Our latest feature is about Lottie Watts, a 23-year-old Director of Construction & Real Estate Ltd. In this blog, she shares with us the challenges that she’s faced to land her dream job, as well as how she stays motivated and achieves that all-important work-life balance...
A bit about me
My name is Lottie Watts, I am 23 years old and I run a real estate development and management business. I achieved a First Class degree from the University of Reading studying Bsc Real Estate before going on to work for Construction & Real Estate Ltd. I worked as a senior manager for one year before being appointed as Director.
I was born very prematurely at 26 weeks (1 pound 9 ounces) - I am extremely lucky to have survived with no health issues. So from an early age through to my adult life, I have never taken any opportunity in my life for granted. I try to make the most of every moment. I think it is important to have dreams and goals and never let anyone tell you that you are too young, not experienced enough, not intelligent enough, etc. No one has to be limited by the expectations that friends, family, or society set for them – I certainly went above expectations from being born and surviving, striving to live a vibrant, fulfilling, happy enriched life. I have the determination to be successful in my career and develop this in my business as well as in my personal life.
‘I think it is important to have dreams and goals and never let anyone tell you that you are too young, not experienced enough, not intelligent enough, etc. No one has to be limited by the expectations that friends, family, or society set for them.’
My dream career
From about the age of 11 I have always been interested in property, as I found it fascinating that everyone needs real estate no matter whether it is for shelter, work or leisure – it affects the lives of everyone across the world. I used to spend a lot of time re-designing my bedroom, drawing my dream home and generally being interested in the way that people use buildings.
As I got older I thought that the real estate industry would give me a diverse career with vast opportunities because of this global, timeless need for property. I was fortunate that my dad was involved in the property industry so I was able to do work experience with him from a young age and see sites and projects. This enabled me to make a decision to do a degree in BSc Real Estate (which gave me core knowledge from valuation, planning, law and sustainability to economics and management). I then went on to work with my dad after I graduated from University, which has been a wonderful experience. We have our clashes now and then, but we have a strong relationship and we are a great, unique father-daughter team in the business. I am fortunate that my dad has been supportive from day one, and has always encouraged me to explore all of my options and giving me the option to change my mind at any time if I decided that working with him was not what I wanted to do.
There is no typical day for me – every day gives me new challenges and that is why I love my job. There are certain areas that my job covers, for example, coordinating planned maintenance, managing commercial and residential leases, negotiating rent reviews, financial management for client portfolios (creating forecast spreadsheets), managing employees and their ideas, expectations and job roles, etc. the list is endless. In running a business I have to oversee every aspect from the office organisation to the finances, site inspections to client expectation management – it involves managing and coordinating people, where maintaining good relationships with a variety of different types of people is crucial to success and achieving goals.
I think that being a young female in a position of leadership and authority as Director comes with its challenges but also an incredible sense of achievement and it sounds crazy but I actually inspire myself sometimes with how far I have come in my lifetime and what I have achieved personally and professionally in a relatively short amount of time. I would like to think that being a young female in this position, that I will have the opportunity to inspire and influence other women in their careers that if I am doing it with ‘limited experience’ and being successful, then anything is possible. It is a goal of mine in my professional career to talk to, reach out to, influence and inspire women not only in the real estate industry but in any career that the sky is the limit and they should never worry about being ‘too young, ‘too old’, ‘not experienced enough’, ‘not knowledgeable enough’ – if you have a goal then set your mind on it and you can work out the stepping stones to get there along the way.
‘The sky is the limit and they should never worry about being ‘too young, ‘too old’, ‘not experienced enough’, ‘not knowledgeable enough’.’
Facing business challenges
In my role at the moment, the biggest challenge that I face is the continual changing world of business. It can be overwhelming keeping up with industry changes, client demands, legal changes, constant new information, new technologies, new threats, etc. While change is good and can help progression, it can be difficult when you just start to feel settled and everything changes before you adapt to the first idea. I try to take a step back and make sure that I ask the following questions in all areas: ‘what is legally required’, ‘what will affect the business detrimentally’, ‘what would be nice to achieve but not crucial’, ‘can I delegate this or get help to break it down’. Mentally having this quick check-list can help ground my ideas and thinking when I have the daily workload and innovative, business development ideas all going around my head at the same time.
At the moment in my role, I am trying to break the way of thinking that ‘This is how it has always been done’ because I find this very limiting for our business development and growth. Whilst change for the sake of change is useless and there is a certain necessity to listen and take on board and try the old methods of doing things first because those more experienced would have had a reason for doing it that way – it is also important to question the methods of running a business and try new things, accept and hold your hands up when things go wrong, but also recognize when ideas work and progress has been made.
The real estate industry has, at times, felt like an ‘old boys club’, and being a woman and also being young I have felt that earning respect from others for my decisions and choices in business and ideas has taken a lot more time than I have seen it take for others in my position who are male.
I have seen first-hand where my ideas have been ignored and my dad has repeated my idea for me and it has been accepted. I expect that experience and age have a huge part to play and I cannot separate the two from gender but I do think that the fact that the exact same idea was presented differently and accepted is a shame – people still have prejudices and overcoming these can be a major challenge. I do also find that not necessarily being female alone but being female, young and short (I am only 5ft, petite!) can come with a challenge when commanding a room and having a presence where you draw attention. I have found that patience here is important – grafting and proving to people that my ideas and decisions are valid by waiting for the results and highlighting that the outcome was my decision, over time a rapport is built and people start to notice and respect your skills. This comes with time and small achievements.
I would say to anyone who faces the same to just have perseverance, don’t let people push you over but make sure that you return in a professional manner and present your ideas. Question decisions if you are not happy, do not just let it be passed over, call people out on their behaviour and decisions but do so in a polite and professional manner. The more you return with a professional, consistent, and determined manner, the more you will be respected and noticed.
‘Question decisions if you are not happy, do not just let it be passed over, call people out on their behaviour and decisions but do so in a polite and professional manner.’
Sometimes I have found that work situations and outcomes have upset me emotionally. It is really important to take a step back, debrief with friends or family who are impartial or take time to focus on hobbies. Let your opinions be heard at work but try to make sure emotions are shared where appropriate and shared in a collected manner so that you can present yourself fully and be understood.
The biggest lessons I’ve learned along the way
Here are a few:
- Accepting when you get things wrong, apologising, showing your weaknesses but bouncing back from this and trying again.
- No-one knows everything – no matter how senior, no matter how experienced, no one knows everything. This really helped me when I felt the responsibility of taking on running a business at age 22 overwhelming or that wasn’t ready yet. I wanted to take the challenge and sought out support from those around me, drawing on ideas, listening, researching and accepting that Rome wasn’t built in a day – some days will be good and some will be hard and a step backwards but overall chipping away at ideas and strategies if I look back over a longer period - myself and the business have come a long way.
I love a good mantra so I live by several but one that I always default to is ‘Everything you do in your life must make others around you (friends or family) or yourself happy. This is the ultimate goal’. There are moments in my life that have been really hard and everyone has low moments but I regularly (multiple times a month) take time to self-reflect and think about whether my career, friends and hobbies are making me happy. If something is not quite right or someone close to me is unhappy I think of ways that I can change that and make a difference. It is never too late to make a change.
‘Rise above it’ – in work and life if something annoys you or does not feel right it is important to make your opinion heard but sometimes there will be situations where you just have to step back and rise above the situation even if you think you would rather not. Sometimes you may have conflicts with a colleague or friend or others but remember you do not know what is going on behind the scenes in their life. Try to get all of the facts from both sides before making a judgement, let the other person be heard and then form your opinion. While blaming actions on personal or background situations is not an excuse to treat someone else negatively, we are all human and sometimes context is important.
Three tips for young women starting their careers
- Choose a career that you are passionate about! Don’t do it for the money or image or progression – choose an area that interests you at its core because there will be tasks and days that will not be appealing but the focus on the bigger picture should be something that gets you out of bed in the morning! It is also ok to not know what this is straight away – you will only find out from trying what you enjoy. You may change careers several times throughout your life so don’t think that if you choose now then you will be stuck.
- Set a precedent to yourself from day one that you will have a work-life balance. It is easy for work to engulf your whole life, especially if you are passionate about the role, the business and you have client or manager pressures. However, usually nothing is so important that you cannot have a good balance between your professional and personal life – it is important to try to switch off as usually your mind will work better and you will actually see better progress and results.
- Regularly re-evaluate whether your career is making you happy and you are working towards your goals. I think it is important to self-reflect, there is no point in staying in a career that you are unhappy with but sometimes you can become tunnel-visioned and not see the bigger picture – re-assess against your own goals and values to make informed changes or decisions.
If you enjoyed reading Lottie's blog, check out Julie's blog and be inspired by her willingness to succeed.