Here we meet Kirsty McKenna MRICS, who began her property career with a degree and Master’s degree in Property Investment and Development from the University of Ulster in Belfast in 2013, before moving to London during the Great Recession of 2008-2013 and beginning to work in Property Management.
By 2016, Kirsty was a Senior Surveyor with CBRE, before becoming Associate Director two years later. In 2020, Kirsty joined Workman as a Senior Associate, before being promoted to Partner in May 2022.
In what ways did your earlier career in property prepare you for your role as a Partner at Workman?
In my earlier roles I worked with a vast array of tenants and clients, so I quickly learnt how to adapt my approach, whilst always being very hands-on. I believe working with a mix of smaller clients to large institutional funds helped expand my knowledge and experience, so I had the skillset when I joined Workman to work across a wide range of assets and clients. Also, working for a smaller company and then a large corporate before Workman was beneficial, as both have very different processes, approaches to clients etc, which I enjoyed learning from both, and has helped shape my decision-making going forward.
Were there any memorable projects or properties you worked on that you now look back on as invaluable experience?
While at CBRE, I worked on the Selfridges portfolio, which includes assets surrounding the store, and it was my first introduction into the world of big offices. A mix of having to quickly widen my M&E knowledge and working with a retail service- led client was extremely challenging but very interesting. I also worked on Camden Markets and the portfolio of properties surrounding Camden Markets. This was an interesting high-profile client, with several different assets that had been managed in all different formats over the years. From dealing with sole traders, to high-end offices around the corner in Primrose Hill. It was very interesting to work on an iconic London location, and seeing what goes on behind the scenes.
What single thing did your closest property industry mentor teach you that’s been most valuable in your career so far?
My first mentor was my first boss in property, who gave me freedom and respect, and taught me so much about standing on my own two feet as property manager. I can only hope I have been able to pass that on to my own teams over the years.
At Workman I’ve been very lucky to have some very inspiring female role models in the people I’ve worked closely with.
In your journey to becoming a Partner at Workman, what have been the most significant or pivotal moments?
When I joined Workman as a Senior Associate in 2020, I was working alongside Partners who’d been here for 10-years-plus, so I expected to be back of house assisting with reporting, team support etc whereas in reality, James Rose, Nick Hilton, and Richard Hart (to name a few) showed a genuine interest in my opinion, and ensured I was involved in all client meetings. That was something I’d never expected and encouraged me to have the confidence to do the role I do now.
The most pivotal moment to becoming a Partner was being able to step up and take on the BlackRock portfolio along with Nick Hilton; being able to lead it from Senior Associate level. I was supported with opportunities where I was able to prove my skillset, build my relationship with the client, and my ability to keep the BlackRock portfolio management consistent.
Now in your role as a Partner, what do you think are the most important aspects of coaching and developing younger staff in your team?
I am very passionate about mentoring younger staff so they can have the confidence to carry out their role and realise their full potential, but also because we can learn so much from them too. It is important that staff feel well supported by their teams, and that no question is too silly. I am a big advocate of owning your work, so no matter what level you are, you take pride in what you work on, get involved as much as you can, and see it through form start to finish.
Watching my team’s hard work get noticed and rewarded through promotion and positive client feedback has been a real highlight for me.
What advice would you give to graduates on the Workman scheme?
Show a genuine interest and let people know about it. Never say no to an opportunity. It’s never going to feel like a right time to take on a new client or to do an additional piece of work, but you will always learn something from that, and you’ll get exposure, meet new people and learn new skills.
Also get involved in social events, charity events and any working groups you can to help you understand the business better, meet new people and grow your exposure across the firm.
What attributes do you look for when recruiting graduates and more junior staff?
I’m keen to see someone with an interest in property and ambitious, as property management can be challenging at times, so it is important you are passionate about what you do.
Also, someone who is confident dealing with tenants, contractors etc and not afraid to get stuck in. They can demonstrate this through other work experience / part time jobs they may have had.
Lastly, I am always keen to hear what people’s interests are outside of work, as this can help a candidate show their personality.