A Day in the Life of – Maria Harris

Maria is Chair to Open Property Data Association, Non-Exec Director at United Trust Bank, Director at Digital Cat Consultancy and Board Advisor to five different companies (sounds exhausting)! Here, she tells us all about the day to day responsibilities of the roles and managing work/life balance.

As you can guess, my roles are very varied!

The Open Property Data Association is a member trade body for firms who are creating and sharing property data using an open and common data standard. My role as Chair is to represent our members, be the custodian of the data standards framework, and to collaborate with all the organisations we work with across the property ecosystem.

My board role at UTB is an independent non-exec. That means my job is to support and challenge the executive to make sure the bank is being run in the best interests of its customers, employees and owners. A lot of the work is making sure that our strategy is being implemented the way it should be and providing oversight on how we’re meeting our regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities. I’m also our Consumer Duty board champion.

Digital Cat provides consultancy services to mortgage lenders, intermediaries and mortgage technology firms. Mostly when they’re looking at digitising their mortgage processes and I’ll help them design new customer journeys and find the right tech solutions to bring it to life.

The board advisory roles are all very different! Everything from helping tech start-ups with proposition and growth through to supporting the profile of the North East across the FinTech community.

What does your routine look like? 

My husband and I moved to Spain this time last year, so it’s very different than it used to! I split my time between working remotely and being in London, so my days are either working from home and flipping between meetings and presentations on Zoom and Teams, or, I’ll be bobbing around London attending board meetings, in workshops, or speaking at conferences.

Most of my time is spent talking to people in industry or government about how we digitise property data, getting the open data and technology standards adopted, and securing the support we need for an industry wide trust framework that will unlock how we process property transactions and make them fit for a digital world.

My routine changes every single day and I’ll wear my different hats throughout the day depending on my schedule, so it’s never dull and the variety keeps me busy and energised.

What do you find to be your most productive time of the day?

I’m definitely more of a late afternoon/evening person and get most of my work done between 4pm and 7pm. It usually takes me at least 2 cups of tea in the morning before I can string a sentence together, so the hour’s time difference between the UK and Spain is a great help! I also struggle in the winter, especially in the UK, so waking up to blue skies most days and being able to go for a walk mid afternoon or at 7pm is important for my mental health and helps me be more productive.

How do you manage your time to ensure you have a good work / life / home balance?

Time management is not my strong point. I love all of my different roles and enjoy everything I do so it’s hard not to get caught up in work, especially when it’s all so interesting and feels like it’s making a difference. I am very disciplined about my weekends though. I love music, football, and exploring so my free time tends to revolve around at least one of those.

Now that I’m a bit more settled in Spain, it’s been great getting out and exploring the local area and finding all the hidden gems of places to visit, plus my children come and visit a lot so we get to do fab stuff when they’re over.

What is your favourite part of your working day in your role?

There are far too many to choose one. Our trade association is still relatively new even though we’ve been working on the data stuff for more than two years, so every time we get a new member sign up or get a government department to commit to digitising a piece of data we need, it’s a real yay moment.

Becoming a NED for the first time with UTB was a big step change for me after being an exec, so contributing to our board and risk committee, especially on consumer duty, is hugely rewarding.

What does a typical dinner time look like in your household?

I’m really blessed that we have lots of fabulous food options where I live. The access to local food is amazing so we do lots of fresh food stuff. I think I lived on salads and veg all summer. I always try to watch the UK and North East news at dinner time to stay connected with what’s happening at home.

What do you do to unwind?

Back to music, football, and exploring. I love seeing live bands and managed to get to a couple of festivals this year as well as finding my local rock venue. I had a season ticket at Newcastle United for over 20 years and still watch every game – and they’ve started broadcasting some of the women’s games too now, which is fab. My other passion is reading and I usually get through 2 or 3 books in a week.

If you could give one piece of career advice what would it be?

Do not put limits on yourself. There’s so much psychology around imposter syndrome and whether women still have a glass ceiling, but there’s so much opportunity out there –  so find what you love, be amazing at it and take it as far as you want to go.

How important has your support network been in helping you through your role?

I’ve had incredible support from my network at every stage of my career and am a huge advocate of finding your tribe. I wouldn’t have made some of the moves I did without their advice and guidance. They’ve helped me when things have been tough and picked me up when decisions or career moves didn’t work out as planned.

The advice and endorsement I’ve had from my mentors and closest industry friends has shaped my career and personal development, sometimes without me even knowing they’d been helping in the background.