Employee Stories – Natalie Hawkins
Name: Natalie Hawkins
Role: Community Regeneration Manager
Linc Cymru is a Housing Association and Care provider, so as you can imagine, we are all about people and believe in creating the right environment for people to flourish. And the people that make that happen are our passionate and dedicated colleagues.
‘Employee Stories’ will highlight individuals and teams within Linc and shine a light on the incredible work they do within the organisation. This ‘Employee Stories’ will focus on Natalie Hawkins, our community regeneration manager.
Natalie is still quite new to Linc, having only started her role as community regeneration manager back in January of this year.
The community regeneration team focus on improving the economic, social, environmental, and cultural wellbeing of our customers, residents, and communities of interest. Essentially, the community regeneration team ensures that the new customers will be happy with where they live and that they can access support from Linc at any time for a sympathetic and understanding ear.
When asked what a typical day as a community regeneration manager looks like, Natalie responded, “Nothing is ever the same – it's not a monotonous role as there’s no routine as such.”
“My role at Linc is working within the development team, and community regeneration is centred around building new houses or sheltered schemes. My role is to engage with the local community, to work with the contractor, and to ensure that we embed community benefits and social value.”
Working within the community regeneration team is a very varied role that often calls for someone that can learn on the spot and carry out effective research accompanied by fantastic communication skills. Natalie elaborated, “You have to work across the whole business, from procurement and development to maintenance and finance, but essentially it’s all about the customers and communities.”
Natalie explained that she loves working with amazing people to develop projects and initiatives that create opportunities to empower and support people, leading to improved homes, communities, personal and family prosperity, resilience, health, and wellbeing whilst also having a positive impact on the environment. Natalie’s role in Linc is all about collaboration between a wide range of people and organisations, and Natalie and the team that she manages ensure that all new builds and communities have the correct infrastructure in place to make the community is as content as possible, such as having transport routes, nearby shops and doctor's surgeries, and making sure connections can always be made.
Working in development at Linc is a new challenge for Natalie, she explained that she is excited about learning new skills in the development of new properties and is particularly keen to contribute to Linc’s growth strategy by embedding community regeneration throughout the process. Natalie continued, “I believe Linc is forward thinking in this area, and this is where we can have the most overall economic, social, environmental, and cultural impact.”
As you can see, Natalie has a lot of responsibilities and important decisions to make in her role, including budgets, staffing, strategies, and policies. But Natalie explained, “ultimately I’m quite an autonomous person, so my team and the people I work with are involved in a shared decision-making process.” She continued, “You have to listen to feedback, sort of like a democratic leadership style.”
But these are all the formalities to being a community regeneration manager, we asked Natalie what her favourite part of her role is, to which she responded, “Sounds cliché but it’s the people. I’m very passionate about people and I’ve always worked in forward-facing roles. So, working with different characters from high level strategic CEOs to customer service advisors and customers really drives me.”
At Linc, we love to work with individuals whose passion is helping others and take pride in everything they do with a positive attitude, and Natalie certainly ticks these boxes with her passion for others. This links perfectly with our desire to work together as a team to create environments where people can flourish and in a happier, healthier Wales.
But how did Natalie become interested in this role and field? Well, Natalie has a history in retail management which led her into a role with Cardiff Council as the Housing and Neighbourhood Renewal administrator where she worked with people who were experiencing a multitude of barriers to employment. After this, she then started applying for various jobs in the council where she began to run and manage projects and she now has over 10 years of experience in social housing.
After working for Cardiff Council Natalie began working with the Cardiff Community Housing Association (CCHA) where she became involved in community regeneration. And this kickstarted Natalie’s love for community regeneration, she explained, “I love housing, it’s so multi-faceted and you can learn so much. You can’t do your job in isolation because you have to link into different teams to get things done, and that’s why I stayed and I’m still here in social housing.”
Although Natalie has only been with us for a few months, Natalie and her team have already started to make a great impact at Linc and within the communities they work with. And with Natalie being a passionate and driven person, we asked her what her career aspirations were, to which she explained that her ambition is to maximise the impact of the investments in Linc and to ensure that the team builds sustainable communities for people to flourish. Natalie explained that she enjoys her role because “There’s continual growth and development in this role, and now as I’ve progressed, I’m finding out different things in the business that I wouldn’t have necessarily found out before because Linc is so much bigger than others I’ve worked for and with.”
She continued, “Community regeneration has always sat in people and places, so I’m now continually learning new skills. There’s a whole new range of development speak I’ve never heard before, there are new processes and procedures and I have to know it, so all this new knowledge is really exciting because I’ve never been part of those discussions before, it’s really enlightening.”
At Linc, we always want to support our employees, through joining the Linc team Natalie has had the opportunity to learn new skills and constantly be presented with opportunities to grow and develop within her role.
Natalie said that Linc stood out to her as an employer when she was conducting research, she commented, “I saw the job come up and it was all about community benefits, social value, and community regeneration; it literally looked like it had been written for me!”
“I looked on their website and thought their values were really clear, they were about ambition, passion, and respect. They looked like they had a new vision, I knew about the CEO and his vision too, so that’s why I wanted to come across to Linc.”
“So, when I came for the interview, for me, when I walked out, I thought ‘I want that job and I want to work for them.’”
We always love to hear that talented, passionate, and driven people enjoy working with us here at Linc, and we are always looking to expand our team with like-minded people.
Natalie has her own advice on how to begin a career with Linc and roles similar to hers. Firstly, she began by reflecting on the rewards and challenges that come with being a community regeneration manager, “Community regeneration is really rewarding, we do get a big sense of job satisfaction, but it does come with frustrations same as any other job, role, or career. But these frustrations are not led by office politics, it’s more around what you and the community want to achieve but there are blockages in the way. But I relish this challenge, and empowering people to overcome these challenges is really fruitful.”
Natalie continued that you must be an empathetic person to work within the housing sector, “To work in community regeneration, you have to have interpersonal skills and connect with people from different races, cultures, backgrounds, life experiences; everybody goes through different stages of their lives and challenges, so you’re not always going to meet people who have the same perception as things, so trying to juggle that and have emotional intelligence is important.”
Natalie has summarised this perfectly, at Linc, we are all about people, from our teams to our customers, so employees must be sympathetic while also able to make important decisions and be assertive at the right times. We ask this to ensure the care, protection, and happiness of our customers and those living in our community developments.
We often find that potential new employees think they need lots of qualifications or a degree to get into housing. However, Natalie cleared up that “In social housing, we house people, and we need to make sure that the teams that works in our organisation are aligned to the people that we house. It’s not about degrees, I’m sure as you move further up the ladder they would want them, but you can work towards that as you work. I was doing my Charted Institute of Procurement, not because I want to be a procurement officer, but just for that knowledge base. So, I would say you don’t need a degree, you can come into housing and work in any aspect and it’s more about the people and the values they have.”
Natalie finished by adding, “So, if you’ve got the passion and that desire and positive attitude to make a difference then housing is the right option.”
“I feel privileged to be leading a community regeneration team who are equally as respectful, passionate, and ambitious about enhancing people’s lives and communities. Over the next few years, I hope that Linc becomes a social housing leader in delivering community benefits, and I can’t wait to be part of that journey with them.”