Intro: As a Senior Consultant in Property Tax at Altus Group, Diana helps her clients by managing assessment and property transfer tax appeals, advising on tax-saving opportunities and strategies, conducting due diligence studies related to property tax, and generating tax projections. Diana got her bachelor’s degree from UBC with a specialization in real estate and is a big supporter of the CREW Student Mingler event, where she was first introduced to CREW. Diana is also a former CREW Vancouver volunteer and a piece of advice she stands by is ‘don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know something’.
Q: What was your path to joining CREW? What made you decide to become a member?
I was first exposed to CREW as a student. Specifically, my much-braver friend, Benedicta Chan (also now a CREW member), had dragged my introverted self to the CREW Student Mingler. That particular year, the Student Mingler was held at Coast and I can still recall the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness as we arrived. But to my surprise, all those feelings quickly dissipated because we were welcomed with genuine support. I could feel the camaraderie and sense of strength wavering through the room. I think at that point, I’d already knew that I would become a member once I entered the industry.
Now I make it a point to specifically attend the CREW Student Mingler each year – not that I have a lot of work experience or sage advice to offer just yet! But if I’m able to connect with and reassure one young girl that there’s a place for her in commercial real estate then I would have paid back to the community the same as what I had received.
Q: What led you to the commercial real estate industry?
I know a lot of people kind of ‘fall into’ this industry, but I actually went to school for it! I did my bachelor’s at UBC and specialized in real estate. But I did ‘fall into’ property tax! When I graduated, I had my mind set on appraisal. Valuation is the foundation of everything in real estate, my Co-op mentor (an appraiser; perhaps he was biased) used to repeat to me. I only knew that I wanted to work at Altus Group, an industry leader in appraisal. But when I applied, they weren’t hiring for appraisers and suggested that I try property tax instead – and luckily so. As it turns out, I hate report writing.
Q: Tell us about your job as a Senior Consultant in Property Tax at Altus Group. What is your favourite aspect of your role?
Property tax is commonly the single largest expense line item of a commercial property – and a lot of property owners are not maximizing returns by not effectively managing property taxes! Altus Group has the largest property tax practice in Canada and by using appraisal techniques and jurisdictional knowledge, we help our clients by managing assessment and property transfer tax appeals, advising on tax-saving opportunities and strategies, conducting due diligence studies related to property tax, and generating tax projections. The majority of my job is appeal work, which is a sometimes-delicate combination of appraisal work, argument preparation, and negotiation and dispute resolution.
I’m a people person so my favourite part of my role is that it isn’t all ‘heads-down’ work and that it involves a lot of communication and relationship-building. I also love that I am constantly challenged – and not just by the numbers. My role provides an environment where I can continuously build on my negotiation skills, which in my opinion, is a very valuable and transferable skill.
Q: What is the biggest benefit of CREW for you?
For me, what sets CREW apart from other industry organizations is the quality of its members and the high degree of member engagement. Despite having only been involved in CREW for about two years, I have met, connected with, and learned from so many inspiring women of all parts of the industry. Since some CREW events are relatively smaller in capacity and are more intimate, there are more opportunities to establish meaningful connections rather than just an evening of hollow rapid-fire business card exchanges.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I don’t know if this is advice I’ve received, or if it’s advice that I’m giving. Maybe it’s both!
Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something – and then ask for help! I think we are conditioned to think that we must have all of the answers – that having all of the answers shows strength and leadership and conversely, not knowing something shows weakness and incompetency. But it takes confidence to say, ‘I don’t know’ and it makes you authentic and more relatable.