Real estate, alternative real assets and other diversions

An interview with Sandra Dowling Tim Green speaks to Sandra Dowling, UK Real Estate Leader at PwC

The Headhunter

Sandra leads PwC’s real estate practice in the UK and has been with the UK firm for over 25 years. She has FTSE listed experience working with REITs and asset managers as well as private equity real estate and fund managers. Sandra’s clients have included U+I Group PLC, Civitas Social Housing REIT, Aviva Investors Real Assets, BlackRock Real Assets and Jupiter Fund Management PLC. 

Sandra also sits on the British Property Federation Finance Committee and represents PwC at the Real Estate Balance Network. 

Outside of work Sandra enjoys horse riding, spending time with her cocker spaniel and has 15 year old boy/girl twins. Sandra lives in Esher and has previously lived in Boston and Montreal, where she grew up. 

Q-What was your first job and what is the worst job you’ve ever done? 

My first job was working at local flying club in Montreal – I loved it and went on to get my private pilot’s license whilst working there over the summers and weekends through my university years.
The worst job I ever did was actually working on a stock count for a pharmaceutical company where I had to go to the test lab and count rats! 

Q-Was Tax your first career choice and what were you doing before?
Joining an accounting firm was my first choice and I actually applied to 23 firms in Montreal for a summer internship whilst at McGill University. I chose to join PwC because of the opportunity to work overseas and I’ve done four international secondments over my career, so very happy that I chose PwC in the end. 

Q-Why did you choose a career in the commercial real estate sector?
I’ve worked with a variety of industries over my career at PwC including forestry, financial services, pharmaceuticals and I’ve been involved with the real estate sector over the last 12 years. It has been the best industry sector in many ways because it touches so many different aspects of the economy and I find macro trends to be very interesting. The real estate community is also a tight one and you get to know people really well. 

Q-Why do you enjoy the sector? See above. 

Q-What’s a typical day like?
Every day is different in that there are new challenges and issues to address. As a single parent, I have to get myself up and ready before getting my two 15 year olds out the door whilst managing the chaos that my Spaniel and two kittens cause. I then might have a client breakfast, real estate leadership meeting, audit committee presentation, people manager issue, partner meeting, CEO or CFO dinner, industry event, team meeting about our Emerging Trends in Europe publication, a Real Estate Balance speed mentoring event and the current climate of Brexit and the broader geopolitical uncertainty mean that my clients are looking to us for advice. I’m also helping my son with GCSE maths so I’m relearning quadratic equations! No two days are the same! 

Q-Who or what has had the biggest impact on your career?
There have been many people that have given me advice, support, counsel and that is the advantage of working at PwC as there are many partners that invest in our people and I really benefited from that on more than one occasion – I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support. 

Q-What advice would you give to people at different levels on developing their careers?
I think it is really important to seek out feedback, support and advice no matter what level you are at – look for opportunities to do something different and stretch yourself. I think people will have more than one career going forward and the ability to adapt to change will be key – put yourself out there and don’t be afraid of failure! I think resilience will be a necessity to a successful career. 

Q-Who inspires you and why?
People that are passionate about what they do, whether they are saving lives, picking up the rubbish, driving a bus, solving complex business problems or coming up with new ideas. Steve Jobs changed lives all over the world – where would we be without our phones today? 

Q-What are your strengths and weaknesses?
I’m very passionate about people and spend a lot of time leading and coaching people. I’m also known for building long term lasting relationships and trusted by my clients. I can be less political and quite direct which sometimes doesn’t land well with people with large egos! 






The Headhunter

About Tim Green

Tim Green

Tim has been helping real estate businesses with their senior recruitment needs for over twenty years. He has worked with a wide variety of businesses both in the UK and overseas. Curious by nature, Tim has developed an exceptional network, and numerous people have benefitted from his positive contribution to their careers. Businesses have benefitted from his ability to source exceptional talent. He also runs a quarterly Real Estate CFO Breakfast Forum with BDO Real Estate.

Articles by Tim Green

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