As Senior Leasing Manager at Wesgroup, a family run development company specializing in the creation of commercial, residential and master planned mixed-use communities, Jeans role is to help curate and negotiate the retail tenant mix across Wesgroup’s varied real estate portfolio. In this Membership Spotlight, Jean dives into how she got her start in the industry, tips and advice she has learnt along the way, and how CREW has played an active role in her career.
Q: Jean, thank you for being our Member Spotlight! You have been an active member of CREW attending many events and volunteering, when did you first get involved with CREW and what inspired you to join? Can you share with us what you have gained since joining?
A: I first got involved with CREW in 2016 by volunteering for the golf tournament. I was newer to the Landlord’s side of the business and looking for a way to meet people and build connections. A colleague of mine recommended that I check out CREW and I was able to get involved pretty quickly. Since joining I’ve developed a really great network of women, some of whom are now great friends, in various roles throughout commercial real estate. I also took part in the mentorship program in 2018 and have been meeting monthly with my mentor ever since. She has been instrumental in helping me grow and I definitely have CREW to thank for connecting us.
Q: You are well experienced in Leasing-focused roles with an emphasis on retail, what originally drew you towards this sector and how (or where) did you get your start?
A: I kind of fell into it to be honest! In university I wanted to be a city planner but didn’t have the appetite for grad school right after my undergrad. I found myself working for a retail tenant on the store development side and loved learning about why we were locating stores in different markets. The detail of who lives in this community, what do they want and how do they spend their money was fascinating to me. I also really liked the idea of working on projects that would add something to the area and that people will interact with daily. I started to find parallels with my job and what initially interested me about city planning. I eventually moved over to the Landlord’s side where I could do that same work but on a much larger scale.
Q: In your current role as Senior Leasing Manager at Wesgroup, you work on a variety of projects from standalone retail to leading edge new mixed-use projects, can you tell us more about your role and what its like to work for Wesgroup?
A: My role at its core is about determining the right retail tenant mix for our developments, finding the tenants, negotiating the leases and ensuring minimal downtime for any vacancies. That said, our team is pretty hands on so I get to be a part of our retail developments and mixed-use projects from the beginning to make sure that we’re designing units that we can easily lease once they’re built. I spend a lot of time with our development team to make sure that the building includes everything we need to attract the tenants we want. This includes everything from appropriate electrical/HVAC capacity to maintaining prime frontage and figuring out how much parking we need. I continue to be involved with the tenants all the way through from possession to grand opening and am their touchpoint throughout their term. We select our tenants pretty carefully to ensure they’re the right fit for the communities we build in and it’s a lot of fun to remain invested in the success of their businesses. Working at Wesgroup is great – the team is young and really dynamic. No one is stuck in their ways and creative solutions are welcomed. One of my favorite things about the company is that we have product in all categories of real estate. We build condos, residential rental, and commercial projects with a mix of retail, office and industrial product so you get a really diverse view of the business as a whole.
Q: What is your advice for young professionals looking to get into a similar role?
A: Don’t worry if your education or experience doesn’t seem directly related. There are always parallels and its amazing how well different skills can transfer. Meet as many people in the industry as you can and ask lots of questions. Job hunting gets a lot easier when you can reach out to someone you’ve already chatted to.
Q: Due to the ongoing COVID crisis, our industry has seen a big shift… do you have any tips for working at home/ ways to stay engaged with clients & colleagues during these times?
A: I have found regular breaks and little chunks of time outside to be really important to avoid going stir crazy. In terms of staying engaged, it’s a great time to get on the phone and see how other companies are handling the situation. Since everyone is in the same boat, I’ve found there has been lots to chat about.
Q: Have you picked up any new hobbies with working from home?
A: I’ve attempted some baking, but it turns out that’s not my strong suit.