Forty-five CREW members and guests gathered at the Hotel Monaco in Baltimore on Thursday, April 10 for CREWBaltimore‘s “Trailblazers in the Industry” event.
Panelists included Brandi Hanback, Executive Vice President at The Rockefeller Group, Krista Di Iaconi, Principal at JBGR Retail, and Peggy White, Principal at Axiom Engineering Design LLC, with Joan Renner, Chief Financial Officer at The Brick Companies, as moderator of the discussion.
CFO, The Brick Companies
Joan Renner, CFO of The Brick Companies, a privately held company which owns, develops, and manages commercial, residential, and recreational properties in and around the DC, MD, and VA, footprint, was the moderator of the event.
Joan’s Thought-Provoking Questions
Was the path you embarked to get where you are today more like climbing a ladder (straight and narrow) or climbing a jungle gym (winding and complex)?
What lessons have you learned throughout your career? Does Work – Life balance exist?
How important is the role of sponsorship/mentorship in developing your career?
How has CREW or another organization helped you?
Joan on CREW
Joan also provided great insight from her own experiences throughout the discussion, adding that CREW helped build her network in Baltimore and has given her a foundation, friendship, and confidence.
She reminded that audience that “we are 1 of 8,000 members — utilize it!”Joan’s lesson to everyone was to speak up for what you want and not be afraid to tell your peers or your superiors where you want your career to go.
Executive Vice President, The Rockefeller Group
Brandi Hanback, a new CREW member, took the “jungle gym” approach in career advancement from working for the state department, to trade associations, to a public accounting firm and various other positions before settling into her current role as EVP of Industrial Development and Head of FTZ, Trade & Logistics for The Rockefeller Group.
Brandi is responsible for The Rockefeller Group’s port strategy and works directly with tenants and clients on FTZ, customs, and supply chain requirements. She was interested in the concept of combining trade and business. Her hardest lessons learned in business surrounded patience and timing. She stressed that we are not always turned down due to being wrong, but that sometimes poor timing is the issue. She advised the crowd to keep challenging ourselves.
Brandi on Work-Life Balance
In response to the moderator’s question about successful ways to juggle tasks and maintain work/life balance, Brandi stressed the importance of being able to multitask and prioritize what is the most important at that particular time. She strongly advised everyone to utilize their allotted vacation time, stating no one will remember years from now if you were dedicated enough not to take it — but on the other hand, you will remember the vacation memories years down the road.
She did not feel that having mentors was as formal of a concept when she was coming up, but she “formed alliances” that proved valuable in bouncing ideas off of. Her advice of how to know when to move on to the next job was simply to avoid having tunnel vision and always being open to opportunities.
Krista Di Iaconi
Principal, JBGR Retail
Krista Di Iaconi of JBGR Retail is a friend and former colleague of Joan Renner. She started as an accountant and worked her way up at Beers & Cutler. As an introvert, she planned to stay as an accountant. JBG was a client of the firm and she ended up joining JBG in 1994. Soon after, the firm merged with Rosenfeld Realty, thus creating JBGR Retail.
Krista’s Path to Success
In the early dot-com days, Krista worked at a real estate dot-com that failed after two years. She rejoined JBGR and built on learning the development/investment business. When the new retail group started, she offered to start back at the bottom as an analyst in order to learn the business. With a 50% pay cut and more admin role, she took the job. She has since worked her way up in development/investment and is now a principal on the retail side.
Krista on Overcoming Challenges
Krista has had a number of informal mentors but no formal mentors. She has overcome her introverted tendencies to become a principal of her company. She claims that work-life balance does not really exist but in her new role she has more balance than ever before. Her organizational method is to look at all the tasks she has to do and figure out what she can delegate to allow her to focus on the big picture. She has learned to take on new assignments without full knowledge and still master the process.
Krista was less than clear on her next step but is sure to keep busy in her jobs as principal, wife/mother, and chief procurement officer.
Principal, Axiom Engineering Design, LLC
Peggy White is the owner (Principal) of Axiom Engineering Design, LLC. She is a 9-year veteran on the Maryland National Capital Building Industry Association Board of Directors (MNCBIA) and has chartered the Professional Women in Building Council under MNCBIA in 2013, currently serving as president.
She is on the Board of Directors of Lambda Alpha International (real estate association), and has served an impressive number of years as a member of various CRE professional groups to include HBAM, CREW, ULI, NAIOP, SAME, CASHE, MSS, and ASCE.
Peggy graduated from the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering. She is a Professional Engineer, licensed in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. She has been a design consultant for more than 29 years.
Peggy’s Unique Path to Success
Peggy got where she is today by originally following a boyfriend to college and choosing a major in Engineering. Along the way she claimed, “It wasn’t easy. I had to keep telling myself I’m not a quitter. I’m going to make it.” She is a professional engineer, but with owning her own company, she has become a salesperson as well.
Her best advice to the audience was to have partners as “It’s lonely at the top!” She encouraged that as a trailblazer you can’t share the blame or be someone’s best friend — you have to lead. Peggy stressed that it is okay to hear “no” and not to let that deter you from your final goal; simply allow yourself to find an alternate route.
Additionally, when asked about lessons learned Peggy shared, “I like to talk a lot, and something I’ve learned is that you have to listen. Know when to be quiet…I’ve been accused of being brutally honest, and I’ve learned to not [be so blunt].”
Peggy on CREW
Through her career, Peggy has had the opportunity to be on both the mentor and mentee side of the equation. Peggy encouraged everyone to use CREW to their advantage. She advised the audience to go to the convention and be active in the organization. She enjoys CREW because this is where her friends are but also recognizes that CREW members can relax, enjoy a safe harbor and still be working at the same time. Her opinion is that women need a place to network and be comfortable with one another.
Another CREWBaltimore Success!
This was another inspiring event with strong women in the commercial real estate industry reminding us that our success relies on our own efforts. If you are interested in the CREW mentorship program — either becoming a mentor or gaining a mentor — visit https://www.crewnetwork.org/c-suite.aspx.