Case study

Heritage management officer — Lila

Lila believes that safeguarding significant buildings and sites for future generations to enjoy and learn from is probably the most satisfactory aspect of working in heritage

After graduating from my MSc in Architectural Conservation from the University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh College of Art, and while I was looking for work, I began volunteering in the architectural and built heritage sector in order to gain practical work experience.

I volunteered with different organisations and companies, including the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, where I spent nine months as a research and project assistant. While there I gained experience of a variety of building preservation projects, assisted in delivering redevelopment projects and collected and provided market research data for options appraisals and feasibility studies. This helped me to gain good working knowledge of project management and fundraising in the heritage sector, as well as familiarity in dealing with the public.

While working in another sector, I spent three years as a volunteer member for the Architectural Heritage Society for Scotland on their cases panel, where I reviewed applications for listed building and conservation area consent for the City of Edinburgh Council.

I first joined Historic Scotland in January 2013 as a graduate trainee heritage management officer. This one-year post gave me experience of working in different teams within the Heritage Management Directorate.

One of the teams I worked in was the North Area team and before my traineeship ended I applied for an internal vacancy within the same department and took up my current role.

In this competitive market and in a field that is quite eclectic, I believe my qualifications and the knowledge and skills I gained through my studies were very important for securing my initial interview for the traineeship. However, I also think that my volunteering experience and genuine enthusiasm were key reasons for succeeding in the interview and securing the job.

In my current role I manage development and deal primarily with planning application casework, including listed building and scheduled monument consent applications. I also appraise and advise on forest management plans and inheritance tax exemption cases. I review the applications, identify sensitive heritage assets within the search area that may be affected by the proposals, and assess the potential impact of the proposals on the historic environment.

On a daily basis I provide relevant advice, mainly to local authorities, in compliance with the Scottish Historic Environment legislation and policy. This work requires me to communicate regularly with planners and developers as well as liaising with owners at site meetings.

I have steadily expanded my experience by pro-actively engaging with casework colleagues and attending directorate meetings. Now I work independently on major cases with input from my senior colleagues.

Looking at the short-term future, I am looking at enhancing my knowledge and experience in the field, which will allow me to develop in my current post and progress professionally within the organisation.

I really enjoy my job as it's quite varied and challenging. It mainly consists of office-based work but I also get to participate in meetings and go on site visits. There is a certain satisfaction gained from the problem-solving part of the job and there's scope for professional development through training courses, secondments and job swapping.

It's sometimes difficult to keep an emotional distance with regards to some development changes that I may not agree with in principle. However, I love being able to contribute to safeguarding the historic environment, while allowing for development, as I believe old buildings are a valuable part of our history.

If you want to get into this area of work try to get involved in the field and get as much practical experience as possible so that you can stay up to date with current projects and new principles and methods. Also try to network and show your enthusiasm for wanting to work in the field.