James Pellatt, director of workplace and innovation at GPE, on how he got started in property, his TV and podcast recommendations and how he’d spend a million pounds.

James Pellatt

James Pellatt

How did you join the property industry?

I always wanted to work in an industry that left a cultural legacy either in writing, music, or art. Problematically, I can’t write, play or paint so I decided to try and become an architect. After spending a year with BDP building the Bentall Shopping Centre in Kingston, I wanted a wider appreciation of the process so became a surveyor instead.

What does your job entail?

My role is to observe emerging trends in the workplace, for example flexibility, agility and wellness and to combine these elements with the best in emerging technology to ensure that GPE’s product stays ahead of occupier needs to meet demands for the future of London.

What do you like most about the property industry?

I love the variety of work and people. In my career, I’ve been lucky enough to work on animal hospitals, theatres, nightclubs, housing and, of course, offices.

And what do you dislike most about it?

Throughout my career, often in the past, it has been about wanting to ‘wait and see’ rather than trying something new or listening to different voices. Also, the industry rarely listens directly to its customers; that’s why at GPE we strive to deliver our vision to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customer and build a sustainable legacy for London.

What would you change about the property industry?

I would want the industry to improve diversity in its thinking. Much more work needs to be done working on diversity in terms of gender, race and sexuality –to improve both the mix of the industry and also the diversity of our thinking.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

Coming from a working-class background, I know at times I’ve been refused consideration for a job because my father was a refrigeration engineer and my mother a hairdresser! As if that had any relevance on my ability to become a developer. Their loss completely… and I’m lucky to have worked for some amazing people since then, none more so than Toby Courtauld and GPE.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Helping each organisation I’ve worked in to become more innovative – none more so than at GPE. Driving innovation is a brand value and embedded throughout the business as we always look to create more healthy and sustainable communities.

What do you value in people?

Integrity, curiosity and enthusiasm.

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

Never stop questioning things – ask why something is done a particular way and don’t be afraid to suggest an alternative approach. You are lucky to be joining an industry at the most exciting time in my career. The great news is that you can also contribute to making meaningful reduction to UK climate emissions with a long way to go in this field. Your work can make a difference to the planet.