Sarah Carroll may not have known what she was getting herself into when she took her first full-time job in the property industry, but it wasn’t long until she was turning heads in a male-dominated sector.
Now the Safety and Environment Specialist at the University of Canberra, Sarah started in the industry straight out of high school.
“I left college not really knowing what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be, so I took a job on a whim with global property company based in Canberra,” she says.
“I started as a facilities administrator and worked my way up to be the first female facilities manager in the ACT branch when I was 22 – I was managing a property portfolio of 800 with six staff.”
After working with the company for almost five years, and dabbling briefly in residential real estate, the powerhouse joined UC’s Campus Estate team in 2015.
Over that time, her role has seen her responsible for managing soft services such as cleaning and waste management, and hard services like repairs and maintenance.
But while Sarah’s roles have changed over the years, her passion for the multifaceted industry hasn’t wavered.
“The property industry isn’t just buying and leasing homes, it’s about creating a safe, clean and appropriate environment for people to work in,” she said.
“People don’t realise that property workers ensure your building is safe and clean, that you have fresh air and what you’re sitting on won’t give you back problems.”
Sarah has continuously been recognised in the areas of property safety and for her work supporting the next generation of property professionals, particularly women.
“I hold guest lectures at UC’s Faculty of Art and Design in the Bachelor of Building and Construction Management around safety and mental health in the property industry,” she says.
“I also participate in the Girls in Property program through the Property Council, talking to female high school students about their options and how they can get into the industry.
“Women tend to stick out on a construction site and are often seen solely in the property manager role because there haven’t been a lot of female leads, but these initiatives are changing that.”
In 2019, she was awarded the National Association of Women in Construction’s Achievement in Safety Award for the implementation of UC’s Online Incident Reporting Tool and Contractor Portal.
Sarah is also Chair of the Property Council of Australia’s Future Directions committee, which aims to support the professional development of under 35’s in the property industry.
Since joining UC, Sarah has championed sustainability through the many projects Campus Estate has taken on.
She played a key part in the recent renovation of the University’s library, which saw a pledge to plant one tree for every new chair purchased.
Sarah has also championed the recently-launched Green Impact initiative, which will see the University engage all staff in sustainability missions such as reducing printing, and recycling.
“My push for sustainability started at the first company I worked with, as one of my mentors there was a huge sustainability advocate and her passion flowed to me,” she says.
“Within property and facilities management, sustainability is in everything you do. You need to make sure buildings are energy-efficient and the materials used are sustainable.
“I love that the little choices I can make every day at UC can make an impact.”
If that wasn’t enough, she was also recently recognised as the Property Council of Australia’s ACT Young Professional of the Year.
As she continues to expand her skillset and career, Sarah will embark on a new role at UC in safety, security and emergency management – working with emergency services to draft processes for the UC community to implement in emergency circumstances.
She says she is sad to be handing over the sustainability aspect of her role, but that it will be in good hands.
“This new role will give me a bit more exposure around personal safety and the things I do will protect staff and students,” she says.
“Personally, I find mental health incredibly interesting and I want to support staff and students in shaping an environment where they are as safe and as happy as they can be.”
And lucky for UC, Sarah has no plans on going anywhere anytime soon.
“I don’t intend to leave UC any time soon because I thoroughly enjoy that every day is different and it’s an exciting workplace,” she says.
“It can be highly stressful sometimes, but I take pride in what I do and enjoy those challenging moments – with each, I try to learn something and that improves me going forward.”
To learn more about the recently launched Green Impact initiative, read more on Newsroom.
Words by Danielle Meddemmen, photos by Tyler Cherry.