When mother–of-two Alix Heritage was looking for career that would give her the flexibility to spend time with children and provide job satisfaction she didn’t to expect to find it in a pub.
Following working initially in the chemical industry and then managing pubs Alix, 42, and her husband Max, an account director for a software company, decided it was time to settle down and start a family.
Alix who lives in Aldershot, Hampshire, recalls: “After university I travelled around Europe and then worked on the marketing side in the beauty industry before deciding I wanted to be self-employed, which led to me taking over the tenancy of The Plough pub in Farnham.”
“It was a job I enjoyed but when Max and I were expecting our first baby eight years ago we agreed running a pub and starting a family wasn’t an ideal mix. I still wanted work but in a job that gave me the flexibility to spend time with the family we were starting.”
Then a chance conversation in the pub led to her career path taking an unexpected turn: “I was talking to one of my regulars, a chap called Nick Hanson, about my job dilemma. Nick has been an independent residential surveyor for 35 years and said he was looking for someone to help him with the admin.”
“I didn’t really know what the job involved but Nick explained more about the role and it seemed like interesting work with the flexibility I was looking for.”
“I started by helping write up the valuation reports, at first it was quite tricky starting from scratch but the more I learnt the more I enjoyed the variety of the work.”
After a few years Alix was looking to stretch herself and develop her skills but also needed to keep working as her second child had now been born.
“Nick suggested the vocational SAVA Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation as it allows you to fit the course work into your own schedule, meaning you can work and study at the same time.”
The diploma is the only vocational qualification route into a career in residential surveying and property valuation. It takes between 15 to 24 months to complete and combines home working with regular training sessions delivered by tutors where students can also meet their fellow learners.
Tutors issue tasks to be completed at home and recommend students find 10-15 hours a week to work on these. The diploma is also supported by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and qualifies graduates to offer the SAVA Home Condition Survey.
Alix is now 14 months into the course and enjoying the fact she’s still learning new things in her 40s and still having plenty of time for sons Toby, 7, and five-year-old Sam.
“At my age not many people can stop working and go back to university to get a qualification to start a whole new career, the great thing about the course is that allows you to do exactly that but on your own terms.”
“I’m not going to pretend it isn’t hard work but the tasks you are set are interesting and the tutors are also on hand if there’s something you need or don’t understand.”
“It can be quite intense but it’s only for two years and you have to remember there’s a whole new way of life waiting for you at the end of it.”
It’s focusing on that ultimate prize of a completely new lifestyle that makes all the hard work worthwhile for Alix: “That’s what really attracted me to a career in residential surveying – the flexibility. When I’ve got the qualification I’ll be able to do house visits during school hours and then write reports up in the evening.”
“The work is very varied and you meet a lot of different people and see a lot of different properties, the salary helps too but that wasn’t the driving force for me.”
‘There’s also lots of options in terms of your working environment, you can work for yourself, with an independent surveyor or small firm or in a larger more corporate organisation.”
Alix is enjoying the course so much she’s become one if its most passionate advocates, she reveals: “I’ve recommended the course to my friends and one has already signed up. To anyone who’s thinking about it I’d say one thing – ‘Just get out there and do it!’.”
What is your personal background? Age? Family etc?
Just before, and during my time at university, I took time out working in Europe; France, Germany and Poland. I am currently 42, and live with my husband and two sons, Toby and Sam, aged five and six.
What is you professional background? Previous occupation etc?
My professional background is very varied! I originally started my professional life with Procter & Gamble after a BA degree in Modern Languages, working in the chemicals department. I then moved internally into merchandising and marketing, and worked up to Manager level with various other distributors in the beauty industry. After a number of years, I wanted to progress my career as a self-employed person, and took on a tenancy of a pub in Farnham, which I ran for nearly two years before starting a family. Pub life is not conducive to bringing up a family, so I left that environment and immediately after having my first child, Toby, I started working for an independent surveyor on a very part time basis, doing admin and marketing. When my second son started pre-school, I was looking for something more substantial and I was very lucky that my surveyor employer offered me the chance to study on the SAVA course – which in short brings me to present day!
How did you hear about the course?
I heard about the course from my present employer – an independent chartered surveyor.
What attracted you to signing up for the course?
The need to do something more with my career than the back-stage that it had taken while bringing up my young family, the interesting nature of the work and the opportunities that it proposed. Both in terms of progressing a rewarding and lucrative career but also the scope that it provided in terms of having a career that could be taken nationwide and the flexibility that it allows while also having parental responsibilities such as school runs!
What were your first impressions?
I have been very impressed with SAVA – the course appears well structured, if a little ‘compressed’ at times. The classroom course was interesting, well presented and the back office staff incredibly helpful, taking time to answer all questions relating to the course and taking an active interest in our progression.
How did you find the workload?
The coursework is intensive and plentiful I’m not going to lie! I have had to be very motivated and structured – especially given my circumstances with a young family. Lots of 5am starts to get a few hours under my belt before the house awakens. I can’t remember what the telly looks like!
What sort of support did you receive?
Support has been great – very quick answers from the school whether the nature has been technical (i.e links / passwords / programmes not working) or whether the questions related to issues regarding the content of the course. In this instance my questions were quickly passed to lecturers or surveyors able to assist and very prompt answers received.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of the course?
I found the classroom learning to be the most enjoyable. The lecturers were animated and easy to listen to, and I enjoyed the interaction with the other students. There were learners from all different professional backgrounds, so it has been eye-opening and interesting to find out their reasons for joining the course and of course the knowledge that they have also been able to share; many having specialist knowledge already about certain parts of the construction/property industry.
What was the most challenging thing about doing the course?
Whilst I have been working on a very part time basis for a surveyor, I don’t come from a construction background. Whilst I have had an advantage of being able to learn directly from a surveyor during my current job and have been able to shadow on visits, my knowledge was very limited at the start so I have found it very challenging to start a whole new learning process.
Would you recommend the course to a friend?
I would recommend this course, and indeed have already done so twice!
How have you used/plan to use your qualification?
I have not yet qualified – I still have the exams to take so the early mornings continue! As already mentioned, I have been very fortunate to have been sponsored by a surveying firm, so on qualification I will be able to carry out homebuyers and valuation surveys on behalf of my company, hopefully progressing to building surveys in due time once I have built up some experience and continued my professional development.
What impact has the course/qualification had on your quality of life?
I haven’t seen much of my friends in the last six months! Joking aside, while the course has been intense and the coursework time consuming, I have felt an enormous amount of pride and worth being able to continue to learn and progress my career whilst also looking after a young family. When I qualify (hopefully soon!) the impact on my family’s’ quality of life will improve immeasurably as I will have more time to concentrate on them and I will be able to command a very respectable income, which all helps towards the security of our family’s future.
What would you say the best things are about a career is residential surveying?
The satisfaction of the potential to advise people and potentially save them money in what is likely to be their biggest investment in life – the variety of work (no house/day is the same) – the chance to constantly learn, study and increase my skill set – the flexibility of work (visits during school hours; preliminary research and report writing after school hours, which for me is at home as I am home office based) – rewarding salaries.