The Things I know - Esther Kurland, Director of Urban DesignLondon

- What skills did you have when you graduated?

I studied geography, then planning at University College London. I learnt how to think, research, consider and present an argument, but not much about planning.

- What attracted you to planning?

I am fascinated by places, how they work and how people relate to them. There are far too many bad places around and I wanted to help stop this happening. Planning seemed the way.

- What did you learn in your first job?

As a junior development control planner, I learnt to use a scale rule, read plans and fill in flexitime sheets.

- What skills have you had to learn over your career?

An urban design course helped me learn to assess places. Informally, I have learnt how to prioritise, work quickly, listen, write concisely, spot key issues and make things happen.

- What or who have been the biggest influences on your career?

Living on a badly designed housing estate when I was younger. Meetings at the Greater London Authority and Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) were often like first-class academy sessions.

- What has been the highlight of your career?

I helped to influence design's place in the planning system. At CABE I wrote guidance on design and influenced policy statements. People often quote these documents at me without knowing that I was involved. It is a weird feeling.

- What have you learnt outside work that has influenced your career?

Being a working parent has taught me to manage time, diplomacy and clear the house up quickly.

- What further skills do you aim to attain or develop?

I would love to get my head around climate change more to better see what to focus on. I would like to be better at maths and budgeting.

- How important is it to keep abreast of developments in allied professions?

I like to keep an eye on what affects my work but I cannot keep pace with everything, however hard I try.

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