After 30 years climbing up the housing career ladder, Jason has just been appointed Chief Executive of Newydd Housing Association. Here he says how he moved up the ranks:
“When I started as a “Sponsored Student” in housing back in 1989, the Chief Executive was someone you didn’t make eye contact with, you only spoke to through a secretary, and if they spoke to you and knew your name it was an event worthy of an article in the staff magazine. At the time, reaching that status was something I could not even contemplate. Looking through my 18-year-old eyes, I wasn’t sure that was even something I would want to be – it looked very lonely, very intense and more stress than my happy-go-lucky student head ever wanted.
But now, 31 years later, with a slightly different outlook on life generally, I am starting my tenure as Chief Executive of Newydd Housing Association. So, what led to this?
Firstly – experience. After finishing my sponsored student programme, I became a Neighbourhood Housing Officer at Welwyn Hatfield Council before relocating to South Wales as a Housing Officer for what was then Glamorgan & Gwent Housing Association.
I then “upgraded” to a Tenancy Services Specialist at Newydd in 1996. On day one and as part of my induction, the (relatively new) Chief Executive, Paul Roberts, took me out for a walk across to a local estate in Barry and started to chat to me about my thoughts on what could be done to improve the quality of life in the estate. I was stunned – this was a Chief Executive talking to me and he didn’t even avoid eye contact! That’s when I realised that Chief Executives could be human.
Secondly – ambition. Once I realised that Chief Executives were (on the whole) human, an idea started to form in my mind. Back in those student days my career plan was to a get a job that covered my rent and living costs and stick at it forever. Why would anyone want more? But my Dad had always told me that you needed a career plan – keep moving up! Perhaps he was right and perhaps I could have a career plan. So, I decided I wanted to be a Paul Roberts-style Chief Executive. And that meant looking for roles to move up the organisational structure, to management roles, and then Director posts before getting to the pinnacle as Chief Executive.
Thirdly – flexibility. Whilst my 25-year-old heart probably thought I could go straight from Housing Officer to Chief Executive with a single bound and an optimistic application form, my brain told me I had to take any opportunity I was presented with.
I was successful at getting a Senior Team Leader post with Family Housing Association in Swansea, enjoying a daily commute along the M4 with several happy hours spent on Fabian Way. After my car blew up on the M4 and then falling asleep whilst using the train as my alternative transport and completely missing Cardiff, I started to wonder if it was all worth it. However, two years later I was heading the other way along the M4 as I became a District Manager at Torfaen County Borough Council in Cwmbran, before finally ending up back at Newydd as Housing Director in 2003.
That flexibility to seek out roles that moved me along my career plan, even though they weren’t always the most convenient, gave me a huge wealth of experience that was attractive to organisations recruiting for the next Manager or Director.
Fourthly – persistence. When I started as Housing Director at Newydd, I remember telling everyone who would listen, that I had moved roles every three years in line with my career plan and that I would aim to stay as Housing Director for five years tops. Seventeen years later I was appointed as Chief Executive at Newydd. Persistence is the key…
So, my advice to my 18-year-old self is be flexible and soak up experiences, have a plan (with flexible timescales…) and be persistent in sticking with it.
And one more tip, always make eye contact with Jason Wroe.”
Jason Wroe – Chief Executive, Newydd Housing Association