Looking Back and Planning Ahead- Ashley Snyder celebrates 20 Years with Cresa
“Be impeccable with your word.”
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
This month marks Ashley Snyder’s 20th year with Cresa. Initially joining as a project manager, Ashley is now a Principal of Cresa’s Phoenix office. She is an integral part of an 11-person team that manages more than ten portfolio clients totaling over 70 million square feet. She has also worked with Phoenix leadership to grow the office to nearly 50 employees, increasing the percentage of female professionals from 23% to 42% over a six-year period. *
Ashley's hard work and dedication has earned her numerous accolades throughout her career. She was named one of Arizona's Most Influential Women by Arizona Commercial Real Estate (AZRE) magazine in 2017 and was featured in the 2021 edition of AZ Big Media's PTK People and Projects to Know in Commercial Real Estate. However, Ashley's proudest achievement was receiving the Industrial Asset Management Council’s 2020 Michael P. Hickey award. This honor follows in the footsteps of her father, who received the same award in 2013.
To celebrate her 20th year with Cresa, we approached Ashley to discuss what she has learned throughout her career, the challenges she has faced, and her plans for the future.
*2021 Data reported in the blog entry, Women of Cresa: Leadership Evolution in Phoenix and Beyond
1. When you were growing up, what was your dream job?
Environmental Scientist/Engineer. When I was in the 6th grade, Ms. Shirling first introduced me to the concept of “protecting and cleaning up the environment” and it stuck. My dad and grandfather were both engineers by education, and I initially thought of continuing this tradition and incorporating it with my love of science and environmental remediation.
2. What challenges did you encounter when you started in this industry and/or at Cresa?
One of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) was that I came into CRE so young. As a Project Manager, I was working with suppliers/service trades that had been in the industry for years. I remember a plumber once telling me: “My belt is older than you are.” I quickly learned that I needed to have thick skin, particularly since I didn’t have any female mentors in the business until about 12 years in.
3. What motivated you to transition out of being a PM and what steps did you take to further your career growth at Cresa?
My dad is my biggest mentor, and most of his career has always been focused on networking, business development and client relationship management. I felt I was missing out on opportunities in the PM role to cultivate relationships at a new level, and knew I needed to focus on my business development strengths. I also saw the success he attained by targeting one aspect of business, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He told me, “Find something you’re good at, put all of your effort into it and progress from there.” - so I did.
4. What parts of Cresa’s culture and mission do you connect with most?
The exceptional value and loyalty we provide to our employees and our clients - both professionally and personally. Cresa operates by a value-add collaborative culture. Particularly now, where I work on a team where eight out of eleven team members are women. Our team embodies collaboration and diversity to create the value that Cresa delivers.
5. What is the best career advice you have received?
Advice has changed over the years based on where I was in my career. My dad was very much against me going into this business. His advice to me was, “Don’t get into the business – but if you do, be true to yourself and be a woman. Don’t try to be a man in this business”. His words helped me realize that I can perform and do extremely well as a female. As long as I stay true to myself and my morals and ethics, being a woman isn’t a negative in our business. It is an incredible gift.
6. What is something people don’t know about you?
That I quit drinking alcohol in 2013. This decision completely changed the trajectory of my life and I am forever grateful to those who have helped me in my journey, as well as those I can inspire. It is the basis by which I identify myself.
7. What’s your favorite food?
Chocolate Chip Cookies. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a weakness for them.
8. Did you ever have a role in your career you felt you weren’t 100% qualified to undertake?
All the roles that I’ve had at Cresa were uncomfortable at first because they were new and naturally had some associated uncertainties. Throughout my career I had to pause and make sure I wasn’t making a decision out of fear or lack of self-confidence, rather the opposite – even today at times. For me, it all goes back to believing in myself and taking chances for my team and our clients.
9. How did you overcome such difficulties?
Because of the confidence I have in our organization – our value add, our people, the services we offer and the corporate leadership we have in place today. Everyday I’m able to go out to prospective companies to promote and pitch something I believe in. Most importantly, I believe in our team – the best in the country, hands down. It gives me such joy to talk about our team because I hold them in such high regard.
10. How do you define your leadership and business approach?
Mindful leadership is key in business, and recognizing the impact of my words and actions. I ask a lot of questions and try to identify people’s needs, drivers, and pain points – ask, listen, then respond. Being a resource to people and genuinely caring about their well-being is the best way to lead. There is no way to teach that in a business class.
11. What do you find most satisfying about being in a leadership role?
I believe in a work-life integration approach rather than just work-life balance. One of the most satisfying things to me is when colleagues share that their personal lives have improved, along with their professional development and successes, because they are part of our team at Cresa.
12. What do you wish you had known before being put in a position of leadership?
Don’t take things personally and always look for opportunities to grow.
13. Can you name a particular challenge or tough business decision you faced during your career? Is there anything you would have done differently? How did you bounce back?
At the beginning it was really tough being a woman because people took advantage of me being young, and at times naïve, in this male dominated industry. To be honest, it wasn’t easy, but I persevered because I love this company and wanted to be the contrarian. I wanted to show women who came after me that we can not only succeed in this business but flourish! Having my stepdaughter work in the business is incredibly gratifying, because I know that I was one of the many women who helped pave the way.
14. Regarding women in CRE, across Cresa, and throughout the industry, how are you continuing to advance the successes you achieved in Phoenix?
I offer mentorship to anyone who comes into Cresa or into the industry at large. We have such a collaborative culture that it is easy to offer. My mentorship has also scaled outside of CRE. I mentor a lot of women who are starting their career or are coming back after a hiatus. As a leader, as a mentor, as a woman, “You can’t keep what you don’t give away.”
15. How do you define success?
Successes don’t have to be large. We can have simple successes everyday so long as we are willing to give ourselves recognition. Simple things add up to great success!
16. What’s one assumption people make about you that is completely wrong?
That my business development responsibilities mean that I’m hyper focused on sales or generating commissions. That’s not true at all. Something my dad said early on was: “Never follow the money. If you’re good at what you do and always do the right thing, the money will follow you.”
17. How do you stay motivated - personally, professionally?
Professionally, this past year I was most motivated by the mindful changes in our company and the tremendous success Cresa is achieving coming out of the pandemic. We are stronger than ever. Seeing us become formidable to the other firms because we are so unique.
Personally, I have a very strong spiritual practice. I practice meditation, intentional living and attend course work in the U.S. and India (though now mostly virtual). My intention is to live in a peaceful and beautiful state.
18. What are some words you live by (what’s your favorite quote)?
“Be impeccable with your word.”
“Have grace with yourself and with others.”
“What doesn’t come from the heart, won’t touch the heart.”
19. Name something you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the chance, time, courage?
I want to, and I will, become a Meditation Instructor and full-time mentor to women. I spend a lot of time mentoring women in the recovery community, but I want to do this full time in some capacity. I’m passionate about helping women find the grace and power that lies within. Transition from a state of chaos into a state of peace and connectedness. I believe that when you tap into peace, beauty starts to flow.
20. Most interesting/unique travel destination?
We travel as much as possible, but my favorite place in the entire world is India.
21. Mountains, deserts, forests or beaches?
I prefer mountains. Ironically, I tore my ACL just a few weeks prior to this interview while skiing. But I will always be humbled by the majesty and beauty that mountains offer.
22. Cresa has changed and grown a lot in the last 20 years, what changes were you most excited to see?
Being part of this organization for 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. We have the best leadership in place and we’re stronger than ever because of the vision and sacrifices many people made over the past 3 years. Cresa took the years of the pandemic to pause and reassess who we are and where we want to go. From the people we’ve put in key roles, to partnering with global industry leaders such as Knight Frank and Hickey & Associates, we are positioned for greatness.
23. What’s one of your proudest moments during your journey with Cresa?
Receiving the Michael P. Hickey Award from IAMC. It was humbling for me to be recognized as someone who holds ethics, values, and contributes back to community and company. Not to mention my dad won it in 2013. My dad got to be there when I received the award in Fort Worth, 10 miles from my family home. It was such an honor.
24. Looking forward, what initiatives and goals are you hoping to achieve in the next 1, 5, 10 years with Cresa? What is a goal you are currently working towards?
I want to continue to build an incredible client base for our team. Clients that we all love to work for and with. We cherish our clients, and they see the impeccable value and service our team offers, which is why we have corporate accounts dating back to 2009. I also want to find my protégé - someone to eventually take the reins and carry the torch within the next 7 years. Leaving a successful legacy that someone can continue when I pursue future aspirations.