Martina Pardo, founder & director of A Designer At Heart, on how she got started in the property industry, her top TV and book picks, what she’d do with a million pounds and her top travel destination.

Martina Pardo

Martina Pardo

How did you join the property industry?

I have always been somewhat immersed in it since my grandfather and dad both worked in this industry. But after graduation, I decided to follow my own path and moved abroad. I soon realised that I particularly enjoyed designing commercial buildings. Those interiors are required to generate a revenue, which is a very fascinating challenge and thanks to my family experience, one that I am familiar with.

So when in 2018 I was given the opportunity to set up my own consultancy A Designer at Heart I jumped into it and I couldn’t be happier.

What does your job entail now?

All sort of tasks, I have become a jack of all trades! I keep the creative direction of all our projects. So, thankfully I still get to do a lot of design work. I also spend a lot of time reviewing designs that I delegate. I meet with suppliers, research materials and support the marketing team. My work also includes some administrative tasks, networking, industry events, visiting construction sites, and many project calls to coordinate with the wider team. All in all is pretty varied but I spend most of my time in front of my laptop.

What do you like most about the property industry?

My favourite thing is that I get to work on big projects that will hopefully have a positive impact on people’s lives. There are also some fascinating challenges like working with a target audience (instead of a single final user directly). So, I need to have an eye-level understanding of branding, marketing, operations, development, and business. I like this variety.

And what do you dislike most about it?

That at the end of the day there is always a budget and it rarely is as big as a designer would like it to be! But that’s part of the game.

What would you change about the property industry?

This has always been a male-dominated industry. Things are already changing luckily, but I would love to see more women especially on construction sites.

What barriers or challenges do you feel you have overcome?

The main challenge was starting a life in London, without any contacts and with a pretty poor English language. I started as a waitress to pay rent and improve my language skills. It’s not easy to prove your worth from scratch but I was lucky enough to find great professionals on my way who gave me chances. And with the right dose of humbleness and time, things got better and more doors opened.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I get to work for myself. It’s overwhelming at times, especially if like me you are very demanding with yourself. But it’s also more rewarding and it makes me feel independent and proud.

What do you value in people?

Reliability, honesty and kindness. And I always appreciate people who smile!

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

I would give two: believe in yourself and always think about the effect that your work will have on the final user.