How do you get your dream job in the “best asset class in the world”? QIC’s fund manager Briar Dowsett shares her career journey and the lessons she’s learnt along the way.
Dowsett, who was appointed fund manager for the QIC Property Fund in July 2017, always wanted a career in the property industry. But her pathway wasn’t a direct one.
With her early sights set on a career as an architect, Dowsett completed work experience at an architectural firm while still at school.
“While I was there, the entire firm told me it would be crazy to study architecture – that with a recession underway it would be hard to get a job. My back up was studying economics and accounting and they advised that this would eventually open doors to the property industry – and so that’s what I did.”
Shortly after finishing university, Dowsett took a job with KPMG as an auditor. “It wasn’t the ideal job for me, but it was a good stepping stone that gave me a broad access to industries and ideas,” she says.
After a couple of years, a job with BT Financial Group followed, during which time she worked in London and New York and spent time in Des Moines.
“I learnt how funds management worked, which was a great skill set to have. It wasn’t property, though, so I kept looking.”
A foot in the property door
After the chief financial officer from BT Financial Group, Andre Morony, moved to the federal government’s pension scheme, Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation, Dowsett was offered a new opportunity.
“At the time, there weren’t many investment jobs in superannuation and so I worked with Andre to take control of the fund’s real assets and bonds.
“This gave me a foot in the door into the property industry without throwing out all the experience I’d gathered so far in my career and without having to take a step down or sideways.”
One of Dowsett’s career-defining moments came as she began looking for her next career step.
“I wanted to get closer to the assets, but I didn’t feel I could apply for a role as a property fund manager yet. I took an equity job with NAB around six months before the global financial crisis, which was tough. I was in that job longer than I would have liked, but that really focused my attention on what I wanted to do next when the economy eventually improved.
“It took me four or five years, but I thought long, hard and strategically about what I wanted from my next career step. I wanted to get back into superannuation and bring my direct property experience, to leave Sydney, and to be in an organisation with a positive culture where I could make a difference.”
Briar “targeted” the types of firms she would like to work for and in time was appointed by QSuper to look after its real estate business.
“I stayed for six years in a wonderful role that covered real estate as well as some other asset classes such as infrastructure, private equity and responsible investment funds, and that eventually helped me to get to QIC.
“This is the role I’ve wanted for my entire career, and I’m revelling in it.”
Out with the old, in with the bold
“I always loved the idea of creating and shaping things. Property is tangible, and it’s wonderful to work with something you can touch, feel and see. Each asset has its own characteristics, and so many skills go into running and building real assets. I find that fascinating.
“And it’s a really dynamic industry. You’re not stuck behind a desk. It’s the best asset class in the world – I love working in it, and I really like working at QIC.”
What is Dowsett’s top career lesson? Be bold.
“I think women tend to apply for roles only when they think they are capable of doing all of the role straight away – they don’t take a chance when there is an element of the role they have to grow into.
“There are times in my career when I haven’t put myself forward as much as I should have, because I didn’t have a Bachelor of Real Estate Economics, for example. That’s probably held me back – I used stepping stones when I should have leaped.”
Briar Dowsett is one of 20 women in property featured in Grow the Talent Pool, a report developed by the Property Council and EY in 2018 to continue the conversation on gender representation, diversity and inclusion in the property industry.