Jo Shepherd is a Business Development Manager at London-based developer and contractor, Kuropatwa Limited. She tells us how the challenge of raising children while self-employed has paid off and why she used lockdown as an opportunity for personal growth.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
After 16 years working for myself supporting several local businesses with marketing and sales, I decided to look for something more substantial and took a position at a structural engineering practice.
I have always been somebody who finds connecting with people easy and enjoyable. It's fascinating talking to someone who has a passion for what they do and hearing how they made design decisions. The practice recognised this, and together we developed a role that played to my strengths. In addition to this role, I became Co-Chair of the London branch of the Forum for the Built Environment, which only strengthened my ability to meet the best people in the industry, raise the profile of the practice, and in turn created a great number of opportunities.
After an extremely difficult 2020, I am delighted to have recently landed a role with Developer/Contractor Kuropatwa Limited. Skills I learned with my first practice, together with the extensive network I've built up through networking and my role as Co-Chair for the London Branch of the Forum for the Built Environment, meant that I could easily transfer to another discipline within the construction industry. I’m excited to build Kuropatwa’s reputation online, having visited some of their beautifully designed residential developments in London, and will be working hard to develop new opportunities and potential clients. I really look forward to when networking and face-to-face meetings resume so that I can build on everything I've learnt, and the network I've built over the years.
What gets you excited about your industry?
It does feel like the construction industry is at the forefront of the country's move towards Net Zero Carbon. There are so many designers in the industry passionate about developing innovative solutions and moving towards a more sustainable way of building and living, which will benefit many future generations.
Also, the construction industry is an ever-changing landscape, and there is always the opportunity to learn something new. Every day is a school day.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
"If it's important to you, then it's important, don't let anybody shut you down if you really believe in something."
What, or who inspires you?
There are too many shining examples of incredible women in this industry to name one, but I really do meet many of them, and it makes me want to be and do better.
Also, my daughter, we're very alike in a lot of ways, but she's wiser, calmer and not afraid to take chances. I am in awe of her and expect her to be running the world any time soon.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
At the moment I do so via online networking, and webinars are great too. However, I do miss the face to face transactions, and look forward to when we can all meet up again.
I think LinkedIn is an excellent resource for industry news and new initiatives and a great way to connect with peers and future collaborators. Glenigans, JLL and Trowers and Hamlins all do regular networking events and webinars presenting industry trends, initiatives and latest innovations.
Publications such as the Architect's Journal and New London Quarterly are really useful as well. There's also an excellent publication called Velocity, which is a cycling magazine for people who work in the construction industry. There some great interviews in there with infrastructure decision-makers and designers, so it's well worth a read.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
Being self-employed and working from home for 16 years whilst bringing up two children was a challenge. It sometimes felt like I was failing at both, but I learnt so much and kept developing my skills, and my now grown-up children insist that I was always there for them. So, with hindsight, it was a good decision.
If you could start your life again, what would you do differently?
I don't have any regrets. But I do wish I'd learn to enjoy the moment more, instead of worrying whether I was doing the right thing.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Definitely buy some properties! One in Turkey to escape to when it's cold, and a few in London. Start my two children on the housing ladder, and then have one or two properties to develop, maybe a couple of HMOs.
I've just finished reading Skint Estate by Cash Carraway, so giving one or more of the properties to a charity supporting women seeking refuge would be a decent thing to do I think, and always ensure it's maintained properly.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Life pre-Covid was very different for me. I was out almost every night enjoying live music or comedy. But since lockdown, I've spent most nights reading, or crafting. I can't just sit and watch the television; I have to have a project on the go.
I've also started attending a weekly life drawing session over Zoom, which I will continue when life returns to normal. I didn't get the chance to study art at school, but it's something I'm enjoying now.
Lockdown has been a real period of growth for me personally; I've learnt so much and having the luxury of time to read so much has been great, but I do want my social life back now!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I do wish the industry would become more collaborative; there's much room for improvement. We need to ensure that projects are brought to fruition in the most sustainable way possible by working together and not chasing the bottom line.
How should people connect with you?
Linked is probably the best way to contact me at the moment: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jo-shepherd-b21087a4/.