June 11, 2018
Being a working mother and a successful commercial real estate broker can be a challenge, albeit a rewarding one. Celeste Fowden, senior vice president in CBRE’s Austin office, answered questions from Connect Media about the issue of work-life balance when it comes to her job and her family. She has three daughters, ages 4, 7 and 9.
Q. Has being a full-time, working mother made you a stronger broker?
A. There is no doubt that motherhood has made me a stronger broker. As many working parents know, our day doesn’t stop when we leave the office, and our role as a parent doesn’t pause when we are at the office. I have learned to be incredibly efficient while in the office, and always ask myself if what I’m doing is on my ‘to-do’ list or my ‘to-don’t’ list. Often, we get caught up in tasks that don’t add any value to our work day but end up costing us time, and I’ve learned to weed those out whenever possible. Being a mom of three, I also like to think I’ve mastered the art of staying calm in difficult situations, because I’ve learned the hard way that allowing your emotion to drive the outcome usually leads to a negative result. As a broker, this has made me more agile, more adaptable, and more easily able to roll with the punches.
Q. Do you think businesses are more understanding today when it comes to work-life balance?
A. It’s not a question of whether people are understanding or more supportive than before. I’ve found that most people and employers are supportive, and likely have been for quite some time. In a working environment, people focus on deadlines and what is convenient to their schedule, and likely would assume that their co-workers have the same schedule. Working mothers are still in the minority, so chances are that their co-worker is not focused on a 9AM drop off at pre-school or a 3pm pick up because their sitter cancelled. What has changed drastically over the past 10-20 years is the numbers. Recent numbers and studies are proving that the value to a company in having a diverse team are there, so companies are making larger efforts towards diversity which impacts the working mom. I feel like I am seeing more working moms and dads in the commercial real estate arena, as brokerage can be very lucrative and rewarding.
Q. What tips would you give to moms and dads deciding on real estate broker careers?
A. Combined with a unique flexibility, brokerage can be a great option for professionals wanting to have a family. It is highly competitive, so it can be difficult to find a spot and niche with a firm, and when you do, you must hustle and build your network early. However, once you have your career and network established, it is an incredible industry as a parent that allows you to often work around your children’s schedule and be more present in their lives. I’ve also found it helpful to build a network of peers in similar seasons of life to swap stories and be each other’s cheerleaders through the ups and downs.
On the client side, you are hired more often because you are a trusted advisor to the client and have a proven track record of optimal results. If this is true, then the client would be aware whether you have a family or not, and that you are still fully capable of achieving results. There are times when emergencies arise, but most clients are human and have also had emergencies. Their emergencies might not look the same as mine, but they are still empathetic and understanding that life happens and my effectiveness as a broker is not impacted by this.
A tip to help manage these situations is to surround yourself by great partners at home and at work who can provide back up in both areas.
For comments, questions or concerns, please contact Amy Sorter