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I was at (what was) Chester College from 1975 to 1978, a member of the first group of students studying for a B.A. Most people at the College were training to be teachers, many of whom had P.E. as a main subject. My main subjects were History and Geography. I spent most of first year in Fisher House, and all my second year in the hostel at Exton Park (all redeveloped now). I am really pleased to see that the University has extended its property portfolio.  

Following graduation I did several jobs, including being a police officer in Manchester. It was an interesting but sad time, with the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ still active, and consuming large amounts of police time. I enjoyed the camaraderie but I disliked the shift work so I decided to seek pastures new. I responded to an advert. for housing officers with the City Council in the local evening newspaper, and nearly 43 years later I can now look back on a lengthy career in housing.

My first two jobs, including my first management position, were with Manchester City Council. The Council was a great place to learn the job, and I managed to qualify with the professional qualification in housing before moving on to progressively higher-level positions in Derby, Leeds, then in Hemel Hempstead where I have been based since 1988. 

My career has included senior jobs with local authorities, four CEO roles with housing associations, and some consultancy assignments. So, what are my observations and thoughts for up-and-coming graduates?

In any sector, keep pace with changing customer demands and trends.

With staff, I have always valued attitude at least as much as skills. Most skills can be taught and acquired, but having staff with the right attitudes - helpful, upbeat, genuinely wanting to give good service, keen to learn and progress - is almost a guarantor of success.  In the UK we massively underestimate the importance of having the people with the right attitude in the right jobs.

On attitude, setting a positive company culture has to come ‘from the top’, beginning with the Board, the CEO, and cascading down through the layers. Cultures are often about how things are done, so it’s good from time to time to unpack the box and check what is working and what is not.       

Be prepared to ‘flex’ your approach and your product to fit local circumstances and local markets. What may work well in Newcastle or Glasgow may not work well in Plymouth or Brighton.     

I learned a lot and grew up a lot at Chester. There can be few better places in the UK to study history and geography than Chester, and I was encouraged in my studies by lecturers like Ian Terrett, Alan Digby, John Carhart, Dr. Peter Higson, J.T. Driver, and Jeff Scard.

I managed to keep in contact with several people after graduating, but the two most enduring friendships I have had since my Chester days are with Barry Potter and Nigel Fazakerley. Prior to Covid, we met up a for a drink every summer and every December, and I hope we can renew those meetings beginning in 2023.     

I have many happy memories of Chester, the College, and the city itself. I am hoping to retire from full time work within the next two years, and I may be heading back to Chester. If any of my year group wish get in contact, I would be very pleased to hear from them.  

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