Forty years’ change in property workplace

30 August 2018

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Cooke & Arkwright is waving an affectionate farewell to one of its longest serving staff members, Senior Secretary Sue Sylvester. After 40 years’ dedicated service with the firm Sue has decided to retire a few months ahead of her 60th birthday to enjoy quality time and go travelling with her husband Harvey, also newly retired.

Sue is well known to many of our longstanding clients, some of whom will remember her from early days when she joined the firm at the end of the ‘70s. A lot has changed in the workplace during that time. Sue recalls some of the clunky machinery they used to work with. “I remember telex machines the size of pianos – at least that’s how they seem in my mind’s eye! Reams of ticker-tape used to churn out as we typed madly away, trying not to make a mistake as you couldn’t go back and correct it. The tape used to pile up on the floor and then get fed back in after we’d dialled the recipient telex.

“Computers and emails were non-existent in those days and all property transactions had to be sent via the postal service. Solicitors used DX, or Document Exchange, which was really just a giant document-numbering and storage system to help speed up transactions. It worked sometimes! Then we had Dictaphones with reel-to-reel tapes and the typewriters finally went electronic They had little green display screens on which you could see about six words, a bit like some of the digital radios now. At least that meant that you could scroll back and make corrections - a big leap forward as far as we were concerned. Word processors came out in the ‘90s and gradually computers and emails became mainstream. Now, no one can imagine living without them!

“The clothes we wore in the ‘80s were very glam, very Dallas. All the secretaries wore skirt-suits with oversized shoulder pads. We sported enormous curly perms which used to be set like rock with hairspray. Our now Investment Director, Graham Davies used to joke that you wouldn’t dare strike a light near us. He wasn’t far wrong because, shocking as it may seem now, smoking in the workplace was common then.”

Most of Sue’s time was spent working for Roger Thomas, former Director and Chairman who headed up Office Agency. Roger, now a Consultant with the firm comments, “She was the back-bone administrator for the Commercial Department from its fledgling days in the late 1970s, right up to the present day. I never touched any paperwork; everything was coordinated through her, any phone calls, messages etc. She knew all the clients, who all respected her hands on approach and up-to-date knowledge of their property affairs with the firm. Good luck to Sue in her retirement – she’s earned it!”

Since Roger took a step back to become Consultant, Sue has concentrated on supporting the Business Space team headed by Director, Ben Bolton. Ben says, “Having trained with Roger in the Office agency team, I haven’t known work without Sue. She was an integral part of the restructuring of the former office and industrial departments, and been a fantastic support to establish the Business Space team we know today and how it functions. Sue has been a good friend and colleague. We’ve shared some great achievements and overcome a lot of challenges, but always had a laugh along the way. Sue will be missed by us all but it’s great she’s grasping the chance to enjoy a step back and time to enjoy travelling.”

Michael Lawley, Chairman of Cooke & Arkwright and Andrew Gardner, Managing Director also paid tribute to Sue’s commitment to the firm.

“We will miss Sue and thank her for her loyalty, enormous commitment and hard work. From a firm’s perspective, we feel pride in the fact that Sue has worked for us for her whole career, similar to many others in the practice both currently and in previous years. We wish her good health and happiness for her plans ahead.”