Senior Area Manager
Before joining the GLA, Rachael didn’t have any experience of development or a background in housing. Here she talks about how she was able to bring transferable skills to her role, to help ensure the delivery of affordable housing. She also talks about the unique culture at the GLA and the huge breadth of work it covers.
It’s a really great time to join because there’s so much going on, and so much positive energy across the directorate. We’re doing new things in new ways, and that’s always exciting. You can come in and really influence and set a new direction for doing things.
I don’t have a development background, and I don’t particularly have a housing background, apart from a bit of knowledge around retrofit. I got my current job because of the transferable skills I could bring to the role, along with my ability to learn quickly so I could develop my knowledge of the housing side of things on the job.
My first job was working at Cartier as a PA, but I didn’t like the sales environment. I’d studied Ecology as my degree, so I went to work for a small environmental consultancy. The focus of my work there was predominantly domestic retrofit and energy efficiency in homes, working with local authorities and housing associations. Then I saw an opportunity at the LDA, which became part of the GLA.
The absolute crux of my current role is to ensure the delivery of affordable housing by our partners, with a specific focus on Barking and Dagenham and Havering boroughs, as well as the wider North East. I’ve also got overall responsibility for overseeing the delivery of our North-East team’s affordable housing target.
The culture at the GLA is unique to other organisations. It was established as a strategic body, but it’s moving more and more to being delivery-focused, as we’re getting an increasing amount of devolved responsibilities from government.
The GLA covers a huge breadth of work including sports, culture, intelligence, environment, housing, skills and European programmes and investment. Depending on the role you end up doing, there’s scope to get involved in a real range of things, and there are always opportunities to move around the GLA, once you’re in.
The culture within Housing and Land is also unique to the GLA. There’s a pretty rare combination of policy, strategy and delivery, and that makes it a really good directorate to work in. I think people would be surprised at what we can and have achieved, and how quickly we can move. We’re adept at dealing with things in an efficient and effective way, and people are willing to look at alternative solutions to get things done.
I admire my team because of their determination and passion. I look forward to coming to work, and a lot of that is to do with the people I work with. It’s a really open and welcoming environment, where people aren’t afraid to speak up and challenge each other, from all different levels.
The GLA has a real culture of flexible working which works well because of the trust that managers place in their staff. As a working mother, it really suits my lifestyle. Both my husband and I are able to work full-time by working a compressed fortnight, and it works really well for us.
You’re hugely supported in career progression here. There’s a framework for learning and development, and we’re building up an excellent online source of learning resources and information. This is backed up by a learning and development budget and frequent training sessions. There’s also a structured mentoring programme, where you have the opportunity to become either a mentor or a mentee.
Having a diverse workforce is so important at the GLA, because it helps us come up with new ideas, new ways of working and, new ways of delivering affordable homes. It helps provides a fresh perspective on something people might not otherwise have considered.
We’re looking for people to join our team who are good at stakeholder management and building relationships. It also helps if you have good strategic awareness, but more important is perseverance and an ability to multitask. Whilst having a housing background is helpful, it’s equally important to have a positive can-do attitude, and be a self-starter.
Before you apply, my advice is to talk to people who are already in the roles and build an understanding about what we do. Focus on the behavioural competencies required and demonstrate with evidence how you meet the criteria (don’t just say you can do something, evidence how you’ve done it). If you get to interview, practice, practice, practice and make sure you practice out loud!