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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Own YOUR future - Gemma gives you the gen at North East


In the second of our guest blogs by speakers at our North East conference next month, Gemma Stockdale from Thirteen gives a taste of the Owning Your Future event on Friday, 22 November.

Conferences are a wonderful way to learn. They help you see the big picture, lift your head up from the confines of your day job and see how all the pieces fit together.

Most conferences, though, are very tightly focussed on the subject of housing. You don’t get many opportunities to explore the subject of personal development and hear real career stories from real people. That’s why CIH’s Owning Your Future events are so valuable, and I’m really excited that OYF is being featured as a masterclass at North East 2019, which this year is in Durham on 21 and 22 November.

So, without dropping too many spoilers for my part of the session, I’m going to be sharing my experiences of landing a role that is more than I bargained for, what I did to get over what I describe as a major ‘wobble,’ and what it taught me both personally and professionally.

Restructures are often scary times. Even though you know it’s coming, when someone officially tells you that your role isn’t included in the new structure, your insides still drop as fast as a lift that’s had its wires cut. Despite this, over my 10 years in this organisation, every restructure has presented me with an opportunity, and that’s how I approached this one. While the kind of work I love to do most wasn’t available, there were multiple options that might suit me, and a couple of really good chances for progression and developing new skills.

I was over the moon to get the role of senior project business partner in the new projects and programmes team. I was also nervous, knowing that I would have a huge amount to learn, management responsibility for the first time, and a large portfolio of projects to oversee. I was also going to be the business partner for property services, covering investment and maintenance, assets and sustainability, and facilities management. With no background in any of these areas, my nervousness got a little worse. And then I launched straight into two huge projects, one of which was the phase 2 rollout of our new IT system for repairs.

The moment you realise your ‘steep learning curve’ has just become a vertical ascent into outer space feels quite heart-stopping. Pushing out of your comfort zone is important – it’s how you develop. But at the core of all of it for me was being absolutely unwilling to not do a good job, and not being sure that I could do it was way past uncomfortable.

So here comes the spoiler…

After several months with my head down, trying my hardest to plough through but feeling like I was failing miserably, a conversation with my director led to a massive lightbulb moment. Up to then, all my roles had been hands-on. I was used to being responsible for delivering the end results and doing the work to get there. I approached this new role with the same mindset, but without really appreciating that it wasn’t me that would do the work, and there were a lot of elements that were not within my control. Understanding this and accepting it allowed me to take a big step back and see the situation with much more clarity. It allowed me to create a new structure in the project and set expectations and responsibilities across the team that I could manage, instead of trying to take the weight of the world onto my own shoulders. Needless to say, I felt a heck of a lot better after that!

To hear more tales and top tips, join me and a brilliant panel for Owning Your Future at 12 noon on Friday, 22 November!

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