Sometimes the toughest transitions in our lives have something to teach us.
The theme of transitions carried throughout the entire panel at BOMA International’s annual Women in Commercial Real Estate breakfast, which featured three women veterans. Moderated by Keri Taylor, building services sales leader, North America, for Trane, the wide-ranging discussion covered everything from why the panelists decided to serve their country to the challenges of military life.
Along the way, they shared life lessons for women in professions that are traditionally male-dominated, such as commercial real estate, including:
- Go after what you want. “I grew up in a time in which… it wasn’t really OK for females to go into the military. I was told a lot growing up that I could not do things because of who I was,” said Janae Nezerka, president of Shawnee-Mission CertaPro Painters, who served in the Air Force. “I’m not a proponent of that, and my children were not raised that way. Whether you’re male or female, it’s about what you want and what you want to go after.”
- Find what builds you up. Kasi Brizuela, community engagement coordinator for the Veterans Community Project, described traumatic experiences during her time in the Army that impacted how she viewed her service. “VCP has helped build me back up,” she said.
- Tell your story. Brizuela spoke about how after she transitioned out of the military, old friends didn’t want to return her calls: “I didn’t have the lightness about me that I had before,” she said. “It’s an experience that impacts you in ways that are hard to explain.” Eventually, she came back to the Kansas City area—having grown up in nearby Baldwin City, Kansas—and discovered the supportive community she was missing. “I’m starting to realize that our story actually may inspire others and help others, and it brings more understanding to our experience as women as a whole,” Brizuela said. “What a unique group of women to say ‘I’m going to throw myself into this male-dominated world.’”
- You’ll know when it’s time to make a change. Luci Smith, director of property management for Link Logistics, remembered getting active in BOMA during Brenna Walraven’s tenure as chair. Seven years ago, at the women’s breakfast, “I stood at one of those microphones and cried and said ‘How do you know when it’s time to make a change?’ Keri said, ‘Because you asked, it’s time to make a change. Just go for it.’” Trust your gut when it’s time to change the trajectory of your career, advised Smith, who is now the third woman in 116 years to hold the vice chair position with BOMA International.
- Surround yourself with strong people. Nezerka and Brizuela urged the attendees to build the right support network with people who will lift you up and positively influence you. “Build that community,” Brizuela added. “If I didn’t have the community I have now, I don’t know where I’d be. That’s my lesson learned.”