Jo Bell

Jo Bell joined Malcolm Hollis in 2013 as a graduate building surveyor, gaining her MRICS chartership in 2015.  Following a series of promotions, she became an Associate in May 2018.  Jo is an outstanding surveyor and an extremely valued member of the team. 

Her commercial success and commitment to innovation and diversity has gained her much respect both within Malcolm Hollis and the wider property industry.  As an established Project Management specialist, Jo has an impressive, diverse and expanding list of clients including CBRE Global Investors, AEW UK, Legal & General and Columbia Threadneedle Investors. 

Jo is passionate about increasing diversity in surveying and improving the pipeline of young entrants into the profession. She believes it essential to maintaining and boosting profitability, staff retention and innovation.  Having been a former Women in Property graduate prize winner, she remains an active member of the organisation and has also volunteered to be part of the team looking to tackle gender imbalance within the company.  

What does a typical day look like for you?  Getting dressed in lycra if it’s a road bike day or in my suit and hi vis if I’m taking the Brompton.  Riding into work is essential for my happiness so I have different bikes for different occasions and make sure I use all available opportunities to get some riding in.  Then it’s either spending my time in the office speaking to clients and pushing my projects forward, or out on site reviewing works and discussing the job with a contractor.  After work it’s off to the gym or pub then home!

What did you want to be growing up?  A forensic pathologist.  Far too much Silent Witness at a young age. 

What’s your favourite book and why? Any non-fiction by Paul Theroux.  I have an addiction to his travel books because I love solo adventuring as he does.  It permits so much more interaction with the people you pass on the way.  I have a passion for solo cycle touring while Paul prefers the train but perhaps that will come when I get older!

What has driven your passion for diversity in your industry / sector? My strong belief that it’s not gender, age or ethnicity which provides the opportunity to be a positive force in the industry but who you are and how much you care.  That said, there is an imbalance and my aim is to change the margins of surveying to make it a serious choice for a wider range of people.  If we were successful in increasing the diversity of the profession I feel that we would all be better off so I have started an apprenticeship scheme at my firm to try to alter the pipeline.  That way at least one barrier – the cost of university – is removed, which I hope will help to bring in a more diverse range of surveyors.  I also hope that being the face of the scheme will encourage more young women to apply.  We are just about to do our second year of interviews so fingers crossed. 

What’s the biggest myth about your industry / sector? That it’s a dirty industry filled with builders’ bums!

Best career advice you received and why?  Be yourself and if you are good you will get noticed.  In some ways it’s quite simple – be reliable, enthusiastic and willing to learn from your mistakes. 

How can networking and support organisations help the next generation of surveyors on their way up? By providing opportunities for young people to practice their networking skills and to meet others in their profession.  I won a Women in Property Student Award in my younger days and it really opened doors in terms of contacts, networking opportunities and helped me build my confidence.  I still attend their great events now. 

What tips do you have for managing your inbox?  Subfolders are essential. 

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?  That you can do anything if you just keep moving.  Things can always go wrong but the important thing is to keep at it.  Whether that’s fixing my bike in the countryside of France or resolving a mid project warehouse break-in for a client.

Top advice to those starting out?  Find something you like to do and get involved.  Surveying means lifelong learning which is wonderful if you are curious but could be a bit of a challenge if the enthusiasm wasn’t there. 

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the work you do as an Associate.  I’m an Associate commercial building surveyor working at Malcolm Hollis.  I work in the Projects team and run refurbishment, demolition and new build projects. 

What advice do you have for someone looking to negotiate a new salary?  Aim high and don’t be afraid to negotiate.  Statistically women are much less likely than men to negotiate for a pay rise so remember that most of the other employees are doing it.  The management won’t be in the least bit offended as long as you are being realistic. 

What advice do you have for managing work and life? Program in your exercise or relaxation time at the start of the week and try your best to stick to it.  Of course things change but if you regularly sacrifice your self-care time for work it’s a false economy.  Healthy employees are more productive.