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Foundational support

One member’s account of the IREM Foundation’s role in her real estate journey 

By Sheena Boone, MBA

I have had many mentors along the way, but the single most impactful event in my entire career was actually being fired. As a young property manager of a mid-size multifamily community, I was good at my job and knew it. I had no idea what it meant to be humble, and I talked and behaved like I was “above” everyone and everything.

My ego led me to accept a position with a new partnership that was not properly staffed, and there I tanked. Instead of looking inward and recognizing that my ego had accepted a job that was not a good fit, I blamed leadership for a poor staffing model. No matter how many hours I worked, I could not get out of my own way, and I was eventually invited to resign. I was devastated. I loved my company, I loved the culture, I  loved the people. And now what would my colleagues think of me, the girl who claimed to be the very best

It hasn’t been easy, not at all; working full time while getting an education has taken careful planning and dedication, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I left the industry after this incident. I was bitter, angry, and still not seeing my part in the story. It took me two years, a lot of conversations with mentors and loved ones, and an outrageous amount of painful reflection to recognize the large role that my ego played in leading to this result I was living through. I began to focus on being good at my job while remaining humble and continuing to be a leader. In the middle of earning my bachelor’s degree, I changed the emphasis to leadership; I volunteered and began learning what it meant to become a true servant leader.

After three years of working outside of property management, pursuing my MBA, and a whole lot more self-reflection, it was time to get back into the industry I loved. It took some time, but Essex Property Trust hired me in 2015 to manage a 442-unit community. Along with the many units that I looked after, I was also responsible for a large staff. The significance of this wasn’t lost on me for a moment:

I was finally getting a chance at personal redemption, an opportunity to become the humble servant leader I knew resided somewhere deep inside. It was in deep conversation with my regional and former chapter president, Sherrie Clevenger, CPM, when I decided that pursuing my CPM was the next step in the advancement of my career.

I quickly became a member of IREM and, with Sherrie’s support, applied to become a CPM candidate and set forth on the journey to achieve my goal. Still bearing the burden of paying off student loans from my master’s degree, I was so grateful to learn that the IREM Foundation had an amazing scholarship that could help me reach my goals. I was determined to obtain my CPM, and the assistance of these scholarship opportunities would help me achieve it even more quickly.

It hasn’t been easy, not at all; working full time while getting an education has taken careful planning and dedication, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I am so grateful to our IREM members for continuing to fund the Foundation so that professionals like me can more readily access desired education resources. The investment of one person into another’s life is impactful in so many ways that we may never even realize, let alone understand.

That impact is one of the many reasons why I am proud to be part of the Executive Council of the Western Washington Chapter. Western Washington recognizes the value that the Foundation plays in our members’ lives. We have committed to making a $10,000 annual contribution to the Foundation and challenge other chapters to match this (see Fueling the Foundation). For every member who receives a scholarship, we have helped one more professional carry the foundational principles of IREM further into the world of property management. What could be better than that?

Endless opportunities

I was thrilled to learn about the IREM Foundation’s Global Summer of Service. Not only does this opportunity strike at the core of my volunteer heart, but it allows me to create some competition to benefit the Foundation, all while having fun! My hope for the future is to tap into the upcoming leaders to grow our chapter, focus on our members’ personal growth, and continue giving back to the Foundation, which has supported so many of us in our personal and professional journeys.

I’m now two years into my CPM journey, and like my love of property management, I have found that same affection for IREM. For the last several years, I volunteered with my chapter’s education committee, wanting to provide the same opportunities to others that I had received. In 2020, I served as the vice president of education, and like many others, found myself floundering through the pandemic. Fast-forward a year, and I am honored to be the 2021 president-elect of the Western Washington Chapter, while still retaining my VP of education hat.

To make up for the struggle that was 2020, the education committee has been working incredibly hard to develop a phenomenal four-part “leadership of self” series with the beloved Jessica Fern. I am so excited for our chapter to continue offering out-of-the-box education for our members. Jessica is not only a phenomenal trainer, but she is a wonderful person. She shares her journey into self-discovery on her podcast, “Living with Einstein,“ which is foundational to the series that she is developing specifically for IREM called “Get on with your bad self! A journey into self-leadership.”

In closing, let me sign off with two sentiments for you all, especially anyone who may feel they have just finished reading a description of their own story. First, if I could encourage anyone through actionable advice, it would be to get involved. Find a committee on a subject that you enjoy, and immerse yourself in both the topic and the gathering of like-minded people who have gravitated toward that same subject. Not only will you be doing good for IREM and your chapter, but you will be feeding your career and soul, too! Second, take time out of your day’s work to reflect on your journey. So often, the areas in our lives—professional and otherwise—that feel the most painful are holding the most beautiful lessons to be learned and stories to be shared.

Fueling the Foundation
Along with the Western Washington Chapter, two other chapters have also committed at the $10,000 level: Houston at $10,000 and Georgia, not to be outdone, at $10,001.

Journal of Property Management

Sheena Boone, MBA, is senior manager of central services for Essex Property Trust, a publicly traded REIT that invests in apartment homes on the West Coast. She is the president-elect for IREM’s Western Washington Chapter and is currently working toward earning her CPM designation.

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