How do they do it? Nicola Woodward

Written by: Jez Abbott
Published on: 30 Mar 2015

Nicola Woodward

Consultancy Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners (NLP) planning director, Nicola Woodward, on the lessons learnt during her career.

NLP planning director Nicola Woodward is to head up the practice's first office in Scotland, due to open in Edinburgh in a month. Her first job on graduating from Strathclyde University with a joint BA (hons) geography-planning degree and an MSc in urban and regional planning was was with consultancy Llewelyn Davies, working on the masterplan for Ravenscraig steelworks in 1997. After a stint in London she helped set up a Newcastle office for Llewelyn Davies in 2003, followed by a brief spell with Arup. Woodward joined Newcastle City Council in 2009 as head of planning policy where she led development of the core strategy and urban core plan - a joint plan for Newcastle City and Gateshead councils now due for adoption. Last October Woodward was recruited by NLP to set up the practice's first Scotland office.

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

My job is to grow the business in Scotland and work in all development sectors north of the border, in particular residential to mirror our success with clients south of the border. NLP has an appraisal process and I will be measured through that, but because this is a new office, it will monitored closely by the board. We have an inter-office group that also monitors progress of all six offices. NLP is run by an employee benefit trust, so it's in everybody's interest to succeed.

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

A. Be bold. Have the courage of your convictions and don't be backward at coming forward: take advantage of circumstances and never shy away from a challenge or opportunity.

Be honest. Know your limitations and make sure if you don't know the answer, you know someone who does. Continuous learning is important so take every opportunity to broaden your skills and remember, you can't know everything, and it's wrong to pretend you do.

Evidence what you say. As a planner you will often be told you are wrong because you don't understand, especially in public consultations. So make sure you always justify your position, can demonstrate that you understand and can demonstrate that understanding.