Climbing the corporate ladder rung by rung? How passé! It’s 2022, and the times they are a changin’. With the addition of remote work options and hybrid schedules popping up all over the place, and meetings and networking events available in both a virtual and an in-person capacity, the world of work looks very different than it did in years gone by.
More and more professionals are exploring opportunities to relocate, embrace twists and turns, learn new skills and let their career journey take them to places they never expected.
Today we’re chatting with Ash Holmes (Associate Director, Development + Construction Management) about his time at Impact and how some good advice from an industry veteran (combined with hard work and a little bit of luck!) has helped him build a fulfilling career in a new country, introduced him to colleagues who’ve become best friends and ignited a passion for Vancouver’s dynamic construction sector.
Q: Okay, welcome, Ash! Thanks for joining me. Let’s start from the top: for anyone who doesn’t know, who are you and what do you do at Impact?
A: My name is Ashley Michael Eric Holmes, and I’m a practice lead for our real estate development and construction management team. Currently we’re a team of five people, and we sit within the building division, specializing in work with real estate developers, general contractors, construction management companies and owner’s rep firms, mainly across the Lower Mainland and Greater Vancouver area, for now.
Q: And how long ago did you join Impact?
A: I joined the company in 2018, on the 9th of July to be exact – so we’re closing in on four years now.
Q: Four years already?! Wow.
A: I know, it’s hard to believe.
Q: What was your position when you first came on board?
A: I joined as a recruitment consultant, first and foremost. I’d had prior experience working in the recruitment industry back home in the UK, but the real estate and construction sector was entirely new to me.
Q: And when you left the UK and relocated to Canada, was that the plan – to stay in recruitment, maybe try out a new practice area? Or did that sort of just happen?
A: Funnily enough, my plan was actually to move away from recruitment, if you can believe it. I thought I’d pursue a sales role and give that a go – the tech sector was especially interesting to me. While I was in the process of applying, I happened to meet with someone at Impact to discuss a sales role with one of their clients, and it was actually during that interview that the individual was like, “You know, you’d be a great fit here – would you consider working at Impact?” I think I actually said no, which is quite funny looking back, but somehow I ended up agreeing to come back and meet with two of Impact’s directors at the time, Mark Fenwick and Michael Scott.
Q: And obviously those meetings went well, because here you are!
A: Exactly. My conversations with both Mark and Michael were very, very good – we had a great rapport and generally just got on well. From there, we discussed opportunities for me to either join Mark’s legal group, or Michael’s building division. I was interested, but still not 100% convinced – as I said, I really did want to move out of recruitment, and here I was, in talks to join a recruitment firm.
Q: What made you decide to give Impact a shot?
A: Michael and I connected for several more conversations, and he definitely influenced my decision. It was Michael’s opinion that, if I were going to come into a new practice area, coming in as a recruitment consultant was the best approach and would make me better when I eventually transitioned into a business development role.
He said that it was my best opportunity to learn the industry and to develop an in-depth understanding of how construction and real estate works in Vancouver; to learn the company names, meet the people, cultivate professional relationships and to really build a strong foundation that would be essential in the long run.
Q: And… he was right?
A: Looking back, it was 100% the right advice. My aim was to dive right into a business development role, but, thanks to Michael’s guidance, I came in as a recruiter for the real estate and construction team, and that experience has been critical to my success. I was very fortunate to be able to learn from Michael and Mark [Fedyshen], especially given Mark’s construction background.
My strategy was to ask as many questions as possible and to interview as much as I could, which was an incredible opportunity to learn the industry from the people in this city who are actually out there doing it – I’m very thankful to all the people who helped me to understand the construction and real estate sector in those early days, that experience was, and continues to be, invaluable.
Q: That’s amazing! I love that story. Okay, so you’ve started off as a recruitment specialist, but your goal was still to move into a business development role. How did that transition end up happening?
A: Quite organically, actually. Michael knew I wanted to get into business development, so when an opportunity arose, I started taking over some accounts, and ‘some accounts’ quickly became ‘a great majority of the accounts’ with our real estate development and construction management clients. At that point I was working what’s referred to as a 360 desk, doing both recruitment and business development at the same time.
If I can be honest here, I was completely and utterly swamped trying to do both jobs, but we made adding to our team a priority, thankfully. With more recruitment specialists available, I was able to move away from the recruitment side of things and really focus my efforts on business development, which was a welcome shift at that point!
Q: But that’s not the end of the story – your role’s changed again since then, hasn’t it?
A: It has! I’m still focused on business development, which I really enjoy, but I’ve moved into a leadership role within the team [as a practice lead within Building Division]. I’ve had prior experience managing people so, while it wasn’t necessarily something I was asking for, it was a fairly natural progression. It adds another dimension to the job, new challenges, certainly, and there’s a huge amount of satisfaction that comes from seeing people do well and knowing you played a part in their success, however big or small.
Q: Great! So, on that note, why don’t you tell me what you love most about what you do – what’s your favorite part of the job?
A: Whether it be coincidence or just pure luck, I ended up in real estate and and construction – and as someone who’s outdoors a lot, whether it’s running, cycling or just being out and about, I’m able to watch buildings go up and projects come together, and, ultimately, to see what our clients and candidates do first hand. I find that quite a cool part of the job.
Q: You’ve developed quite an interest in the industry, haven’t you?
A: Absolutely, yeah. The real estate construction sector is such a huge and important part of not just Vancouver’s economy, but British Columbia’s as well, and it shapes the city we live in. It’s something that a lot of people have an interest in and have opinions on, and for that reason, it’s talked about constantly – whether that be by a couple of politicians or a couple of friends in a bar.
There’s always so much to learn about what’s going on in the city, and I suppose I have a natural interest in understanding how the industry works: how projects get approved and how things get built. I actually end up following some of the city hearings for development permits and rezonings, that’s how invested I am – I’ve even written in on occasion to support projects as they go through the rezoning and development permitting process!
Q: Now that’s commitment!
A: I feel very fortunate to enjoy what I do. You know, I’ve worked in and around recruitment since 2011, so here we are, eleven years in and I still feel like I’m challenged every day. I still feel like I’m learning. Being with Impact, the focus is on continual improvement: how can we change? Adapt? Move forward? I still want to wake up and come into the office and have those conversations with people, and as long as that motivation is there, I’m going to be happy.
Q: So kind of spring boarding off of that – what’s an accomplishment [during your time at Impact] that you’re particularly proud of?
A: I think one of my biggest accomplishments is the life I’ve made here in Vancouver. Moving from the UK to a city where I knew just a handful of people, I’m not sure I could’ve imaged that four years later I’d have bought property here, have secured my permanent residency, with plans to apply for citizenship towards the end of this year, and have made connections with so many people, some who’ve become extremely close friends. My time at Impact has played a huge part in making that possible.
Q: Now, on the other hand, what’s the toughest part of your job? And how do you deal with that?
A: Frankly, time can be a big challenge in this role – there’s been plenty of occasions where I’ve found myself thinking that there just aren’t enough hours and minutes in the day. When you’ve got so many plates in the air spinning, and a bunch of people who are relying on you, that can get pretty stressful. My best advice is to focus on prioritization, planning and clear communication – and if you do miss something, be honest about it and learn from that going forward.
Q: How has the company changed since you’ve been here?
A: New faces, promotions, expansion and certainly big growth – but despite that, our goal is the same as ever: to provide the best service possible to our candidates and clients. Regardless of how big we get or what new cities we expand into, our focus will continue to be on building long-term relationships, fully understanding the markets we operate in and finding good people fulfilling work with growing companies.
Q: Okay, so we’ve made it to the last question! We’ll end with this: what’s your best advice for somebody who’s just joined Impact?
A: I think for someone new to Impact, I’d just say to try and take in as much information as possible, especially during those first few weeks. Ask questions. Be curious. Listen to people. Learn from people. Oh – and introduce yourself to people! Everyone is really busy, but we’re also very friendly – so don’t hesitate to get involved and introduce yourself: say good morning, see about joining for lunch or grabbing a coffee with your team.
Want to learn more about starting your career with us? Check out current job openings here.