Each week, we interview a successful woman to find out how she made it to the top, and get tips on maintaining a successful work-life balance. This week, we meet Kathrin Hersel, the property director at Almacantar.
Describe your role and company
I’m the property director at Almacantar, a property investment and development company. My role is to manage our portfolio, which consists of large assets in central London, including Centre Point and Marble Arch Place. I oversee all investment and development activities, including planning, design, construction, sales and leasing.
Describe your career path
I moved to London from Berlin more than a decade ago, for my Master’s degree. When I finished a year later, I was so gripped by this beautiful city that I decided to stay. I’ve worked in London property throughout my career and still come across new opportunities and challenges every day.
What has been the most positive surprise to you in your career?
All of my developments become people’s homes and offices, or places to shop and enjoy, but One New Change was the project that made me realise the extent to which buildings can change people’s lives. At a dinner recently, I was speaking to someone who didn’t know that I’d worked on the project. We were talking about public spaces and roof terraces, and he told me about how he’d proposed to his wife on the roof terrace at One New Change. It made me smile to think that I’d played a little part in somebody else’s life.
What has been the most difficult surprise?
Most developments in central London take between five and 15 years to complete, due to the complexities around planning and construction. You come across unexpected hurdles along the way, so you have to be patient and adaptable. You also need to have a long-term vision and never lose focus on the end result.
Which skill do you think has been the most critical for your success to date?
My love of design has really helped me bring a new perspective to my projects. For Centre Point, we collaborated with the renowned print designer Eley Kishimoto, which resulted in a set of patterns that represent the iconic architectural style of the 1960s building. The patterns have been applied to a number of art forms throughout the space, showing how fashion and architecture can come together.
What is changing in your industry that excites you?
The way we interact with our surroundings is constantly changing and it’s exciting to see how the industry evolves along with this. For example, the popularity of walking around our cities inspired Pavegen, an incredible technology company, to convert the energy from people’s footsteps into renewable energy.
What advice would you give to someone just coming in to your industry now?
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. There’s no right or wrong answer in development but it’s important to have a clear vision.
What would you like someone to invent to make your life easier?
A vitamin that could give me photographic memory.
If you could spend your time doing anything you wanted, what would you do?
I really love what I do. I started in the industry thinking it would only involve design and construction, but development has so much to offer; plus, I’ve been lucky enough to make some fantastic friends along the way. After all, property is all about people.
What does your dream property look like and where would it be?
I know I’m biased but I don’t think there’s a better property than the Penthouse at Centre Point.
What is your favourite…
…restaurant? My favourite restaurant changes every week – at the moment it’s Frenchie in Covent Garden.
…London landmark? I love when old and new landmarks sit side by side, for example St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge.
…sport to do? Sailing.
…accessories for work? A pair of Christian Louboutin shoes and a Saint Laurent handbag never let me down.
…scent? It changes depending on my mood. My favourite two at the moment are Tom Ford and Byredo.
…work travel destination? Hong Kong and, of course, Berlin.
…tickets for you and a friend on a Thursday night? We’re so spoilt for choice in London. I don’t plan too far in advance, as it depends on how I feel at the time and I follow urban junkies to keep me up to date. I love the annual programme at the Vaults, which reminds me of the art scene in Berlin.
Tell us about something else you’re involved in.
We’re working on a youth programme with the Royal Parks, which is a new and exciting venture for us. One of the highlights is that we hold our meetings in the beautiful surroundings of Hyde Park.
To find out more about Almacantar, visit almacantar.com.