Phumzile Mbatha, senior quantity surveyor at Colliers International, on how she got started in property, the challenges she has overcome, her advice for young people and her cultural recommendations.
What do you value in people?
I value authenticity and kindness in people. It is always refreshing to encounter genuine and kind people.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month goes beyond taking October out to speak about the past. It’s an opportunity for all of us to broaden our awareness while celebrating the commendable contributions black people are making, both in our industry and society.
What does your job entail?
I specialise in office-occupier refurbishments and fit-outs. We help implement new ways of working in line with a client’s global co-location strategy. I’m responsible for estimating, cost planning, procurement and post-contract quantity surveying duties.
How did you join the property industry?
I studied a BSc Hons in quantity surveying at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. My first job was junior quantity surveyor in South Africa while completing my studies. Having been selected to join the Mace graduate programme, I then moved to the UK, and five years later joined Colliers International to further my career.
What do you like most about the property industry?
I’ve always been fascinated by the notion of making something from nothing. I love being part of the process that brings buildings to life, whether through refurbishing existing buildings to optimise their use, or constructing from the ground up.
And what do you dislike most about it?
The industry still has a long way to go with diversifying its workforce. I would definitely like to see more young black women in property and construction.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
One of the biggest challenges I think the industry faces in general is the lack of black female representation in senior leadership roles; I am often the only black woman in many scenarios.
I have been able to draw inspiration from the knowledgeable, experienced and approachable people around me, and hope that one day I will be able to share my experience with other young black women who are looking to develop their careers in property.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Being able to establish myself in a foreign country and enjoying what I do.
What advice would you give to a young black person starting a career in the property industry?
Make sure you cover the basics first, such as becoming chartered/registered, and then pursue what you’re most passionate about. This will give you a greater sense of fulfilment and an opportunity to broaden your network, which is very important in the property industry.
What do you want to change about the property industry?
I would like to see a reduction in the gender and ethnicity pay gaps through increased representation of black women in senior leadership roles.