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Staying sharp

Professional development for fast-paced times

By Jasmyn Sylvester, CPM®, ACoM®

In our fast-paced and ever-evolving workplace, real estate managers may struggle to find the best approach to professional development to fit their needs. I had the distinct privilege of speaking with a diverse range of industry leaders to gain a deeper understanding of how they’re keeping up with professional development trends in real estate management. We talked about selecting training opportunities for our teams, and they shared their views on how professional development is shaping today’s managers.

David Sayers

Dave Sayers

Senior director, training and development
Cortland, AMO®

Jasmyn Sylvester, CPM®, ACoM®: How do the professional development trends in multifamily impact your approach to training and development?

DS: It’s more critical now than ever before to have a strong training team that understands the industry as a whole and can quickly deliver quality training that helps each employee gain the knowledge they need.

Think about how we absorb information as a society. Maybe it’s the latest TikTok videos, maybe it’s a podcast, maybe it’s binge-watching a show or watching tons of content on YouTube. Training teams need to think through designing content in the same format to ensure we’re helping people absorb critical job information between all the information delivered through other avenues.

This means we focus on creating and delivering training that becomes even more bite-sized and adaptable to serve today’s current employees, while also embracing technology to train tomorrow’s employees. Video-based training, episodic training, and artificial intelligence (AI) authoring tools can reduce content build timelines so we can quickly adapt and provide need-based and, most importantly, skills-based training that has a direct impact on the employee’s ability to serve the customer while understanding the true operations of multifamily.

We’re all still working hard to fill open positions. How does professional development tie into recruiting?

DS: Employees thinking about joining your organization are looking for how they can assimilate into your workforce. They’re also thinking about the overall psychological safety of moving from one company to another. Show them how well you’re prepared for them to take on a valued role by having an onboarding plan.

This means taking the time to determine what your onboarding strategy will be to help people learn the knowledge and skills in their new role. Each role should have an onboarding strategy that includes classes, online courses, team connections, and even a mentor when possible. Most importantly, a new employee’s onboarding should deeply involve the person’s supervisor with check-ins and one-on-one conversations to ensure the new employee is on track.

Once your onboarding plan is done, it’s now time to create a growth plan. One of the most common questions candidates ask in an interview process is about how they can grow in the organization. So be prepared to talk through what growth can look like in your organization.

How has the rapid adoption of technology in real estate management changed the knowledge and skills real estate managers and their teams need?

DS: At times, there seems to be more technology available than the need for it. And there’s so much more to consider with how fast adoption is progressing with AI software. Platforms like ChatGPT, Perplexity, and ChatSonic seem to be all the rage. It’s important for companies to determine how they allow their employees to use it. For example, some companies have already put restrictions on use; they want to be cautious about releasing proprietary or customer information by accident. On the other hand, some companies are going all in.

And as organizations purchase new technology for use, we need to ask ourselves from a learning perspective how we can best implement it for long-term change. When thinking of technology training, think past the “clicks” and “drop-downs,” and start with fundamental change management questions like: What is the problem that exists today, and how will this technology resolve the problem?

Take the time to gain a full understanding of the return on investment before implementing the technology. Gain a full understanding of your return on “training” investment, too. Determine what level of training you need for the software you’re implementing and how you’ll prepare the onsite teams or user base to make the change.

Leigh Carter, CPM®, RPA, FMA

Leigh Carter, CPM®, RPA, FMA

Vice president/group manager

We’re all so busy with our jobs these days. How do you go about finding time for your own professional development?

LC: Scheduling has always been an important tool for me and continues to be. If I’m virtually learning in my own time, I schedule intervals of work and free time on my calendar to ensure I’m reminded to pick up and move forward until I finish a project. Additionally, I’m constantly looking for new and innovative professional development opportunities and strategies in the market.

How has remote and hybrid work changed our approach to professional development?

LC: It’s opened doors to so many opportunities! We can potentially work from home, uninterrupted, to learn. It also gives us the comfort to actually attend training and networking events in person and collaborate with others without feeling like we’re missing something at the office. We can engage in so many ways that can catapult us forward. Learning is different for everyone, and I believe work from home has allowed people to approach their unique learning experience comfortably and in different ways, creating new pathways to success.

Can you talk about the responsibility you feel for getting your team the professional development they need to succeed in their careers?

LC: I take full responsibility for arming my team with the right tools they need to be successful in their positions. This includes sharing my own development experiences from over the years.

The right professional development tools and opportunities allow each team member to make their own intelligent, informed decision for next steps in their ongoing development. And you have to have an open mind and allow them to pivot their career direction if necessary. The most wonderful thing about real estate management is that it can go in several directions. Success through professional development isn’t the only route; success is made up of many moving parts working together.

Debbie Phillips, PhD, CPM®

Debbie Phillips, PhD, CPM®

2024 IREM Board of Directors
The Quadrillion

The COVID-19 pandemic drove so much training and career development online. What role do in-person networking events, conferences, and live instructor-led learning play, almost four years later?

DP: As humans we crave interaction and engagement. The pivot to online learning was out of necessity and has now become a staple for compliance-based training, not to mention a cost-effective solution for scaling content to the masses.

Now more than ever, people are finding tremendous value in the power of storytelling, sharing personal experiences, and harvesting real-time knowledge through traditional forums. Spending time together, exchanging ideas and problem solving in the moment is extremely powerful. There’s tremendous satisfaction in helping your colleagues grow and achieve success.

How can real estate managers select the right professional development options for their career goals?

DP: As [author and motivational speaker] Simon Sinek recommends, “Start with why.” Then follow with “what” and “how.” Your professional development plan should incorporate both formal and informal modalities. Depending on what career stage you’re in, you can customize a learning and development plan that complements your experience. If your goal is to achieve a professional designation, there are predictable paths to earn the designation. During those experiences is the opportunity to tap into other people’s genius, but there’s no substitute for volunteering with your local IREM chapter and engaging with your contemporaries. There is power in relationships. Success begins with having a growth mindset. Being curious and having a hearty appetite for learning are essential for growth and development.

What role does higher education play in professional development for real estate managers, especially in educating the next generation of managers?

DP: Anyone can find the answer to a specific question without enrolling in a four-year program or having an advanced degree. The role of higher education is to provide a fertile training ground for developing critical thinking skills and interdisciplinary learning. The opportunity to learn in a formal and rigorous environment can sharpen your mental saw in a unique and transformative way.

I’ve had the pleasure of teaching in higher ed for more than two decades and have seen students engage in experiential learning opportunities paralleled to current workplace challenges. Everything from recommending alternative courses of action, to using $100,000 in seed money to grow an investment portfolio, happened within these classes.

Let me be clear—higher education is only one “lane” on the highway to success. It offers rigor in a relatively low stakes environment to pressure test hypotheses and hone critical thinking and leadership skills while collaborating with a diverse population.

Kurstie Butcher, CPM®, ARM®

Kurstie Butcher, CPM®, ARM®

Property management and operations specialist
Draper and Kramer, Incorporated, AMO®

What knowledge and skills should real estate managers focus on in our professional development?

KB: Learning how to use technology to your advantage is extremely important, and so is keeping up with its ever-evolving trends and changes. Management professionals should be focused on conflict resolution and problem-solving. The best way to train employees is to give them hands-on experience. Let them observe those tough conversations so they know how to best handle them when they have those conversations in the future. Also, focus on the goals of ownership and management. Lastly, time management is very important.

The pace of change in real estate management seems to get faster each year. How do you and your team keep current with the knowledge and skills necessary to do the job in this environment?

KB: Education is key—keep current with webinars, conferences, and articles. Network with vendors and other professionals in the industry. I’m lucky to have a company that isn’t afraid of change and is open to new ideas, procedures, software, and whatever will solve problems and improve operations. I provide training to all employees, new and old. I keep an open mind to the ideas and opinions of all contributors, no matter the generation. It’s important to be aware of how they learn and always be conscious of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

How does our own professional development as real estate managers relate to our obligation to do our best for our owners and their assets?

KB: By constantly striving to improve efficiency and effectiveness throughout my daily work, which then translates to more money. When tedious work gets done, you have more time to work on value-added tasks or projects. You don’t have to be an expert, but knowing about various topics or trends is beneficial. I want and desire to be the best for the company and owners. Self-improvement, always.

Shannon West, CPM®

Shannon West, CPM®

Vice president and principal
Wyse Real Estate Advisors, AMO®

What trends within real estate management are driving professional development trends among commercial managers?

SW: Some of the professional development trends I’m noticing are driven by our trade organizations and professional associations like IREM. For example, the focus on DEI, which IREM has done very intentionally. It is now providing industry-wide DEI education through programming like the IREM Skill Badge: DEI. I think there is growing awareness about diversity and inclusion and social causes on a broader scale within our industry. I also do see the industry moving in the direction of implementing more ESG initiatives, which is great, as we’re seeing more energy legislation passing in different states. Legislative advocacy is becoming more important. I think that’s something that sets leadership potential apart—are you willing to go that extra mile to stay informed and take action?

How are you encouraging your teams to consider what forms of professional development they need to succeed in their careers?

SW: I encourage my team to ask those questions of themselves about their goals. If someone is interested in advancing, I want to see that enthusiasm, energy, and willingness to continue learning and growing. I think it’s important to encourage my team to see themselves as leaders even if they’re not technically in a leadership role. It’s vital to be able to identify those around you who are doing good work and to recognize strengths in your team members. You need to be able to pull that out of them and help develop those skills further. Rising tides raise all ships!

Does the adaptation of new technology hinder connection when engaging and developing your team members?

SW: I do feel there’s some technology learning fatigue. We’re still finding a balance in staying current and adopting new technologies to increase capacity or improve efficiency, and getting the basics of our jobs done well, which is ultimately the most important thing. Relationships, at the end of the day, are still the number one priority in delivering quality service. Working well with your co-workers, communicating with your tenants, and getting some face-to-face time can get lost a bit when you feel stuck behind a computer.

Those personal touchpoints will set you apart from having the fastest, most current technologies. I do still believe those soft skills are an important part of training. Learning how to resolve conflicts, how to have difficult conversations, how to pitch to clients, or how to close a deal are the learning topics I hear requested the most. Those skills are most needed to allow you to show up confidently in uncomfortable situations, and they will ultimately help you grow and be successful as a real estate management professional.

Oscar Mata

Jasmyn Sylvester, CPM®, ACoM®, is vice president of property management for Pine Tree Commercial Realty. She is the 2024 IREM Georgia President and has served the chapter in several positions. At the international level, Sylvester was the 2020 chair of the IREM Diversity Advisory Board (now the DEI Advisory Council), an IREM Diversity Scholar in 2018, and chapter liaison for IREM’s HBCU Task Force. Sylvester was named as one of Globe Street’s Real Estate Forum, 2023 Women of Influence in the Mentorship category. She was honored with two 2023 IREM REME Awards in the ACoM of the Year and DEI Excellence categories. She was also named one of ICSC’s Mary Lou Fiala Fellows for 2023. Sylvester’s greatest accomplishment is raising her three-year-old son, Roman, with her husband, Steven.

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