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Feature Friday: Alison Monteith

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.”

Read the full Feature Friday interview with Alison Monteith as well as interviews with our previous guests by joining WOD Digital today.