SFive Consulting is excited to announce the launch of our "#LadiesWhoLead in Property Management" series. Our goal is to help our clients, colleagues and followers gain insight on career paths and showcase stories that will empower our future generation. This will be the place to stop if you are also just looking for inspiration from female leadership. These ladies are paving the way and their stories are too good not to share!
This series is hosted and written by SFive's contributing writer, Yardayna Ben-Simon.
Meet our guest: Emily Barber
Title: Associate Vice President of Learning and Engagement
Company: Landmark Properties Currently Reading: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Question 1: Tell us a little about your current position? What was your path leading up to your current position? Answer 1: I’ve been with Landmark for about 13 years, and I started in Operations. I was a student at UGA, and I worked part time as a leasing consultant while I was going to school. When I graduated, Landmark offered me a managerial position. I moved to Raleigh and managed a property there. Then, we sold that property, so they asked me to come back--I wanted to stay at Landmark, and they wanted to keep me. I moved back to Athens and began working at the Corporate office. That was in 2013. In the first few years, Landmark was pretty small, so having a corporate position meant you had a lot of different jobs. I helped with training, customer service, policy and procedure creation--I did a little bit of everything. In that process, I realized that learning and engagement was really my passion, so I shifted to just focusing on that. Landmark had never had a training department, so I created that department and started building up our platform.
Then, I went back to school and got my Masters in Learning and Leadership Development. I’ve been focused on that since then. We were definitely a “figure it out as you go” company-- we were small, and in the beginning we’d just manage and sell, so we weren’t retaining a lot of employees and there wasn’t much development happening. When we started maintaining ownership of properties, we realized we needed to start investing in our employees and providing them with resources. That’s when I advocated to implement a learning management system and start beefing up our onboarding/training process.
Question 2: What has been the most significant barrier in your career? Answer 2:
I felt like I had a lot to prove. When I started at Landmark, I was 19, so even as I got older, others didn’t really notice that I was maturing. That’s really what motivated me to get my Masters degree. I didn’t want there to be any question that I was qualified for the job that I was doing. I didn’t want people to think, “Oh, she just got that because she’s been here for a while.” Again, this may have been in my head, but once I got my Masters, I felt that really legitimized the position.
In general, Learning and Engagement is a difficult department because when people leave a company, they blame training, but when you give them training, they don’t want to do it. It’s also difficult to measure because there aren’t clear metrics, so it’s hard to show the value of it monetarily. You need money for it, but it’s hard to prove that it’s worth it.
As I prepare to have my first baby, I’m starting to think more about maternity leave and how that will affect my department--will I be able to check out and be with my baby, or will I need to work? Nobody is putting pressure on me, it’s myself--I don’t want to be forgotten about while I’m on maternity leave. I’ve never felt more female at work than I do now. Question 3: What is the biggest risk that you’ve taken? Answer 3:
Taking on the challenge of creating a department. At that time, I actually had a choice--I had spoken about returning to the property level. We were doing a lease-up in Corvallis, Oregon, and I was young, so it sounded fun to live in a part of the country I’ve never lived in. I was getting ready to go, but then Landmark had spoken to me about staying at the corporate office and doing training instead. It was definitely a risk because I had never created a department from scratch before. I had to create programs, and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, or if I’d get the buy-in that I needed to get it done. But, I’m really glad that I made the decision to stay because I love what I do. Question 4: What are your current goals? Answer 4:
Right now, my goals are centered around ensuring I can balance being a good mother and a good employee. I’m definitely somebody who puts a lot of myself into my job, and my husband also works for Landmark, so it’s been easy so far because we both understand if we’re still at work at 7:00pm. That will obviously be different with a child. Right now, my focus is that I want to make sure I don’t lose the ambitious side of myself, the “workhorse side,” but I also want to be sure that I’ll be a good mother. It’ll be interesting to marry the two sides. I’m definitely an ambitious person and want to continue rising through the ranks, especially because Landmark feels like home. I’m only 10 weeks away from having a baby, so this is very much on my mind.
Question 5: What are you most proud of? Answer 5:
My loyalty. I don’t think that loyalty is super common in this industry, but also in this generation people don’t tend to stick with companies for very long. Not that I had many issues, but there were definitely moments at Landmark where I questioned if this was the right career choice or company for me. But I kept working hard and proving myself, and I think that is unusual. Most people don’t stay at the same company they’ve been at since they were 19.
I definitely make an effort to not stay so removed--I spend time on the ground to make sure I don’t forget what it’s like to be a new employee at this company.
Question 6: Who inspires you in the industry and why? Answer 6: One of the owners of Landmark, James Whitley, has been hugely influential in my career and in my life in general. Being that I started at Landmark when I was young and when the company was really small, I had a unique opportunity to build a relationship with him as a 19 year old, which doesn’t typically happen. He is somebody that I can still text if I need something, or just have a conversation. I felt like I could trust him, and I knew that he genuinely cared about me as a person. He’s been involved at every step of the way--every promotion I got, it was a conversation that I had with him, or it was him making sure that I knew that he had confidence in me, especially because I was fairly young when a lot of this was happening. He is definitely the heart and soul of Landmark, and the reason why I am still there. Question 7: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders? Answer 7: Finding a company and a place that makes you feel comfortable with speaking up. I personally have been very fortunate because Landmark encourages feedback, so I never experienced, as a woman, feeling restricted in my voice in any way. But I’ve had conversations with others where I realized that wasn’t common--they’d be invited to the meeting, but really only there to take notes. I never felt that way. Loyalty is important, but you also need to find the place that fits your needs, which goes both ways. You need to fit their needs, but they need to fit yours as well. If you don’t feel like you can speak up or that you have a voice, then it’s probably not the place for you.