Sammie Steele, managing director of placemaking and regeneration at Places for People, on how she got started in property, her top book and album recommendations and her number-one travel destination.
How did you join the property industry?
I was keen to start my career in London, so after completing my geography degree at the University of Manchester I successfully applied to join DTZ’s graduate scheme and completed my masters in real estate at London South Bank University one day per week, as well as becoming chartered.
What does your job entail?
I am responsible for the placemaking and regeneration division, which manages all the complex, mixed-use partnership projects within the group. We manage every aspect of delivery, from sourcing the opportunity, securing planning, construction sales and finally managing our customers’ long-term needs. I am responsible for bringing new large-scale sites into the business and delivering high percentages of affordable housing across our sites to grow our asset base.
What do you like most about the property industry?
A lot of people will talk about no two days being the same in property, and it is so true. I really enjoy the variety of the work and the projects, the diversity of people you get to deal with day to day and the difference you can make to people’s lives. Seeing a new community come to life with people moving into their new homes is the most rewarding feeling.
And what do you dislike most about it?
The industry can often be slow to react and move with the times, which can be challenging and very frustrating. It needs to get better at learning from mistakes to ensure improvements for the future.
What would you change about the property industry?
The UK’s planning system. Places for People has plans to deliver more than 4,000 homes a year by 2025 and more than 18,000 homes between now and 2029, providing vitally needed affordable homes. However, our sector can only deliver these homes if we have a long-term housing delivery plan, which the National Housing Federation has called for and we are supportive of. Planning reforms over the last few years have only brought about huge uncertainty.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
Starting out 15 years ago as a female in the industry was tough, especially getting my voice heard in a room with only men who were predominantly older and far more senior, which was the reality at the time. Imposter syndrome has also shown its face over the years, but I have learned to overcome this by trying to accept that I cannot be perfect all the time and not to be afraid to fail. This involves regularly pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but we need to learn from our mistakes and come back even stronger next time.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My progression and the leader that I have become today, learning from the people who have had an influence on my career. I am also proud of the regeneration developments we have delivered.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Be open-minded to what the industry can offer you and embrace it. Give it your all and it will give back the same and more. You can make a fantastic difference to our communities and when you realise that, it can be hugely rewarding.
Something to read:
I like Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy of books, which have now been made into a TV series. One’s imagination runs wild with the stunning landscapes and fantastical creatures. These books really are proper page-turners, where one becomes totally immersed in the story and what the characters are experiencing.
Something to listen to:
There is not a bad song on the album Waking up the Neighbours by Bryan Adams. It has a song for every mood. My whole family have always been huge fans of Adams, so listening to him brings back childhood memories of holidays to the south of France on various campsites.
My best purchase:
The best thing I have spent money on is my horse Remi, whom I bought a year ago. It was a huge decision but the best thing I have ever done. He keeps me sane and has taught me so much about myself. My worst purchase – all the things I have to buy for my horse.
Top travel destination:
My number-one travel destination is California. We travelled there as a family of five covering about 3,000 miles in 2019. It was a trip of a lifetime seeing so many incredible places: San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley (we broke down), Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon and up the Californian coast.