Charlotte Ashworth (1983-1995)
What do you do now?
I manage a portfolio of fashion outlet shopping centres held within an investment fund. The company I work for, Neinver, is based in Madrid and has outlets all over Europe.
How did you get into this line of work?
Rather by accident, Im afraid to say after so many Careers classes at Westholme! After not having worked particularly hard at school, but having got on more or less successfully, I got my come-uppance at university when I was shocked to scrape a third-class degree (in Maths though!). This meant that I couldnt get into work via the graduate schemes for which I had interviewed, which normally accepted minimum 2:1.
So, in search of an alternative plan, I went to volunteer for a Spanish charity at a school in Venezuela. Although Im certainly not encouraging anyone to do less well than hoped for at university, having to find my own route was probably the making of me. After Venezuela I studied a Masters in European Business at ESCP-EAP, a business school and ended up finishing this course in Madrid.
Now with a Distinction in the Masters degree (through new found determination and hard work!) and a second language under my belt, I was attracted to commercial property as it contains a lot of financial type work but with a tangible asset behind that you can see and understand. Further studying, this time for 3 years distance-learning from Reading University and I was able to qualify as a Chartered Surveyor with the property industry body called the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
I am now focused on retail property which is fun shopping an asset is the best way to see if it is commercially viable!
Has it been difficult in a traditionally mans world
Property is traditionally a mans world and I have been to plenty of meetings where I was the only female and probably the only person under 30. Add to that that I was often the only foreigner and undeniably sometimes I have had frustrating days! However, this is what sets you apart and people remember you for sometimes being the odd-one-out.
What does it take to be successful?
Hard work (there is no substitute for it, believe me I have tried!), conscientiousness and putting your hand up for any new project. Enthusiasm and cheerfulness are definitely valued by employers. Being confident in yourself and knowing your abilities is always going to help colleagues and clients trust your opinion and search you out next time they think you can help.
Any advice for Westholme girls today?
I hope not to contradict the careers advice given by Westholme when I say that the degree you choose does not limit your career choices in the future (unless of course you want to be a doctor or a lawyer). Go with something you enjoy and if you want to take time out and travel or volunteer it will enrich your horizons very much. When its time to start working, aim to choose a company with good training and take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way! And be very proud of being a Westholmer: conscientious, diligent and self-possessed, weve all had a fortunate start at Westholme.