Senior Development Manager
Phyl is working on a number of projects for Stories in London and Oxford.
She has a degree (MA) in Natural Sciences from Trinity College, Cambridge and a Real Estate Masters from Kingston University. She is a Chartered Commercial Real Estate Surveyor. She has worked in the Real Estate industry since 2014 in consultancy and as a developer.
Phyl is passionate about diversity and inclusion in her industry as better representation around every table ensures diversity of thought. She is a committee member for Black Women in Real Estate (BWRE) and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Black Business Association (LCCI BBA).
I had a rather unorthodox route into the world of Real Estate. In my former life, I was a GB athlete competing in the Heptathlon. I was travelling the world and meeting some amazing people. My first big competition was the European Youth Olympics aged 15 – it was an incredible experience at such a young age. I realised very early on that I relished competing on the big stage. It really lit a fire in my belly. So much so that my coach used to call me ‘The Hulk’ as I would turn into another person between warm up and the competition performance itself! Following university, I went into athletics full time, fulfilling my dreams of a career in my beloved sport.
I was blessed enough to get many more opportunities to compete in front of large crowds. But unfortunately like many things in life, sport doesn’t last forever. I started to be plagued by more and more injuries, with recovery taking longer each time. They were never standard, regular injuries either. My training group would always find it funny when I would come out of the treatment room saying something like, “two of my ribs have stopped articulating properly” or “bumping my knee on the top of the bath last night has done a lot more damage that I thought”. So random! Competing for me was now becoming more about holding my body together to get through a full two days of competition which was very frustrating – I had so much more to give.
Competing at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi was definitely my biggest stage to date. I had missed out on selection of Beijing 2008 and it was another two years to London 2012. This was my first chance to experience a senior multi-sport Games. The athletes’ village was huge. The stadium, impressive. As I had done that whole year, I entered the stadium for my first event with my ankle taped up very tightly, masking the pain. But it just wasn’t meant to be. I had to be assisted off the track after the 4th event (200m) because I couldn’t move my own body as my ankle has given up. I was heartbroken. A heptathlon may be made up of seven events. But ultimately it is one because if you don’t complete all seven, you don’t register a score. You have that dreaded DNF next to your name on the results rankings (did not finish). It took me time to get over that. A medal opportunity well and truly missed. I came home needing two surgeries – my ankle and my shoulder, and another four months of rehab to try and get back on track.
Working towards London 2012 was the next goal, but my body just wasn’t the same. The required performances weren’t coming and my chance of a senior Olympics was getting further away. Heptathlon is a very strong event in this country, so you have to put down your best performance to be within a chance of making the team. Missing qualification was devastating. Getting the chance to compete at an Olympic Games in my hometown was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I missed. I almost didn’t go to the Games as a spectator, wanting to shun the whole thing, but I’m so glad I did. Those crowds were unreal. That roar! Jess, Kat and Louise did an amazing job repping our event for Team GB. Gold once again!
I retired from the sport a year later after what was a turbulent but oh so enjoyable 16 years in the sport. Thankfully, I had started thinking about what might be next for me well ahead of hanging up my spikes. You must, otherwise you can find yourself dropping into a chasm of nothingness that is very hard to get out of. Athletics taught me a lot about myself, how I operate and really helped me develop skills transferrable to the world of work. Speaking with friends and a specialist recruitment company for former athletes and armed forces, Real Estate Development seemed well suited to these skills. A highly sociable sector requiring creativity, attention to detail and most definitely resilience and perseverance. Work experience at CBRE confirmed I was in the right realm, so I went quite quickly from a mature and curious intern to the graduate scheme while doing a part time masters, qualifying as a Chartered Surveyor in 2016.
I found my way to residential development and loved working in masterplanning. Working for the largest property consultancy in the world, I got the chance to advise on estates such as Canary Wharf, Earls Court and Barking Riverside. My eyes were well and truly opened to the opportunities, and more importantly responsibilities development has in making a positive difference to how people experience their environment. This led me to want to have a more hands on approach as a developer.
Joining Crest Nicholson exposed me to the planning system and the more technical side of development. Everything that must happen before you even start to think about putting a spade in the ground, especially the importance of stakeholder engagement in large scale masterplanning. Like any other business, development needs to make a profit to be viable, but I still found that I was looking for something more. The need to truly create positive social and environmental impact. It was then through a friend I came across Stories. A new type of developer that has embedded social responsibility into their vision and modus operandi. So here I am, ready to serve as an enabler of positive impact within the built environment.
My story could read as one of unrealised potential, but I choose to remember the amazing opportunities and experiences sport has given me which has ultimately led me to what I do now. I am in the midst of a new story that is being woven in a great direction, one that I hope continues to be spun for a long time to come.