How do they do it? Helen Dias

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 10 Oct 2014

Helen Dias

Helen Dias is a director at economic and social development consultancy SQW. She previously held senior positions at Savills, Arup and Gerald Eve and has recently completed a secondment to the Department for Communities and Local Government to advise on the Community Infrastructure Levy development tariff. Dias graduated in planning at South Bank Polytechnic and is also a surveyor.

Q. What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them? 

My role is to work with local authorities, regional agencies and Local Economic Partnerships as well as developers to help them understand a place on an economic level and help deliver growth. I get involved with major strategic developments in London and help scope provision of employment and community facilities. I am reviewed by my peers and senior directors. We have a business plan and I have personal goals within that plan. There are key strategic objectives and measures and there are measures for business development and fee income.

Q. What key lessons have you learned during your career that help you to fulfil those objectives? 

A The whole is bigger than the sum of its parts.
This is true across the planning discipline, from thought processes to delivery – a good team produces a more valuable outcome than individuals in terms of the way you work and the places you deliver.

Everyone has a story to tell, so be a good listener. And learn from it, be it from a colleague or community member. Some people talk but don't listen, others listen but don't talk much, and the latter can often contribute more.

Have passion for what you do. Planning is important and changes lives, you must believe strongly in what you do. After medicine it is, arguably, the profession with the greatest influence on the quality of people's lives. It also helps to have passions outside the workplace to widen your perspectives: I sing in a choir and am passionate about Bach.