Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Real Estate Mentoring Scheme: Who are the Mentors?

Now that the Real Estate Mentoring Scheme has been running (very successfully) for two years, I thought it was about time I caught up with some of the Mentors. And they all have one thing in common: they all graduated with degrees in real estate (or estate management as it used to be known) from Oxford Brookes University (or Oxford Polytechnic). This is a unique feature of our Mentoring Scheme and one which we think makes it quite special as mentors and mentees have an immediate connection.

Rick de Blaby and Robert Orr answered my questions.

Rick de Blaby graduated with a BSc Estate Management in 1980 from Oxford Polytechnic (as Oxford Brookes University was then called). He is now Group Chief Executive of United House Limited. Rick has mentored two students so far and is about to take part in the third year of the mentoring scheme.

Rick de Blaby (centre) concentrating on the Marshmallow Challenge

Why did you decide to go into Real Estate?
I knew from quite an early age that I would have a career doing something with buildings. I thought I wanted to be an architect, but in the end realised that being a developer drew together my interest in design, building, place-making, deal making, finance and team management. I like the puzzle of solving complicated challenges and joining all the dots.

What did you enjoy most about your time at Oxford Brookes?
Oxford Brookes (Oxford Poly as it was then) was the pre-eminent practical estate management course (now the BSc Real Estate management) and Oxford is a lovely place to live and study. I most enjoyed the friendships I formed and still keep.

What have you been doing work-wise since you graduated?
I have had three major careers; the first at Trafalgar House PLC in the 1980s, becoming one of the youngest property directors, then Countryside Properties PLC where I was a divisional Managing Director and then MEPC where I was the Chief Executive. I am about to become Group Chief Executive of United House Limited.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I am shortly to start as Group Chief Executive of United House Limited. I most enjoy the engagement of a vast range of people who influence the process of urban regeneration, seeing the physical manifestation of one’s endeavours and then finally seeing people live and work and enjoy the buildings and places we make. Lots of challenges every day!

Why did you decide to take part in the Mentoring Scheme?
I have a passion for improving the prospects for young people and seeing latent talent develop. It is nice to be able to give something back to an industry that has served me well.

What kind of support did you offer your mentee?
I helped my mentee with his CV, his dissertation and some of his course work and generally tried to offer wise counsel on an ad hoc basis. Our communication was through several meetings, e-mail, phone calls and texts. We were in pretty regular contact and I also gave him references for the job he secured.

How do you feel your experience as a Mentor has benefited you?
I have enjoyed seeing my mentee secure his first professional role enormously. The networking with fellow mentors has also been good.


Robert Orr graduated with a BSc Urban Estate Management in the late 1970s from Oxford Polytechnic (as Oxford Brookes University was then called). Following 30 years working in a variety of roles at Jones Lang LaSalle, he now holds a portfolio of non-executive director and advisory roles within the real estate sector. Robert has mentored two students so far and is about to take part in the third year of the mentoring scheme.

Robert Orr (on the left) with his mentee, Adam Pleeth

What is your background and why did you choose to go into Real Estate? 
Father was a country vet in Shropshire and I did some work experience at a local rural estate manager and estate agency. I had little idea what I was letting myself in for when I was accepted on the BSc Urban Estate Management programme at Oxford Polytechnic.

Why did you choose the course at Oxford Brookes? 
It was actually the only course I could get on. I loved every moment, Oxford is a great city to be a student and offers a very good social and sporting life.

What have you been doing work-wise since you graduated? 
I worked at Jones Lang LaSalle for 30 years in the UK, Paris and Germany and then the UK again. I was appointed Chief Executive Officer of EMEA Capital Markets for 7 years and left in 2009. I now have a portfolio of non-executive director and advisory roles.

Where do you work now and what do you enjoy most about your job? 
I am enjoying the diversity of roles, more freedom and discovering the wider world outside mainstream property.

Why did you decide to take part in the Mentoring Scheme? 
I have always been a big advocate of the value of coaching and mentoring.

What kind of support did you offer your mentee? 
I helped mostly in connection with work experience and the dissertation. Communication was mostly by email and telephone.

How do you feel your experience as a Mentor has benefited you?
I received a very nice and unexpected note and present from Adam when he achieved a First Class Degree and felt the guidance and ideas I had given him for his dissertation made a big difference. Can’t ask for more satisfying feedback than that…..


For more information about the Mentoring Scheme click on the link.

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