As spouses and the parents of two young children, Olena and Robert Mann share many aspects of their lives. They also share their passion for the profession of real estate management. Highly driven CPM Candidates committed to excelling in their careers, both real estate managers have received the Donald M. Furbush, CPM® Scholarship through the IREM Foundation.
Olena is a 2022 graduate of the IREM Houston Future Leaders Program. This annual professional program of 15 members promotes chapter volunteerism, professional learning, mentoring opportunities, and dedicated peer support, all to aid their leadership development and career advancement. Following her first live IREM courses, Olena joined the IREM Houston Community Involvement Committee and has enjoyed giving back to the Institute in support of the Houston community.
JPM spoke with Olena and Robert about how they ended up in real estate management, what motivates them, and where they see their IREM experience taking them.
When I was little, I saw the real estate agent, the magician, and the ringmaster in the same light, with real estate agents selling this and renting that. I had no idea how any of it actually worked, and it became a dream of mine to figure that out. But as I grew older, I eventually put that real estate dream behind me. I just didn’t have the necessary resources yet and was unsure how to get where I wanted to go. At this point, I was working as a cashier at Walmart, where I was, in fact, the fastest checkout scanner in the whole store.
The property owner I’m referring to visited the apartments a lot and lived in the area. One time, the owner came through my line at Walmart and asked me how I was doing and how the place was. I told him the leasing agent was never in, and I didn’t want to be late with the rent.
We started talking, and eventually, I said, “I can do a lot better.” He told me to stop by the very next day.
A couple of months later, I was promoted from leasing agent to property manager. That’s how I got started in property management. It was completely accidental. Looking back now, I just wish I’d had access to more information at the time.
As I progress further into commercial property management, all the technical knowledge that IREM makes available has made my IREM membership the key to accessing a wealth of knowledge. There are other groups, but the IREM CPM certification is the best. I’ve spoken to individuals with this certification, and it clearly makes a difference.
As I work alongside my very significant other, and we both work toward our dreams, sacrifices are required from both of us. Success is never instantaneous, nor does completing a class immediately result in a pocket full of gold. The immediate gain is all this invaluable knowledge, and that sets a person up for the successes that follow.
I grew up in eastern Ukraine in the Donetsk region. The only landlord during the Soviet era was the government. When that system collapsed in 1991, the apartments went to whomever was living in them. No property manager, no maintenance, just millions of apartments up for grabs. It was lawless and absurd, to say the least.
When I moved to the United States to be with the best husband ever, I slowly began realizing how much more organized buildings are here in America. It got me thinking about how I wanted to understand more and get into this business. I began learning and decided apartment management would be the best way to get a foot in the door. I started there and eventually transitioned to commercial property management. There were, of course, struggles and failures along the way, but by practicing the lessons learned from those difficulties, I’m able to continue improving.
I believe studying is the best way to gain knowledge, so I study for hours a day. If I just wanted to be ordinary, I could sit, be still, and remain ordinary. But if I want to be better, I have to work to make that happen. We don’t study for the CPM to simply add a certification; we do it for the knowledge and opportunities that are possible with it. We’re two people who grew up in two different worlds and had no idea of this profession until well into adulthood, but we both feel that we have much to learn, gain, and ultimately educate others on.
If you’re thinking about taking the CPM classes but have a family, and that’s the obstacle standing in your way, know that we have two kids. If you’re considering taking the CPM classes but are already enrolled in college courses and you’re worried that it might be an unrealistic goal, we’re also taking college courses right now. If you’re thinking about taking the CPM classes but can’t afford them right now, IREM offers scholarships through the IREM Foundation.
We can make many justifications to ourselves to avoid doing something difficult. If you want to be a better property manager, if you want the opportunity to make an impact in the field, join us. Take some classes and go to some meet-and-greets. Take the exams and become a CPM. We haven’t met one person who regrets doing so.