Before she joined the GLA, Maja worked for a small charity, empowering communities through design. Now, she’s using that experience to lead and consult on a variety of community-led housing initiatives. Here she talks about some of rewarding work she’s been involved in so far, the impact of the GLA’s work and the drive that everyone shares to make things happen.
Housing is top of the agenda in London, and in the minds of every single person in the country. It’s a really big societal issue. At the GLA, we actually have the ability to make a real difference and ensure there are more affordable homes for people to live in London.
Before I joined the GLA 3 years ago, I was working for a small charity, empowering communities through design. So, I’d worked a lot with communities to upskill them and given strategic advice to professionals, to help them work better with communities and other stakeholders. It was about improving collaboration and collaborative working.
Now, because of my background, when something comes up that’s about community in housing, I’m encouraged to lead or consult on it. One example is our community-led housing programme. I helped set up the London community-led housing hub, which we launched a couple years ago. Now I’m involved in the community housing fund. I’m on the panel and will be assessing bids for that fund.
It’s great to be able to use my background, skills and understanding to help my colleagues learn how to engage with that sector. And, to help the sector to engage with us a little bit better. It’s nice to be a bit of a bridge.
One of the things I like about the GLA is the strategic regional focus. You’re not working in a tightly defined location or policy area, you actually have an impact across a much broader area. And we manage millions of pounds on a daily basis, which was intimidating at first, coming from a small charity as I did. Now it’s just part of the job.
There’s such a focus on learning and development. I’m helping to organise a new pilot of site visits for colleagues, to enable them to visit projects we’re involved in and meet residents. We’re designing it to help colleagues develop their own learning, and drive improvements for the Homes for Londoners team. We’re testing different ways of interacting with communities and bringing that learning home.
I’ve been utterly impressed by my colleagues, and their drive to make things happen. I’ve only been here for three years but it’s changed enormously, and so much has been achieved by everyone. I’ve also been impressed by their collegiate nature.
People are really friendly and if you ever have a question, they’re genuinely happy to support you, even if they’re not in your team, which you don’t get in every organisation. I think that’s really quite special. The workplace is very collaborative and responsive.
My colleagues have been really good at helping me to build a diverse portfolio that plays to my strengths. I’m good at being involved across a range of things, and I’ve been supported to do that. So, I have a lot of things on my CV that will help me in the future.
They make the effort to understand what skills you have. My design and community background means that if something related comes up, I’m encouraged to pursue it. Our Assistant Director is extremely good at sharing opportunities around, which helps to set the culture in the wider team. He’s also great at promoting women and people who aren’t necessarily present on stage, to be there.
There is support for progression. There’s a lot of focus on supporting people to develop themselves and their careers, and a dedicated learning and development framework for Housing and Land.
When I came back from maternity leave, I was offered a career coach. It’s very supportive, and I know that my manager and my team will help me pursue the things I want to achieve.
Even if the job you’re applying for looks really technical on paper, and you don’t have a technical background, you should still apply. It’s often much more about the relationships – managing partnerships and working well with people. And, making things happen. You’ll find the support you need to learn on the job, as soon as you arrive. So, if you’re thinking about applying, just do it.