The Outlook Committee are excited to welcome you to The Career Café where we sit down with influencers in our industry & serve up the hot questions and share with you their answers.

This month we sat down with the newly appointed UDIA WA Vice-President and previous Outlook Committee Chairperson, Jeremy Cordina, who is General Manager – Land at Parcel Property.

About the UDIA Outlook Interviewer:

Full Name: Michael Arena
Job Title: Civil Project Engineer
Company: TABEC Civil Engineering Consultants

About the Interviewee:

Full Name: Jeremy Cordina
Job Title: General Manager – Land
Company: Parcel Property
UDIA Young Development Professional Award Winner – 2009

Interviewee Introduction:

Jeremy has worked in the property and construction industry for over 19 years. He combines a sharp engineering mind with experience in land development, construction, design and project management. Jeremy’s experience in the property development industry is backed up with tertiary degrees in Civil/Structural Engineering, Property Finance and an MBA.

As General Manager of Land at Parcel Property, Jeremy manages a portfolio of over 6,000 lots across 17 projects located within the Perth metropolitan area. These projects range from small infill developments to large scale greenfield developments.

Jeremy also holds a number of positions on industry related boards including Vice-President at UDIA, Board Member of the Survey Licencing Board, Metronet Steering Committee, Western Power’s Strategic Reference Group and Landgate’s Customer Service Council. Jeremy has also chaired both the UDIA Infrastructure Committee and the UDIA Outlook Committee and won the UDIA Young Development Professional Award in 2009.

Serving up the Hot Questions

  1.  Can you please share a brief overview of your career in the property industry to date?

Initially I did a civil and structural engineering degree and then I spent three years with a civil contractor working ‘up-north’. So that was probably a bit of a baptism of fire because I was working with sixty odd guys in a camp in Marble Bar for the best part of a year. So I had to grow up pretty quickly.

Once I left that position, I went to London for a few years to enjoy myself, but also ran a small consultancy firm over there. I then came back to Perth worked in an engineering consultancy for a bit before then realising that a lot of engineers do need to have some grasp of the commercial environments, so I went and did an MBA (Master of Business Administration).

That was probably the turning point going into property thereafter. I then went to work for a large developer on a project called Banksia Grove before joining ABN Group.

When I first started at ABN, the property section was pretty much in its infancy with small projects kicking around but it really wasn’t a fully operational company and didn’t have much in terms of a pipeline of work. So my job in the early days was to fill that pipeline which we’ve now done, with Parcel Property currently having a list of 15 to 16 projects of which we’ve got seven or so in the market.

 2.  You mentioned that undertaking the MBA was a turning point in your career, what was your motivation to undertake further studies?

As I progressed through my career, I was doing less engineering and more people and financial management. I very much have the attitude that you will have to do training for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter how old I get; I’ll continue to look for opportunities to learn new things and that was just one of those opportunities.

The other thing that I’ve done since then is I’ve also got a property finance degree. After doing the MBA there was still a knowledge gap specifically associated with property finance, so I went and did a degree in that as well.

     3.  Did you have a senior industry figure mentoring you early in your career or was all your learning largely self-driven?

My early career was all self-driven. Later on, through my involvement with UDIA, I’ve had the opportunity to have some mentors in the industry who have given me some direction, more specifically associated with my involvement in the industry.

Russell Perry was a strong mentor of mine, and his greatest piece of advice to me was “Don’t be the quiet one in the room”. I make sure that I voice my opinion when I feel it is required and I don’t necessarily back down from that opinion unless I can be satisfactorily convinced otherwise.

That’s not to say that I’m right all the time. Many people in this office and at my home address will attest to the fact that I’m wrong on occasion, but I need to be convinced out of it and I won’t just take an alternative position without necessarily understanding it.

   4.   What were the benefits of being recognised as the 2009 UDIA Young Professional and how has the award shaped your personal, professional development and involvement within the industry?

My UDIA journey starts in 2008, when I went for the young professional scholarship and was unsuccessful that particular year. I took that as an opportunity to essentially double down my efforts within UDIA to essentially build those networks and I also joined the Outlook Committee at that point in time.

The following year in 2009, I was successful in winning the scholarship became the chair of the Outlook Committee in the following five or so years. The advice that I got from Debra Goostrey, who was the CEO of UDIA at the time, was that the scholarship was only as powerful as the work you put into it.

Following on from that experience, I transitioned onto the UDIA Policy Committees, which initially was the UDIA Sustainability Committee. I felt we made some significant changes during this time and then I was encouraged to put my hand up for Counsellor and was successful. I then became the chair of the UDIA Infrastructure Committee which is a position I’ve held for probably six years I would say.

I suppose the reason I’m involved and the reason I put the time aside is because I am not a big fan of being a passenger. By getting involved in UDIA, your opinion is delivered to those decision makers in the regulatory space and you are able to actually influence policy. So rather than complain about it, I was able to do something about it and actually assist those offices to make an informed decision rather than an ill-informed one based on either political will or the allowed voice of a minority. You need to come to the table with an industry wide perspective and make sure that you are delivering something for the industry and not exclusively for your own particular projects.

Hence, my strategy has been pretty simple one. If there is an opportunity to help, I put my hand up. If there is opportunity to do some background research in order to inform the staff at UDIA or staff at the relevant state authorities, I’ll do that work and then pass it through. So that’s really the secret to how I’ve managed to continue to get those opportunities, it is just through good old-fashioned hard work.

  5.  What are your general expectations of young professionals who join your team?  Are there certain values or skills which you see to be particularly advantageous?

I’ve generally set very high expectations for all of my staff and of myself. The expectation is that you are a happy, motivated human being, you are driven and you love to learn new things.

When the requirement arises to buckle down and get a chunk of work done through a period of time, you’re standing at the front of that particular line to assist the team.

So you’ve got to have a good balance of exercise, family, friends as well as work and being able to somehow juggle all of that which is great time management to not let any of those key areas of your life slip away. I’m big on bucketing time. If I’m exercising or at work, I’ll give 110 percent to that and as soon as I walk through the door at home, then all of these devices get turned off put in a drawer and I deal with them when it’s their turn to get some of my time.

6.  Success is generally a subjective concept that is often difficult to define. How would you most aptly define success for you personally and as an organisation?

For me, success is earning enough for the business to keep the lights on and have some form of growth curve, whether that be sharp or a flat one. Having a place where all of our team enjoy turning up every day and genuinely enjoy the people they work with and where you are continually learning. These are probably the three key pillars for me.

   7.  In terms of the property market in WA, despite the recent downturn we seem to have reached the bottom of this market cycle. Where do you think the industry is heading over the next 5 years or so and what are the opportunities?

Thankfully property is one of the most basic markets that exists, which relies solely on one thing and that is population growth. The reality is that unless there is some significant change in interstate and/or international migration, then we’ll continue to move along at the rate we are at the moment.

Now those two things obviously depend on lots of other complex factors such as the economy, which is largely driven in our state by mining. But ultimately the only lever that needs to be pulled is the ‘population lever’. If that one is pulled then everything else is in the right spot for things to improve.

We’ve got the opportunity now and have had over the last five years to rethink how we do things rather than just continue to churn on volume. Innovation thrives in a weak market and I think we’ve seen some innovation in built form in particular as well as the affordability of two storey and smaller-type products. The diversity of product that is being delivered now versus ten years ago is stark. Ten years ago, we probably had a choice of four main housing types. It’s now probably 10 to 15 different types of housing which I think is a positive.

Within the next five years I would also expect to see a few key differences in the innovation space. Three key changes I expect to see are in relation to:

  • Power: The delivery of power through the states will change. How that is delivered through solar batteries and then other forms of microgrids, that’s going to happen there is no question about that.
  • Transport: The way that we deliver roads and transport will have to change. Even the built form will have to change as transport completely changes from two to three cars in a household to one and possibly zero.
  • Water: Water’s going to have to change as well in relation to how we irrigate our parks and similar assets.

The base line affordability that we have in Perth at the moment in comparison to the rest of the country is as affordable as it has been in many decades, so I don’t think there is anything to be too worried about. We should just enjoy this period of time when it’s not too frantic and then look forward to the time when all the hard work done over the last five years results in greater prosperity in the future.