Michael Swinnerton – A catch up with our UDIA Young Leaders Award Nominee

We are extremely proud of our Development Manager & Head of Childcare Centre Development, Michael Swinnerton, for his nomination in the UDIA Young Leaders Award for Excellence.

At just 28, Michael has forged a reputation as a tenacious property developer and strong leader.

He’s at the helm of a reliable, and results-driven team who run like a well-oiled machine. They respect deadlines, follow good processes and embody Oreana’s values of innovation, quality and execution.

We sat down with Michael to find out how he’s climbed the ladder in such a short space of time, what traits he believes compensate for lack of years of experience, and his advice to other emerging talent.

Q. How did you land in property development?

In 2017 I was working at Grill’d in Carnegie, running the day shifts. A local property developer came in for lunch every second day. I picked up on his energy. I just loved watching him and his team interact.

My family background is in real estate so I was accustomed to talking property at every mealtime.  After learning my Grill’d customer was in development, my interest was piqued.

I used to joke to people that he was my ‘future boss’, then one day, he became just that…but only after persistently asking him in person and over text for 12 months’ straight. He started me as a sales assistant a couple of days a week doing printing and scanning but within a month I’d turned it into an almost-full-time gig.  Then, one day I found myself walking past the boardroom only to be called in, where I was handed a list of 10 addresses and told I was now the development manager of those projects.

I obviously had no experience, but I guess I just had the right attitude.

Q. You joined Oreana in late 2019 – what’s been your experience here?

A lot has changed in four years. Oreana has grown exponentially in terms of the number of projects, number of people and the culture; there has been significant and exciting growth over the past few years.

At our heart, we’re a bunch of smart people finding solutions who get along well. And with a focus on culture, we have really transformed into a high-performing team.

We have a lot on and we’re putting in a lot of energy but all for the same mission or end goal. We are dedicated to the cause and we’re all happy to be supporting each other to achieve our vision. We’re invested in it, we’re passionate about what we do and we’re proud of the outcomes we deliver for the business and the communities in which we operate.

When I started, we were quite siloed, but we are now a big collaborative team with a clear strategy and there is a genuine feeling of comradery and teamwork. Steven and Tony have built something really great and it’s a such an incredible opportunity to be on the journey with them.

Q. Property development is notorious for its revolving door of challenges – how do you approach this?

My team’s motto is ‘there’s always a way’. We get creative, we try something new, and we push the boundaries.

It frustrates me when someone says you can’t – I just don’t accept that. There has to be a way, it’s just about finding it and thinking outside-the-box. I believe if you find a problem, you can find a solution.

Q. Oreana values experience and enthusiasm in equal parts. How have you compensated for your relatively minimum (in terms of years) experience as a Development Manager?

I have a genuine passion and interest in what I do, and ultimately, the right attitude. I love learning, I take opportunities and I put my hand up to solve problems. I’m like a dog with a bone when it comes to overcoming challenges.

I also place significant importance on personal development, as well as mental and emotional health and wellbeing. At times, the industry can be very stressful and overwhelming. It is easy to get inundated when problems are mounting.

I’ve invested time into learning how to develop and harness emotional intelligence and self-awareness. It’s a high priority for me and it’s one that has paid off.

Developing healthy relationships is also important. Being personable, empathetic and a good person gets you a long way in any career, as well as in life more broadly.

Q. You currently lead a growing team of four – what values do you follow as a leader?

I try to role model the values I’ve mentioned – enthusiastic, self-aware, tenacious, relationship focussed, with an emphasis on striving to be a decent person. I also try to instil in my team a love of learning and genuine passion for what we do. I focus on:

  • Utilising everyone’s skills and expertise and appreciating people’s strengths and gaps.
  • Making sure my team is engaged by being a positive role model, remaining enthusiastic, being empathetic, ensuring people are enjoying themselves and facilitating continuous learning.
  • Finding solutions, striving for better outcomes, painting the picture of what success looks like.
  • Bringing my team on the journey ensuring that they are invested in the end goal so that they we are all aligned every step of the way.

Q. What advice would you give to someone aspiring to make their mark in property development?

Be willing to learn and have an open mind.

There’s a stoic saying that rings true in the development industry – ‘the obstacle is the way’. You’re not learning when things are easy so embrace challenges as opportunities.

Exposure is very important – put your hand up for the hard stuff and ask lots of questions.

And, don’t take things too seriously. At the end of the day, it is work and there is life outside. You want to be able to enjoy the process – appreciate where you are and where you’ve come from.

Q. Where to from here?

I used to do a lot of forward planning, but I’ve taken a step back from that. Looking at where I started seven years ago, my vision now is different.

A particular job title, a mansion or sports car excite me less now. A life with a fulfilling cause, loving relationships, health and constant learning is now my vision; I’m excited for what lays ahead and at the same time pause often to enjoy the moment and be grateful for my life today.

I enjoy what I do and want this incredible journey to continue and in doing so, it is my hope that I will further mature as a leader, embracing more opportunities as they present themselves and tackling the challenges as they come my way. For me, that’s more important than aiming for a particular title or to be in a particular place.

Oreana is always on the lookout for people who share our focus of innovation, quality and execution. Check out our careers page on LinkedIn or get in touch proactively to be considered for upcoming roles.

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