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Joanna Russell - Director, CBRE Projects, Sydney

Joanna Russell
'I recommend talking to various companies about doing summer work and getting a feel for the career before you take the plunge.'

As a director of CBRE Projects, Sydney, Joanna heads up a team of project managers, building consultants and construction managers. The team provides project management, workplace planning, building consultancy and construction management for a range of public and private sector clients.

A substantial part of the business involves commercial fit-outs, refurbishing and upgrading existing property to add value to the asset, and implementation of energy and water efficiency initiatives to attract new tenants. The team also provides consultancy work for companies thinking about moving location, and for clients looking to purchase or sell property.

How did you end up in the job you have now?

I am a RICS chartered building surveyor with a Bachelor of Science degree in building surveying from the United Kingdom. When I graduated from university, I worked for a building team in an agency similar to CBRE discovering the bare bones of what it means to be a building surveyor. I then started on smaller jobs that I could run myself and moved into motor dealership development for the likes of Holden (Vauxhall), Volkswagen and Audi. When I came to Australia, I started getting into fit-outs which is very much client-relationship based. I found that forming a relationship with a client and understanding their concerns and easing them through the project was a strength of mine.

What’s an interesting project you have worked on recently?

We recently completed a large refurbishment project of a 14-story commercial office building in Pitt Street, one of Sydney’s principal shopping malls. We replaced the entire bottom five floors of the façade, reconfigured all the retail space internally to provide attractive display frontages to attract shoppers in the mall, and upgraded all of the commercial space above the retail section. It worked incredibly well.

What characteristics do you need to be successful?

I’m pretty ambitious and fairly buoyant, which I would say is important in our industry where there can be pressures at times due to deadlines. I really enjoy meeting new clients, the camaraderie of working in a project team and I am proud of the projects I have completed.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to follow in the same career as you?

I like my job because of its diversity – if you want to come into a job where every day is varied with a huge amount of interaction with different personalities, then this really is the job for you. The construction management degrees have really been tailored to suit the likes of companies like ours. I would also recommend talking to various companies about doing summer work and getting a feel for the career before you take the plunge.

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