Development Victoria

International Women’s Day: Staff Profile – Heather Maxwell

07 Mar 2019
Heather-MaxwellIn celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, UDIA Victoria ran a series of profiles celebrating women making waves in the industry. Our very own Heather Maxwell was featured as part of this series. 

Read Heather’s profile to find out more about her background and experience on what it’s like being a woman in the property development industry.

Name: Heather Maxwell 
Role: Development Director, Advisory Services
Company: Development Victoria 
Experience: 10 years banking, 10 years property development (financial structuring, acquisitions, advisory)
Fun Fact: I’m hoping to build my first pre-fab passive house in 2019. I can’t wait to be cool in summer and warm in winter!!

With property development  traditionally being a male dominated field (which the industry is trying hard to change), what first drove your interest in property development ?  
In school and university, I didn’t have a clear idea of what career I wanted to pursue. Whilst at university I got a job as a bank teller then a graduate role in general banking. A couple of years later, I moved to Ireland and got a job in property development finance and realised I had finally found an industry I was passionate about.  Financing in Ireland was very hands on, requiring me to develop skills in valuation, surveyor, financial modelling and planning. I enjoyed the diversity and challenge, and knew my career focus going forward would be in property development.

What is it like being a female within the property development industry in 2018/2019?
It’s an exciting time to be part of Victoria’s unprecedented period of infrastructure and property growth. The opportunities for anyone in the industry are significant, and as a woman I feel supported and empowered at Development Victoria to make a meaningful contribution. However there is a lack of female peers and role models in senior level positions across the industry, and there remains work to be done to address the gap.

What are the things you enjoy most about being in property development?
The complex challenges and exciting opportunities. Its been a long time since a day/week/year was the same as the next – I enjoy the constant change, as well as the requirement to innovate and collaborate.

There has been a lot said in the press, media over the last 12/24months about the gender pay gap issue, with a lot of companies pledging to do better in this area in the near future. Is this something that has affected you personally to date in your career?
In the past, I did not have enough conversations regarding where my salary compared against my colleagues.  I trusted my managers and organisations to treat me fairly.  I now recognise that I needed to take greater responsibility to have more proactive discussions regarding salary and career opportunities.  

What or who has been the biggest inspiration in your career thus far?
A boss had those conversations with me about my career path and what I should be paid. He also sponsored me to take advantage of the possibilities and opportunities offered, to use all my expertise and aptitude to its fullest. He inspired me to have challenging conversations with those that weren’t as proactive as he was in being a true “male champion of change”.  

Where do you see your career heading in the distant/or not so distant future?
I am currently focused on addressing affordable housing challenges in Victoria. I’m ambitious and passionate about undertaking meaningful and challenging areas of work, then appropriate career opportunities will follow.

Knowing what you know now, if you could give yourself some career advice in retrospect to the younger undergrad and as a woman, what would it be?
Find your own voice. You may be working in a male dominated profession or you may be surrounded by inspirational female leaders, no matter what the circumstances, it’s important to know what your value is and how you intend to contribute. It’s important to work with passion, a sense of inquisitiveness, a powerful drive and some bigger picture thinking. However don’t forget to work out what you want from it and how to make that happen too!

How has being a part of the UDIA Outlook Committee helped you in your industry?
The biggest benefit in being part of an UDIA committee is contributing to the advocacy to support the development of vibrant and diverse communities in Victoria.