Sara Cameron

On 21st June 2019 I was honoured to attend the RICS Welcome to the Profession celebration welcoming new Chartered Surveyors to the profession. It was a huge privilege to be invited to address the audience as the inspirational speaker and share my journey to MRICS with our newest Chartered Surveyors.

Team Surveyorhood agreed this was something I had to share as part of our #celebr8surveyors gallery.

So, what follows below is a transcript of the speech I gave, minus a few ad libs on the day.

RICS President Chris Brooke, fellow chartered surveyors and guests. Thank you.

Before I go any further, a heartfelt congratulations to all of you.  To you our new Chartered members, to your families and friends, supporters and cheerleaders.  You’ve done it!  And what an achievement. 

Introductory bio

By way of introduction, I am Sara Cameron, a Chartered Commercial Property Surveyor, working in the public sector in the wonderful County of Norfolk.  I was elected to Governing Council in 2017 and have since joined the RICS East of England regional board.  I am an APC mentor and counsellor.  Branch secretary, regular presenter and contributor to the Association of Chief Estates Surveyors, a professional association for senior public-sector surveyors. I also co-founded the Surveyorhood, a blog and social media campaign, profiling, showcasing and celebrating surveyors whoever they maybe, as well as tackling the issues we all face within the profession and through life.  

I was where you are now 3 years ago

I was also exactly where you are now, 3 years ago in May 2016 when I gained my letters….

My journey to MRICS

I was asked to include my journey to MRICS in this address.

You will, no doubt, have heard it before but careers aren’t straight line paths.  They are journeys.  And mine has been a rollercoaster.

I always wanted to be a surveyor.  My father was a builder and engineer, my grandfather had been an engineering draughtsman after the RAF, my mother’s passion for geography and exploring new places really gave me a sense of place and curiosity.

Careers advice was limited though. I sourced some work experience with a local building surveyor, then signed up for a building surveying degree.  I quickly learned it wasn’t the pathway for me – small spaces, heights, spiders and the like – but I discovered that I had an affinity for the general practice modules and switched degrees after my first year at university and never looked back.

I was headhunted back to Norwich for my first graduate role but then came the first major dip and turn on my rollercoaster ride  – I was made redundant from my graduate surveyors role before my APC finished.

I then had to figure out what to do.  I had bought my first house and the mortgage had to be paid so I took whatever jobs I could get and the APC would have to wait.

Then doom.

Everything changed for me in 2010. I had a brush with death.

I had a car accident but that wasn’t the doom part.  My car was written off but I only sustained a whiplash injury.  I did feel truly awful and put it down to the injury and work related stress as I was working on my APC, again, and my caseload had increased in scope and scale with my increased experience and responsibility. 

During physio, my therapist found a lump in my neck.  I thought I was just fighting something off as I had been feeling low but agreed to go see my doctor and get it checked out.

It turns out I had Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma and needed 9 months of systemic and aggressive chemotherapy.

Not part of my plan.

Cancer teaches you many lessons. Many of which you would never choose to learn.

I learned that I valued my eyebrows more than I expected to. 

I learned that self-care is far more important that pushing to be present and be seen 24:7.

I learned to never surrender even when it got really bad. There is always another way forward, always someone to support you.  But most of all I learned to be my own hero.

It’s funny but facing your mortality really does give you a new lease of life and the strength I found in myself after beating cancer changed me permanently. If I couldn’t see a visible role model in my immediate network, I would be one. My mum calls this ‘making up for lost time’ and I started to bring my whole self to everything that I did, my unwavering optimism and idealism, my sense of duty, my belief that we rise by lifting others up.

I would use my voice to become the change I wanted to see, not just for me, but everyone that comes after me.

My plan to pay it forward on gaining MRICS

My APC was delayed again and I pushed my recovery too keenly and attempted the final assessment interview in 2014.  I was unsurprisingly referred. 

Whilst heartbroken, the referral feedback was simply the best and most constructive feedback I have ever received in my career.  It was on absorbing my referral report that several pennies dropped and I knew I had this. 

With work commitments and a further period of experience I resubmitted and absolutely held my own in the interview. I knew I was a safe pair of hands and I left believing the panel knew it too.  As soon as I got my email I started to think about how I could use my experience to help others.

I have always leaned to the human side of the profession – coaching, mentoring, managing and leading teams, developing others to reach their goals. 

I developed an online forum for my previous organisation to join candidates working across the country to network online and share knowledge and experiences. 

I decided to use my up to date knowledge and all of my experience from the APC process to become an RICS APC Mentor.  I later completed the training to become an APC counsellor so that I could support team members working on their own APC’s.  It keeps me up to date and involved.

I put myself forward for Vice- Chair of Matrics in Norfolk to develop their APC support and ensure a diverse program of CPD and social events to meet Matrics’ national objectives. 

And as I moved into my term as Chair of Matrics Norfolk more and more opportunities were becoming possible.

Opportunities far exceed my plans

I was honoured to be featured in an online social media campaign to celebrate women from all walks of life and create a roll of honour that would feature in Dr Kristin Ferguson’s “Women Kind”.

It was a great showcase, it boosted my self-esteem, extended my network personally and professionally, and encouraged me to celebrate myself and celebrate others too. The campaign for #celebratingwomen was inspirational.

I am well known for my twitter activity – so, when I found myself on Twitter nodding vigorously with new-found allies. I knew I had found my tribe. 

I knew it would amplify my voice as I could amplify other people’s voices. I learned that my network had no boundaries and I could extend my reach to help more people who, like me, had found themselves struggling and needing to reach out.

I believe my social media activity was a major success factor in my successfully being elected to a position on RICS Governing Council – something I’d never thought possible just a few years ago.  It has been a genuine privilege to be involved at a strategic level with the RICS so rapidly after gaining my letters.  It has also been one of the most collaborative experiences of my career.

In March this year, I was deeply honoured to be featured as an inspirational female surveyor on IWD 2019 alongside some of my own role models Anna Keys Chair of RICS Matrics nationally, Laura Collins winner of YSOYA 2018 and Louise Brooke Smith the first female president of RICS.

I am now a non-executive board member of the RICS East of England branch and also represent the Norfolk County Council as the East of England Branch Secretary of the Association of Chief Estates Surveyors, a professional body for senior property professionals in the public sector.

The Surveyorhood and Celebr8surveyors and power of your network

The #Surveyorhood is the final missing piece for me. But really the surveyorhood is all about you, the surveyor, the person, your stories. With our #celebr8surveyors campaign and online gallery we are here to celebrate you and what you do.

With two fantastic surveyors and inspirational role models, Natasha Stone and Joanna Farnsworth,  as the Surveyorhood, we can highlight the big issues we face on a human level be it success, bereavement, the power of the network, diversity or bullying in the workplace we can work together to celebrate surveyors, increase our visibility, raise the profile of the profession and act to make positive changes for all of us.  It is about bringing a sense of kinship to everything that we do.

We have created a blog to share stories from surveyors of all backgrounds, pathways and stages of their careers.  This year we launched our #celebr8surveyors gallery to truly lift the individual stories and we have profiled 21 surveyors so far and always looking for more volunteers. 

We are all in this together.  Our profession binds us together. 

We are a professional family, a surveyorhood. 

And together through living our values we can ensure every surveyor whoever they may be, can bring their whole selves to everything they do.

I am living my values and those of my profession with everything I do, I get to make a difference to individual surveyors through coaching and mentoring, I get to contribute to the future of the profession, I get to be the change I want to see by promoting diversity and inclusivity at every level.

I also get invited to do amazing things like recording podcasts with other amazing professionals and standing here today addressing you. 

None of this was ever in my plan!

Live your values, be you!

The Big C taught me to grab life and opportunity and I urge you to do the same. 

You have achieved so much already.  Gold standard professional qualifications that are your passport to wherever you choose to go on your journey.

You are now part of the world’s leading professional body and you are the future leaders of this profession.

MY ADVICE TO YOU

First and always.  Be you.  Don’t spend your time and energy on being something else.  Be authentically you and you will have more time, energy and enthusiasm for what you do!

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else.  Each of us will be on a different rollercoaster.  Remember careers are not straight-line paths, they are journeys. And your journey will not be the same as someone else’s.

We, tend to over-estimate what we can achieve in a short period of time, some might say we set ourselves up to fail.  We also underestimate what we achieve over time.  Build in reflective practice into your well-being activity and practice gratitude.  You will feel inspired by what you have actually achieved along the twists and turns of your journey.

If you show commitment and do the right thing, every day for yourself and your clients, you will be recognised.

This isn’t just about demonstrating integrity, it is about aligning what you do with who you are, your values, demonstrating this purpose allows you to be authentic. It means that you can see past extraneous details to focus on what matters. If your values are aligned, you will be on a path to success.

Your consistency of commitment and focus on results will be sustainable, it’s not all about glory hunting and rising quickly, it is about creating a meaningful career that is sustainable and satisfying.

And remember, our profession binds us together. We are now family. 

Welcome to the Surveyorhood – I can’t wait to see what comes next for all of us.

Thank you.

Twitter: @camsparkle

LinkedIn: Sara Cameron