From Our Members
June 2019 marks 20 years since my graduation from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, with a BA (hons) in Housing Studies. I was part of the very first British cohort, in the late nineties, to complete the full-time degree course in which I was made a student member of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). This gave me a springboard to complete the Postgraduate Studies in Social Sciences (specializing in Housing Policy) and marked the beginning of my vocational experience in the housing sector.
My jobs ranged from front-line housing management in a generic housing officer role, specialist relocation, best use of the housing stock (adaptations) and working on a client-side Modern Homes Project Management at Your Homes Newcastle (Newcastle City Council). During this time, I valued and was very much supported and encouraged by CIH, and had the pleasure of attending many CIH conferences, training courses, access to publications, benchmarking and networks. Most recently I was appointed Manager of Customer Service, Applications and Subsidies at Capital Region Housing in Edmonton, Alberta. I am very lucky in that I love what we do and the passion I have for our work in social housing has only grown across two decades. It’s very simple for me. I view safe, affordable housing as a foundation for people to increase their life opportunities and other successes and I remain humbled to play a part in that.
Although I have been fortunate to have been mentored and inspired by strong housing leaders throughout my working life and spanning two countries, I am aware that housing is a profession that people still tend to ‘fall into.’ I am one of a few folks who intentionally set out to gain qualifications and build a career in the social housing sector.
I had been looking out for the right board position when I received an email calling for applications to join the new CIH Executive Committee. It listed the functions of the committee to include establishing and implementing strategic direction and business planning for CIH Canada and overseeing the functions through high standards of probity, scrutiny and challenge.
Personally, I saw this as my opportunity, and somewhat felt it an obligation, to apply to help raise the standard and profile of my whole industry and to promote engagement and learning.
Both as a member of the CIH Executive Committee and a manager of a large front-line service team, I am very proud to represent Capital Region Housing, my industry, and colleagues across the Canadian provinces. I am eager to meet and develop networks and relationships with the other committee members, to help grow membership of CIH in Canada and increase professionalism across the housing sector. Most importantly I relish the opportunity to help influence the provision of higher standards of service to our customers.
I had been in the housing sector just over a decade when I enrolled in the Chartered Professional Program with CIH Canada. I began my career as a front-line Housing Officer, and anyone who has worked in that role knows it takes a broad set of skills to manage the day-to-day pressures and priorities of the position. That experience undoubtedly played a part in my progression to subsequent management roles and to my current position in corporate communications.
But there are parts of my corporation I had little to no exposure in: finance, maintenance, asset management. I did not want a lack of experience to be a detriment in any future career opportunities.
Enrolling in the Chartered Designation program was my first interaction with the network and the intent was to become a CIH Chartered member. I kept abreast of trends and challenges in the housing sector, all the time: reading blogs and industry reports, registering for webinars, and following industry experts on social media. What I needed was a program to consolidate all that learning. The CIH program was the perfect vehicle.
I chose to study online and took the last 12 months completing the four required modules and a reflective practice. And I found expected results. I realized finance and asset management was not a path I would enjoy; policy work and finding solutions to the multitude of challenges in the sector—specifically related to improving the lives of residents—was where I wanted to focus. Having a dedicated tutor providing guidance and feedback was an invaluable part of the program. The content of each module was current and applicable to my daily work, and CIH Canada staff were always quick to answer any questions and remedy any concerns.
I’m excited to see CIH Canada looking at ways to attract new members and to increase our profile across the country. The new Executive Committee will undoubtedly bring a level of passion and professionalism to the network.
On a personal level, I keep looking for opportunities in policy development and communications. Writing is a part of my work that I truly enjoy. I’m lucky to work for a supportive employer that values professional development and is open to supporting employees who want to broaden their knowledge in the field. My membership in CIH Canada, along with being awarded Chartered Member status, is a reflection of the level of competency and professionalism I bring to my work each day.
This experience has been one I would recommend to anyone involved in the housing sector. It has truly changed how I work daily and has made me a more confident and engaged employee—enrolling in any of the CIH educational offerings will increase your housing IQ.
I would challenge anyone to name a sector that is more exciting and rewarding to work in and having a voice in CIH Canada to foster professionalism and professional development is exceptional.