Anna Kealey, project director and architect at McBains, on how she got started in property. She also shares her cultural tips, her number-one travel destination and what she would do with a million pounds.

Anna Kealey

Anna Kealey

How did you join the property industry?

I followed a traditional path into architecture studying a three-year undergraduate degree, a two-year masters and an advanced diploma with two years working in industry, over a period of seven years in order to achieve the RIBA Parts 1, 2 and 3 to qualify as an architect. I secured a job in a design consultancy, where I was able to work flexibly during my university holidays and was lucky to have a fantastic mentor and be sponsored through my studies. 

What does your job entail?

As project director in the architectural team at McBains, I work with a wonderful team of designers. We have a great portfolio of clients and our jobs can include taking a project from inception and developing a brief with our clients, to concept design through to delivering that building on site to completion. 

What do you like most about the property industry?

I love the variety of work, the camaraderie involved in delivering a great project as part of a team and the constantly evolving technology that challenges how we work. 

What do you want to change about the industry?

While the last year has brought many positives in terms of how we work, we will need to think carefully about how we change and adapt to ensure team inclusivity, career progression and development. This will be particularly important for graduates and younger team members starting out, where we cannot necessarily rely on working side-by-side in an office to gain experience and grow. 

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

Having progressed quite quickly as a young female in the industry, there have always been some negative comments and scepticism about whether you should be there or not. However, I am fairly resilient and tend to ignore it and crack on regardless. Fortunately, this has been the minority for me, and 95% of colleagues and clients have been nothing but supportive.

What are you most proud of in your career? 

I am proud of being brave enough to leave a job I loved to take a year off work to travel. I think it is difficult to find a ‘right’ time to do this but believe it is invaluable for personal and professional growth. Hopefully, the world will get back to normal in the not-so-distant future and we can all travel again!

What do you value in people?

Having a good attitude, hard-working with a keenness to learn and improve, whatever the level.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in property?

Understand the value in any exposure to the property and construction industry and be willing to get stuck in. When I was in one of my first architecture jobs at a multidisciplinary design consultancy, the 2008 recession hit and the architectural team was quiet. In order to keep the job, I started to support the other teams including drafting for the mechanical and electrical departments, which gave me a greater understanding of other disciplines that still benefits me today.