Trammell Crow Company’s UK planning director, Sophie Watkin, on giving back, The Traitors and supporting Sheffield Utd.
Why did you join the property industry?
I’d always had an interest in planning and regeneration, so while studying geography at A-Level and then at Cambridge, I undertook several work placements in the public sector. Then, while studying for my master’s in town planning at Sheffield, I saw that Gerald Eve was advertising for a graduate in its Manchester office. I thought I’d apply just to see if I got an interview – and I haven’t looked back since!
What does your job entail now?
It might be easier to say what it doesn’t. My role at TCC is very different from the first 13 years of my career in a consultancy. Whereas I’d previously worked on a large number and a wide range of applications, I’m now involved in fewer but in much more depth. I’m responsible for everything from finding sites, assessing them, budgeting/costing to co-ordinating applications and engaging with stakeholders. And, after planning, I deal with conditions, amendments and occupiers.
What do you like most about the property industry?
That our projects actually make a difference to communities. Development cuts across so many sectors and aspects of life, and it can really deliver change. An example from my own work at TCC is engaging with local schools and community groups, which is a really rewarding part of the job. TCC as a firm is absolutely committed to ESG and so this work is increasingly the norm.
And what do you dislike?
There still aren’t enough women. It’s improving, but there’s more to be done.
What barriers or challenges do you feel you have overcome?
As a mum of two young children, my biggest challenge can be fitting everything in. However, more employers are now openly flexible and, fortunately, TCC is one of those.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Hitting the ground running with TCC and getting permission on our first site in Europe last year, in Sheffield, closely followed by our second in Milton Keynes. It can be easy to forget that while TCC is one of the US’s biggest developers, it only launched in Europe in 2021, and we are already on our third site in the UK.
What’s your biggest career mistake or regret?
I often wish I had a RICS-accredited qualification alongside my Royal Town Planning Institute one.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in property?
Try to get as much experience as possible, either through rotating departments if you’re working for a consultancy or undertaking a range of different roles. It’ll add to your knowledge and allow you to build up a great network of contacts.