A leasing specialist, a lawyer, a corporate affairs manager, a recruiter and two property developers walk into a room. What happens next is the magic of Future Directions…
That first meeting of minds in a Property Council committee room can be a daunting experience. But there’s no better way to forge strong networks and contribute to the property industry’s strategic direction.
Just ask these six rising stars – Sarah Dixon, Mel Pikos, Claire O’Rourke, Riye Arai-Coupe, Marton Volep and Laura Gahan – who met nearly a decade ago as members of Queensland’s Future Directions committee.
Dixon, a founder and director of Urbaine Communications, served two terms on the Future Directions committee.
“Looking back, there’s no other way I could have forged enduring friendships and networks with such a diverse group of peers. We’ve all effectively ‘grown up’ in the industry together,” she says.
“The committee exposed me to different disciplines and the friendships I made back then are friendships I maintain to this day and have led to some incredible career opportunities.”
Dixon held senior corporate affairs roles at Watpac and Sunland Group before recently striking out on her own with her business partner Anita Kharbanda.
“We share an office with Riye Arai-Coupe and Claire O’Rourke from Bluebird Property, who I met through Future Directions,” Dixon says.
Arai-Coupe and O’Rourke established Bluebird two years ago and are currently working on the delivery of a range of projects from boutique residential to city-shaping developments like Brisbane Queen’s Wharf.
“Every day is different and fast-paced but most importantly, we have created a business doing something we love,” Arai-Coupe explains.
“Our ‘Future Directions alumni’ is akin to friendships that you develop in high school or university – trusted and hugely supportive. Growing up together means we have history and can together relate to what we have gone through to get where we are today.”
Learning and leverage
Also on that committee was Mel Pikos, who rose through the ranks as a commercial leasing agent before recently launching Tactic Property, a specialist commercial office advisory business he established with six colleagues.
Pikos says Future Directions broadened his network in different disciplines – from town planning to architecture, recruitment to media – which “helped to know who to contact whenever I had a problem that needed solving”. In turn, he has been able to assist others with advice relating to his core discipline, commercial office leasing.
“The property industry is all about your personal network – the broader your network and ability to leverage it, the more effective you will be,” Pikos adds.
In the seven years Marton Volep was a part of the committee he progressed his career as a recruitment consultant and last year set up his own agency, Iconic Recruit, with business partner Jessica Mayes. “We have grown over the last 18 months to an absolute gun team of five consultants,” he explains.
“Being part of the Future Directions committee was an incredible experience,” Volep adds.
“For me, being in recruitment, it was great to hear what people expect as part of their careers and their progression in the industry. We had 20 people from completely different sectors and with different job roles. It really opened my horizons.”
Laura Gahan agrees. When she joined the Future Directions committee in 2008, Gahan had been a lawyer for little over a year. Today she is a partner with Cooper Grace Ward.
“I was nervous before the first meeting, but those nerves were allayed when I was welcomed with open arms. The collaboration and collegiality in the committee was simply awesome to be involved in and I learnt so much about the property industry and its people.”
Gahan says her experiences over the following decade as a Property Council committee member “allowed me to become a participant in the industry, rather than simply a consultant to it”.
Advice to accelerate
What advice do the Future Directions alumni members have for young property professionals looking for their next step on the career ladder?
Gahan has three pieces of advice: to ask questions, focus on outcomes and be positive.
“I think we are working in the most exciting and innovative sector of our economy. It can be difficult to stay positive, particularly in the current climate, but I always try to be enthusiastic and upbeat and have found that approach has set me in good stead to create meaning and enjoy my work.”
With the deep experience of a recruiter, Volep encourages rising stars to seize any work experience opportunity that comes their way.
“It might be a day shadowing someone, answering phones or even assisting with administration tasks in the office, but the more of these work experiences you can do – whether free or paid work – the better you will understand how these businesses work. It will help you decide the area in property you enjoy most. And adding those experiences to your CV might be all you need to get that edge over the other applicant.”
Volep also emphasises the importance of networking. “Getting yourself out to meet as many people as possible will only help,” he says.
Pikos’ advice is similar. “Attend events, make meaningful connections, offer to help people wherever you can, and you will be rewarded over the long term,” he says.
“Surround yourself with people who support, motivate, and inspire you. The network that you develop will be priceless – invest in it, because as at the end of the day in our industry, it’s not just what you know, but who you know.”
Dixon, who is a member of the Property Council’s Committee for Cities in Queensland, is equally emphatic.
“Property is a dynamic and interconnected industry. My advice to anyone starting out their careers is to find your peer group. Attend Property Council events, nominate for committees and find opportunities to learn and contribute to the industry. Don’t be afraid to put your hand up.”
The Property Council will soon be calling for new faces to take one of the 1,600-plus positions on committees that set the strategic agenda for our industry. If that could be you, then watch this space!