Marion Ellis

Marion is Managing Director of BlueBox Partners, taking an inclusive and collaborative approach to supporting residential surveyors and valuers.

An advocate for female leadership, as well as a chartered surveyor and customer experience strategist, Marion launched the Women in Surveying virtual summit over three weeks in July 2018. The video conversations were real, honest and inspiring. She is committed to improving the visibility of women surveyors in the industry and you can find out more at
www.womeninsurveying.com

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the work you do as Managing Director?

I am part of the BlueBox Partnership – thought leaders, technical authors and trainers we are all about setting surveyors up for success in business. My years in claims have shown me that the surveyor is not always at fault but is let down by a process, poor customer communication or terms of engagement. 

For many years I wanted to educate consumers on the importance of getting a survey on a house purchase but really, it’s like boiling the ocean and rounding up kittens. Thirty years on from the homebuyer the public still do not know the difference between a mortgage valuation and a survey. A better way is to help the industry help their customers. If we don’t demonstrate our value to the home buying and selling industry the public and the industry, will continue to think our professional advice is not needed – and it absolutely is.

What did you want to be growing up?

A welsh teacher or doing something really creative.  I went to a welsh primary school, but not being a welsh speaking family and since moving away from North Wales, it is very much use it or lose it and I no longer speak welsh fluently.

I also never went to art college despite being the only person in my school to pass Art GCSE. I was too scared as if honest, everyone I know who went to Wrexham Art college looked like a hippy while I was going through a Salt ‘n’ Peppa phase. I was encouraged to take a ‘proper course’ so I took Geography and Geology which set me on a later path to an Estate Management degree.

What is your proudest moment?

Attending the RICS 150 years ceremony in 2018 attended by the Queen. The buzz and excitement in the room made me feel really proud of my career and profession. Apart from a selfie the only evidence of me being there is my invite and an official picture of the Queen and the back of my head which I find hilarious! No, I really was there!

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? 

Try and escape for a shower before the children jump in my bed. Oh, for a lie in….

What’s your favourite book and why? 

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown. I read it while I was having a really difficult time at work and just made good darn sense. It’s even better on audio.

What’s your motto/favourite quote in life?

‘Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.’ Arthur Ashe – and I would say that is good advice for anyone starting out as a surveyor.

What’s your mindset anthem – the song that is always guaranteed to pump you up?

When I need to focus on something serious ‘All I Got’ by Newton Faulkner. For confidence, Taylor Swift ‘Delicate’. For something livelier ‘There’s Nothing Holding Me Back’ Shawn Mendes.

What has driven your passion for diversity in your industry / sector?

For many years I didn’t think it was a problem, mostly harmless banter. The more senior I got, the more I discovered how damaging and stealth like the discrimination in our industry is. When I started to talk about it with other women, I realised it was all around. I had to take the rose-tinted glasses off.

The turning point for action was when I spoke with a group of women surveyors and out of 8 of us, 4 had already signed non-disclosure agreements (NDA) for sexism and discrimination in their careers. When you sign an NDA you waive your right to talk about what happened and that buries the problem and situations don’t change. Instead I decided it was ok to talk about being a woman and it spurred me on to do the Women in Surveying virtual summit in 2018.

What also drives me is just how rewarding it is, more than I could have imagined. Mentoring and coaching women, supporting them to make a difference really is a good day for me.

Best career advice you received and why?

I was lucky enough to be coached by Carey Glass a while back and I learned that I am a BIG thinker and detail, although I am good at it can make me anxious. The need to keep on top of it and getting the detail wrong can be stressful unless I manage it.  I once made a spelling mistake with a large print of company business cards which were to be delivered at a conference to every surveyor. Despite checking, I missed the ‘r’ out of the company name. I was mortified beyond measure and yet everyone was really supportive. Mistakes happen. Looking back, I wasn’t doing something I was good at and needed help.  On the plus side, at least I didn’t miss out another letter, it could have been worse.

A few years ago, I did a business coaching programme with my now friend Lucy Whittington. I have always struggled with my identity as a surveyor – classic case of imposter syndrome. I learned that what I do and what I am good it is being a people focussed problem solver – I thrive on it and it has taken me on a journey to be professionally qualified as a customer experience specialist. I just happen to do this in the residential property sector an area I feel passionate about.

Knowing these things about myself was a turning point in my career progression and continues to do so. Coaching and mentoring is incredibly valuable on many levels.

What advice do you have for managing work and life?

I am often asked how I juggle my women in surveying work, my day job, family life and the hare-brained initiatives I seem to start. And I guess I don’t juggle it really. Like any other family there is always something that gives.

What does work is two things – making sure I meet my needs first, so I can be on top form. You can cope with most things when you have had a good night’s sleep, have had some time out with friends or a partner or fresh air if you have been stuck in an office.

Secondly, you need a good network of support – the right people for the right job. You have to not being afraid to ask for help, not be offended if they say no and make sure you give as well as receive.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

You have to know your values and live by them.  You won’t be happy, comfortable or confident in anything you do if it’s not aligned with what is important to you. For me trust is a big one and I have learned to trust my gut instinct more as I have grown older. It’s the one lesson I wish I had done in my younger years.

What does the surveying profession mean to you?

A number of years ago I rescued some original Surveyors Journals and Transcriptions from a skip. They date from 1898 to 1938 and reading them has given me a real insight into the profession, how it came about and how inclusive our forefathers were towards the built environment and the way we live (albeit they didn’t allow women until 1922 but that is another story).

I am incredibly proud to be a chartered surveyor and even more so now I feel more confident about the kind of surveyor I am. The qualification pathways mean we often work in silo and are stereo-typed. As an industry we need to step outside and wider, to collaborate and evolve. What brings us together is the common purpose of helping people with their lives by shaping their environment. It’s a powerful position to come from and we need to be brave in our hearts and bold in our thinking.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mellis-womeninsurveying