We speak exclusively to Monica Khiroya about her role as product and marketing director at developer Fruition Properties and the career path that brought her to it.
Please tell us a little about yourself and what your role entails.
I’ve been at Fruition since it started and have lived in London for all of my life, even going to university here!
I oversee the marketing team, while also being responsible for how all our developments look, both inside and out – from the rendering on the walls to the smallest interior details and furnishings. It’s an exciting, varied role with a significant commercial aspect – I’ve always loved a good deal.
As we’re a fast-growing company, I also have some business management responsibilities. We’re a small team and work really well together so often it’s all hands on deck on various projects and deadlines.
What education and career path brought you here?
I studied Economics and History at UCL, very different to what I do day-to-day but there’s parts of my degree that are still relevant. After graduating, I worked in the head office at Miss Selfridge and then moved into digital marketing. The internet was still quite new and we all relied on dial-up to browse – how times have changed.
After having my first child I took a short career break and then started at Fruition – I was the fourth person to be employed. I know lots of companies now are promoting ‘returnships’ for parents returning to work but Mani, the CEO, was seemingly ahead of the curve. He’s always been supportive of championing women in the workplace and helped me transfer my skills, knowledge and experience.
I started in a part-time marketing role and over the next 18 months I worked a four-day week, which I still do now. I started managing all the rental properties and as the business grew I moved into product and interiors.
It’s an area I’ve always been passionate about so was thrilled when I could finally indulge in this. We have a combination of in-house design and specification as well as outsourcing some aspects to an external interior designer. There are benefits to both approaches and we combine them to deliver great homes which are always well received and appreciated by our buyers.
Are there aspects of your job you find particularly satisfying?
I love seeing the fruits of our labour come to life. Whether it’s a completed project, a particular show flat or a new brochure, seeing the end product makes it all worth it. We spend so much time on the details it’s nice to take a step back and appreciate the full picture.
It’s always great to receive compliments from happy customers, particularly on kitchens and bathrooms. I once spent hours debating the finish of a kitchen worktop and once the customers moved in I received a note saying how much they loved the kitchen and particularly the finish, which was lovely.
I always think of our customers and how a space will be used when designing or commenting on layouts or finishes. For us, functionality is just as important as style. I also love working with my team, we all have very different visions and work collaboratively to get the best outcome for our customers.
What other different roles inside and outside your company do you work most closely with?
From an internal point of view, the development and technical teams, as well as sales. Externally, I deal with suppliers, procurement managers, technical managers, site managers and architects. Dealing with so many other roles helps to give you a holistic view of development in general – which in my opinion results in a better end product.
Are there any roles on- or offsite that you especially admire?
I’ve always admired architects – their vision and ability to see how spaces work is incredible. To have that initial foresight is quite an art.
Did you always have the new homes industry in mind when studying/training?
I’ve always loved new homes and interiors, especially contemporary interior trends. When I was at university I used to spend my free time browsing interior magazines and visiting stores – and even today, I’m always interested in the latest fabrics, materials and fittings.
It’s been great to turn my passions into work, particularly at a boutique developer like Fruition Properties where you have more artistic freedom than some of the larger firms.
It’s cliché but if you do something you love you never really work a day your life.
Is there a way to attract the right quality and quantity of people in your profession into jobs in this industry?
We are a dynamic, design-led developer so it is imperative that we portray ourselves that way in everything that we do, which in turn helps to attract the right talent with a similar mind-set.
We are extremely proud of the fact that we have a large number of females in the team, so publicising this regularly helps to attract and encourage a more diverse workforce. Education from a younger age is also important because there is a historic tendency to just associate property with ‘bricks & mortar’; the reality is there are a huge number of varied roles that all play their part in creating a successful development business.
What careers advice do you have for young people considering a role in product marketing/design?
Work experience is always invaluable, perhaps even more important than what you study. When hiring, I always look for some real-life experience and a positive can-do attitude because work should be fun and rewarding.
I’d also advise young people to take an interest in what is going on culturally, not just in interiors but in fashion, art and design. It’s incredible how often they intersect and being well-read and aware will always put you in good stead.
Lastly, I’d say ask questions and learn from those around you. I started off in a retail head office and it’s incredible how much I picked up that I still use today.