I took a degree in social anthropology and African history at the School of Oriental and African Studies - not obviously relevant to planning. But understanding how individuals' behaviour is shaped by economic, social and family ties has been useful.
- What attracted you to planning?
A spell of homelessness prompted me to become a voluntary housing adviser in Brixton and one thing led to another.
- What did you learn in your first job?
Persistence pays. My first housing job frequently involved stand-offs with councils over homelessness. Not accepting "no" and looking for compromises can lead to solutions.
- What skills have you had to learn over your career?
Corporate management skills - a necessary evil.
- What or who have been the biggest influences on your career?
Nick Raynsford, when he ran the London Housing Aid Centre SHAC and gave me my first paid housing job, though I had no obvious background. SHAC's ability to use advice and casework data to inform influential research studies encouraged me to specialise in policy and research.
- What is your career highlight?
Saving the London Borough of Southwark £5 million by recalculating its housing subsidy figures. Also the work put in while I was at the National Housing Federation that helped pave the way for the housing market renewal pathfinder initiative.
- What have you learned outside work that has influenced you?
My family gives me a sense of proportion when I am in danger of getting hung up on work issues.
- What further skills do you aim to obtain or develop?
The consultancy sector has made me aware of the need to balance perfectionism with pragmatism.
- How important is it to keep abreast of developments in allied professions?
Our work on strategic housing market assessments and regional spatial strategies has made this vital.