HBCU alum achieves education, career and D&I ambitions at JLL
Amber Bloomfield finds
success while lifting up others
It’s been nearly a decade since Amber Bloomfield started her career at JLL back on a cold March Chicago day in 2011. She had previously been working for nearly four years as an architectural professional in the city that never sleeps, New York City. A career in the Big Apple was her goal after graduating Summa Cum Laude from Tuskegee University, a nationally ranked historically Black university in Alabama, with a degree from the Robert R. Tayler School of Architecture back in 2006. Her first firm had offered her some great opportunities and she worked on a multitude of projects ranging from spas in Kuwait, hotels in India, transportation hubs in Colorado, to tenant improvements in New York. But after a few years, Amber wanted something different, so she set her sights on the Windy City…and JLL.
Amber walked into JLL with fresh ideas and big ambitions. She joined JLL as an Associate Project Manager on our Project and Development Services team and quickly advanced to her current position as Vice President of Projects, Regional Program Lead. Simultaneously, during the years of 2010-2013, she managed to pursue and receive her MBA in Real Estate Investment & Finance, Leadership & Change Management from the esteemed DePaul University - Charles H. Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, home of the Blue Demons. Today, Amber manages a diverse team who helps one of JLL’s global banking clients achieve their ambitions. She is also a JLL Empower Black Professionals Network member out of the Chicago office.
What do you do at JLL?
I am the Regional Retail Program Lead for one of Corporate Solutions largest banking clients. I’m responsible for leading a diverse team of project managers to successfully deliver the client’s Retail Strategy Program for the Central region.
Where did you go to college/university?
Tuskegee University – a historically Black college in rural Alabama!
What influenced your college choice?
If I’m honest, Tuskegee University wasn’t my first choice to attend undergrad. Growing up in Gary, Indiana I vowed to move at least three states away when I graduated high school and I applied to many schools. It wasn’t until two students from Tuskegee stopped into my high school civics class that I even thought about attending an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). In my mind, I had already grown up in a predominantly Black neighborhood and thought that I would be limiting myself if I went to a predominantly Black university. Oh, how I was wrong! Making the choice to attend Tuskegee was the best decision I made. Yes, the school consists of mostly Black students, but the experience of an HBCU is indescribable. At Tuskegee I met students from not only across the United States, but from around the world. Each of them bringing a different cultural dynamic and perspective. Outside of Black History Month, there aren’t many times this country recognizes the contributions of Blacks to society and through the curriculum, professors, and students, I saw Black excellence every day and it was amazing! And I won’t even start to describe the homecomings! One word…EPIC!
After college, what made you decide to move from Alabama to New York?
My senior year I was debating my next steps and was applying to grad schools and different companies. I received an offer from SOM (Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill) one of the top design firms in the country. For architecture students, this was the dream job, but I was conflicted because I was really considering continuing my education directly after undergrad. I’ll never forget the advice my Studio professor told me. He said, “Amber, you’re a smart and talented girl – grad school will always be there, but the job market may not. This is your shot!” He was right. I took his advice and never looked back. I moved to New York City, a place I had never been and didn’t know a soul and started my career.
What drew you to leave your first employer and pursue your Masters in Chicago?
As far as the city goes, I liked the hustle of New York. I worked at 14 Wall Street and every day I was walking to work in the huge crowds that you see in movies. It seemed as if everyone was “about their business” and that was inspiring. It really does give you that “you can do anything here” vibe! Also, there is always something to do, no matter day or night, which is very fun. What I didn’t like about NY was the cost of living and having no alleys! Coming from the Chicago area, I kept comparing the beauty of that city to what I saw in NY, and nothing could compare.
As far as my career at SOM, during one of my projects I was able to work in the construction administrative phase and sit in on the client meetings, which was rare for a junior architect. This gave me an opportunity to see the business side of architecture and coordinate with the Client Representative and the PM leads in the firm. Sitting in those meetings and hearing the client talk about their goals, witnessing the decision-making process, and seeing why things were being designed the way they were was fascinating to me.
Although I loved designing, I found myself being more interested in the coordination and looking at the client Project Manager and thinking, “I want to do that!” I began looking at real estate development and decided to leave SOM to pursue my Masters at DePaul. I definitely would visit NY again, and would encourage any young person to live there, even for a short time, just to get the experience.
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How did you make your way to JLL?
I was familiar with JLL from their recruiting efforts at Tuskegee. In fact, I made it to the final rounds of interviews with the JLL team before I decided to take the role at SOM. Interestingly enough, even though I took another job in a completely different field, the JLL recruiter stayed in contact with me throughout my entire time at SOM. She would call just to check in and see how I was, which I thought was awesome and it gave me a sense of what type of company JLL was. When I left SOM and enrolled in DePaul, my goal was to be a full-time grad student and live off my savings. That was short lived, and I soon found myself needing a job. I applied to Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, any place that would let me work a few hours and stay in school full time. Everyone kept saying I was overqualified! One day, I was looking on Indeed and saw an entry level Associate Project Manager role for JLL. Since I knew the company, I applied on a whim. Within a couple of weeks I got the job, adjusted my school schedule to evening classes, and the rest is history!
What kinds of things do you/your team do at JLL?
I manage the retail strategy projects for the client. This mainly includes project types that the client would run as a program and have a set target they are looking to achieve year over year. These include new ground up retail branches, retail renovations (new and existing), and ATMs. My team is involved in the project process from inception to completion. We collaborate with our internal Transaction team while they identify locations and negotiate leases, we work in partnership with our clients to understand their programmatic and design needs, and we hire architects, engineers and contractors to design and build the space. My role is to manage the team and oversee the execution across the Central region portfolio. I work with the client to understand their yearly goals, set strategies and put processes in place to ensure my team can execute flawlessly and exceed the client’s expectations.
What does the JLL’s Empower Black Professionals Network (BPN) mean to you?
To me, the BPN means community. Within large companies like JLL, it is easy to feel like you are navigating alone. The BPN creates a space where Black professionals can find camaraderie around shared experiences and receive encouragement and mentorship from those who look like them, and allies who support them.
What three words best describe the BPN?
Community, opportunity, and fun!
What does an inclusive culture look like? How are you helping make JLL more inclusive?
An inclusive culture is one where employees have a sense of belonging and are respected for their individuality. When employees can bring their “whole selves” to work, it gives them the freedom to shed the armor that the world sometimes forces them to carry and share their unique talent and perspectives with others. With my team, I do my best to ensure that everyone, no matter their background or level in the company, understands that their voice matters and the contributions of everyone is what makes our team stronger!
Do you have a message about developing racial inclusivity at work?
People of color may have different experiences, perspectives, accents, or even different hair, but that does not mean they should be treated differently, denied the same opportunities as others, or their voices not heard. In order to develop an inclusive culture, companies should embrace these differences by first examining their leadership teams and determining if it is truly reflective of the D&I goals of the company. In order to be truly inclusive, minorities should have a seat at the decision-making table, and have a voice in developing the policies of the company in order to ensure opportunities are equitable for everyone.
What are your favorite ways to connect with other associates?
My favorite way to connect with associates is in a casual setting. Whether it’s during lunch, an after work happy hour, or a quick 30-minute phone conversation, it’s great to break away from everyday work and connect with people on a personal level. I love sharing travel stories, discussing the latest music or trends, and getting tips from fellow dog owners on how to train my puppy!
My favorite thing to do outside of work…
Is photography. I love being behind the camera and capturing those moments that can be missed with a blink of an eye but captured in a photo for a lifetime.
If I could meet one person, it would be…
Michelle Obama. Other than being a truly inspiring woman, she seems like she would just be cool to hang out with!