Focus on: Emma Sheer

Emma Sheer, Head of Empty Homes, in our Milton Keynes office

The world of property is traditionally a male-dominated working environment and continues to show a high proportion of men (85%) over women (15%) working in the industry.

With International Women’s Day approaching – a global awareness day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – it’s fitting that we’re celebrating colleagues who are bringing diversity to the table.

Head of Empty Homes, Emma Sheer

Emma describes herself as a customer-focused person, wanting the best for people, so it’s possibly no surprise that she started her career by undertaking a nursing degree. But then Emma fell in love… with the housing sector, and her career took a different path.

“I took a part-time job that was meant to help me financially while I was doing my degree. My role was supporting people with mental health issues. People discharged from hospital would be placed in temporary accommodation, where we would provide a range of support services, and integrate them back into independent accommodation. It was my first experience of social housing.

“I enjoyed working with diverse and interesting people, providing somewhere safe and supportive so an individual could get what they needed to be independent in the community.

“When I was offered a full-time position, I happily accepted and left my degree course behind.

“Although it was my first housing role, I stayed with the organisation for 10 years, accelerating my career to service development manager. I developed their tailor-made Outreach support service, personalised to the person needing the support, incorporating social care, tenancy support and wellbeing, I’m still proud of what I achieved there and I’m pleased to say the service is still running today.”

Emma’s next role was one that she still juggles today, that of a mum to two boys, who are nearly teenagers.

“Having “Irish twins” (two children born within a year of each other) I decided to take a break from the world of work and spent five years being a mum. Coming back to a career after having children is a big thing to do. It’s hard to be all things as a woman: a good wife, a good mum, have a nice home and have a career; it’s a lot of hats to wear! But it was good to be back at work and re-claim a little bit of me back for myself.

“I joined a local authority, working for their housing options team. A lot had changed in that time, so I had a lot of re-learning and up-skilling to do.

“In May 2015 I joined Grand Union as a part-time Allocations Officer. I spent a short time in that team but I knew I wanted to be a housing officer back in the community again, so I took up a secondment in the Housing Management team. I demonstrated that I was able to do the job and was fortunate to be offered a full-time permanent position as a Housing Officer.

“I really enjoyed being a Housing Officer and believe I was good at it – I had great relationships with customers in my patch. I managed our first closure order with some complex customers and achieved some good outcomes, which I’m proud of.

“After two years I applied for the Team Leader position and was successful, then two years later I had the opportunity to become Allocations Manager, which became Onboarding Manager after an internal restructure in 2020.

“During my time as Onboarding Manager, I oversaw numerous digital projects such as the onboarding and mutual exchange customer portals and the digital allocation control platform. I worked hard to build positive working relationships across the business and with external partners. I also completed my Operations Leader training programme through the K2 Academy, Grand Union’s in-house training centre of excellence.”

Then in November 2022, Emma moved into her current role as Head of Empty Homes.

“My new role allows me to manage the key-to-key process of ending one tenancy and starting another. Having this strategic overview enables me to plan and drive our services forward.

“I also lead the Relocations team who oversee all existing customer moves, mutual exchanges, direct lets, downsizing and decants.

“I have fantastic people in my team; I trust them and don’t need to be involved in absolutely everything, which in turn enables me to make the most of my role. I’m clear about my expectations and where I see my team going, as well as what I expect from them. I’m resilient and down to earth, driven and direct, though I’ve still got a sense of humour!

“I want my teams to feel fulfilled in their roles, deliver great customer service and provide good homes for our customers. Since last summer, I’ve actively been a mentor for two colleagues in the business, which I really enjoy. I can impart my knowledge and experience and potentially support others to enhance their careers, explore what they want to do and help them reach their potential.

“Although it’s early days since I took on this role, I’m really looking forward to bringing the empty homes service together as one. I’m keen to gain more technical experience from Property Services. Getting our homes right for our customers is so important.

“I want to encourage more females in trades, enhancing our diverse work force and supporting other women to be brave and go for roles that they might not have done in the past.

“I think it’s great that Grand Union champions diversity and that your gender doesn’t limit your potential. Women shouldn’t feel afraid to work in a male environment. I think women have as much to bring to the table as anyone else; if you’ve got skills to bring to the position, your gender doesn’t matter.”