Father, Mexican-chef-extraordinaire, Head of Residential Development: Gavin Eustace on life & work
21 November 2019
World-traveller Gavin Eustace fits spending time with his kids and his love of mexican cooking around his job as Head of Residential Development at Octopus. He tells us how growing up as a military child helps him stay flexible at work.
How long have you been with Octopus, and what did you do before you joined?
I’ve been with Octopus for five years. Before I worked here, I was on the Corporate Real Estate team at Lloyds Banking Group.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
First of all, I’ll check in with my team to see how our investments are performing. Then, I’ll take a look at what deals are set to come in, and review the wider strategy for Residential.
Some days things will be a bit different as I’ll be visiting one of our sites. We’re currently building student halls, flats for sale, build-to-rent sites, and co-living spaces all across the UK, from Southampton to Edinburgh.
What are you working on at the moment?
Co-living is something we’re really keen to get more involved in. Co-living basically involves people living together sharing common spaces for all sorts of activities, with a big focus on sustainability. The UK needs a better rental option, and co-living offers an exciting solution.
There’s a real emphasis on community in these spaces. The facilities are incredible – there’s everything from cinemas and cafes to cooking classes and cocktail evenings. Walking around them made me feel very old and square!
Student accommodation has really come on in recent years, as well. The sites we’re investing in are ahead of the curve in terms of technology and the care that’s available for students. It’s a far cry from the run-down Victorian terraces of my day.
How do you like to unwind?
I’ve got two young kids so sometimes it’s a case of keeping the blood pressure up rather than unwinding!
I love cooking though. I’m really into Mexican food at the minute. I make this great salmon dish with tequila and orange juice, It’s so fresh and zingy. I’m not a particularly creative person, but the kitchen is where I’m at my most expressive and adventurous.
What’s the best advice you’ve had from someone at Octopus?
To have confidence and stop apologising for everything. It’s not about being arrogant, but having the conviction to back yourself.
What’s the best thing about life at Octopus?
I love the autonomy you’re granted here. They treat you like adults. If you need to work from home, you can. And no one’s counting your holidays. Because we’re trusted like this we work harder to get results, because we own what we do.
There’s no bureaucracy, none of that ‘can’t do’ attitude you find in other financial institutions. Here, if you’ve got a good idea, we’ll do it. It’s a total breath of fresh air.
Tell us about your background.
Growing up, I was an ‘army brat’. I was born in Germany and moved around Europe and the Middle East, every two to three years. It helped me get used to change, and taught me to be adaptable. Plus, it was a great way to get to know different cultures and learn first-hand that things aren’t the same everywhere in the world.
My upbringing also gave me the travel bug and a love of foreign languages. While I was studying biology at Edinburgh, I took every opportunity I could to see the world.
Does your ‘unusual’ upbringing give you an advantage at work?
My childhood travels have influenced my whole approach to life. I’ve learned to always be open to having my mind changed, and to appreciate different perspectives. This definitely helps me stay flexible in the work I do at Octopus.
What three items come with you everywhere you go?
My diary with my to-do list in it, and a pen. I’m old school, I like to tick things off as I do them. It helps me feel like I’m on top of things.
And I keep my son’s first pair of socks in my bag, and a little cast of my daughter’s foot. No matter how serious or successful my professional life gets, my kids keep my feet firmly on the ground.
You’re doing a ‘show and tell’ exercise at work. What do you bring in?
My Peloton exercise bike. I got it last year and I love it – it’s absolutely brilliant.
Tell us about your ‘happy place’.
Saturday mornings with my five-year-old daughter, in the local leisure centre pool after her swimming lessons. I take her down the deep end and it’s so refreshing to watch her reactions, how excited she is that our feet can’t reach the bottom. The way she expresses her emotions is so uninhibited. It’s magical.