteen times like I have, keep doing it until you find what you want to do.


How do you find working in a very male dominated industry?

There are few female building surveyors – I believe the RICS statistics state that females represent only 14% of the working population, but there are tremendous opportunities for women in the field. I think male domination does put a lot of women off. Today, for example, I was briefing several groups of contractors for a project they will be tendering for and they were all male-only groups. I don’t mind it at all though. If you are interested in the building environment, how it’s constructed and how to remedy defects, or upgrade buildings, this is a brilliant job. The fact that there’s not that many women in the industry yet doesn’t really bother me. If anything, it makes me want to show the men what we’re capable of.



Was there ever a point where the intense study and work became overwhelming?

There was the point during the APC (Assessment of Professional Competence) where I hit a block. I felt like there was too much to learn and I couldn’t learn any more; that I couldn’t possibly store any more information within my brain! It made me start doubting my abilities. On reflection, I think I was being too hard on myself, not allowing myself to go out at all or do anything fun. It was my husband who actually insisted that I take a break away from it all which helped me clear my mind and overcome those feelings. So it’s important to get a balance. Studying too hard can lead to the opposite of what you originally intended! It’s ironic really.



What has been your top pinch me now moment in your new found career to date?

I was asked to write a piece for the Building Surveying Journal which was published in November 2016. To see my work published in such a well renowned journal was a fantastic feeling!



If there was one piece of advice you wish you could have been given in your early twenties, what would it be?

I wish could have told myself to stop what I was doing and just sit down and really analyse myself. What do you want to do? What are your personality traits? What are you interested in? And actually stop and take the time to assess my life and learn from what I’d done so far to shape my future. You know, the amount of times that I would sit for hours researching where I wanted to go on holiday. Why didn’t I regularly do that for my life?! I just went with the flow for so long, and don’t get me wrong, I had some wonderful experiences and met some wonderful people, but it’s your life we’re talking about here. And when you do realise what floats your boat, don’t let the “what-ifs” get in the way, go out and get it!

Sit down and really look at your life and then build yourself a goal pyramid. If I’d done that when I was younger, who knows where I would be now. I don’t have any regrets, but I do wish I knew what I know now back then.



the amount of times that I would sit for hours researching where I wanted to go on holiday. Why didn’t I regularly do that for my life?!



Thriving and Kicking:



Is there a skill you'd still like to master, and why?

I’m looking now to go on to do my Project Management qualification - it’s important to always keep learning!



What three personality traits do you think have contributed to succeeding in your career?

I would say my stubbornness. If I tell everyone what I’m going to do, then I have to do it. Telling people solidifies the intention you have set which helps you follow through. It’s no longer just an idea in your head.


Another personality trait is my grit. So even if it gets really difficult, really challenging, I will still always persevere.


The third is having a positive mental attitude because you can worry about all the negative ‘what ifs’ and put yourself off. Instead, I try to always focus and visualise my dream end goal – this always gets me through.



For women who are reading this, who want more but haven't made any killer moves yet, what do you suggest for their first steps?

I think it’s dispelling yourself of all of the things you’re worried about that are holding you back. I suggest writing down each of those worries and then make a plan of how you can overcome each of them. Sometimes you can have so much in your head; a mental fog which blocks the route forward. If you put pen to paper, it helps you clarify the situation and helps you to problem solve rather than using them as excuses.


If you have a goal in mind, tell people you’re thinking of doing it and then do it. Because there’s no time like the now!


If you have a goal in mind, tell people you’re thinking of doing it and then do it. Because there’s no time like the now!


(Get Laura’s 1hr Simple and highly effective Morning Routine straight to your inbox! Click here)

"This simple routine changes the way you look at your day. You will get into work and feel you’ve achieved so much already. It’s a real kick-starter!"



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