3 pieces of advice for
a career in CRE

Managing Director Molly Heath of our Cambridge brokerage team lays out three great pieces of advice she has received in her career in commercial real estate.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Managing Director Molly Heath of our Cambridge brokerage team laid out three great pieces of advice she has received in her career in commercial real estate, as well as what excites her most about this moment in time.

Pick the right team

The number one piece of advice I ever received was to pick the right team and the right leadership. For me, 99.9% of this job is how you band together to deliver for your clients and the spirit of your leadership. When I first started in research, I turned down an opportunity to join a leasing team that I didn’t believe in. I was patient and determined to get on the Cambridge team because they were the best at what they did, and I loved the dynamisms of that team and market. 

I apply this same focus to how we structure our teams for our clients at JLL. There is no better feeling than walking into a meeting with a prospective client, or working on a complex project for an existing client, with a team you believe in. Our clients prioritize diverse thinking to drive their own productivity and innovation; so knowing we’ve assembled the right skillsets with different perspectives to combat their challenges is paramount. This doesn’t mean those different perspectives don’t sometimes cause friction within our team at times, but you can feel the energy and creative thought amp up in the room. It’s lightening in a bottle with our clients, and THAT is the most fun for me. 

“Get in the room”

Of course, our team starts with our leadership, not only in Boston but also throughout JLL. I feel incredibly lucky to have the leaders I do at this point in my career. This may be true for others, but as a woman starting out with zero relationships in the industry, I didn’t have a mentor or advocate. Looking back, I relied on myself to get “in the room,” initially through cold calling and lining up meetings with prospective clients. I am grateful for that foundation of scrappiness. There did come a point in my career, albeit later than for most of my male counterparts, when I found true teammates in Jim Tierney, Matt Daniels, Ben Heller, Rebekah Lightfoot and our team lead Pete Bekarian. They “took a chance on me” and put me “in the room more” so I could get the same exposure and opportunity as my peers. Although pretty ridiculous on its basis, I’m fortunate I was able to get in the room since this was when I was able to truly thrive.

As far as my peer group in Boston beyond our leadership, I am lucky. I have a phenomenal peer group, both men and women, and we leverage not only each other but also every opportunity we have. We can be honest with each other about the work we need to do on the diversity and inclusion front which is refreshing; but most importantly, we laugh a LOT. Throughout my career as a woman, I have received, and overheard, negative commentary when women are given opportunity. I know how intentional and minimizing that can make you feel, but only if you let it. I always keep a piece of advice in my back pocket from a really accomplished female CEO (who I was connected to via the JLL Mentor Protege Program): first of all, don’t quit’ and second, nothing said before the meeting matters, because once you get yourself in the room, you’ll prove your value to the CLIENT.

Play your own long game

Another piece of advice I received from so many successful brokers has been to play the long game. Do not let the setbacks you experience, and you will experience more as a woman, derail you. My personal spin on that advice is to play your own long game. When I told the team lead we were expecting our fourth child, apart from expressing his excitement, he said to me “the more interesting you are outside the office, the more valuable you are to us.” My “path” doesn’t look like most people I interact with in our industry - I didn’t grow up here, nor did my husband; we have 4 unbelievable children; we not only live in the city, but my kids go to school in the city; and I am a woman. While I know charting a different course has made my path more difficult at times, it has also allowed me, at this point in my career, to embrace a path that is authentically my own. I can unapologetically do what is right for my team, my clients, and my family. Not trying to “fit the mold” has made me 1000% happier, and has also freed me up to thrive professionally.

It can still be a challenging time right now, though. Even as I hear and see boundless examples of women taking their own paths to be successful in their chosen work, including the many dynamic, intelligent, successful female clients I get to work with; I still overhear negative comments such as, women are not as competitive or driven as men. To that, I honestly have to wonder, has this person ever actually met a woman?! Since those women are literally all around me, hammering down their own long game.

What I’m excited about in this moment in time

Recently, along with my fellow JLL Leadership Committee Advisory Board members, I was lucky to “get in the room” with two of our board members, Sheila Penrose and Deborah McAneny. Their candor, empathy, and direction were invaluable to me. I am inspired by their influence and perspective within our board, because I believe it will make JLL better. As I said earlier, this is the team and leadership I pick.

On International Women’s Day in the year 2020, the pace of diversity and inclusion can be frustrating inside and outside our industry, and negative commentary can be disheartening and sometimes even heartbreaking. With that said, I know we are still playing the “long game.” We are making progress in the tone of the conversation we are having regarding childcare, maternity leave and family leave which makes me feel light years away from where we were when I had my first child. 

What gets me most excited at this moment in time, though, is the disruptive approach to real estate we are taking as a company; not only from a diversity and inclusion standpoint, but also from a technology standpoint. It has helped our team to resonate with some of the most innovative companies in the world. We get to play a small part in the backdrop that supports their research and development, so that all of us can live longer, healthier, happier, and more productive lives. Needless to say, my eight, six, four, and nine-month year old children struggle to fully grasp what I do all day. But when I point to an office or lab building right in our backyard in Greater Boston and tell them that there are women and men currently in those buildings working on new tricks for Alexa, or medicine for the coronavirus, or that already MADE the medicine for their friend with cystic fibrosis, never mind the building where the robots are making their dinner; I see the wonder in their eyes. From their perspective, there are just as many women as men in those buildings changing the world, because why wouldn’t there be?! And that is exciting!

Feel free to reach out to Molly with any questions you may have. 

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