Charlotte Breen

Charlotte Breen

“I went to Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, and now I am a Group Sustainability Manager.”

Charlotte, Group Sustainability Manager

Years attended:

2001-2008

Job Title:

Group Sustainability Manager

Description of Job:

Encourage an international real estate company to invest in and develop their buildings in a way that has a positive impact on society and the environment. This is wide-ranging, from encouraging them to put the latest solar panels on the roofs, to sponsor community street parties, building more affordable homes and neighbourhoods that enable healthier lifestyles.

Geography, economics, business studies can help but it’s more about showing your interest through work experience. If you just wanted to work in real estate then there are a few specialist undergraduate degrees, the best known are at Reading, Oxford Brooks, CASS and Cambridge. Imperial London have a superb range of environmental degrees.

O Levels/GCSEs

English Language (A*)

English Literature (A*)

Maths (A*)

Biology A*)

Physics (A*)

Chemistry (A*)

Geography (A*)

Art

Applied ICT

A Levels

Maths (A)

Economics (A)

French (A)

University

Cambridge University

Course: Land Economy which is a mixture of law, applied economics, geography, finance and real estate.

What inspired you at school?

I loved all the extra-curricular activities and gained many soft-skills alongside my studies. Enthusiastic teachers and strong friendship groups played an important part of the journey. An enjoyment for learning is possibly how my time at AGGS continues to influence me, as I’m still actively learning in my job and my free time in various ways.

Any useful tips/advice?

Aim high! I didn’t think I wanted to apply to Cambridge or Oxford at first as it seemed a bit too posh and not something I would like but I had an incredible experience, really enjoyed the unique course I studied there and met lots of ‘normal’ people(!). It has opened so many doors.

What have you done since leaving AGGS to get to where you are today? (eg work experience, GAP year, apprenticeship, volunteering, travelling)

Work experience in my school holidays was really useful in understanding what I wanted (and didn’t want!) to do. I also believe it was as important as my degree in getting a job after university, as it made my CV stand out and gave me experience to talk about in the interview. I shadowed an environmental lawyer, real estate audit accountants, Olympic Development Authority regeneration team, the North West Member of the European Parliament, a landscape architect and estate agents. I didn’t take a gap year but there was plenty of time to travel during university holidays (they’re 3 months long!) even with work experience placements too. I was too keen to get going and live independently rather than saving money for travel while living at home. I’m still at the same company 6 years on after leaving university and now I’m starting to travel more with my job too, from the Scottish Highlands to Hong Kong!

How did you get into your current job role?

I applied for the position.

What specific qualifications are needed for your job?

No specific qualifications are required. Masters degree in renewable energy (or similar) or Masters in real estate could be useful. My colleagues come from many different backgrounds, it’s about proving your interest in real estate, sustainability and business.

Are there any particular subjects that have to be studied to be able to do your job?

Geography, economics, business studies can help but it’s more about showing your interest through work experience. If you just wanted to work in real estate, then there are a few specialist undergraduate degrees, the best known are at Reading, Oxford Brooks, CASS and Cambridge. Imperial London have a superb range of environmental degrees.

What is a typical work day like for you?

Every day is different. Meetings with different teams, running workshops or attending events to understand ways the company can have a more positive environmental and social impact. Going on site tours of new properties, writing reports or managing research or training programmes.

What is the best bit about your job and do you have a particular career highlight?

I couldn’t work in a job that was just about making money. I find it rewarding to be part of an era encouraging businesses to have a more positive impact on the world. I’m covering my Director’s maternity leave for the second time and so my career highlight is at the moment – reporting directly to the CEO of a £12bn company and being able to influence.

What are the worst things about your job?

Patience is required at times to get to the result. For example, I’m not the builder on the ground implementing the change, there’s a chain of people to persuade for an improvement to take place.

What skills help you most in your job (i.e. teamwork, communication, leadership, time management)?

Persuasion, clear communication, teamwork – working with people of many different characters self-motivation – I don’t need a tight deadline to motivate me, which is good as I’m not a consultant working to clients’ deadlines.

What advice would you give to students looking to get into your line of work? (e.g. subjects to study, getting work experience)

My key advice would be to proactively ask around for work experience in something you think might be of interest, whether this sector or others. It’s your future and quality of life at stake, so don’t wait for parents or teachers to arrange this for you! I asked my little sister’s friend’s mum to work shadow her for a week, the father of the family I babysat for after asking about his job, and sent a letter to my local MP and estate agent – it’s within everyone’s reach! Even if it’s just sacrificing a couple of days of your school holiday, it’s well worth it. There’s an unimaginable range of rewarding jobs out there that it’s hard to learn about without getting some experience and being curious.

How did your experience at AGGS help you to achieve your successes?

In so many ways. I loved all the extra-curricular activities and gained many soft-skills. I’m sure from these alongside my studies. Enthusiastic teachers and strong friendship groups played an important part of the journey. An enjoyment for learning is possibly how my time at AGGS continues to influence me, as I’m still actively learning in my job and my free time in various ways.