Network Homes is one of London and the South East’s busiest housing associations, with huge ambitions to bring much-needed affordable housing to the capital over the next few years. We speak to Vicky Savage about her role in these projects and how her career path led her to her senior position.
Hi Vicky, please tell us a little about your career in housebuilding.
I have always had a keen interest in the built environment and I took a degree in urban planning. I found housing policy the most thought provoking and enjoyable part of my studies so I went on to complete a postgraduate housing course at the London School of Economics under Dr Anne Power. Following that I went to work for a small housing association.
I started out as a development assistant and as my career progressed I worked my way up pursuing a promotion every couple of years. During these years I also had three wonderful sons. I have been at Network Homes for 10 years and have been executive director of development for the past two-and-a-half years.
What inspired you to start in this industry?
I grew up in good council housing in the London Borough of Brent. Stable housing gave me and my siblings the opportunity to realise our ambitions. I passionately believe that housing projects positively contribute to cities and place-making, leaving a legacy which can lift areas out of poverty, create hope and inspire people. It’s something that Network Homes’ strapline perfectly encapsulates: “because good homes make everything possible”.
What is it about housebuilding and your role that you find most rewarding?
It’s most rewarding when a deal comes together – with all parties satisfied. The funding package is in place, legals are agreed, planning has been achieved and we have a “good-to-go” moment.
Are there mentors that have been especially important to you?
Helen Evans, CEO of Network Homes, is a privilege to work for. Helen has a rare talent for seeing both the big picture and the small detail. Helen has taught me the value of authentic leadership and being who you are.
I have also been fortunate to have worked with executive coach Steve Walker for a number of years. He has been monumental in making me question the hows and whys of leading a large, ambitious and successful team. He has taught me the single most important factor is “your team” and that no leader can do it alone. His coaching triggered me to view issues through a different lens. Most importantly he accepted no self-limiting beliefs and he has worked with me to create a vision which has led to huge success for development and growth at Network Homes.
Is there anything about the way Network Homes looks after staff and recruitment that you’ve not seen elsewhere?
Network Homes places a great focus on staff welfare and is building a culture that focuses on true commitment to the customer with motivated and committed teams that want to go the extra mile. We are guided by solid organisational values which all of our people can get behind. Staff attend regular ‘Sizzle Sessions’ delivered by their colleagues which highlight and demonstrate key elements of customer service excellence and ensure everyone is fully capable of delivering to the Network Homes standard.
Annually we host a staff award and recognition ceremony. I have presented these awards over the years and even danced to Beyoncé on stage at the last staff conference in front of 500 staff! In my department we have a regular ‘bell ring’ to celebrate business or personal success, where the team gathers round and everyone is recognised for their individual contributions. It’s a fun place to work where staff have the autonomy and support to further their careers.
We believe in in-house recruitment and upskill our staff to enable them to take the next step in their careers as opportunities become available.
How does Network find the right apprentices, trainees and graduates?
We recruit from our estates and those living in Network Homes properties, especially in areas of our major regeneration programmes. We offer people a positive career path and support them both emotionally and financially to achieve their potential. Three of our staff members, recruited from our Rectory Park, South Kilburn and Stockwell Park Estate regeneration programmes, started as aftercare assistants and have been promoted to more senior project officer and assistant project manager positions.
Have you seen first-hand how the recruitment of women into housebuilding has changed since you started?
Unfortunately there hasn’t in my view been a massive change – the industry is still very male-dominated. The sector has some highly skilled women who have great talent and get things done. I always try to encourage younger women in the field and support my peers to achieve. I see a big challenge in recruitment for the future – we need more recruitment of skilled young people, both male and female, joining the sector to ensure its future success.
Is there something that the government needs to do to improve opportunities for women, ethnic minorities and the disabled in the new homes industry?
General PR for the build industry needs an overhaul and a positive up-sale. We need to promote the full range of jobs available and show how exciting, rewarding and financially secure a career in development /construction can be. We need more role models, more apprenticeships, more school/college visits, and more training in construction skills.
The message needs to be that success can be achieved in this sector if you’re prepared to work hard.
I love my job and have enjoyed a great career. It’s worthwhile, stimulating and fun. I work with fantastic people and at the end of all the hard work, we deliver beautiful life-changing homes.