Meet Jacqui, Our Design and Development Manager

March 6, 2024

As it’s National Careers Week, we talk to Jacqui, our Design and Development Manager based in London, who has forged a fantastic and interesting career in the property industry – here she talks about her role, her route to getting there, challenges and what it’s like being a woman in a traditionally male-led industry. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Acorn?

Jacqui: I am a Development Manager with the in-house Architects Team for Acorn Property Group, based in London. My role involves working closely with the land team on a variety of projects in London and across the regions acting as both architectural designer and development manager depending on the project.

What’s your background, how long have you been at Acorn and what was your route to getting into your current role?

Jacqui: I have always been interested in construction. My first project at the age of eleven was building a septic tank with my Dad in the long hot summer of 1976. Not a very salubrious project but my eleven-year-old self never felt prouder than on completion!

I graduated as an Architectural Technologist from CIT in Cork, Ireland and moved to London in the mid-eighties. I studied for my ‘part one’ at Greenwich University and gained experience in a variety of architectural practices, focusing on housing, master planning and place making.

I was appointed Design Director for a mid-size London based property developer in 2009 heading up the in-house architects practice, delivering mixed use residential planning approvals on complex brownfield sites.

I joined Acorn in September 2021. I admire the approach to sustainability and commitment to delivering high quality homes and enjoy the variety of projects residential and commercial I’ve been involved with in my relatively short time with the group.

Do you have a favourite site or project you’ve worked on and why?

Jacqui: The station carpark in Blackheath, London is a very attractive site with lots of technical challenges that are not immediately obvious on the ground. Developing a scheme to address the challenges and deliver an attractive and viable solution has not been straightforward but is what I enjoy doing the most.  We still have hurdles to clear but it’s very satisfying to work on a project where the result of everyone’s efforts will be a vibrant addition to Blackheath Village that makes a positive contribution to people’s lives and the built environment.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your role and how did you overcome this?

Jacqui: The ever more complex and rapidly changing landscape that is our planning system. The system feels broken for everyone. Planners struggle with being understaffed and underfunded, while small and medium-sized developers in particular battle with the impact on timescales and costs. The sheer weight of reports required at what is a very early stage in a project’s life continues to increase along with the very real difficulty in balancing the wide ranging and often conflicting standards that need to be met. There have been six housing ministers in the last year alone. Stability and clarity are urgently required from the Government to unlock the current situation so much needed housing can be delivered across the country.

What’s the most enjoyable part of your role?

Jacqui: I enjoy being part of a team and get great satisfaction working on the forgotten, less glamorous and underutilised sites and seeing them transformed into vibrant sustainable communities.

How does it feel to be a female in a typically male dominated industry?

Jacqui: I was lucky to grow up in a family that didn’t have boys’ and girls’ games or chores. I played Gaelic football on an all-boys team and chopped wood, my brother baked amazing cakes, we all did our bit and played to our strengths.  So, when I started out in the construction industry over thirty-five years ago and found myself the only woman around a meeting table or on site, it never occurred to me that it might be an issue. I had great support from my husband who is an architect and friends in the industry, so apart from the odd out-dated joke or crass comment, my experience overall has been a positive one. But I am acutely aware that mine isn’t every woman’s experience, I think I would have found it extremely challenging to manage the extremely long hours expected as the norm in architectural practice if I had children.

However, it’s good to see the landscape changing. With more women and people from diverse backgrounds entering the industry, inequality and the gender pay gap are starting to be tackled, but there is still a long way to go.

What are your top tips for any other women wanting to get into your role / the construction industry?

Jacqui: New career paths and opportunities in the construction industry are emerging to meet the challenges we face in delivering homes and addressing the impact on climate change. The next ten years will see huge shifts in the way we work and how we learn creating opportunities for those with skills in complex problem solving, creativity, emotional intelligence and working collaboratively.

My advice is to find your passion, do your research, and talk to as many people in your area of interest as possible. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, be curious, ask questions, get the help, and support you need for a stimulating and fulfilling career.  The industry needs you!

 

At Acorn we’re always looking for talented individuals to join our team – keep an eye on our careers page here for all our opportunities.

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