Jessica Tabibi is managing director of TAB Property Management, an independent Estate Agent covering London and the Home Counties. She also runs Rosewood, a quantity surveying and project management business based in North London. Jessica is a quantity surveyor with experience in commercial, fit-out, education, healthcare, new build and refurbishments and she was selected as one of Womanthology’s Dr. Martens Industrial Champions back in 2018.
We spoke with Jessica about the incredible response to her story, first published in November 2020.
“I’m delighted that my story has been so well received. It means a lot that it has resonated with so many Womanthology readers and I hope it will encourage other women and girls to pursue a career in the construction sector.”
“It’s really important to have role models that are visible in the industry for younger students to see ‘themselves’ in the industry already. But I think equally importantly, it is important that women later in their careers have an accessible way to enter the industry, for example, post-children or after a career change.”
12 years’ construction experience
I have been working in property and construction for over 12 years in a number of sectors, most recently data centres, fit-out and for residential developer Berkeley Group.
I have experience working in both project management and commercial roles, which has given me a broad range of industry experience. I have also worked as an associate tutor at the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) on their quantity surveying BSc and MSc programmes.
I completed a Master’s in surveying at the University of Reading and UCEM (the University College of Estate Management) in 2017 whilst working as a quantity surveyor, which had its challenges, but was very much worth it and I would recommend distance learning to anyone considering it.
Best of both worlds
As for most of us, this has been a somewhat unexpected year.
I decided at the end of 2019 that I wanted to set up my own businesses and be in control of my career. I decided that I wanted to move into property management on a full-time basis, having done it as a ‘side hustle’ for a number of years.
At TAB Property Management, I am involved with absolutely everything because I love everything property, particularly the sales and the property/block management sides. We meet so many different people all the time, and there are always challenges to overcome so it’s a really rewarding job.
I didn’t want to say goodbye to quantity surveying though, which is why I also started a quantity surveying and project management company, Rosewood, where we work providing additional resources for contractors and subcontractors alike who may need resources on a temporary basis.
In addition to this, we manage projects and costs for private developers and domestic projects. I am really hands-on with both companies, particularly with business development, but, as with any start-up, you cannot be afraid to get stuck in!
Two businesses are better than one
In some ways, running two businesses has been very easy as quite a number of the processes are the same and it is no extra effort to do it for two businesses or one.
However, when we are busy both businesses are busy they both have to take equal priority and so it can mean some very long days and working seven days a week.
This can be tiring but it is so rewarding when we see the growth we have achieved over the past year and this is what spurs me on and keeps me motivated.
COVID actually helped in a way
During the first lockdown, the property market almost ground to a halt and we had to adapt to the government rules at the time, which meant a lot of virtual viewings. It was a tricky time to be in property.
However, it gave me the time to set up the businesses properly and begin our journey with processes already in place such as remote working which was an advantage I had over competitors with existing retail premises.
Construction, however, did not stop so the quantity surveying work has been busy since we started.
Diverse role models required
In construction generally, there has always been a huge gender imbalance. However, there has been a marked effort over the last couple of years to really encourage women into all areas of construction and engineering.
It’s really important to have role models that are visible in the industry for younger students to see ‘themselves’ in the industry already. But I think equally importantly, it is important that women later in their careers have an accessible way to enter the industry, for example, post-children or after a career change.
The industry can be a very exciting and innovative one and I think if this could be more widely promoted we may see more women choosing construction as a career.
One thing that has gotten better though, is that there is more variety of personal protective equipment made with women in mind. Clothes and boots that fit are so important when you are out on-site to keep you warm, dry and not get caught when navigating a busy site. The fit of Hi-Vis vests and jackets is also significantly better.
I would suggest trying to gain work experience for a couple of weeks and try out as many different roles on the site as you can. This way you can make an informed decision and choose your subjects at school that fit with any educational requirements you may need to train for a particular position.
Talk to other women in the industry, find out which employers will be flexible around your circumstances and enjoy being part of a brilliant industry.
But for any girls or women, do not listen to the stereotypes of construction, do not be intimidated by the ratio of men to women, go for whatever it is you want to be because you won’t regret being part of a construction project.
When I started TAB Property Management, my main aim was providing a personal touch and maintaining good relationships with our clients, doing the best for them. We have built upon this over the past year and now we are really focusing on growth for the next year whilst still keeping this personal touch, particularly in our block and property management teams.
We are working hard in sales and lettings at the moment as so many people are keen to move after the first lockdown.