Hilary Witts, director and head of operations in Colliers’ rating team, on how she got started in property, her top TV and book picks, the best and worst things she has bought and her number-one travel destination.
How did you join the property industry?
I first became interested in property at the young age of 14. My mum worked at a local estate agency, and I spent time in the summer working with her. My dad was a property lawyer, so it was always in our family. By the time I was 16, I had spent two summers doing work experience at Lambert Smith Hampton and Chesterton and was sold. There are so many people with great personalities in the industry that it just drew me in.
What does your job entail?
I am now a director and head of operations in the rating team at Colliers, having gained many of my operational skills during eight years at Co-op. Our team is around 130 people and my clients come from a range of sectors, from large high street retailers to serviced office occupiers and leisure operators. I love working as part of a large, successful team and get much out of delivering great results to clients where – particularly during Covid – we could make a real difference.
What do you like most about the property industry?
Working with great people in the industry, on all sides, has added so much to my life. I love the way property constantly evolves. With the growth in ESG initiatives, it is great to see buildings becoming more sustainable for long-term benefits. Both my children are interested in pursuing a career in property, which I have not discouraged.
And what do you dislike most about it?
The industry is very close-knit, which can be very positive for building relationships but can sometimes feel like space is needed.
What would you change about the property industry?
The industry should be promoted more as it is still not widely known. This would make it more inclusive as well.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am proud of how far I have come, despite the juggle of having a family, and could not have done this without both colleague and family support.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
Joining the industry at a time when it was very male-dominated did have its challenges and I had knocks along the way. But I am pleased that the industry has broadened and now has a much more diverse population. Hopefully, this will continue.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
I want to help young surveyors and welcome them into the profession. I like to be approachable and be there to make a difference, rather than to make up the numbers. At the end of my career, I know that I will look back and think how lucky I have been to work in this industry, having met such great people. I pride myself on understanding what different people bring to the table, and want them to focus on honesty and having a good work ethic.
What do you value in people?
I value loyalty, honesty and a positive outlook. Life is short and I believe that we need to have a positive attitude to get the most out of everything.
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