Juliet Weston is a Chartered Surveyor with over 30 years experience in the residential sector covering private practice, local government and charity. She carries out all the RICS pre-purchase surveys and has a passion for period vernacular property, having completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Building Conservation at Cardiff University. Juliet is a mom of three, and she started to work for herself six years ago.
Why a Solid General Education is Important
Juliet always knew that she didn’t want an office job and that she preferred being outside doing more active work. She started out in the 1980s working with an estate agents company, and from there she decided to get a degree in estate management.
“During that time, I got jobs in local practices and did general estate management. Back in the 1980s, all estate agents got purchased and sold to the institutions. I was a manager of a local office, and by that time I had my first child, so I came back into a completely different scenario. Before we were general practice surveyors, but after, I could go into agency surveying, which I didn’t like because the service was too corporate for me, so I went into residential surveying. It was a rising market and things were going very well, but then the crash came and I got made redundant while being pregnant. Everything was getting more concise and people were ready to sue us surveyors back then, so I decided to do a building surveying degree because I wanted to become an RICS person and be more specialised.”
Juliet would recommend everyone to get a solid general education before getting specialised.
“If you can do a more general degree, I think that’s far more valuable. During your course in your career you can specialise, but if you have a good grounding and good foundations, you can build upon that.”
Working in Public, Private and Charity Sector as a Woman Surveyor
“I was working part-time and I had three children,” Juliet continues. “There was an opportunity to work with the local district authority in their estate department, and I got a two years contract with them. They had a small estate with offices, industrial units, parks, cricket grounds, and we just had to manage them. It was a very interesting time. I was coming from private practice with not necessarily a developer’s eye on it, so I got a good understanding on how local government works. Now I can understand both sides, so those were valuable two years.”
Before she started her own practice, Juliet had the experience of working for the Gloucester Diocese for 15 years.
“I saw this advert for working for the church, and I thought that sounded like an amazing job description. You had to be a Superwoman to look after all that! They wanted to bring a qualified surveyor in-house to do the work that they often outsourced. So I got that job and I was there for 15 years. That was an amazing experience and great people to work with. It was so interesting to learn how to deal with a large institution where the cogs go really slowly, and you have to do certain procedures with different kinds of people. I wasn’t involved in the churches, I was just involved in the villages. So that lasted, and looking back on it I was glad I was in a secure employment because I needed the job in order to look after my children.”
While women surveyors are often great at managing budgets and the security of businesses, we don’t always look after ourselves financially when things in private life go up and down. So Juliet shows that as women, we need to make sure that we are financially independent.
Working With Dyslexia
While doing a course on sustainable building conservation, Juliet discovered she was dyslexic.
“I found the assignments quite difficult. I was in my last year, and I was going to need some help with the dissertation, because 20,000 words was just a nightmare for me. So I did the test and I found that I was dyslexic. And that just put in perspective why I was having difficulty at school back in the day, and how you just adapt. So now I’ve got systems in place. When I first started, I got the phrases that I could adapt. Although the properties are totally different, a lot of the scenarios are still the same. I have a good memory and I remember what property was similar to that, so I look at the phrases that I have used and that I can alter, and I do a lot of research on how-to on the problems. I’ve just adapted strategies to help me, but it does take a bit more time to do that. I just have to build that in,” says Juliet.
The Challenges of Working in Repossessions
As a surveyor, it’s important to have certain life maturity, to be able to speak to different sorts of people, make them relax and have compassion.
“I remember I had to turn up with a locksmith at somebody’s house who was being chucked out. Thankfully, in the end we managed to get them retrieved and they managed to stay there, but the horror of actually trying to evict them was dreadful! When I think of the jobs that I’ve done as a surveyor, one of the heartbreaking and difficult ones is when you have to do repossessions. Back in the day we used to have to turn up with the police and a locksmith. Usually, people would just have left and then we were allowed to go in, and you’d park your car in a different street so they can’t see you. But you’d go in and there would be the kiddies’ breakfast on the table. It was just heartbreaking. Repossessions are the one thing I hope that we don’t see with this pandemic,” Juliet concludes.
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