After A-Levels, the thought of going to university and doing more studying didn't appeal to me so I started full-time work at 18, joining a small local 'Import-Export' company where I cut my teeth in the workplace.
I spent two years in that job but my interests lay in property. I loved watching programmes like Grand Designs which I think stems from the fact that I grew up seeing my parents carrying out successful refurbishment schemes, so I made a conscious effort to move into a job which somehow involved property.
At 21 I joined a local estate agency and this was my first step into a career as a property manager. I was responsible for managing over 700 properties across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey and I quickly learned a great deal about the job.
The fact that every day was different appealed to me. I was managing relationships with landlords and dealing with enquiries from tenants; which was often challenging as the two would sometimes have conflicting interests. I quickly learned the art of negotiation and became skilled at adapting my style to appeal to different types of people.
Although I learned the most from being on-the-job, I was fortunate to have received some good formal training which taught me about things like Health and Safety requirements.
At 23 I had an urge to work in London so I took a property manager job in the City working for Hamptons International. I was one of a team of half-a-dozen responsible for a portfolio of around 250 properties in Central London. I progressed to become a senior property manager, responsible for managing the team and subsequently took a portfolio management position looking after one of Europe's largest landlords who had just purchased around 5,000 freehold properties across the South East personally managing 1,000 tenancies within 20 different premises
After over four years of commuting from Maidenhead to London I'd had enough of the travel and the ever-increasing rail fare costs so I decided to look for a job closer to home.
I spent six months at Hampton International's Beaconsfield office before moving across the village to join the Shanly Group in 2014.
My day typically starts at 6am and I get time to fit in some exercise before leaving the house at 8am to be at work for 8.30am. I now have a much better quality of life.
As residential estates manager at Sorbon Estates, the commercial property arm of the Shanly Group, I am responsible for managing a portfolio of around 200 properties. The majority are residential but I also look after around 30 shared-ownership leaseholders and 20 commercial properties. Here my role is slightly different to previous roles as I am employed directly by the landlord, whose interests are my priority.
I always have to think ahead in my role as I look to ensure that we always have properties occupied. In the industry an unoccupied property is referred to as a 'void' and my aims are to minimise voids and maximise returns. This includes identifying opportunities for us to achieve more from our properties for the long-term and that sometimes involves making recommendations for short-term investment to derive long-term gains.
My portfolio has grown significantly since I joined the Shanly Group and the properties I manage are spread across the South East. This requires a lot of travelling. I typically do about 1,500 business miles each month and spend about 60% of my time out and about and the rest of the time office-based carrying out paperwork, liaising with colleagues and having meetings.
When a property is added to my portfolio I carry out market research to ascertain a rental value and I appoint an agent who I work closely with throughout the process to market the property and attract suitable tenants. I manage the lifetime of the tenancy from producing the tenancy agreement and carrying out references to dealing with enquiries and processing check-outs.
What I like the most about my job is the pace and challenge. I am always busy and no two days are ever the same.
I am now ten years into my career as a property manager and I can say that it has treated me well so far. I have found it be a progressive career with the rewards improving as my success has grown.
The next step for me is to qualify as a chartered surveyor so I am in the process of studying for my RICS qualifications. I have been fortunate to have received funding from my employer and am due to complete my current course in January 2017.
I appreciate that I would perhaps be further down the line in terms of qualifying as a surveyor had I been to university, but I do not regret the route I have taken. I have no student debt and have a supportive employer sponsoring my learning and development, so I consider myself very lucky.
Update: Lee qualified as a Charter Surveyor in April 2017.
Lee Scowen, who joined the Shanly Group in 2014, is residential estates manager for the Group's commercial arm, Sorbon Estates.