Anna Shapiro, associate director at Sheppard Robson, on how she got started in property, her industry likes and dislikes and the challenges she has overcome. She also shares her cultural recommendations.
What do you value in people?
Imaginative pragmatism, which is what I call the ability to think outside the box while being fully aware of the reasons why the box exists in the first place.
What does your job entail?
As one of the leaders of the masterplanning and urbanism group at Sheppard Robson, my role is to work alongside the client and stakeholders to spark productive conversations with the project design team, as well as engaging the wider community. My designs are guided by the principle that every project has the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts.
How did you join the industry?
I decided to study architecture when I was 16. At the time, I had a very vague idea about what it might mean, but I liked to think that it was a broad enough field to allow each person to shape their individual journey.
I started my professional experience in Israel and then came to London to study in the Housing and Urbanism programme at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. A few years later, I returned to the programme to be a course master.
What do you like the most about the property industry?
I think it would be the profession’s collaborative nature and the way the industry brings together a range of voices and skills to grapple with very complex projects. You often sit around the table with experts in their field who are striving to find the right solution for the project. Being part of the process of finding new answers that unlock new potential is a truly exciting experience.
What do you dislike the most about it?
At times, I think the UK could be quicker to have a more international outlook. I think there is lots of work and research happening around the world that is directly transferable to the UK, but we need to be open to finding it and integrating it into how we think and operate.
What challenges or barriers have you overcome?
As I am from Israel, it was perhaps the language and cultural barriers when I first arrived. But London is so wonderfully diverse that this learning process never seemed to inhibit my progress.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of my influence on the way in which we at SR practice architecture and urbanism as a collective endeavour. I think I had a role to play in evolving this culture of the studio and empowering more junior architects and urban designers to be active and engaged and ultimately progress their careers.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Make sure you never stop learning, which means that you should regularly push yourself outside your comfort zone.
What do you want to change about the property industry?
I would like to see our industry embrace a greater range of cultures. After all, cities are places where many different people and ideas come together – the people who are making and shaping them should be as diverse as the cities themselves.