Celeste’s passion for property has paved the way to a rewarding career

For Celeste Orange, property and valuations are her passion. She completed her studies whilst juggling work and a young family. Now working full time in the property industry, she has just won the 2018 Municipal Group of Valuers (MGV) emerging leader award.

Celeste Orange headshot
What did you study at the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning?
Bachelor of Environments (Property) followed by the Master of Property.

Where are you working now? 
Westlink Consulting – a property firm that specialises in rating and taxing valuations.

How has your degree helped you navigate the property industry?
Whilst you’re in the middle of assignments and exams and deadlines, it’s sometimes difficult to zoom out and see how all the puzzle pieces of the property degree fit together. For me, valuations is both an art and a science and it wasn’t until I started working in the field that everything fell into place. The multidisciplinary nature of the property degree assisted me to enter into the workforce with an open mind, plenty of curiosity and a healthy respect for gut instinct (the ‘art’), whilst balancing this with having taught me real world skills – such as analysing sales or undertaking a financial feasibility study (the ‘science’).

Are there any skills you’ve found crucial to pursuing a career in property?
I am a broad-brush person by nature and I like working in spaces where I can see the bigger picture. As a Valuer, my job is to delve into the information, gather all the relevant facts and form an opinion that will then be relied on by my clients – effectively the reverse of my comfort zone. It didn’t come to me easily, but learning to comb through the detail and do my ‘due diligence’ (a phrase you will hear often a property student) has been a skill that has played a critical role in my career.

What is your proudest piece of work or achievement so far?
Last year, a close friend from Uni encouraged me to throw my hat in the ring for a position on the Australian Property Institute’s State Committee in Victoria. As a young female still very much in the infancy of my career, it was a huge surprise to find out that I had been elected. I am so grateful for the position and it is encouraging to see that over time, a more diverse range of property professionals are being represented in the board room.

What advice would you have for students now?
I have never appreciated anything more in the workplace than my staff being on time. Your future manager is likely to feel the same. Practical and boring advice I know, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

What was your favourite subject at Uni?
Statutory Valuations – I’ll never forget the mock VCAT hearing we did in class. After I’d finished being interrogated by my opponent and rigorously defending my valuation, I left the room, wiped the sweat off my brow and thought – ‘yep, I could do this as a job’.

What was it like winning the Municipal Group of Valuers (MGV) emerging leader award?
Winning the award was like having someone say to me: “Celeste, you have a voice and you know what? It is worth hearing.” The award is an annual grant that is given to a graduate member of the MGV based on the submission of a research proposal. The grant took me oversees and funded attendance at the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) conference in the United States. The research was undertaken over the course of the year and I presented my findings to the MGV members at their annual Country Conference last year.

You have three children, with two of them being born whilst you were studying. How did you balance the logistics of having a newborn with excelling in your studies? 
I went back to Uni when my first baby turned one and by the time I finished my masters, there were two more babies added into the mix.

I would be grossly misrepresenting my situation if I didn’t tell you that it took a village to get me through my two degrees. While I was attending class, you can bet that there was someone (my husband, my mum, a sister) walking a baby around the grounds of Melbourne Uni. I reckon most assignments were typed with one hand while nursing a baby. Ideal? Not really. Easy? Nope. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

I would often joke with my family that after I graduated, I would photocopy my degree or cut it into a number of smaller pieces so that it could be shared out amongst them. I didn’t do either of these things, but deep down, I’ve always felt like I’ve never really been able to adequately say thank you for their support during that time.

Do you have any advice for expectant mothers or parents of newborns who might be thinking of returning to study? 
People are often amazed that I made the choice to combine babies and study, but for me, it seemed like a no brainer. Without working full-time, I knew that I would need some time-out from family life to use my brain and maintain my sanity. It also let me connect with my industry in a different way (formal education), rather than distancing myself, which I believe a lot of mothers feel is just an inevitable outcome of having young children.

My advice for anyone with returning to study with kids would be to:

  1. Ask for help. Always. Every day.

    When I look at the sum of the parts, it makes total sense to me that I got through my degrees relatively unscathed. I had an incredible group of friends that took notes for me if I couldn’t make it to class, an employer that gave me partially paid study leave, a couple of assistant tutors that offered to cuddle the babies in the very early days after they were born, I took full advantage of recorded lectures and when the wheels really fell off the wagon (I was very ill with my third pregnancy), I asked for extensions.

    People are rooting for you and they want to help – make sure you ask for it.

  2. If you decide to go back to study - treat it like work.

I remember so vividly the day the day that I realised how utterly absurd it was that I wasn’t treating uni like work. I was running late to the office, stressing that I wouldn’t make it on time, and it occurred to me that I highly prioritised my job, but study would often be the very last thing on my long list of things to do. From that moment, I started to change the terminology I used for uni. It would be ‘work’ written in the calendar rather than ‘class’, I carved out chunks in my schedule and called it ‘professional development’ (aka – study) and exams became ‘interviews’ – something I would put a lot of effort into preparing for. This shift in thinking helped me attribute worth to the investment I was making in myself and bizarrely, made me feel less guilty about being away from my kids.

Interested in studying the Master of Property?
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