The asset manager at Stanhope initially wanted to be a musician. She founded Mentoring Circle, to help young women in the early stages of their career, but still wants to see recruitment processes overhauled to increase diversity, particularly at a senior level.

VanessaMurrayStanhope.Headshot (1)

Why did you choose construction as a career?

London is an ever-changing landscape and being involved in projects where you can see how your input has had a demonstrative impact on the skyline that you are so familiar with is hugely satisfying. An extension of this is the variation between being both office and site-based.

As a self-confessed fidgeter, it wouldn’t suit me to sit in front a computer all day. I like being up and about, talking to people and poking my nose into any and every thing!

What has been your biggest career challenge to date?

I was working with Savills as an associate director within the property management division, bringing on board the assets that came over as part of the sale from Broadgate. One of my clients at the time was Stanhope. Getting under the skin of Stanhope’s multifaceted mixed-use developments was both tough and rewarding.

My biggest career challenge came when I was seconded to Stanhope and found myself client-side, with my old team at Savills reporting to me. I quickly had to reframe how I thought about our assets under management and it was a baptism of fire, switching my thinking from that of a property manager to an asset manager.

I was made permanent at Stanhope in April 2020 just as we went into lockdown and that first year was a whirlwind, adapting our strategies and keeping our portfolios afloat during a global pandemic.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

While real efforts have been made with diversity and inclusion, we are still a long way off seeing a fair representation of diversity throughout the industry, especially at senior leadership level. I believe a comprehensive overhaul of recruitment and processes is required to combat the many barriers to entry. We need to ensure that we are inclusive at all levels, but change needs to come from the top.

What have you worked on that you are most proud of?

I have recently started an initiative called Mentoring Circle, which partners newly qualified female professionals with senior female leaders in the property industry for a quarterly one-to-one mentoring session over the course of 12 months.

With over 26 property sector specialisms across 70 different organisations we have unparalleled access to the leading talent in the industry and I am really proud to have founded this scheme to help address the diversity gap at senior leadership level. If it makes a difference to even one young woman at the early stages of her career, it will have been entirely worthwhile.

Most helpful advice you were given?

Delay delivery on your emails by two minutes. It’s the best advice ever. You can recall and include the attachments your forgot to include originally.

What is your favourite building in the world?

My grandparents’ house, which they used to own in Keyhaven on the south coast. They sold it when I was a child.

It was right next to the sea and you could hear the masts of the boats clinking together in the morning. It was higgledypiggeldy, with a loo right in the middle of the staircase, dodgy electrics and leaks all over the house.

I have so many fond memories of that cottage, including the smell of damp from the old kitchen. That is weirdly nostalgic for me even to this day.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in your profession?

Keep your eyes open for opportunities and be a self-starter. If you find a course that you want to do, or you want to get coaching, don’t be afraid to ask the organisation you are working for to support you.

I have often been reluctant to ask, but companies respond positively when their employees are invested in themselves because by extension they will be more valuable to their business.

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

I can’t name just one, so here are three for all different reasons:

  1. Suzannah Nichol, CEO of Build UK – positive, approachable, supportive, inclusive and someone with incredible knowledge of the industry, and she does everything with an enormous grin.
  2. Paul Lewis, senior project advisor for Stanhope – probably the most knowledgeable man in construction, he inspires huge loyalty due to his approachability and sound judgment. And he does it all without a shred of ego.
  3. Polly Plunket-Checkemian, senior executive director at Mapp – generous with her time, sound in her knowledge and with the uncanny ability to communicate her ideas with absolute clarity.

Bloomberg Building

The Bloomberg Building in the City was designed by Foster + Partners and opened in 2017

What famous building do you wish you had worked on?

The Bloomberg building in London. It is unbelievably beautiful. Technically I did so by osmosis as Stanhope built it, but annoyingly I wasn’t there at the time so I cannot claim any credit. Outside of London I would love to have worked on the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

I really struggle to get behind the Orbit Tower in the Olympic Park.

Orbit Tower

Vanessa struggles to raise enthusiasm for the ArcelorMittall Oribit tower in the former Olympic Park 

What’s it like being you?

I am lucky to be doing a job a love with a great team of colleagues and friends. I sometimes struggle to find a balance with work and personal life, which invariably leads to me over committing myself and burning the candle at both ends, but I am working on my time management!

What do you think your best quality is?

I’m easy to get along with and feel comfortable talking to anyone and everyone. In such a people-orientated role I have come to recognise this as a great strength (despite my school reports that said I chatted too much).

What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?

I’m an overthinker and tend to waste energy sweating the small stuff.

In other people, arrogance and ego.

Do you have a life philosophy?

It’s a dreadful platitude, but one I really believe is true: What’s meant for you won’t pass you by.

Name three things that you like

  1. The perfect chocolate fondant.
  2. That occasional book you read which is so absorbing that you will find any free moment to keep reading it.
  3. Margheritas.

What’s a secret skill we don’t know you have?

I’m grade 8 in both piano and viola, which comes from a childhood dream of being a musician before I realised that my awful stage fright meant that I hated playing for anyone other than myself.

What’s your most prized possession?

A 100-year-old piano that I inherited from my grandfather. It is currently at my parents’ house. I’m waiting for the day I have a place big enough to accommodate it.

Early bird or night owl?

Early bird

What’s your favourite food?

That would entirely depend on the day and the time but, as a general rule, I think Vietnamese food is hard to beat.

What would your superpower be?

There used to be a show on TV when I was a kid called Bernard’s Watch, where he was able to stop time and start it again at his leisure. I would give my right arm for Bernard’s watch.