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From bored to board

My journey within IREM, my career, and myself

By Terrell Edwards, CPM, ARM
Cropped Image Of Businessman Using Laptop At Desk

It is so much easier to do nothing than to do something. However, shortly after my hiring at Blanton Turner, AMO, chief problem solver and owner of the company, Barry Blanton (aka Barry B., aka Hero), strongly encouraged me to take my ARM classes. His name was on my shirt, so I didn’t argue.

I earned my ARM certification in 2015. I could have had it in 2014, but one stipulation for receiving it was actually being present—physically present—as in coming into a room of mostly strangers to be “acknowledged.” As in small talk with strangers and being pelted with questions I didn’t have any answers to (read: my complete exasperation and disdain). I actively avoided furthering my career, making connections, involving myself, and investing in my future. The unknown made me feel so uneasy, and the glow of my television was so comforting. As it turns out, most things worth doing are difficult.

“Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.” (Sadly, that was Denzel Washington, not me.)

I relented at some point and attended the ARM certification classes, and it went as anyone would expect—fine. Pleasant, even. People were nice. I got fed; I had good conversations. The room, which I assumed would have been filled with important and daunting figures, was filled with just people. Regular people.

After that, my IREM journey unfurled as follows:

  • I started taking CPM classes (with some more nudging from Barry B.).
  • I fulfilled the minimum number of in-person events.
  • I was asked to be on the scholarship committee for the Western Washington Chapter—phew, it only meets online—fine, OK. Found it interesting, liked reading the applications … hey, I’ve got ideas about this, that, and the other thing!
  • I was asked to attend/assist with this event or that one—well, OK. A teacher (and fellow person of color) talks about their involvement with IREM and traveling around the world to teach—I like that! How do you do that? Start with joining a national committee? OK!
  • I applied to the national committee during the lunch break, wrapped up my classes, CPM interview—that was surprisingly pleasant—hey, I got a position on that board, a coworker and current president of my chapter asked me to be on the chapter’s Executive Council, WHAAAT!?!?!

From time to time, we are faced with a choice that asks us: “What type of person do you want to be?” That choice prompted this actual conversation with myself:

Me: Terrell, are you going to sit here doing noth—

Also me: THAT SOUNDS GREAT!

Me: Let me finish!—doing nothing, or are you going to get your [expletive] together and succeed in this life?

Also me:  (Stares into metaphorical mirror doing the same heavy breathing freedivers do) …

Also me:  Let’s do this.

And that was it. One thing leads to the next.

Now I am very involved in IREM. I am on committees, I teach workshops, I interview CPMs, I am the incoming president for my chapter, and I am on the board for the IREM Foundation. But mostly, now I am a different person in a different position with a different outlook. Change begets change.

Building something new is not easy. It is work. But it is necessary for growth.

I did not seek out opportunity—it was given to me. I was invited, pushed, supported, told, encouraged, and mentored. My employer made the time available to me to pursue those opportunities. I received two scholarships from the IREM Foundation, on whose board I now sit.

I had never heard of IREM three weeks before my first class with them. Should I have done the research, investigated it further, and been prepared to bootstrap myself into my future, better Terrell? Probably! But I didn’t. People—and I would venture to guess many people—do not work that way. Not until I earned my first credential, attended several events, sat on a committee, and saw someone I admired and who resonated with me in a position at IREM that sounded interesting did I truly buy into IREM. Status begets status.

It’s true that change comes from within, but the incentive to change is recognized from the outside when people come together to show one another what is possible and to lead one another.
In 2017, I pitched the idea to Blanton Turner that we create a department to oversee our affordable housing work; I also pitched that I should be that department. Since 2017, I have managed our Compliance Department, a fiscally self-sustaining addition to our area of expertise, client offerings, and employee resources (with a sprinkling of risk management). Plainly put, without the experience, support, and success I gained within IREM, I would not have championed myself the way that I did. Confidence begets confidence.

As a board member of the IREM Foundation, I find myself in a position to assist others in their efforts to become more fulfilled. And as an organization, we are doubling down on our efforts to support IREM, our coworkers, and our own future. Those efforts look like:

  • Engaging with IREM’s Diversity Advisory Board and Diversity & Inclusion Succession Initiative (DISI) to increase the impact of our Diversity Scholarship and our organization
  • Partnering with IREM to fundamentally change our approach to inclusion with the help of a diversity strategist
  • Exploring our opportunities to partner with other real estate leaders to effect change in our industry

It’s true that change comes from within, but the incentive to change is recognized from the outside when people come together to show one another what is possible and to lead one another. I hope that IREM and my employer feel their investments in me are worthwhile. If they don’t yet, they will—I’m not done. Care begets care.

I would push you to look around your spaces, whatever they may be. Do you have enough perspective to see what others have missed? Do you have the array of experience needed to handle what you have not yet faced? Do you understand cultures such that when a culture shifts, you shift with it? Do you have a strong enough voice to speak your dreams into reality, no matter who is listening?

Do you look like the future?

Maggie Callahan

Terrell Edwards, CPM, ARM, oversees affordable housing and compliance for Blanton Turner, AMO, in Seattle. He is also a member of the 2020 IREM Foundation board of directors and serves on the Executive Committee for the Western Washington Chapter.

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