Sarah Cox, head of Carter Jonas’s northern planning team, on how she got started in property, her top TV and podcast recommendations, the celebrity she would most like to meet and her number-one destination.
How did you join the property industry?
After completing my planning course at university, I joined local government as a planning officer. It was terrifying, worlds away from the planning course I had studied, and offered a steep learning curve.
What does your job entail?
My role is to lead our northern planning team and work with colleagues to assist and support our clients in achieving their aspirations and goals.
What do you like most about the property industry?
No two days are the same and the projects are so varied. I am constantly learning and adapting to new challenges as the industry evolves and reacts.
And what do you dislike most about it?
Rather than a dislike, it’s more a frustration with the speed of the planning process, the lack of local authority resourcing and the poor perception of the planning profession, which is criticised for the failures of the system.
What would you change about the property industry?
Diversity has improved immensely during my career, and I have been lucky to have worked, and to work currently, in a business that champions this ethos. However, I still find that I may be the only woman in a meeting or on a presentation panel. It is a real loss if the industry is overlooking people who have different life experiences.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
I am not alone in having to break through stereotypes throughout my career. When I started out as a planning officer, people would try and use my age or perceived ‘inexperience’ to their advantage and not afford me any professional respect.
Thankfully, things are changing for the better, but it certainly shaped my experience. I learned very quickly that it was key to be confident in my knowledge. I also look back and really appreciate those professionals who I worked with over the years that behaved in a fair and professional manner and were so gracious with their time.
What are you most proud of in your career?
What I am doing now. Relocating from the South East a few years ago and establishing myself in a new region has taken time and determination.
What do you value in people?
Commitment and hard work: people who are committed to do their best in everything they turn their attention to, even if they haven’t found it easy. Their positive attitude to work to the best of their ability makes working together a pleasure.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Take every opportunity you can. On first look, the project may appear unexciting or not what you envisaged working on when you were at university, but you don’t know where the project and the contacts you make on it will lead
Something to watch:
I love the TV show Taskmaster for its creativity and general silliness. Seeing how five contestants perform the same absurd task under pressure provides a real insight into their minds. It amazes me how someone even thinks up the tasks.
Something to listen to:
I am a huge fan of The Reunion on Radio 4/BBC Sounds. It is a series based on the simple idea of reuniting a group of people closely connected to a significant moment of modern history. The discussion provides a retrospective glimpse behind the scenes of the event and, together with archive recordings from the time, offers personal experience of the event you were not even aware of. It is a fantastic programme to listen to while commuting.
The celebrity I’d most like to meet:
Sir David Attenborough is a national treasure who I can imagine would be inspirational to listen to. An hour would not be long enough.
Top travel destination:
Burgh Island, a tidal island off the coast of south Devon, has a beautiful art deco hotel with close links to Agatha Christie, who used it as a retreat and the base for her books Evil Under the Sun and And Then There Were None. When the waves come in, you feel the isolation and glamour of its past.