Meet Sara, an Associate with Prospero.
Hi Sara! Tell me a bit about your career so far. How did you get started?
Once I’d graduated from university, I started as a full-time planning officer at Vale of Glamorgan Council, where I first met Emma (Director of Prospero Planning). We were colleagues there for a few years.
When I had my first baby, I dropped down to part-time hours to get a better balance between work and home life. Then, shortly after my second child, I was lucky to be able to cut my commute by moving to another part-time planning role closer to home.
Once both my children reached school age, I had more time and wanted to up my working hours again. Knowing Emma had set up Prospero by then, I approached her to see if she had any projects I could help with. I’ve been an Associate with Prospero ever since and combine my Associate work with my part-time role in a local authority planning department.
Can you tell me more about your work with Prospero? What are your main responsibilities?
Currently, the bulk of my work for Prospero is split between assessing planning applications on behalf of a town council; and handling a caseload of applications as a remote planning officer for a national park.
What are the essential skills you think a Prospero Associate needs?
You need to be organised and good at time management because you’re given a caseload, and it’s down to you to manage everything, ensuring you get everything done on time.
You also need to be a skilled negotiator as you’re often dealing with some big personalities who aren’t always happy with the determination of your applications!
What initially attracted you to work with Emma and the Prospero team?
It was mainly the flexibility. Before COVID, no one in LPAs really worked from home, but that’s been Prospero’s approach from the beginning. It was so refreshing to be able to work at home in my own time. Having control over my workload was also very appealing. I could see how well Emma was doing and relished the opportunity to work alongside her again. All in all, it looked like a great team to be part of.
What’s it like to work with Prospero? What’s the culture like?
It’s really nice. Although we don’t often get a chance to meet in person because we’re based all over the country, you know that if ever you need support or advice, someone will help you. Emma is very supportive, and I know I can always go to her, and she will do everything she can to help. It’s just a lovely team to work with.
What have been your highlights of working with Prospero?
Often, in the beginning, when we start supporting an LPA we haven’t worked with before, you wonder how you’re going to be received as an external consultant. But we’re just there to provide additional capacity to the existing team, not to change how things are done. So, it’s always lovely to receive a warm welcome and such positive feedback when a contract ends.
You tend to receive much more feedback from clients when you’re self-employed, whereas when you’re employed, you might have an annual appraisal and not hear much in-between. Getting almost instant feedback that you’ve done an excellent job and made a difference is very rewarding.
How has Prospero changed during your time as an Associate?
It’s got really busy! I guess because of COVID, people are working from home a lot more now, and where they’ve saved money on holidays and going out, there’s been an explosion in the number of planning applications being submitted. As a result, we’re getting more and more enquiries from local authorities who need our help.
Thanks so much for your time, Sara. What advice would you give someone thinking of becoming a Prospero Associate?
Do it, of course! Seriously, have a chat with Emma; she’ll fill you in with everything you need to know about the practicalities of how it all works.