How 9 Women Inspired My Career


thank you reservoir

I might be late to the party on International Women’s Day, but I want to take the (belated) occasion to thank the women in my career who have helped to mold and shape me. I’ve been lucky to have be influenced by incredible women, considering I’ve been in male dominated industries my whole career. This is by no means an exhaustive list of every woman who has made an impact on my life, but a thank you to those who have become friends and mentors and were inspirations at key points in my career.

  1. Jody – The negatives don’t get anything accomplished. It is important to focus on the end result and goals to drive self and others to a solution.
  2. Janice – You taught me the importance of flexibility, patience, and being true to your own style of working with others can be effective in getting the job done.
  3. Angie – I learned that having personality and fun at work was in all reality a better thing than being “only professional” all the time.
  4. Rebecca – The transition post-college was difficult, but you challenged me to be great and taught me the basics for successful project management.
  5. Sarah DL –  Your attention to detail made your projects successful, and you kept others accountable for their own work because one person can’t do everything.
  6. Sarah AI – The work will always be there, but the fun times should have room both in the schedule and on spontaneous occasions.
  7. Alicia – You made me realize how important it was to have friends at work, for both the good times and the bad times.
  8. Janine – You let nothing stand in your way of proving yourself and exhibit perseverance in everything you do.
  9. Krystal – The power of friendship transcends industry lines. We’ve been at key points in career trajectory at similar times, and to have the closeness with someone who understands the ups and downs with little detailed explanation is comforting. You’ve helped me sort through some of the existential questions like “what do I want to do?” with clarity to find happiness at work.

Thank you to all of you for your belief in me – I am beyond thankful you all popped into my life!

I’m holding off on highlighting the women who impact me in my current role because I am quite fortunate to have numerous amazing women to work with. My mother deserves a post of her own someday!

Who are the women in your life who have positively impacted your career?


Best Pieces of Advice I’ve Received: Scheduling the Day


This is the first post of an occasional series that will touch on some of the best pieces of advice I’ve received throughout my life.

A fall day, sophomore year of college, behind a goalie net with two other goalies, chatting while the forwards were being given directions in the drill (our mission was straight forward – stop the ball!) – this was when I received one of the best and most transformative pieces of advice, not just for college, but for life.

My teammate, Lynn, was sharing that she scheduled her school day like it was a business day.  Classes were business meetings you couldn’t miss, homework in the library or academic building was scheduled between class meetings, and she worked as hard as she could between 8am and 5pm. The rest of her day was left for field hockey practice, friends, and other extracurricular activities.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was where I first learned about the power of scheduling and the benefit of working intensely rather than working longer. It was probably a year later that I implemented this concept, when I was struggling with harder classes, too much on my plate with the activities on campus, and consequently not getting enough sleep. My Google calendar became my best friend because I could access it anywhere with my laptop and wifi (this is pre-smart phone!).

Here are a few things I’ve learned about scheduling my days:

  1. Scheduling is useless without prioritizing. What good is an assignment with a due date if it isn’t done on time?
  2. Break down tasks into realistic chunks of time.  Three hours straight of one task is too much to take mentally – a short break every hour can help refresh and re-frame.
  3. Write down what needs to be done and allot time for it, whether it is for 15 minutes, an hour, or done a little bit each day for a week.
  4. Leave time for fun and relaxing. This makes the hard work worthwhile as a reward at the end of the day.

There are other tools I utilize to help make this scheduling work, like keeping a detailed and dynamic to do list, putting personal appointments on the calendar to make something “more real” as a need to get done, and collaborating and communicating with others to make sure I am in touch with changes.

The scheduling of appointments and work time is important to work and, back in the day, college success. Some beneficial outcomes I’ve experienced as a result of attentive scheduling include:

  1. Becoming known as a high performer and high-level producer
  2. Make a name for myself as someone who “gets it done”
  3. Gaining reputation for reliability
  4. Creating balance and consistency in my own life
  5. Producing higher quality work that isn’t rushed

Sometimes I use my calendar, sometimes I handwrite my schedule, and sometimes I use Excel to break the day into 15 minute chunks to make sure I am realistic about how much time an activity or task takes. The flexibility with the tools I use to make the theory work in practice is key to success. While structure is good, the scheduling itself is the structure I need. How I design my day isn’t as important as if I do it at all.

Scheduling my day made sure I got the important things done when they needed to be with proper attention to detail. It also brought me balance and peace and developed my habits for the workplace.

What was one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received that’s stayed with you for a long time?


38 Pieces of Career Advice Learned on a Saturday in Western Massachusetts



Women of Isenberg Conference 2017

February closed out with a fun day on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus at the Women of Isenberg Conference. This was the second time I’ve attended the conference, which is put on by the Women in Business organization within the Isenberg School of Management and their faculty and staff advisors.  350 women (and men) were in attendance, dressed in business formal on a cold Saturday.

The morning keynote was by Karyn Schoenbart of the NPD Group, one of the largest market research companies in the world. Ms. Schoenbart is a UMass alum with a degree in education whose hunt for work right out of school led her to a new field.  Charismatic and an entertaining storyteller, Karyn highlighted her career journey and some advice I think is worth sharing again!

  1. Bring your A game every day
  2. Work hard and volunteer for everything you can – this is how you get noticed
  3. Connections are the currency of networking, and it is important to take a give to get mentality.  If you do for others first they are willing to help you later.
  4. Handwritten thank you notes still matter!
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously and have a sense of humor
  6. Be yourself by being true to your brand, but create differentiation from the crowd in who you are
  7. Figure out what “having it all” means to you – there will always be sacrifices, so you need to figure out what is important to you
  8. Sometimes a lateral move will get you the skills you need to move up
  9. Track your accomplishments, but don’t compare yourself to others
  10. Women should learn to say thank you – without any caveats.  Just “thank you”
  11. Working hard is not about the time you put in, but about giving 100% to what you’re doing in the moment
  12. “Don’t sell after the close”
  13. Managing your network is all about quality – focus on that one person you are with
  14. Write everything down about people you meet – it helps you remember the important things later
  15. Don’t let yourself get bored or held back.  If you feel that way, it is likely time for a change.
  16. Support at home in a woman’s career is important. Having a great husband helps, as does outsourcing as much as you can

After the morning keynote, panel discussions were held.  I had the opportunity to speak on a panel focused on personal finance and how I’ve been able to navigate the topics within (taxes, insurance, apartments, houses, cars, etc.) since graduating and how I balance needs today with the anticipation of future needs. Kristin Fafard and Rachel Northup were great co-panelists and had pertinent advice to offer.

I attended three other panel discussions throughout the day.  In addition to the 16 pieces of advice above from Ms. Schoenbart, I learned 22 more professional development nuggets from the panels described at the end of this post.

  1. Communication, diversity and inclusion, transformational, and evolving were how the panelists described their own leadership styles
  2. Listening is key.  As a leader, it is about others and helping them grow. In doing this, you also benefit in your own growth.
  3. Sometimes you need to go slow to go fast – important to bring your team on board
  4. Ensure there is a common, collective, inspired purpose. When the team is bought into the purpose like this, they are 5 times more likely to be successful
  5. Important to know who you are as a person to be a leader, and be able to articulate your values. These values are how you connect with others.
  6. Cultures allow for different communication and leadership styles to exist – awareness of the culture, the differences present, and what is acceptable in an environment is important
  7. You will need to take stands in your role as a leader (versus not offering an opinion)
  8. Chaos will happen – important to build support and be willing to ask for help
  9. Saying no is okay – be a role model in saying no.
  10. Soliciting feedback as a leader needs to be acceptable within the culture if you want to improve in that way. Provide alternate methods for feedback if that helps others feel more comfortable
  11. Keep broadening your foundation and base by adding expertise and new challenges.
  12. Develop our active listening skills
  13. Ask, and not just answer questions
  14. Even in times where you aren’t the expert, remember to find and bring in those experts and at the same time not forget about the skills you do bring to the table
  15. Challenges faced are just misunderstandings. Have you asked the right questions before reacting?
  16. Think about the impact of the things you say.  Try replacing “I don’t know what I’m doing” with, “I have a few questions.” This has a more positive connotation.
  17. The best mentoring relationships are natural and organic as opposed to structured programs
  18. Seek out mentors with whom you can be open and honest as well as someone who can dedicate the time to you
  19. Instead of asking someone to be your mentor, try something like, “I admire you and want to learn from you”
  20. Come prepared to mentoring sessions with questions and scenarios you need help on – don’t expect the mentor to guide the conversation
  21. Being well read can help immensely in developing relationships with a variety of people
  22. Never stop learning

I pulled these golden tips of advice from a few different panels:

  • Leadership Styles
    • Panelists: Diane Holman (SVP, Chief People Officer) of athenahealth, Heidi Bailey of LEGO, Margery Piercey (Partner-In-Charge) of Marcum, and Michele Equale (AVP of Continuous Improvement) of MassMutual
  • Overcoming Career Challenges
    • Panelists: Kate Diemand (Manager of Pegging & Distribution in Manufacturing Accounting), Angela Ceppetilli (Controls and Compliance Manager for Operations Finance), Ariel Methe (Operations Finance for Global Supply Chain), and Susan Keegan (Senior Director and Chief Financial Officer at IAE), all of Pratt & Whitney
  • Mentoring
    • Panelists: Zheng “Wei Wei” Ding (Data Scientist) of OpenSky, Emily Baldarelli (Planning and Allocation) of TJX, Jodi Warshauer (Executive Director/Compliance Manager) of JPMorgan Chase, and Ariel Methe (Operations Finance for Global Supply Chain) of Pratt & Whitney

To find more information on the speakers and details of the event, check out the Women of Isenberg Conference website.

One concept echoed several times throughout the day was the importance placed on having a great partner in life. This reinforced that nothing in life is achieved alone, and also the need for balance and prioritization.  

A great thank you to the Women of Isenberg Planning Committee for the opportunity to speak on a panel and be part of a day filled with learning and development.  I was impressed with the event and the quality of students at UMass’ Isenberg School of Management!

More Forum on Real Estate in NYC – Part 2

There was much to learn in the morning session of the NYC Real Estate Women’s Forum on February 16, 2017, as I highlighted in part one of this series.  The late morning and afternoon provided just as much insight and education, punctuated with personality and storytelling with the closing key note conversation.

The session before a late lunch was very informative, with panelists from organizations with varying approaches and level of resources. I won’t go into the philosophies of any particular firm, but rather the general advice they offered for being in real estate for the long haul.

Current Affairs: Financing and Investment in Today’s Market

Moderated by Kristen Lonergan, Partner at Greenberg Traurig

Panelists were Ruth Ann Blankenheim, Co-Founder & Principal at Harbor Road Holdings; Beth Linn, Principal at Wrightwood Financial; Sherry Rexroad, Managing Director & CIO at BlackRock; Ashley Rissolo, Portfolio Manager at Ceruzzi Properties; and Sondra Wenger, Managing Director at CIM Group

  • When times change in the market, don’t leave the market but change your strategy there
  • Through periods of uncertainty, ensure foundation is solid
  • Extend the runway (of what is available)
  • Neutralize your portfolio from the risks of exposure; Need to have some sense and inclusion of underwriting for the unknowns
  • Some development firms, particularly the smaller ones, can be more affected by state and local elections than would other companies by federal and other global elections.
  • A recommendation to beginners was to get a stabilized asset to start – the idea is that the bank can take it over in case of failure and it already has income associated with it.
  • Crowdfunding might be perceived by some as a representation of pent up demand for private equity

The final panel of the day was immediately following lunch break. Though probably the “least technical” session of the day, it might have been the most interesting. Titled “Women at the Helm”, the panel focused on reaching pinnacle positions and experiences in a real estate career.

Moderated by Andrea Kretchmer, Principal at Xenolith Partners

Panelists were Roberta Axelrod, Director at Time Equities; Lisa Brill, Partner at Shearman & Sterling; Alison Novack, Principal at Hudson Companies; Onay Payne, Director at Clarion Partners, and Daria Salusbury, President & CEO at Salusbury & Co.

  • Pursue what makes you smile
  • Mentors can help you develop and find positions, but you must put yourself forward for opportunities
  • Don’t limit yourself – allow yourself to figure things out when you don’t have 100% of the experience required. If you don’t go for it, the guys will.
  • Lessons to younger selves include the importance of building relationships and laying the foundation of where you want to be
  • Even today, women must still work harder for their opportunities. Be present everyday.
  • Younger women should have more confidence because they have voices that need to be heard; they must get past the feeling of being small
  • Make room for yourselves at the table with your elbows
  • To attract women to real estate:
    • Be invested early on with successes – you are more likely to stick with it
    • Give opportunities consciously to younger women
    • Don’t close off – the better you do the more opportunities you have. Keep learning.
    • Re-evaluate where you are every few years
  • On pivoting, one must factor out fear as there is always risk.
  • Figure out strategy and tactics as you go, nothing needs to be figured out fully at the start
  • Don’t be weighed down by negative messages in developing your plans
  • Go to events, speakers, and networking events – and be an active participant. There are many organizations to join. Every nugget of knowledge or connection you make can be helpful

The afternoon keynote was full of punches of personality, accompanied by star-filled stories and great advice from one of the premier brokers in New York, Dolly Lenz of Lenz Real Estate. She was interviewed by Good Day New York Anchor Rosanna Scotto.

  • Be willing to do what no one else wants to do – this allows you to differentiate yourself.
  • Use your assets creatively (Dolly’s ability to speak Spanish literally opened doors for her)
  • View each failure as an opportunity to get onto what is “next!”
  • Meticulous developers have buildings that don’t leak
  • Make you difference in someone else’s life. Always be willing to help people.
  • Today everyone needs to be able to add value to what they do, particularly with the pervasive technology that can be used by anyone.
  • Regarding ethics, we need to raise the bar for standards in the industry. We need to police ourselves as an industry
  • Enthusiasm, respect, and finding what motivates you will help you be successful.
  • Document everything and show how you are different. Be ready to do heavy lifting
  • Invest well in who you invest in as a mate – pick the best guy in the world
  • Find something that connects you with people
  • When the door opens, knock it down
  • You don’t get what you don’t ask for. The person who gets asked for a project or business is likely the person you talked to last about it

One of the strange themes throughout the day was commentary on the current President of the United States, Donald Trump.  While each woman who mentioned his name clarified her neutrality toward him politically (or seemingly provided some degree of distance), those who had worked with him heavily praised the President for his “genius” as a developer, particularly within New York City.

All in all, there was a lot to take away from the conference.  I was fortunate to be able to attend with my manager and many of my colleagues from the New York region and build the network with them in addition to others outside the company.

Have you been to any good conferences lately? What have you learned about what is different in being a woman in real estate?