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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Nicola Laycock - Rising Star finalist 2014


Read the latest information on Nicola and her campaign

Read Nicola's blog 'Learning from the best' about her day at Shelter

Find out more about Nicola's campaign here

Read Nicola's responses to our Q&As

1. Describe yourself in 3 words

Values Driven, Resilient, Compassionate

2. Who in the housing world really inspires you and why?

I have met so many inspirational people in housing but would have to say that Paul Tennant Chief Executive of Orbit Group was the most influential. As part of my Graduate Internship through the Centre of partnership GEM programme which provides opportunities to meet influential housing sector leaders, I was lucky enough to meet Paul and hear him speak about why housing was important to him and of the work he had done as well as his vision of the future. At the time Orbit group were about to launch their 20/20 Vision with an event in London where there was to be a debate between two leading think tanks on issues of housing and was lucky enough to be one of the four GEMs invited to attend. I left the event inspired by Paul’s determination to influence Housing Policy at a national level and also a little angry about the opinions of one of think tanks! This helped me realise that I was passionate about Housing and that I wanted to be involved in work to ensure that Housing is part of public policy.

3. What is your favourite building and why?

This has to be the Theatre Royal in Newcastle which is A grade I listed neo-classical building originally opened in 1807. The building has been carefully renovated over the time which has meant the original facade still exists in its original state. It is also the building within which I saw my first Pantomime, Musical, Shakespeare play and many more over the years and so the building holds many good memories for me. I also like the fact that the interior had to be redesigned and installed by Frank Matcham after the original was destroyed in a fire following a performance of the play Macbeth! This, for me, gives the building that extra air of mystery which I think, adds to the whole experience.

4. How did you get into housing?

My interest in housing was sparked whilst at University when I was completing a module on social exclusion, part of which involved visiting the estate that I had grown up on. As I walked around my old playground I began to realise how important Housing was for people and the impact that it had when good quality housing was not available or removed. I also had a profound personal realisation about the reasons which had led to us leaving the estate and the impact of the loss of those connections that a strong community can provide, had on my family. I decided to write my Dissertation on the impacts of the displacement of communities through regeneration and found the world of housing! I felt that I had found a sector which would fulfil me personally, professionally and enable me to make a difference, however small, to people’s lives. After leaving University I spent several months applying for Housing roles without success but eventually came across the Centre for Partnership GEM programme which offered a work placement with Gentoo. I learned so much during my internship and was amazed at the diversity of the sector, the passion of the people working within it, and the work that was being carried out to improve people’s lives. At the end of my internship I was successful in being offered a permanent position with Gentoo which I gratefully and quickly accepted. I am currently revelling in being able to work for a company whose values reflect my own and whose vision I am completely committed to; it is everything I was dreaming of during those late nights in the library working on my dissertation.


5. Which 5 people would you invite to your dinner party and why?

Vivien Leigh

Gone with the Wind has to be one of my favourite films of all time; I have also read the book which itself is a work of art. I would love to hear about Vivien’s experience of being part of the film as well as hearing the stories that she would have from her Hollywood era.

Margaret Thatcher

I can’t say I would give Margaret Thatcher an easy time at my dinner party; however I would be intrigued to know her motivations behind some of her policies, what mistakes she thought she had made and what decisions she would still stand by especially when it comes to her views on housing and communities.

William Shakespeare

Purely for entertainment! I could listen to him talk for hours with his witty turn of phrase and dark humour. I would also like to find out about the life that he lived behind the words as so little is known about him otherwise.

Charles Darwin

Having read his biography I would love to talk to Darwin about his work, his growing realisation that something he had thought was absolute was not, and then be able to tell him all of the wonderful scientific discoveries that have been made as a result of his work. It would be interesting to see his reaction as he realised the gravity of the impact his work had had on the world.

David Walliams

I would imagine that David would be a wonderful dinner guest providing light relief to some of the more serious conversations. My nephew loves his children’s books and I would be interested in discussing this part of his career in more depth to find out where he gets his inspiration from.


6. Apart from being a Rising Star finalist, what has been the highlight of your career to date?

The highlight so far would have to be successfully gaining a place on the Centre for Partnership GEM Graduate programme which placed me at Gentoo.

I had searched for a pathway into housing for several months after graduating and was excited that they were recruiting according to my values which I had never heard of before as usually you have to align yourself with the company values. When I got the call saying that I had been successful it was a bit similar to getting the Rising Stars call! Gentoo and The GEM programme gave me my first opportunity in housing from which to build my career. The programme offered a CIH qualification, which I have recently completed, and amazing opportunities to meet some of the leading and most inspirational figures in housing today which meant that I was able to understand Housing as a sector and identify which skills I could bring to the table from my previous career, as well as develop those that I was going to need.


7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Focus on the things you can change and don’t worry about the things over which you have no control.

8. If you had three wishes, how would you use them?

My first wish would be not to have any wishes!! Controversial I know but wishing for one thing to be perfect could have a negative impact on something else that you hold dear negating the original intention of the wish you made. I think that in reality the perfect world we seek to create would bore us all eventually.

9. What’s the best thing about your current job?

I am a project assistant for Gentoo Livings Development and Growth team. Gentoo Living is the social investment arm of the group and delivers programmes such as Work and Learning, Community Empowerment and Financial Wellbeing amongst many others. My job involves supporting my team to qualify these programmes in terms of the social value that they create through use of methods such as Social accounting, and Social return on investment. Being able to prove that the work we do creates value means that we can contribute to successful funding bids, help services evolve and suggest what new services might be needed based on our work. The best thing about my job is seeing changes that are made to existing services because of the work that I do which means that better services can be delivered to the customers who need them most and improve their lives in a positive way that is important to them.

10. If you are our Rising Star for 2014, how might your life have changed in 12 month’s time?

I am relatively new to the housing world and my role within Gentoo, so firstly I would imagine that if I were to win the competition then in 12 months time that I will be at the top of a really steep learning curve and ready for the next one.

I would expect to be a lot busier and hope that I will have progressed within my role at Gentoo making use of the skills and networks that I am going to develop over the next few months.

As a result of my success I think that the conversations and networks I have with people will change and as I also have some ideas for projects that I am passionate about it would be nice if there were conversations happening about turning the ideas into reality.

Above all I hope the campaign has been successful and that housing was being discussed in a meaningful way in the lead up to the next general election.


Is Nicola your Rising Star? Vote now








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