Charlotte Coleman Assistant Development Manager SMA Projects  / 
Two Years of Wisdom

story / Interview / December 6, 2015

I initially studied a year of a communications degree at Monash University. In my mind I was a year young and I thought that if finished my degree in three years I’d be in the workforce earning money. Once I was in the course, I realised there was a vast number of people studying journalism, not only at my University, but in Victoria and in Australia! I got really overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure I loved it enough to fight for a job.

I took a year off studying to figure out what I liked and what I wanted to achieve in my career. You don’t need to rush these sorts of decisions. I was given the best advice from a family friend. He recommended to get involved in either Uni Games or study overseas on a student exchange. I decided to complete an exchange at The University of Florida. It was an amazing experience. I would advise every single student at University to go on an exchange!

I transferred into a Bachelor of Applied Science in Property and Valuation at RMIT. I knew that to get a job you needed to prove you had experience within the industry. I had six years experience in hospitality, but there’s only so many transferable skills. I was ready to give out two hundred resumes and just offer my services for free. The first place I went to was a town planning firm in Mornington. I just asked whether they would take me for a week and they offered me part time work on the spot! I was there for six months. I never ended up having to go and face all of those rejections!

A job came up on the RMIT portal for an Assistant Development Manager. If I had written myself a job description in first year, this was it! SMA Projects was a small property development firm. Everything I was looking for. I tried not to get my hopes up and applied. They didn’t even have a website at the time, so you’re trying to prepare yourself for an interview for a company you don’t know anything about. The interview process went really well. Within ten days of the two interviews I had started the job. I’ve now been working for them for two years.

It was straight in the deep end. Starting a new job is really exciting but you have to learn the processes. Not knowing something is a challenging experience. It’s hard initially to be reliant on people all the time, asking them questions, feeling like you’re annoying them but that’s part of the job, isn’t it? To learn.

The Yorkshire Brewery project is 350 apartments in Collingwood. I came in on the back half of the project. It’s been a long journey that the company has been working on for five years now. It is a complicated site with several heritage elements. We’ve taken on a challenge that not many other developers have been able to do.

I still have a lot to learn. In the scheme of things two years isn’t long, however I feel like I’ve been involved in such great experiences. I’ve been lucky enough to land in a dynamic role with a young company. As SMA is relatively small, I often meet with Directors of architecture or consultant firms. There’s only three Development and Project manager roles at SMA including the Director. As a result, you get that exposure to working with senior leaders within the company, when usually you would be another couple of rungs down!

You say ‘I want to work in property development and construction’ but you don’t realise how many areas you need to be across. I came out of University really happy with the job I landed. It’s tough. You’re learning from ground zero. However, I do feel like I could now transfer across to other areas within the industry. I didn’t realise that the relationships you develop allow you to transfer into other fields like construction or planning. It’s a big web. There are such huge opportunities out there, you don’t ever feel locked down in a role.

I keep convincing myself it’s just for convenience but I participate in Crossfit. It’s up the road from work. I drive in, train hard for an hour, shower, then go to work. I do it five days a week, but it’s really so I don’t sit in traffic! It’s a huge help for me to get some exercise in every day. I have a clear head at 2pm. I love that part of it and I’ve made some good friends.

At high school I didn’t even know there was a property degree. My Dad works in civil construction and I always loved what he did, but nothing was ever suggested to me at school. I think we need to start pitching to kids at a younger age about their opportunities and possibilities. We need to educate girls about the roles available and what we do within the industry.

My mother always told me to treat others how you want to be treated. I’ve lived my life by that everyday. My mother lives by that to her detriment sometimes. In a sense she’s very trusting and it’s such a lovely quality. I think I’m the same. You want to think the best of every person because you would hope they would be the same to you.

 

Sometimes you never know how the people you meet in your early years will cross paths with you down the track. As the saying goes, it’s a small world! Danielle met Charlotte many years ago in dance class. Now working in the built environment, we have the pleasure of bringing you a snippet of Charlotte’s experiences still fresh out of university. Charlotte has always been one of those people who draw you in. She is diligent,  ambitious and knows the value of hard work. We had the pleasure of photographing her down in Merricks North, at her mother’s studio (her mother is a glassblower) where they were hosting a beautiful Christmas market. It was an absolute pleasure interviewing you Charlie. We wish you the best of luck with everything your bright future holds.

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