Earlier this month at our Customer Conference, I had the pleasure of moderating our first ever Women in Multifamily panel discussion and networking event.
I have to admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; this was the first time we had done it. But, WOW, what a crowd! Standing-room-only with over 180 people and even some men in the mix — a welcome sight!
Turns out women in our industry really want an opportunity to talk about their experiences and strategies for navigating setbacks and success.
Our speakers — all incredible female multifamily execs — shared very candid, personal stories and advice on how to conquer fear of risk taking, balance work and family, and find your voice. Our goal was to have “something for everyone”— from those just starting out in their careers, to the seasoned professionals in the crowd.
Afterward, as we chatted over dinner, we all agreed: Each of us up on the stage had taken something valuable away from the frank, honest discussion as well as the audience’s participation.
Though it was a packed room, somehow it still felt like an intimate conversation among friends, which is exactly what we had envisioned. The stories were extremely relatable and some of them were surprising reminders of how far we’ve come.
Here are just a few of my favorite take-aways from the discussion:
Ever struggled with fear of risk taking? Grace Huebscher knows the feeling. After a long career at Fannie Mae, Grace took a leap of faith during an economic downturn and left her job to cofound her own mortgage banking firm, Beech Street Capital. Facing down fear paid off; her firm was successful and eventually acquired by Capital One. Take a page from Grace’s playbook:
"The places of fear are where we have our most unbelievable growth opportunities. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes…don’t demand perfection from yourself. When you’re afraid, grin and bear it, and then walk through the fear."
Grace Huebscher, President of Multifamily Finance at Capital One Bank
We all struggle for work-life balance. As a mortgage finance executive married to a senior military officer who travels extensively, Sheri Thompson gets it:
“As women, we feel guilty if we don’t have time to do everything, so set realistic expectations. Determine what works best for you, then set your boundaries and stick to them. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility at work.”
Sheri Thompson, Chief Operating Officer, Agency Lending Group, Prudential Mortgage Capital Company
We’ve all faced it at some point: the “good old boy” network. Having earned the distinction of first female commercial mortgage banker/originator in Texas, Mona Carlton gave us a great tip on navigating the sea of blue blazers:
“It’s easy to get caught up in trying to be ‘one of the guys.’ Instead, focus on leveraging the competitive advantages that you bring to the table as a woman and translate those to the business environment.”
Mona Carlton, Senior Managing Director, Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P.
Mentors come in all forms. I actually learned a lot about what not to do from a female boss early in my career who was an ‘anti-mentor.’ Cynthia Hallenbeck knows how important positive mentors can be. She maneuvered up the ladder in the male-dominated world of Wall Street in the ‘80s and ‘90s. When you’re wondering where to find a mentor, think of this advice from Cynthia:
“Consider expanding your network away from what you do every day to pick up new, interesting ideas that you can translate to what you do.”
Cynthia Hallenbeck, Board Member, Walker & Dunlop
The overwhelming positive response to this event has been incredible, and I can tell you that this was the highlight of the conference for me personally. We’re already thinking about how we can make it even better next year. If there are topics you want to hear next time or you have a question, please send me an email using the link below… I’m all ears.
And, just in case we pack the house again next year, I promise to bring a few extra chairs!
Click here to listen to an audio recording of the panel discussion.
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