Find Your Voice, Make Genuine Connections and Other Words of Advice from Three Women in CRE
This week, many of the women at Cresa are headed to Chicago to attend the CREW Network Convention. CREW, for those who are unfamiliar, is a network that exists to transform the commercial real estate industry by advancing women globally. The annual event brings together more than 1,200 commercial real estate leaders annually for deal-making, business networking, industry education and leadership development.
Three of the women attending are Brittney Lane, Kelsey Machuca and Jenny Turner.
- Brittney Lane, Account Manager, Co-Chair, Women of Cresa, Chicago, IL
- Kelsey Machuca, Senior Advisor, Portland, OR
- Jenny Turner, Vice President, Co-Chair, Women of Cresa, Phoenix, AZ
In the spirit of celebrating women in the industry, we asked a series of questions that shed light on their unique experiences, their career paths and their advice for women looking to start a career in CRE.
How did your journey lead you into the commercial real estate industry? Did you always know where your career path was headed?
Brittney - I had no clue that I would end up in the commercial real estate industry. In school, I focused on fine art, sculpture and ceramics. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I always had a passion for business, whether it was working for my parent’s business or helping friends launch their own ventures. When I graduated, I became an executive assistant. It taught me to be accurate and to pay attention to details. It also led to an introduction to the real estate team who at the time was managing our lease renewal.
I was looking for my next move at the time and the brokerage team needed an assistant. That was my introduction, and I was hooked. I instantly loved the creativity involved in lease negotiations and being able to help companies make decisions that would impact their businesses. I had my license within the first year and began leading transactions in the second.
Kelsey - I started my real estate journey with my first job after college, in property management. I became very familiar with the ins and outs of budgeting for capital improvements, scheduling regular maintenance, tenant relations, collections, and after-hours emergencies. Eventually, I became a licensed broker so that I could add value by representing the landlord in existing tenant renewals. That is when I got my first taste of brokerage, prior to joining Cresa and the rest is history.
Jenny - I accepted a job at CBRE in their research department right out of college. Before accepting that position, I was considering a lot of different paths, including going into politics. I didn’t know anything about the commercial real estate industry, but it ended up being an awesome fit. I loved the business and getting to understand it from a research standpoint. Twelve years later and I have never looked back. Needless to say, I am very happy I did not end up in politics!
We know there are challenges, but what are the benefits of being a woman in commercial real estate today?
Brittney – It’s encouraging to see more representation of women and people of color. We have a long way to go, but just a short time ago it was a very monotone landscape.
One thing that sets women apart is that they care so much. They often aren’t afraid to get emotionally involved and that can be a good thing. They empathize and can see challenges through the eyes of their clients. And anytime someone is underestimated in a negotiation, it can be a benefit. Real estate is a continuously changing field and women, in general, are adaptable.
Kelsey – In a sea of men, women in the industry naturally stand out. Some clients are drawn to that diversity and are intentionally seeking it because they realize the benefit and value that different perspectives bring.
Jenny – I think I am able to relate to clients or parties on the other side on a more personal level. A softer approach can oftentimes yield better results. People tend to be less guarded, particularly in a negotiation setting. Relating to our female clients, women in business and working moms, has always come very naturally to me. I think they are generally enthusiastic to have a woman on their side, especially in such a male-dominated industry. I often feel like they are rooting for me, maybe because I am a little bit different than the typical broker.
Share a success story. What is a recent win that you are proud of?
Brittney – One that sticks with me is that I am still here at Cresa! About six months into the pandemic, it became clear to me that I needed to make a change to be closer to family. Cresa’s ERGs (employee resource groups) allowed me the space to share what I was going through. If it weren’t for the relationships I formed there, I don’t know that I would have had the courage. Immediately people jumped in to provide solutions. It was a fantastic experience that would not have happened without the immense support I felt from my peers.
Kelsey – A friend of a friend was job searching, and I made the connection that their interests aligned with one of my clients who was hiring at the time. After a coffee interview and personal recommendation, I was able to funnel them through a referral system with the help of my client. After a couple of interviews, they were hired!
Jenny – Today I am on a 10-person account team based in Phoenix. When I joined, there was one other woman, now there are six, so over 50% of my team. I don’t know if I had anything to do with that. But …
What is your advice for women who are just getting started with a career in commercial real estate?
Brittney - My advice is to try and make as many genuine connections as you can. When you reach out to people, mean it. If you let people know what you are doing, people will help you.
I find that confidence is often harder for women. Don’t be afraid to say what set’s you apart. The earlier you can make connections and find your support systems the better.
Jenny - Focus on trying to find your voice. Establish your confidence. Oftentimes women tend to question themselves, to hesitate and over-apologize. I believe it’s something we could all work on, I know I have. Finding your own voice early on will help you down the road. Clients need to hear that confidence in your voice.
In what ways can we all be supporting diversity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace?
Brittney - Job listings are beginning to be published more publicly. One small thing we can all do is to share the openings we see, spreading awareness for opportunities with connections that might not see or consider it otherwise.
Diversity is not just about the color of your skin, there are so many factors such as your belief systems or cultural views, the more varying backgrounds we can invite into the industry, the better off we will be.
Kelsey - Lead with kindness, welcome new people to the community, and offer your time and energy to those that need it most.
Jenny - I think we can support diversity, inclusion and belonging by looking for applicants in nonconventional areas. We need to be aware of different peer groups and organizations that are not typically drawn on for recruiting and keep an eye out for people who exhibit a go-getter mentality.
Why are organizations like CREW so important to advancing the achievements of women in commercial real estate?
Brittney - When you name a problem, it’s easier to fix. Having a network is instrumental, it can help you feel stronger and braver when battling to be heard. Women were doing instrumental work in the industry for years on the administrative side, long before they were allowed to hold licenses. Organizations like CREW help to call out injustices and when you name it, you can work on it.
Kelsey - Organizations like CREW create a web of support that builds confidence and relationships that create new opportunities.
Jenny - I think CREW is important because it provides a setting for women to connect and champion each other’s causes. A lot of times, I will find that I am the only woman in a meeting or on a tour. So having a space to feel like you are in the majority allows you to feel supported by a collective strength.
Any final thoughts that you would like to share?
Brittney - I’m proud to be part of such an awesome organization that prioritizes people. I want to continue to be part of the progress.
Kelsey - If you aren’t doing it already, join an organization that you are truly interested in, get on a committee, get involved, go to events, speak up and learn from others in that joyous part of your life. Doing things for you and allowing yourself to experience and grow allows you to be even more dynamic.
Jenny - If possible, come to a CREW conference or join a similar group. If you are an employee of Cresa, reach out to Women of Cresa, we want to support you!