Case Study 5 : Chief Executive
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Name: David Ireland
Organisation: Empty Homes Agency
So, what do you actually do?
The Empty Homes Agency is an independent campaigning charity that exists to highlight the waste of empty property in England. We use every opportunity to tell people about the national problem of empty homes and work with others to promote ways of bringing empty homes back into use. One day I might meet people whose lives are affected by abandoned homes, the next I'll be talking to politicians in Whitehall.
Did you do any training that helped you get the job?
I'm a trained environmental health officer, but that was half a lifetime ago and I'm not sure it helped me particularly. The further into my career I get, the more I think what defines me is what I have achieved rather than what I have studied.
What skills and experience is best suited to your job?
Enthusiasm and tenacity matter more than anything. Hundreds of organisations are all trying to get the issues they are concerned about in the public domain. You need the drive to get your organisation's message out there so it's not drowned out by other people from worthy causes trying to the same.
What's the most memorable experience you've had in this job?
Receiving a phone call, out of the blue, from BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman a few hours before he interviewed the housing minister on Newsnight. We had a long conversation about the potential of empty homes to provide a stock of new social housing. He was warm, charming and polite - quite unlike his TV persona.
What scope for career progression is there in your field?
Housing is a great area to work in at the moment. Major issues, like how the sector meets the challenges of climate change, are providing more exciting job opportunities. If the Empty Homes Agency is successful and makes an impact on the social housing sector under my leadership, I would say there will be even more great opportunities in the future.
Any top tips for someone wanting to get into this work?
Get a few solid achievements under your belt, either through your current job or perhaps by volunteering. It is so much more powerful to talk to a potential employer about something you have actually done than about a series of skills you might be able to apply in the future.
Don't be frightened to show ambition; a campaigning charity is not somewhere you'll find many people settling down waiting for retirement. Being positive and knowing what you want to achieve will make you more attractive to an employer.
Empty Homes Agency
Tel: 020 7828 6288