From Piano to Property and Joining a Male-Dominated Industry.

Original Article
March 8th, 2024


Image shows Sava surveying graduate Erica Bond with case study title "From Piano to Property and Joining a Male-Dominated Industry"

Today marks International Women’s Day 2024, a day to celebrate the achievements of women, to bring to light the challenges they face every day and to drive gender parity.

To date, only 14% of Sava surveying graduates are women, a statistic very much reflected overall in the number of women entering the residential surveying industry across all qualification routes. We believe that to encourage more women and girls to consider technical careers such as surveying, it’s important to show they are represented – something echoed in this year’s International Women’s Day theme:

In the run up to this year’s event, we caught up with Sava graduate and piano teacher turned residential building surveyor, Erica Bond, about her journey into the surveying profession, what she’s up to now, and her experience operating in what is still a very male-dominated industry.

I used to run a theatre club and was a peripatetic instrumental teacher specialising in piano for approximately 18 years, so a technical career in surveying was quite the change!

What made you consider surveying as your next career move?

I felt like I needed a complete change in the direction of my career. I have always loved history and particularly social history, and I enjoy problem solving and understanding how things are made. ‘If walls could talk, what would they say?’ is a phrase often used and in this profession you get a deep insight into a property’s composition, its flaws and its secrets. Essentially, you’re a detective following a trail of suspicion, and this was key to me pursuing the career.

Why did you choose the Sava diploma as your training route into the profession?

The flexibility of study was crucial for me. With only two contact days per month most months, I was able to fit the part-time training around my work and hectic family life. The Sava diploma offered a more accessible route in for someone like me with existing commitments who couldn’t simply drop everything to do a three-to-five-year university degree.

How did you find the learning experience with Sava?

Whilst the learning was challenging and extremely thorough, the structure of the course was very organised and easy to follow. In particular, the online resources were excellent; I found them extremely helpful when undertaking self-study and preparing for both the virtual and classroom training days.

Were there any challenges you had to overcome during your surveyor training?

In year two you begin the assessment phase and I definitely found this the most challenging. The assessments were tough, particularly as you have to motivate yourself to go out and complete the surveys and valuations for your portfolio. It took determination and perseverance to complete them, but Sava was supportive every step of the way and my assessor was brilliant. You learn a lot during the assessment period as you start completing surveys on your own for the first time.  

What was the highlight of the course for you and why?

Passing the valuation exam! This was my highlight for two reasons – firstly because I didn’t think I would pass it the first time and secondly because it was the last thing I needed to achieve to complete the diploma and qualify as a surveyor. Passing the exam was such an amazing feeling!

How well do you feel your surveyor training prepared you for working life?

It prepared me very well – the training was very thorough and, on finishing, I had achieved an in-depth understanding of residential surveying. On qualification, I felt confident to go out into the wide world of surveying and start offering my services.

What have you been up to since you qualified?

On qualifying I initially took a job as a junior surveyor where I was further trained to carry out more complex building surveys. After this I moved into a role at Camsure Homes as a residential building surveyor and valuer. I work remotely covering Devon as well as some areas of Somerset, mainly carrying out Level 3 building surveys as well as some Level 2 surveys (previously known as RICS Homebuyer Reports) and residential valuations.

In my relatively short time as a surveyor, I’ve seen some amazing countryside as well as some unique properties and I love the fact that no two days are ever the same.

What has been the proudest moment of your surveying career so far?

I was extremely proud to get my first five-star rating on Trustpilot. Knowing my efforts were appreciated and that the excellent customer service I had given has been acknowledged absolutely made my day.

Surveying is still seen as a male-dominated industry – have you experienced any challenges as a woman working in the industry?

A couple of male vendors have been most put out that I didn’t need them to lift the drain covers on the property for me, but it was nice of them to offer! I have also had instances of vendors who have said, ‘Oh…you don’t look like a surveyor’ and ‘I didn’t think you’d be a surveyor as I expected a burly, six-foot man!’.

I think one of the biggest challenges faced being in a minority in the industry is that of menopause or, more accurately, the lack of support out there for female staff members. In a male-dominated workplace, it is difficult to have open discussions relating to perimenopause and menopause symptoms – and these are issues affecting so many women in every profession. I believe there is a perception that for women to be surveyors they must act and behave like men, which is wholly untrue. Employers should have clear and actionable menopause policies in place for their female staff. And it’s not just about us, it’s about educating men as well.

In addition, whilst I have been lucky to achieve a role where I can work part time, these opportunities sometimes feel few and far between. This is a barrier for both women and men – more part-time and job share opportunities would greatly help people to balance work with family, childcare and other care responsibilities.

What do you think could be done to attract more women into the profession?

I think the perception that you have to act quite masculine to be a surveyor can put some women off. At the end of the day, whilst there is some climbing of ladders and lifting of drain covers, the inspections we undertake are largely non-intrusive so there is nothing holding women back from being exceptional surveyors. A clearer message that you can be you and bring your whole self into the role would encourage more young girls and women to enter the industry.

To aid this, women need to be seen. School careers events and social media are key places to grab the attention of young girls and show them what they can achieve.

In today’s world, for the most part there are no longer the physical barriers to entering technical careers, only perceived ones. With determination and hard work, technical careers can be carved out for all. Just go for it!

Would you recommend the Sava’s surveyor training to others?

Yes, it provides a direct route into the residential surveying profession to individuals who would not ordinarily have an opportunity. For us as a family, the course fee was certainly a considered purchase and we took out a loan to pay for it. However, as a consequence, I now have a job I love, I am happy and, with hard work, you can earn a very good income which comparatively diminishes the course fee.

In a few words, could you sum up the impact the Sava diploma has had on your life?

My life has dramatically changed, and I have a career that I’m incredibly proud of. My children have seen how hard I have tried, and it has set them an example of what hard work and self-motivation can achieve.

What advice would you give to the next generation of Sava learners and budding surveyors?

I would say that, yes, the course can be tough, but it is worth it. Acknowledge that you will find some elements hard, but if you persevere and remain determined to qualify and start a new and exciting career, you will prevail. Always have that end goal in mind.

If Erica’s experience has inspired you to consider or recommend a career in residential building surveying, hit the link to find out more about training through the industry-recognised Diploma in Residential Surveying and Valuation.