Jack Beckett, Account Director, London Team
What was it like working at Kanda in 2017, and how has your career developed since then?
“Before I worked at Kanda, I was a sales rep. for a company that sold advertising space and data insights within the maritime sector (a natural steppingstone!). I had studied Politics at Sheffield University, and the 2017 General Election gave me the chance to rediscover that interest in politics locally. I saw an advert for an Account Executive role at Kanda that summer and prepared for the interview by drawing a diagram (that I physically brought along) on how planning policy is interpreted at each level of government. In retrospect the analysis was pretty simplistic, but I think making the effort to do this helped me land the job. Karen & Kanda certainly took a chance on me even if all I had was a lot of determination and enthusiasm – I was sold on day one.
When I started at Kanda in 2017 there were four of us, now we are over 50 people. My role as an Account Executive was very similar then to how it is now; things (that I found fun) like research pieces, talking to members of the public, and setting up events. In terms of the development sector in 2017 (as with today), members of the public were particularly concerned with affordable housing and air quality, whereas the balloting of residents ahead of estate regeneration was not a pressing issue.
Throughout my time here at Kanda I have had more and more exposure to our client base; be it developers, housing associations, or local authorities, to different responsibilities and disciplines such as project management, PR, or chairing meetings of dozens of people, to different land uses and sizes of schemes. I have worked on an array of places across London and the South-East and taken on more and more responsibility for managing internally. As an Account Director, I am now line managing a really strong team while working on several schemes across London including estate regenerations, town centre masterplans, university campuses, and mixed-use creative spaces.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge and success so far has probably been Canada Water Dockside. This is a really exciting, sustainable, and modern town centre development which I think looks amazing. I remember the pitch in 2020, there were four of us just coming out of the first lockdown trying to remember how the printer worked in the office. We had 75 stakeholder meetings and four rounds of virtual consultations within seven months. We had to secure the confidence of the community groups, politicians, stakeholders, and make the consultation engaging for residents during further lockdowns. I know the team is really proud of the level of response and enthusiasm shown toward the scheme by the community. We managed to engage a lot of young adults and people responding to a consultation for the first time through digital channels. The decision to approve the scheme happened last month (almost unanimously!) which was a really proud moment. We’re moving on to the next stage of community consultation now and really looking forward to it. The team behind it have done an excellent job and I think their genuine enthusiasm for positive change has led to this being a good story so far.
What do you think the future holds for planning engagement?
I think that the future of planning engagement will of course be in exploring digital tools as well as providing simple access to information which is still a real barrier. We quickly had to pivot and accelerate this over lockdown and it’s impressive seeing how Kanda Shape – our flagship online engagement tool – has come along.
There is certainly a future opportunity in overcoming that starting point of apprehension toward development that some people have. Hopefully the work we and the industry are doing alongside local authorities that is strengthening policies toward engagement will help grow confidence.
Since 2017 I think there’s been a marked move toward ensuring development is more sustainable and inclusive and Kanda has worked on projects that will deliver more than 3,500 affordable homes that we can be massively proud of. More and more we as an industry are demonstrating that positively engaging with communities and creating meaningful positive outcomes makes good business sense. Prioritising social value and public benefit in a digestible and engaging manner is something we’re doing across multiple projects in the form of Community Investment Plans.
What does the future hold for you?
For me I am looking forward to the journey at Kanda continuing, who knows where we will be in five more years, it’ll be 1,000 employees if we carry on at this rate! If I had one piece of advice for new or aspiring Account Executives, it would be to ask as many questions as possible – I was always concerned that it would come across as looking ignorant – whereas in my position now honestly it really shows enthusiasm.