Learning from the next generation – the power of the National Student Awards

Katia Polidoro

Wednesday September 21, 2022

Katia Polidoro, tp bennett

As an architect and director at tp bennett, I am strongly committed to making the UK property industry diverse, where everybody can thrive and contribute, not despite but because of, their individual abilities and skills.  To promote this I established tp bennett’s mentoring programmes, I mentor at Westminster University and am an external examiner at London School of Architecture.  I am part of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee on Cultural Change at Real Estate Balance and, on behalf of tp bennett, champion as national sponsor, the Women in Property Student Awards 2022.

Wanting to further engage and promote female diversity and equality across the property industry, I joined Women in Property three years ago, participating in, and enjoying, their in person and lockdown events, which offered meaningful support to women, providing industry knowledge and relationship building opportunities.

In 2021, I was approached by Women in Property to join the judging panel for the Women in Property Student Awards alongside Bouygues and Savills.  I was honoured to be asked and really looked forward to meeting and learning more from those looking to join the built environment industry.

The Student Awards present a rare opportunity to bring together academia and the property industry, to encourage and support young professionals at a pivotal point in their careers. Moving from the conceptual world of university to the real world of practice can often be a time when dreams and expectations can get seriously tested. The role of the professional judging panel is to bridge this gap, giving practical advice to help navigate their next steps in the built environment community.

The judging day was immaculately organised, with the experience utterly humbling. The quality of the 14 finalists (out of over 100 across the UK), their talent, honesty and understanding of the market far exceeded the judge’s expectations, I certainly don’t recall being so insightful at that age!  The day was structured to offer 1-to-1 conversations with the judging panel as well as mentoring sessions in an environment where candidates could feel at ease and demonstrate their strengths.

Following my judging experience, I believed it was important for tp bennett to further support such a fantastic initiative and we became national sponsors this year.  This also afforded us the opportunity to be part of the regional judging panels, with 14 members of tp bennett’s senior team joining sessions from Cardiff to London to Aberdeen.

Being able to meet such a cross-section of candidates provided a really beneficial insight from those at the beginning of their careers and has been as valuable to tp bennett as we hope it has been for the candidates.  Personally, I keep replaying many of the conversations in my head, one of which really sticks with me;

Crucial for me starting a career in the property industry, was a career day at my school where the speaker was a woman, senior in one of the biggest nationwide property companies. Listening to a woman in a senior position talking so passionately about the property industry gave me the confidence that I could choose this sector for my career. The room was 95% full of boys’ and some had asked why I was even queuing to get in.’  

This particular candidate now has a fantastic career at Gleeds, and is actively involved in panel discussions, mentoring programmes and student support events in Manchester. I refer back to this again and again, as it really articulates for me the importance of being involved.

It is so important for all genders and diverse representatives to be holistically aware of their industry and the struggles that still exist. I believe it is part of our duty as senior professionals to get involved at different levels, to build a diverse and therefore more successful future for our industry.

Throughout my career I have met fantastic young professionals who have lacked confidence, or worse, support, throughout their career. Initiatives like the Student Awards offer opportunities for young talent at a critical point in their career, equipping them with tools to begin creating their own network and a career path.  As ever, there can only be one winner, although the experience, support and knowledge offered as part of the process offers is invaluable to all candidates.

In practical terms, this year, tp bennett has already welcomed two architectural students on work experience placements.   We are in discussion with other candidates with regard to tp bennett’s Graduate Mentoring Programme, which also provides the opportunity to win a £10K bursary to support their studies.

Alongside my other panel members and national sponsors, Amazon, Bouygues and Savills, it was an absolute pleasure to meet and judge the 14 finalists for the 2022 programme, when after much deliberation because the standards were so high, we were able to choose the national winner.  And, never one to miss out on an opportunity to dress up, I enjoyed putting on a glamorous frock for the glitzy awards dinner at Claridge’s. 

This is when we were able to celebrate the winner and 13 other finalists, reminding us all that we have a bright, varied and diverse future ahead of us.   My congratulations go to Tallulah Bannerman, studying Architecture at the University of Edinburgh, who took the top prize this year.

tp bennett is an independent architectural and design practice, offering cross-sector expertise from a world class team. Katia specialises in mixed-use town centre regeneration delivering schemes across the UK, EMEA and APAC regions.

Pictured: Katia Polidoro, tp bennett, with National Student Awards winner 2022, Tallulah Bannerman

National Sponsors