Journey from
finance to finding
success in
commercial real estate

HBCU grad and D&I champion Malanda Worrell is a catalyst for change

Growing up in St. Lucia, JLL’s Malanda Worrell loved her island home but dreamed of more. She chased her dream by starting school at Miami-Dade Honors College before receiving a transfer scholarship to attend one of the five largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the nation, Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she earned a BBA in International Business in Finance and Japanese. At Howard, Malanda received the FABA Scholarship and was a Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society Member, an academic honor society for top business school students.

After graduating, Malanda headed to New York to start her career at multinational investment bank and financial services firm, Goldman Sachs. For nearly two years, she was an analyst in their Human Service Delivery Operations. From the Big Apple, her career took her back to the DMV to Baltimore, Maryland next to join Goldman’s competitor, Morgan Stanley, as a Global Banking Operations Associate. Working in financial services had its challenges and rewards, but Malanda realized she was looking for something different. That’s when she interviewed for a role as an Assistant Facilities Manager at JLL, and before she knew it, was back in her college hometown of D.C.

“I loved working with Goldman and Morgan and left with great experiences,” reflects Malanda. “I needed a change from my last position in FOREX at MS as my daily tasks became too routine. After all, the CAD, USD and MXN closed the same time daily. I knew CRE was the challenge I needed.”

Malanda has been with JLL for over six years now and has worked her way up to Vice President of Operations for the Mid-Atlantic region. Outside of her day job, Malanda works with Project REAP, a non-profit focused on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the commercial real estate industry through education, mentorship, and partnerships, and recently joined the Board of Directors for Wesley Housing. She also serves as the Mid-Atlantic Lead for JLL’s Empower Black Professionals Network and is transitioning to the role of Americas Chief Operations Officer for the group.

We sat down with Malanda to learn more about her education, career path, insights on diversity, equity and inclusion and her advice for future Black leaders.

What do you do at JLL?

I am Vice President of Operations for the Mid-Atlantic Markets. My goal is to proactively ensure that all employees can do their jobs while I’m working behind the scenes to ensure all processes and teams work seamlessly. Basically, I fix things!

Where did you go to college/university?

Howard University, School of Business—the real HU!

How did you make your way to JLL?

I needed growth, a challenge, a job which would turn into a career. My headhunter spoke highly of JLL, but I was hesitant and did not want to ‘be in sales’. He proved me wrong and I am so happy I interviewed with JLL, that I work here and that this is my family.

What do you enjoy most about working here?

I am NEVER bored, continuously growing and learning. I work with incredible people and get to be “Olivia Pope” (for any Scandal fans out there) and fix the most random issues. The fact that I have been supported, challenged, mentored, advised and inspired by savvy people (specifically my team and manager), committed colleagues and out of the box thinking mentors keeps me here. A job requires skillset and people can be trained, but JLL hires PEOPLE – their whole selves and that is why our culture is unique. It is about a “fit.”

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What does the JLL’s Empower Black Professionals Network (BPN) mean to you?

Three words that describe the BPN? Support, drive and change. The BPN is a support system for me and I am able to meet incredible people, network and feel like part of a wider lens here at the firm. The Empower Black Professionals Network is about employee engagement, getting the opportunity to have a voice and share ideas, and to be a catalyst of change within an entire industry not just the firm.

The word Empower is in the BPN’s name – how do you feel the BPN empowers you?

I feel like my voice and other voices are being heard and we can make changes within the organization based on our feedback. We all love working at JLL and this team allows me to have the courage to do more, make a change and be a DEI ambassador.

What does an inclusive culture look like?

When my Markets Lead asked “how are you?” it was an eye opener that the simplicity of things make such an impact. An inclusive culture is where we ask those simple questions and genuinely care about the answer, knowing that all perspectives and people make the company what it is.

Do you have a message about developing racial inclusivity at work?

I am a broken record on this one—humanize the conversation. The world would be so boring if we all had the same ideas and backgrounds, being different pieces to a puzzle is how we holistically change.

Who inspires you, whether in your community, professionally, or personally?

My husband – he is such a rockstar, go getter and obviously patient for marrying me. I feel like a superhero having him around and draw my strength and balance from him.

Tell us a little about Project REAP – why did you become involved?

A fellow JLLer and friend once asked me “why are you here” one day when we were sitting in the Mack, our DC corporate office café. I started to answer with the notion that it was lunch time then I realized she was asking about my current position and next steps and growth. When I struggled to think of my personal path, her response was that I needed to apply to the REAP program, and she was right. I now understand the need to continuously grow within the industry and just the amazing black talent that pushes me to do so. 

What advice do you have to inspire success at JLL?

Just do it.

What would you like the future of commercial real estate to look like for Black professionals?

I want to stop counting. When I am able to reach out to HR because I have no idea how many people who look like me work within the firm, that is progress.

I want the new hire reports sent by BPN to have more than one business unit. I want us to show off how easy it was for us to transition to a more inclusive place and why people of color in particular want to work here for years.

Learn about our Empower Black Professionals Network and commitment to diversity and inclusion