“When people think of real estate, they more often think of the sales and property management areas of the business. Very few people think that administration could be a fulfilling and worthwhile career, but it truly is for me and can be for anyone,” said Christine Wilkins. “Without someone able to uphold that part of the business it can be difficult for both sales agents and rental staff to have that internal support when it is needed.
Christine’s love of property began early in her professional career when she started out in the legal profession as a conveyancing clerk, and went on to establish her own conveyancing company. This successful company was eventually purchased by a large legal firm, which she continued to work for.
But at the age of 40, Christine wanted a new professional challenge. She wanted to do something completely different and out of the box, so she pursued a career as a flight attendant.
“I just wanted to do something completely different and really get out of my comfort zone. I just had a desire to stretch myself and challenge myself in a different way, which is what working in the airline industry gave me. It was really rewarding and I learned so much about myself” said Christine.
Christine was lured back into the world of property when a legal firm asked her to come back and work in the property law sphere.
Her move to work for Barry Plant occurred in 2016, and came from a pre-existing professional relationship with Donald McKillop (director of Barry Plant Werribee and Tarneit offices) who she met during her time working in the industry over the years. The role of Operations Manager was created for her back in 2016, and she’s never looked back.
Bringing with her first class communication and negotiation skills, and an in-depth knowledge of property law, Christine has helped guide the Werribee and Tarneit offices to be some of the most successful real estate agencies in Melbourne’s west.
“I really enjoy the back end of things and making sure the offices run smoothly - in conjunction with my directors of course,” Christine shared. “The understanding of property law helps me to educate our real estate agents in relation to completing a contract, special conditions of a contract, things that they should and shouldn’t do, and keeping on top of legislation. I believe you must always lead by example, be that person who is always happy to help someone out, and above all listen. This is undoubtedly the best and only way to earn genuine respect from your team. We must build strong and happy teams, teams that are prepared to go above and beyond with client care and of course care of each other.”
Christine was awarded the Corporate Support Person of the Year in both 2017 and 2020 at the Barry Plant Award for Excellence. Her work during the COVID pandemic in 2019 was of particular note.
Noticing a lack of engagement and connection of some of the staff during their Zoom meetings and other online communication, Christine created a number of virtual events that everyone could participate in. This included trivia nights where staff and partners showed up in costumes and pyjamas and just had a relaxed and fun time answering quiz questions.
“They were a huge success! We’d have people in costumes, I’d have a tiara on, it was just great!” said Christine. “There was so much laughing, lots of interaction. They were fabulous, and I think it really helped people engage more outside of the normal business focused zoom meetings which we were having. They were really beneficial for our staff’s mental attitude towards their work, and helped them feel not so disconnected.”
Christine works alongside so many experienced women who are also thriving in what has traditionally been a male dominated industry. She admits that the industry has come a long way in regards to the gender gap.
“Back when I started 40 years ago, very rarely would you have seen a female working in any area of real estate. A lot of the real estate offices were very male dominated, as were legal offices. A lot of partners in these companies were male partners,” said Christine Wilkins.
“It’s taken a long time for women to break through, but I think particularly over the last 15 years there has been a real openness to women coming through, especially in the sales side of the business. Property management has always had a lot of women working in that area, but when it comes to senior management roles or directors who are in charge, not so many women. But I really think that’s changing.”
Christine has absolutely loved her journey with Barry Plant, and will see out her career in real estate, but not just yet. She still loves her job as well as the nurturing culture of the Barry Plant network as a whole, and is excited at the chance to continue to work with so many amazing women in the industry.
“Women in the workforce have such a powerful voice now. We bring skills and we bring life experience. We are often mothers with a learned ability to help people develop and with the capacity to support them emotionally. The mental wellbeing of staff has a greater focus now, whereas a few years ago it was just ‘Get on with it’.”