Caroline is an Inspirational Leader. Her career in the built environment began in a unique way. After starting her professional life as a nurse and social worker, she discovered her true calling while working with vulnerable adults. This experience ignited her passion for housing and the profound impact it has on individual well-being. From that moment, Caroline dedicated herself to housing and regeneration. It was at this point she obtained a masters degree in urban regeneration from UCL.
Caroline Pillay, Director CAP Regeneration Consultants
While Caroline did not have a formal qualification in housing at the start of her career her wealth of experience and determination led her to success. She founded her own consultancy, weathering the challenges of the 2008 recession. Her ability to adapt and thrive in difficult circumstances is an example of her resilience and commitment to her work.
In 2013, Caroline teamed up with Airey Miller to form Airey Miller Partnership, a consultancy specialising in supporting local authorities with their development ambitions. During her time there, she played a pivotal role in the development of the client-side business, advising local authorities on delivering large-scale projects. Caroline's expertise and passion for regeneration made her an invaluable asset to the firm.
However, even amidst her achievements, Caroline recognised the need for change. She made the bold decision early in 2023 to leave Airey Miller Partnership and embark on a new chapter. Her departure was driven by a desire to prioritise her own well-being and ensure the continued success of the business. Caroline's commitment to doing what is best for herself and her team exemplifies her strength and integrity. Reflecting on her career, Caroline says that every step has been an achievement. From her childhood as a child of the infamous Biafran war in Nigeria, she has surpassed expectations.
Caroline's journey in the real estate sector has not been without its challenges. As a Black woman in a male-dominated industry, she faced isolation and a constant feeling of being an outsider. In the early stages of her career, Caroline recalls the loneliness and difficulty she encountered. Walking into conferences and meetings where she was often the only Black person, she struggled to find her place and establish her presence. However, over time, Caroline discovered her strength and resilience. She realised that she had a right to be in those rooms, to bring her authentic self, and to contribute her valuable insights. Through self-affirmation and connecting with like-minded individuals, Caroline found the confidence to transcend the limitations imposed by societal expectations. Networking groups provided a safe space for her to grow, learn, and realise that she was not alone in her experiences.
When asked why she continues to remain in the industry, Caroline emphatically states, "I genuinely love it." Regeneration is ingrained in her being, an integral part of her identity. “It flows through her veins” this passion is what keeps her motivated and committed.
She acknowledges the negative press and instances where the industry has failed to meet its responsibilities. These caused her to consider leaving the industry however, rather than turning away, Caroline sees these as opportunities for change. Her first-hand experiences and the hardships faced by those she knows drive her to advocate for better living conditions and equitable treatment for all.
Caroline refuses to shy away from the difficult conversations and instead seeks to be a catalyst for positive change. Her dedication to uplifting and supporting other Black women in the industry is commendable. Recognising the value of her life experiences and sector knowledge, Caroline readily offers her support as a mentor and advisor, to many seeking guidance and empowerment.
Caroline's mantra is clear: "Never be afraid to reinvent yourself." She believes in the power of authenticity and encourages Black women to embrace their unique qualities and perspectives. By nurturing their self-confidence and recognising their worth, Caroline hopes to inspire Black women to defy societal expectations and thrive in their careers.
While Caroline remains optimistic about the future, she acknowledges that real change must come from within the industry. The sector must address the systemic prejudice that hinders the progress of Black women and other underrepresented groups. Caroline emphasises the importance of diversity in leadership positions and urges the industry to create an environment where every individual, regardless of their background, feels accepted and valued.
Caroline Pillay’s podcast episode will be released in September 2023 as part of Black Women in Real Estate’s Phenomenal Women campaign
The Phenomenal Women campaign is sponsored by the RICS