A Lineage of Strength
Project Management Director, Carolina, shares how her personal and professional journey was shaped by the strength and perseverance of the women in her family.
December 20, 2022 3 Minute Read
Tell us how your journey led you to CBRETo take you back a little bit, I was born and raised in Medellin, Colombia. Growing up in Colombia in the ‘80s wasn't easy. There were so many political and social challenges—a lot of things that we as kids had to live through. My mom had an amazing job at the time and had an opportunity in the US, so we decided to leave Colombia. She's always looking at what's better, what's out there—how can we take the next step, as scary and uncomfortable as it can be. So, we came to the States in 2000.
It's interesting because my background is in architecture and design, so I have the foundation for the means and methods of how to build, how to design and understand that part of our industry. My first professional experience was as an intern at an architectural firm in London. I was there for a little over a year and although I absolutely loved it, I decided to come back to the States.
I came back to the US right before the 2008 crisis. I was looking for a designer position at architectural or interior design firms, but the jobs just weren't there. I eventually found a position with a general contractor where I worked for almost five years as an Assistant Project Manager. That gave me the experience of boots-on-the-ground and started giving me more of the project management perspective from the build side; I really loved it! I enjoyed putting my boots on and getting dirty, literally! Getting out from behind a desk and going to the job site really helped me understand the nuts and bolts of construction.
This knowledge directly contributed to my quick growth within the firm and promotion to Project Manager. Later, holding the position of newly appointed Project Manager, I joined a small project management firm in Washington DC and went back to school for an MBA. These two events really solidified my future in the industry and to my surprise, during my master's program I discovered I really enjoyed learning about contract negotiations, leases, fees, etc., which is necessary in this line of work.
I'm a passionate and driven person, so at one point I realized, “this small firm is great and although it's given me great opportunities, I need something bigger.” That desire for growth and increased impact led me to CBRE. That was almost seven years ago!
What specifically stood out to you when you first joined CBRE?When I joined the CBRE team, there was an inclusion and diversity initiative. It immediately caught my attention. I remember thinking how great it was! As a woman project manager, I respected CBRE for having so many high-caliber women project managers on the team. These were very strong women, role-models that I looked up to. There were a number of opportunities to grow within the company and that appealed to me.
Let’s delve into that a bit more—what is it like being a Latina in your role? Did your background help prepare you for the challenges?I will say that my background and up-bringing have given me a core set of values that have aided in setting a solid foundation to help me achieve success. As role models, I think of my mom and my grandmother. My grandmother always pushed my mom and said, "you've got to do it. It's OK, we got you here. If things don't work out, your family, your friends are here, but go for it.” And remembering that, I said, with a Colombian accent and all, “you know what? I’ve got to go for it!” There must be an opportunity for me there.
It's been challenging. I think most women in the traditionally male-dominant real estate and construction world would agree. It's been one of those things where you, perhaps unfortunately, have to work harder to prove yourself to your male counterparts. You’ve got to prove it. You’ve got to show it. Some moments will be more difficult than others, so you may have to go beyond your comfort level—that's what we do. When you do that, you're able to prove yourself and show your capabilities. Once they see that you can do it, they say ok, this person has it.
I've been fortunate to have worked with amazing leaders, for example, Michael Considine. As Managing Director, he has given me opportunities to be successful. I think he saw something in me and said, “there is passion there.” He has given me the leeway to succeed and grow as a director. This is just the starting point, there is so much more to come—so much more that I can do!
Strength and ambition have been evidenced throughout your journey. What personal influences drive you? What inspires you?I love to travel! I've visited almost 30 countries and it’s been amazing! I love traveling to unfamiliar places and discovering new cultures. I'll continue to do that because I think it's so important to recognize and understand what other cultures do—what they eat, what they value, how they interact—and traveling does just that. That will continue influencing my life and career decisions. I’m excited about that and I'm hoping the lifting of COVID restrictions will allow me to do so again.
Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer
Women/Minorities/Persons with Disabilities/US Veterans