People Series – CREW Member Spotlight: Victoria Smith | Deloitte UK has been saved
Victoria Smith, Partner at Deloitte is interviewed by Alissa Poloumieva at Corporate Real Estate Network for Women
1. Hi Victoria, really great to feature you on our Member Spotlight Series and thanks again for joining. To start off, can you provide us with a brief overview of your career to date, and how you got to your current position?
I am a partner at Deloitte and lead our team advising occupiers of real estate and major capital and infrastructure programmes. Personally, I focus on advising the Public Sector and I also lead our Financial Advisory Public sector practice. After studying economics at university, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant, spent some time in an investment bank, then joined the Government and Infrastructure team at PwC where I focused on real estate projects, and then moved to Deloitte where I have been for 15 years. Every time my career has changed direction it has been because I have enjoyed something and wanted to do more of it as opposed to me having a great career plan. The great thing about professional service firms and Deloitte, in particular, is that there is a real variety of work and easy to tweak your focus as the market and your interests change.
a. Could you give an example of a type of project you would lead, and what are the key skillsets or knowledge areas of your team? A recent example was a public sector project which involved advising on the real estate strategy for a wide array of sites and locations, building these up from scratch. To prepare this, a range of skillsets was required. Data gathering and analysis was hugely important and data points included everything from - population volume, deprivation indices, to levels of car ownership and localised trends to determine the size and scale of the project and sites. It was also important to cross-reference against land and property owners to determine if partnering with existing owners and land for the project was possible.
That makes sense, and really puts your role in perspective through a real-life example. Thank you.
2. What drove you to join CREW, and what can you tell us about your experience so far? What have you learned or how have you been directly impacted from mentoring others / being a mentee?
Unfortunately I joined CREW about one month before lockdown hit so all my CREW events and connections have been virtual – hopefully that will change soon. But it is great to meet lots of senior female professionals from a real variety of backgrounds in a similar but different space. It’s really nice to see more women in board rooms and senior positions in general, and I hope to connect with more of them through the CREW network, where we can share and learn from one another’s past experiences.
3. What do you think the key to greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) is in 2021?
We all know there isn’t one thing that will work, and I think it really is a continued and focused attention on D&I that makes a difference. Embedding D&I actions in every business activity and reporting on progress is key – what isn’t measured isn’t delivered remains true if a hackneyed phrase. I also think all large organisations are conservative in deciding when people are ready for new and challenging roles and taking a measured risk when you see real potential to support diverse leaders is important.
This last sentence really resonates with me, as I think sometime there is just too much “red tape”, so to speak, that is used as a way to deflect and push timelines to make change outward. It’s interesting to hear your perspective, especially working for such a large and global organization like Deloitte.
a. Following-up on that, are there any instances that have stood out to you as being particularly effective? There are lots of great D&I programmes and training around, but what ultimately makes a difference is having them delivered by people who are committed to them.
4. Who has been your most influential professional mentor? And why? A variety of different people – I think you can learn something from everyone you work with. Early in my career I worked with Kate Ascher (now a Columbia professor on Urban Development) who seemed to effortlessly combine a fascinating career with young children – so I thought having children wouldn’t be that difficult (I was wrong – should have paid more attention). I have worked alongside some great leaders and team members and recommend reflecting on what you think is great about everyone you work with and adapting that to your style. If you could put together the best bits of everyone we work with we would all be really amazing.
5. What is the best piece of professional advice that you have received? Do what you enjoy doing because then you will be good at it, over a sustained period you can’t thrive doing something you aren’t genuinely really interested in.
6. Outside of work, do you have a hobby or passion project you are working in? Can you tell us more about it? Over lockdown I started playing tennis and have continued playing normally 3 or 4 times a week. I play before work a couple of times a week – because I am not very good I have to really concentrate when playing or I immediately lose the point, so I have to completely forget about family or work concerns. You meet a variety of different people and get outside before spending the rest of the day inside.
7. What piece of advice do you wish you had received when you were starting your career?
a. Stay broad and work in an organisation that lets you flex. Whether it is the role, the industry, the geography, or the project scope, working for a larger organisation at the start of your career allows to you experience more and to narrow your interests based on these experiences.
Vicky leads the Occupiers & Captal Projects group within Real Assets Advisory. The group encompasses staff with a broad mix of backgrounds and qualifications, from finance to engineering to surveying – ensuring it is able to provide business focused solutions which are also technically robust. Vicky leads on providing advice to public sector clients on complex real estate enabled transformations. She has supported many government departments and public sector organisations to transform their real estate footprints and real estate service delivery. This has often been through the development and implementation of new business models. Vicky leads the Government and Public Sector Industry team in Financial Advisor bringing the best of our FA public sector practice to our clients.