It’s time to take a break for preparing your costumes and trying to figure out exactly what a “socially distanced Halloween” is going to look like in 2020, because we have another Feature Friday interview to close out October.
Alison Monteith – Managing Director at Monteith Scott – talks to us about life as a student, an interior designer and also more recently a pro-age model…
WOD: Why don’t you kick us off with a run-down of your education and how you became involved with the workplace and interiors sector?
AM: “I was born in Birmingham; nice middle class professional parents; mother a doctor, father an architect. I was a below average student at school; scraped two lowish grade A levels in Art and English. Foundation Course at Stourbridge College of Art for a year. I was, again, below average and told I would be up against students far more talented than me.
I wasn’t motivated to be an interior designer but knew I needed a course that was more problem solving than pure, self-driven creativity. I applied for a diploma course at Trent Poly (I had been given the distinct impression I wasn’t degree material!) and was accepted. They gained degree status, so I was on the first year of the four year sandwich course.
It was my placement at Michael Aukett in London when the penny dropped; first project back, I was accused of cheating by the staff because my work had matured significantly. I got a first class degree, then a distinction in my MA studies at Leicester Poly. I didn’t start out in workplace; I worked in London for the first 10 years of my career, in retail and commercial/public space interiors. The first workplace project was for Courtaulds in Coventry in 1992, when workplace was called office!”
WOD: So you certainly went down a winding road to get into the workspace industry. And what about your current role? Tell us a bit more about that and what a typical day looks like for you…
AM: “Oh, what changes! I am still technically managing director of Monteith Scott, which for the last three years has been myself and my husband, but it is now me, and I am no longer doing project work. Available for consultancy but I am no longer prepared to work with or for people I don’t like on boring projects!
I no longer have a typical working day! I have kept in touch with many of the people I have met through work and am happy that some are using me as a sounding board. I have spent 40 years building my career, I am not walking away entirely. But there are many other things I want to focus on. I lift weights, I do some modelling, I am enrolled on a fashion design and make course.”
WOD: With that 40 years worth of experience in mind, what advice would you give to somebody wanting to succeed in a similar role to yours?
AM: “Know your value. Never let yourself be “bought” for less than you are worth. Your value is not in the hours you may spend on a project, but the years of experience behind those hours. Do not undersell yourself.”
WOD: Very well said. And in terms of the industry itself – what can it do better as a whole for women?
AM: “This industry, by which I mean construction which is the industry I consider I worked within, whilst it is so male can always do better. I don’t think that it has truly improved in all my time within it, it’s just the misogyny is less overt. And don’t get me started on ageism.”