2021 Convention Highlights from CREW Charlotte Scholarship Recipients
This was my first CREW convention and I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship to attend. I am grateful for the opportunity, the new contacts, and the inspiring educational topics.
As I’m new to CREW I haven’t fully grasped the extent to which CREW has and will continue to change its members’ lives. As our CEO Wendy Mann opened the meeting she spoke about disruptions and how it has affected the way we do business. That is something I believe we can all relate to. But Wendy also mentioned that through the constant disruptions throughout the past year that the CREW network was a constant through the chaos. Many women shared their stories both on and off the stage about their journeys and setbacks and how their CREW network was their lifeline. Wendy also mentioned that CREW creates “Warriors to Advance Women”. I appreciated that sentiment as it perfectly embodied the competent, caring, strong women I have met in my short time with CREW Charlotte and the wonderful women I was introduced to in the convention.
Among the lineup of amazing events, connections and fun I was blessed enough to hear two wonderful women speak. Linda Alvarado and Sarah Thomas were absolutely inspirational. I loved hearing their stories about being the first females in their industries and how they blazed the way for other women. I also enjoyed the similarities in their upbringing, both with parents that pushed them to go for their dreams and helped support them by standing up to authority figures on behalf of their children.
Another great announcement that will affect all CREW chapters is the launch of the CRE Pledge for Action, an industry-first, CEO-driven initiative to advance women. CREW is hoping to elevate actions that encourage greater diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the commercial real estate industry. It was mentioned that 17 CEOs have already committed to the pledge and asked for our help in creating the dialogue with other CEOs.
I also learned about the leadership program that can further advance skills and connect me with those of influence in the industry. That program looks amazing and hope to attend.
CREW is starting CREW Councils which consist of 25 members with only one CRE professional per market in each council. The hope is that it will provide a place for members to gain global exposure and create connections that lead to deals/projects.
I couldn’t help but tear up a bit when it was announced that CREW gave a small token to the participants. We were all given a CREW chip as a token of the bet we should make on ourselves. What a genius concept. A simple, meaningful reminder. It wasn’t the gift that made me emotional, but the thought of how often I don’t bet on myself. That small token will surely help me to remember that and the other important lessons learned at the convention.
Dogwood State Bank
This year’s CREW Convention did not disappoint when it came to the speakers. The convention kicked off with a witty yet inspiring tale of a young Hispanic woman from humble beginnings, who takes a road less traveled in the construction business. Despite pitfalls, male resistance, and the fact that she was viewed more as a “laborer” than a leader, Linda Alvarado’s progression from working in landscaping while in college, to the creation of a highly successful construction firm is nothing short of a miracle. The true miracle and fascination with her story is the fact that she became the first female to own an MLB franchise, the Colorado Rockies. Unconventional in many ways, Linda used her grit and her connections to enable her rise to power and success. Although humble to the very fiber of her being, she truly believes she belongs at the table, and because of her success, so do we. One of Alvarado’s favorite quotes that he used during his talk was, “Dumb questions are better than dumb mistakes.” Today, she is one of the most successful and wealthiest women in the United States.
Mauro F. Guillen – This was a fascinating and original thinker. Guillen is a Professor and expert in Global Economics. Guillen’s speech was centered around the notion that our existing world, as we know it, will end. That is not to say that our world is ending, but rather the idea that what we have become to understand as our existing world economies will change radically. His thesis is rooted in radical changes in three distinct areas, 1) population changes, 2) technology changes, and 3) dramatic economic shifts. He also alluded that climate change will adversely affect our globe and migration patterns.
Some unanticipated events include the fact that the number of children being born is dropping. In the 1950’s, women were having, on average, five children. By 2050, it is expected that women will not even have an average of two children. The reason for this stark contrast is that women are becoming more educated. In higher developed countries, the populations are dropping, and in lesser developed countries, populations are rising. We as humans are also living longer. Currently, we are expected to outlive our parents by seven years, and more than eleven years longer than our grandparents. Rising life expectancy is going to occur all over the globe, and it is believed that by 2030, Africa will become the most populated region in the world, surpassing India, and China. What an amazing thought!
The increase in minority populations, largely due to immigration will affect our demographic balance. Minorities in the United States will become the majority. This group will be solid consumers, having children, buying cars, and purchasing homes. This will stimulate the economy, but the overarching looming threat is the issue of carbon emissions. In cities around the globe, they comprise about 1% of the land area, 60% of the population, yet produce 80% of carbon emissions. The increase in carbon emissions is directly correlated to those cities that have more than 10,000,000 people, and that number is expected to continue to rise to an estimated $25,000,000 by 2050. Scary thoughts, truly.
And speaking of quotes, here are a few of my favorite take-a-ways from the convention:
“I don’t like four letter words like bake, cook, dust”
“When you multiply two negatives you get a positive”
“We are not defined by our own setbacks, but by our own comebacks.”
“There is only one vowel difference between networking and not working.”
“Learn how to ride the waves of change by learning to surf”
“Accept the fact that some days you are the pigeon and some days you are the statue”
“Don’t let people drive you crazy when you know it’s within walking distance”
“Don’t do it to prove people wrong” (this is a never-ending cycle of playing defense)
“Don’t do it for the recognition” (the toes you step on today to get up the ladder will be the backside you kiss on the way down!)
“Do it because you LOVE IT!”
“A successful person is someone who lays a firm foundation with the bricks that others have thrown at them”
“Be yourself because everyone else is taken”
“Did you know that SUCCESS only comes before WORK in the dictionary? COMPARISON is the thief of joy”
I’m not gonna lie… being a 1st time attendee to the CREW national convention, made me a little nervous. To say that I was anticipating being the proverbial “fish out of water”, is an understatement. Physically, I look like your typical Caucasian, frat boy from an overpriced liberal arts school in the Midwest. While my complexion is white- yes, I am born and raised in Puerto Rico, and have spent most of my professional career trying to explain, clarify, correct, or justify my preconceived mold-breaking to the person across the table from me. If I had $1.00 for every time I have heard “Why don’t you have an accent?…”, but I digress.
Not only did I feel welcome from the instant the event started, but I felt a sense of belonging and even empowerment when I attended the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) breakout session on Thursday morning. Hearing the sufferable stories from women of color were just as impactful as the forthrightness of the others (including myself) in the room that genuinely desired to learn from one another and be an agent of change for ignorant practices, unsubstantiated beliefs and flawed perceptions.
Stories were told about George Floyd, presidential elections, and other racial and culturally meaningful events in recent times. You could feel the healing and empathy in the air, and I’m so happy I was a part of such a session.
- Takeaways and Lessons Learned: While everyone deserves a seat at the table, not everyone at the table will want you there, even knowing that your unique/diverse perspective will ultimately result in a better and more refined outcome/product. The trick is finding that ally (be it at your existing company or a new one) that is willing to get you close enough to the table, then “do you”… and others will surely take notice.
Wells Fargo Bank
The Distinguished Leaders Roundtable at this year’s CREW Network Convention offered the opportunity to learn from the insight and experience of three influential women in commercial real estate at the peak of their careers.
Although Stephanie Williams (President, Bozzuto Development Company) was there in person, Tammy Jones (Co-Founder and CEO, Basis Investment Group, LLC) and Siobhan Godley (Head of Deloitte Real Estate and Tax Partner) beamed in from New York and London, respectively. Despite having two of the three speakers appearing remotely, the discussion was just as seamlessly compelling as if all three of these amazing women had been right there with us in the ballroom.
Here are just a few of my takeaways from this inspiring session:
- When asked about mentors, Stephanie urged us to always be open to mentors of any race, age, or gender. She shared that the mentor who had been most pivotal in her business career was a white male many years her senior.
- It was fascinating to learn of Siobhan’s groundbreaking efforts as Chairperson of the UK CREW Chapter and their remarkable growth – even during the pandemic.
- Tammy echoed a variation of one of my personal favorite sayings (“never ask for permission when you can ask for forgiveness”) and urged us to always be curious and open as we “collect people” in our personal and professional lives.
Learning from the wisdom of three powerful women in commercial real estate is what makes the Distinguished Leaders Roundtable one of my favorite sessions at every CREW Network Convention!
Nancy Olah Law
The CREW Network National Convention brings together women from all aspects of the Commercial Real estate world. This year in Las Vegas there were over 300 first time attendees and I was lucky enough to be one of those!
The Networking event is filled with inspiring speakers, dynamic leaders, and incredible women supporting and encouraging each other – and fabulous food! In addition to making new contacts, there are many learning opportunities available, from the general sessions, conversation corners, peer exchanges and breakout sessions to learning excursions, dine arounds and tours.
One of the breakout sessions titled ‘The Heyday of Industrial’ focused on current and future industrial sector trends. The pandemic brought many challenges, uncertainty, and disruption to commercial real estate, but with the onslaught of e-commerce the industrial and manufacturing market has thrived. As e-commerce grows, we will see more significant growth in leasing and sales of warehouses and distribution centers.
With this industrial ‘boom’ we are seeing higher demand and low inventory. Some trends for the industrial tenant will include vertical spread, ESG disclosures / measures and AI to increase efficiency – technology and e-commerce will be the driving factors in the future of the industrial sector.
Learning about the latest industry trends, hearing the stories of strong women and making new connections made for three great days. Keynote Sarah Thomas was incredibly inspiring, she said ‘prove to yourself that you belong’ that resonated with me. I left this first convention feeling motivated and inspired and I cannot wait to attend next year.
I had the privilege of attending my first CREW Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada from September 28-30, 2021. Not only was I encouraged by my colleagues, who had previously attended past CREW Conventions, to attend the 2021 Convention but I was also supported by many fellow CREW Charlotte chapter members. While I only heard positive feedback from my colleagues and fellow chapter members, CREW Convention truly exceeded my expectations. Not only did the three-day event increase my knowledge in commercial real estate, but it also expanded my personal and professional development skills. Convention allowed me to spend genuine time with other CREW Charlotte members and deepen my connection with my chapter.
One of the most important lessons I learned while attending Convention was that I am not alone and that I have a crew of women from Charlotte to California and every other state in between who are experiencing the same or similar professional development struggles, worries, questions, successes, and triumphs. While at Convention, I attended a small group event entitled “Emerging Leaders/Young Professionals”. The peer exchange session included around 25 young professions from various CREW chapters, all with different careers in commercial real estate. As we went around the room one by one to introduce ourselves and share one personal struggle or concern as a young female in commercial real estate, it became apparent to me that I was in a room full of ambitious, intelligent, capable women that allowed themselves to be vulnerable in that moment (which, on its own, takes confidence). As each female shared their thoughts, the group leader allowed other attendees to assist in providing advice, feedback, or personal experiences on how those attendees may have dealt with a similar struggle or concern. Hearing the struggles of other females around my age in commercial real estate and the suggestions on how to overcome those struggles from other group members was truly eye opening and inspiring. I learned that no matter what industry or career one may have in commercial real estate, we, as young emerging leaders, are all trying to figure out how to fit in, how to be respected by our colleagues and clients, how to be intentional in our careers, and how to be confident in ourselves. More importantly, I learned that while each of our paths may be different, we can and should rely on our CREW network, find a mentor, and gain a support system from both males and females in our industry to ultimately strive towards our common goals. CREW Convention taught me the importance of leaning on my peers for guidance as I navigate my career as a young professional in commercial real estate and that I always have the support of CREW Charlotte and CREW Network.
CREW featured “Repurposing Real Estate” as a breakout session at the Convention in Las Vegas. The panel consisted of Kevin Cavanaugh, Founder of Guerilla Development and Bill Arent, Deputy Director of Economic and Urban Development in the city of Las Vegas, and moderator Rainey Shane, VP and Adaptive Reuse Director for JLL. These experts discussed the state of the commercial real estate market and rise in repurposing vacant or underutilized properties, specifically in the office and retail space. Office and retail assets are a major source of investment today given increased vacancy due to a decline in demand for space resulting from Covid-19 and work from home mandates, increasing rental rates suppressing profit margins of corporations, and a rise in ecommerce over the years. The aforementioned items coupled with significant capital and a low-rate environment which is expected to continue through 2023, has driven the rise in repurposing of distressed assets. In looking for the highest and best use of the property, developers now approach real estate with creativity and design at the heart. The old way of waiting around for a tenant to fill the space “as-is” often no longer works. It is now about proactively finding tenants and modifying the space to fit the respective needs. This could include converting big box stores into healthcare or recreational centers, or office and warehouse space, old gas stations into micro-restaurants, and even large office or warehouse space into co-working space. As one panelist said, “mall today, gone tomorrow”. While the approach to real estate development may have changed in some ways, some positive have resulted as this is a greener alternative and a lower credit risk than a ground-up development. We will continue to see changes across the real estate market in the coming years, especially as the country returns to a “new normal” post Covid-19.
Wells Fargo Bank
Sarah Thomas was one of the first females to be added to the National Football League (NFL) officiating roster for the 2015 season, becoming the first full-time female official. On September 13, 2015, Sarah made history by officiating her very first game between Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. Her hat, whistle, and flag from that game are kept on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On September 30, 2021, Sarah Thomas introduced herself as a keynote speaker for the 2021 CREW Network Convention to over seven hundred career driven women in the commercial real estate industry. As Sarah told her story, she filled the room with hope. The trials and tribulations that Sarah endured in a male dominant industry are still relevant in the commercial real estate field today. The message Sarah communicated to the crowd was that women often have the most to prove to become noticed in any male dominant industry. Passion, work ethic, and attitude are some of the biggest drivers for one to become successful and gain the respect of others.
Sarah’s officiating career began in 1996, where she began officiating for youth sports, and high school football programs. Sarah put the first ten years of her officiating career into youth sports. Her trailblazer work ethic didn’t go unnoticed, and ultimately unlocked the next level of opportunity. Sarah was then hired by Conference USA where she started officiating for college football. She became the first female to officiate in the NCAA’s Major College Football Bowl Division. From that point on, Sarah gained exposure from some of the top NFL officials scouting for new officials. Then, in 2015, Sarah was hired by the NFL, and her dreams had become a reality. Her determination, passion, work ethic, skills, and commitment gave her the opportunity to advance her career to the top.
Sarah’s message to the Vegas CREW convention that day was to never give up on your career goals, and not to compare yourself to others. She said, “comparison is the thief of joy.” Her advice to all the aspiring females in the room that day was to, “Work hard, and don’t do it to prove anyone wrong or for the recognition.” One’s work ethic is always seen. In 2020, Sarah was selected to officiate the Super Bowl LV. She shattered her own glass ceiling and became the first female ever to work a Super Bowl. “Success only comes before work in the dictionary.”
As I close out on my first year as a CREW member and reflect on my first in-person CREW Convention, I am in awe of the amazing group of women that I am surrounded by. Other members had shared with me the positive experiences they had and the connections that were made during prior years’ conventions, so I was very excited to see what it had in store. Even within my first few hours at convention, I could already see what all the excitement was about.
We were very lucky to hear from many amazing speakers and leaders within their industry. The most impactful session I attended was led by Shellye Archambeau, former CEO of MetricStream, who currently sits on the boards of Nordstrom, Verizon, Roper Technologies, and Okta. Archambeau spoke briefly about her most recent book titled, “Unapologetically Ambitious”. Something about this title really resonated with me and has become a mantra for how I want to create and envision my future. She spoke in detail about the goals she had set for herself and the plans she put in place to achieve those goals. Her ability to forge ahead and not allow obstacles to prevent her from reaching those goals was very inspiring. Overall attending convention not only expanded the respect I already had for the members within my own chapter but has allowed me the opportunity to be exposed the global network of CREW members.
My Biggest Takeaways from CREW Convention 2021
Takeaway #1 focuses on managing your own career: the one thing that will stop us from achieving our dreams is the fear of failure. We often let things such as personal fears, managers, coworkers, partners, family and friends dictate our professional lives. We need to take back the reins and go for what we want. To do this we need to assume our plans will happen and if those around us are willing to invest in our futures, they will. But most importantly we need to remember to always invest in ourselves.
Takeaway #2 focuses on creating and sticking to goals: we tend to let time slip away and it can hold us back from accomplishing our goals. Some steps to help us stick to our goals include:
- Set a timeline for your goals so that you give yourself accountability,
- Write them down so they become less scary and more tangible,
- Ask yourself, “What has to be true for this to happen?”,
- Take some risks as they will help you get farther faster, and
- Make decisions everyday based on the goals you set.
Always remember we are not defined by our setbacks but our comebacks!
Takeaway #3 focuses on self-care: As women we tend to give 100% of ourselves to everyone around us. This creates the very real possibility of BURNOUT! We need to decide on what we will allow ourselves to be judged on and then let go of the rest. Spend some time reflecting on what you need to care for yourself and then make those points nonnegotiable in your professional and personal lives. We are of no-good use to our organizations and family members if are tanks have run dry. As they keep telling us on every flight, “Put your oxygen mask on first before helping others”.
ESP Associates, Inc
CREW Network Convention 2021 Notes – Lacey Johnson, DLR Group
- Linda Alvarado – Alvarado Construction
- One of the owners of The Rockies
- Was a groundskeeper in college
- Then started a curb and gutter company
- Then started working with bus shelters
- Alvarado Construction established 1976
Smart Buildings and Smart Cities
- What is smart?
- Communication infrastructure
- Fiber deployment
- Smart parking
- Smart signage
- Progressive public leaders
- Components of a Smart City
- Digitation of city
- Converted 311 to an APP
- Challenges of Adoption
- Path to revenue
- Components of a Smart Building
- Independent systems move to integrated systems
- Safer because its one system instead of 10 or more
- 95% of breaches are cause from user error
- Dean of Cambridge = Mauro Guillen
- Lateral Thinking
- Connecting the dots
- Unanticipated effects in the world
- In 1950s women had an average of 5 children. Now 2.4
- Reason is availability of education
- We’ve been below replacement since Nixon
- Numbers growing because of immigration
- A 60 year old is expected to live another 20 years
- 60 year olds have better mental health
- Technological change is making knowledge obsolete faster than the past
- HNWI who are women – +/-50%
- because of access to better education
- Difference of spending of genders – women are more apt to:
- Men are riskier
- Women do become riskier as their knowledge of financial market improves
- Corruption is lower in countries where women are in power
- Lateral Thinking
- Shellye Archambeau
- Former CEO of Metricstream
- Became CEO at 40
- Started in sales
- “it takes intention”
- Intentional – Done on purpose; deliberate
- Manage your career
- Set goals
- Create a plan
- Set a timeline
- Be intentional
- Her challenges
- People calling her “sweetpea”
- Respectfully corrected men
- Her Approach
- Leverage allies
- “keep the goal – figure out a different path”
- Give people permission to ask for help
- Critical decision points
- Be strategin on all fronts
- Prioritize ruthlessly
- Take risks
- Ask for help
- Swerve when necessary
- Show confidence – don’t let imposter syndrome stop you
- Let people know what you do
- Use your voice – you are in the room for a reason
- Avoid burnout – selfcare is imperative
- Sarah Thomas
- American Football official
- Wears number 35
- Started in 2015
- Officiated Superbowl 55
- “Motivate yourself”
- “Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue.
- “Be yourself because everyone else is taken”
- “Don’t prove anyone else wrong; prove to yourself that you belong”
- “Don’t do it for recognition; do it because you love it”
- “Comparison is the thief of joy”