28 August 2019

For the next instalment of our 'leaders in the spotlight' series we caught up with Susmita Sen, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Homes, to find out about she got into housing and the inspiration she takes from 12 Angry Men.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the housing sector.

I started working as a temporary repairs clerk after graduating and found that I actually really enjoyeded the interaction with people. 20 years later and I’m still here! I meet so many people like me who came to housing by chance and fell in love with it. We should do more to promote it as a first-choice career.

Outside of work, I have five kids, so at home I’m ‘mum’ not a chief executive - they keep me grounded.

2. What do you like most about your job?

I really like the diversity of what I do; the pace and the opportunity to influence and improve services simply by listening to residents. But actually, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a caretaker or a chief executive, if you have the right attitude you can make a real difference to people’s quality of life.

3. And what do you find most challenging?

The bureaucracy can be painful. I’m sure it’s well intentioned, but it often feels like it’s trying to halt progress and stop the job from getting done. Changing attitudes is a challenge. Sometimes people say we ‘can’t do that’ when what they really mean is that ‘we’ve always done it this way and changing it is too uncomfortable’.

4. The tagline for the event this year is ‘lead from where you stand’. Have you got any tips or words of wisdom for the leaders of tomorrow on making an impact in their current role?

Stay positive and stay focused. You’ll get knockbacks along the journey but it makes us stronger and more resilient. It’s also important to learn from each one. Never expect anyone to take responsibility for your career - it’s solely down to you. And listen to Gandhi: “be the change that you wish to see in the world”.

5. Tell us about fictional character from a book or film that you admire and think demonstrates great leadership skills.

In ‘12 Angry Men’ Henry Fonda plays a character called ‘juror number eight’ where he explores motivations and builds consensus. “It's always difficult to keep personal prejudice out of a thing like this. And wherever you run into it, prejudice always obscures the truth.”

Find out more about joining the next Future Housing Leaders cohort.

Susmita Sen

Susmita is Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Homes

Susmita joined Tower Hamlets Homes from Network Housing Group where she was Network Stadium Executive Director. She was previously Chief Executive of Ealing Homes, and is a former Director of Housing and Interim CEO at Hackney Homes. In all Susmita has over 20 years of delivering social housing services.

Leaders in the spotlight: Susmita Sen