Celebrating Women: Women in Leadership
Tell Us About the Path You Have Taken to Get Your Current Position
Well, to say I got to where I am today all by myself would be far from the truth. I depend a lot on my faith and I know I wouldn't be where I am if it wasn't for where Christ strategically placed me and surrounded me with incredible individuals and an association that truly cares!!
AAGO was truly the first to really grab a hold of me and helped me catapult into all the places I needed to be for the industry! They sat down with me and educated me on our industry, guided me on which committees to join, what events would help me build the most relationships, and helped me develop a 1,3, & 5-year plan to work towards personal goals. MultiFAMILY is truly a family. I was the newest family member 7 years ago but quickly felt right at home. I have incredible mentors that have guided me along the way and helped me navigate this path of personal growth and success. I also have been blessed with an extremely talented brother who started in the industry before me and helped paved the way in this industry for me as well. Justin Frost is an incredible mentor and someone who truly wants the best for people and wants to make an impact on this industry. He's truly made an incredible impact on me.
I originally wanted to be a teacher and graduated from Indiana University with a B.S. in Education. When I graduated there were no teaching jobs available in my area. One of my friend’s father was an apartment developer and I ended up applying for and getting a job with the company he worked for as a Leasing Professional. I worked as a Leasing Professional for approximately one year, was promoted to Assistant Manager, and then transferred with the same company to Florida as a Manager, later becoming a District Manager. I started with my current company in 2000 as a District Manager and have moved up the ranks with them to Regional Manager to Vice President and then to my current position as Operations Director. I have worked on the market rate, bonds, and affordable communities and have completed numerous lease-ups throughout my career.
As one of eight children, I was the only sibling born in the US after my parents’ emigration from Colombia in early 1974. After high school graduation, I began working at LP Evans Mercedes in the service department. It was there where I met Ray Applebaum, my future employer and guide into the asphalt business. I began working for Ray’s company, Driveway Maintenance in March of 1994. I started as a production assistant, scheduling work, ordering supplies, and handling customer communications. I quickly began to take over more and more superintendent responsibilities, until she ultimately became the full-time superintendent for Driveway Maintenance’s South Florida operations. Sixteen years later, I became the company Operations Manager, and under Ray’s tutelage, began learning the intricacies of running a company from the inside out. In 2020, after guiding the company through the trials and hardships of COVID, I purchased Driveway Maintenance and renamed the company DMI and took over as President and CEO.
What Does Great Leadership Look Like?
Great leadership is self-sacrificing. Great leadership is putting the needs of your team above your own and working tirelessly in making sure that you help others become successful. Great leadership is seeing the potential in someone before they see it in themselves and helping them find it, develop it, and take pride in it. Actions speak louder than words. One of my favorite speakers in our industry is Dr. Randy Ross & he's said this about leadership, that I'll never forget, "Be a leader that helps people learn to LOVE what they do." That's a true leader.
To me, great leadership is leading by example, supporting & listening to the people you work with, positive reinforcement, and sharing your knowledge.
Leaders have to make tough decisions and not all situations can be treated the same. They need to have the decisiveness to weigh the pros and cons in every situation and make an informed decision. A great leader also has to have a clear vision of where they want their organization and team to go and work together to achieve it.
As a Woman in Leadership, Tell Us About the Challenges and How You Overcame Them.
I truly give credit where it's due & I truly feel like because of the industry that I'm in, I've been extremely blessed to not have gender-targeted challenges in my career thus far. I'm surrounded by powerful women in our industry that want and see the value of lifting other women up and making them successful. I also believe that the men in our industry value powerful women just as much & want us all to succeed! It's been an absolute blessing & I know that not all industries are like this, but multifamily is the anomaly.
Multi-family can be a demanding career so the biggest challenge for me has been balancing work and family. As my kids were growing up, it was important for me to be home at night for family dinners, to attend their sporting events, and to attend/chaperone school functions. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to work for companies that have given me this flexibility and I encourage my teams to do the same.
As a woman in leadership some of the challenges that I have faced are gender bias and discrimination since construction is known as a “man’s world”. I have overcome those challenges by working harder than my male counterparts to prove my worth and competence. I have also put together a strong support network of mentors, colleagues, and friends that offer advice and valuable feedback. Developing a strong sense of self-awareness is also very important. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses can help me navigate challenging situations.
What About Your Career in Multi-Family Do You Love the Most?
RELATIONSHIPS -- Without relationships in this industry, I would be nowhere far in this industry. I love that you can be authentically yourself and that you will be loved, cheered for, and mentored because this industry is full of people who truly CARE and LOVE this industry just as much as you do!
What I love most about the multi-family industry is the people. I love the people I work with, the friends I have made throughout the years, and providing our residents with quality, affordable housing. I love to work with & train our employees and nothing makes me happier than seeing our team members learn and advance in their own careers. I love and value the lifelong friendships I have made over the years through my volunteer work with AAGO. I also am proud to work with a company that provides quality, affordable housing for our residents.
I love building relationships in the multi-family industry. I have met amazing people in this industry that has become not only my clients but also my friends. I love being able to be an asset to multifamily management by providing our services in a timely manner and being a contractor that they can fully trust. I take great pride in that.
What advice would you give to your younger self a the start of your career?
The advice I would give to my younger self would be 3 things:
1. KNOW YOUR WORTH even if others don't see it in you. Believe in yourself. You were created to be in this moment, on purpose, and for a purpose, so just get out there and be your BEST!
2. GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE -- Sit at the tables that look the most intimidating to you. These are the tables that you'll learn the most from which will help you develop and bring value to conversations in the future. You can't learn if you're not surrounding yourself with people who can teach you.
3. RELATIONSHIPS ARE EVERYTHING -- Think outside the box to build relationships that leave lasting, positive impressions on others. Be the light for people, be kind to all, and trust that the right people are going to be placed in front of you... for such a time as this
Work hard, set goals, and be flexible. Create a daily to-do list, but understand that this is a people business so your to-do list & priorities will constantly be changing. Find a mentor that you can go to for support & advice.
The advice that I would give my younger self is to trust in yourself! My decisions, my triumphs, my failures, and my missteps have all gotten me to where I am today. To look at failure as a positive, as an opportunity to learn and grow.