Get to know Karl May –
UDIA Distinguished Service Award Winner
Karl was recently awarded the UDIA Distinguished Service Award and featured in the Urban Icon booklet to discuss his career, leadership style and hopes for the future of the industry...
Karl has demonstrated true leadership in the Urban Development industry through his sustained high level of contribution to shaping design and planning policy in NSW.
Always a willing volunteer to take on the challenges faced by the industry, Karl has given selflessly to the efforts of task forces, committees and workshops focussed on better outcomes for housing supply, the environment and the community.
In the past several years, Karl was instrumental in his contribution in critical analysis of proposed draft Planning instruments from government agencies. His research into key complex design and commercial parameters, led to significant improvements in the final outcomes and better government policies.
His personal time spent on a detailed understanding and advocating for planning and design issues was invaluable to the industry.
Seven Questions with Karl...
1. What was it about specialise in urban design and master planning throughout your career? I learned early in my career that if you don’t get the urban design right then the buildings themselves are not going to make great places or cities. We need to design for the future we want and that includes future planning for open space, services and amenities that supports an increased density as our population grows. You can spend all of your effort on designing one great house however the impact is small, but when you put that effort towards projects of scale then the impact can be much greater.
2. When you started out, what did you want to be known for? Someone who is always curious to learn something new, never afraid to take on a new challenge, and always willing to stand shoulder to shoulder to get the project done.
3. How important is it to support your industry through participation? Instead of complaining about issues in the industry, there are so many opportunities to get involved and be an agent of change. Industry participation allows us to shape a better future for all, debate and advocate on important issues, and create a strong and unified voice for our industry to communicate our opinions and ideas to the public, other organisations and to government.
4. If you were starting out again in your career… what would you do differently? Get involved in the broader industry sooner as there is so much to learn from being around more experienced professionals from across the industry, and the mentorship and sponsorship that can come out of those connections is invaluable.
5. As an employer, what is the one skill or attribute you look for in your candidates/staff in terms of their leadership potential and do you choose it or develop it? For Leadership potential I would say it is two – strength and warmth. Strength of character is the ability to take charge when required and to galvanise those around you to deliver a common goal. Warmth is the ability to achieve this without force, by being empathetic and allowing people to deliver their best in their own way. A great leader does not need to be the smartest person in the room, but they do need to be able to listen to, and take counsel, from those who are.
6. What is the best piece of advice would give to someone looking to advance their career in our industry?
Get involved in an area of the industry you are passionate about and contribute some of your time and energy to reach out beyond your own job and affect change more broadly. In return you will get the opportunity to interact with a group of interesting and equally passionate people and raise your profile within the industry.
7. If we were sitting here in 12 months’ time, what would be the most important achievement that you would like to be celebrating?
That we are recognised as a respected industry attracting the worlds’ best and brightest talent, with equality and empowerment to be their true selves, creating some of the world’s best places and spaces. And to know that I was able to be some small part of making that happen.
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