12 May 2023
In this new series by CIH Northern Ireland, we're sitting down with some of our mentors to discover more about them.
Mentoring is widely recognised as one of the most effective ways in which you can develop. Our mentoring programme is designed to support you in your career to help identify relevant development opportunities. Set goals and objectives, build confidence, gain knowledge, learn new skills and build strong relationships with other professionals.
Today, we're sitting down with Brendan Morrissey, assistant director of housing and communities at Clanmil Housing Association.
How long have you worked in the housing sector?
I joined the sector, formally in employment, in 2005. However prior to that I studied housing as part of my degree and enjoyed a placement with the research department at the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.
What was your first role within the housing sector?
My first role was as an administration assistant within the housing team at Clanmil. It was a varied and interesting role. I did everything from counter service, phone calls, diary management, to prepping board papers, organising events and supporting the housing officers.
Why have you chosen a career in the housing sector?
Good quality housing is a basic human right. That security, safety and place to call your own is the platform for everything else we do in life. I always wanted to something with my life that had social purpose. Help people thrive and support people when they need help.
Did you have a role model/motivator when you started out in this sector?
I have been really lucky to have had lots of role models and motivators. When I joined Clanmil, it was pointed out right away that my role in admin was crucial to the work that we do and everyone had a role to play. My managers and director at the time were very generous with their time, expertise, sharing knowledge and skills and were always very encouraging.
What was the best piece of advice you received throughout your career to date?
I was at a bit of crossroads a couple of years ago with a very tempting but difficult decision to make. I made contact with another housing professional, someone from a completely different organisation, an opinion I valued. She told me it is always ok to ‘grow where you are planted’. If you find somewhere that you feel you fit and matches your values and ambition, keep developing and growing in that pot!
What was the most challenging situation you found yourself in throughout your career to date?
You cant deny that housing can be a challenging career option. There so many positives to be gained, but there was challenges too. I always find safeguarding and protection issues a challenge. It is so very important that we are aware of our role in protection and working with our partners in health. It is hard not to feel emotionally connected when dealing with such cases but I see our role here as vital.
The most challenging situation was probably the first year or 18 months of the covid outbreak. At the time I was managing our residential care homes for older people as well as our independent living and supported housing schemes. Like all of us, I was in a heightened state of alert continuously in a situation none of us had been in. But with great colleagues, support of the health trusts and other partners and funders etc – we got through it!
Why did you sign up to CIH mentor programme?
I’ve been lucky to have access to lots of great people and their great minds! When I first signed up formally as a mentee, I wanted to connect with someone who I didn’t know at all. It was about having a safe space to talk about my goals, achievements, ambitions and challenges. I received amazing support from my mentor, Adele Fraser from Scotland. She listened, supported, constructively challenged and shared so much of knowledge with me. She also instilled that absolutely nobody around me is perfect (even if they think they are!) and to be a bit kinder to myself.
What would you say are your areas of expertise?
My inner chimp will say I am not expert at anything. But professionally I have comfortable in the space of housing and support services to older people, in particular housing with care, Independent Living (Sheltered) housing and I feel I am a competent people manager too. I really like working with people, the rewards outweigh the challenges. I feel I have skills to support people with personal development as well.
What are your top tips for succeeding in the housing sector?
I think to succeed you have to want to be here for a purpose. To thrive and enjoy your role, whatever that is, you need to have purpose. After that I would say communication and building relationships. It’s a people business. It isn’t easy to make connections. But once you do, you will find people are only too willing to share information, offer support and are quite likely glad of the connection themselves as well.
Where if you could live anywhere in the world, would you choose and why?
I am a bit of a homebird. I love to travel and get away when I can, but I love coming home. The furthest I would move (and is a hope someday) is to beautiful Rostrevor. By the sea, beside the mountains and a nice little community setting. We visit it often and hope to someday move there!