New Adventure, Different Perspective
Graphic Designer, Helen, reflects on how her professional shift took her on a journey of self-discovery
Journey to CBREGrowing up, Helen was fascinated by the idea of becoming an interior designer. So much so, that when it came time to redecorate her room, she negotiated a deal with her parents that had her coming out on top—or at least so she thought in her 12-year-old mind. She would do the fun part—painting her room pink, brown, and cream—while her parents would do the hard part of footing the bill for all her supplies. Later in her teenage years, during her last round of redecorating, she realized her parents got the better end of the deal, “they let me wear myself out!” By the time she entered college, she admittedly let her interior designer dreams go, along with her multicolored walls.
One semester, her creative spark was reignited when she enrolled in a marketing course that eventually led to a graphic design class where she felt she finally found her niche. “I think I’m equally a left-and-right-brained person, so graphic design brings the worlds of creativity and practicality together.”
Graduating college in 2018, she landed a design role at a small real estate firm focused on student housing. After two years, she wanted more of a challenge. Then, during her search for a new role, the COVID-19 Pandemic struck without warning. Despite the uncertainty and reluctance of organizations to hire new talent, she emerged victorious with a role at a large commercial real estate firm. It was there she began honing her skills. A year later, however, the pandemic began taking its toll personally and professionally. “I realized I lived my first 25 years of life in Ohio and haven't had the experience of getting a job in a big city...even having people physically in the office was becoming important.”
That epiphany brought the change she was seeking. She received an opportunity at CBRE’s Denver, Colorado office as a graphic designer for the debt and structured finance team. By June of 2021, Helen and her partner packed up their belongings and headed to Denver to begin a new life. “It was super tumultuous going through that—moving in the middle of a pandemic to another state with no friends or family—but I made the right decision. I didn’t want to miss out on my first real chance to meet new people at a new job in a new city.”
New City, New TeamUpon beginning her new role, she began to truly see the impact of company culture and team. “I think adjusting to any new group of people at a company, there’s going to be a learning curve. It's a very different kind of brokerage than where I came from. I was supporting retail office and industrial, doing 5-to-10-page flyers. Now, I'm supporting a team doing anywhere from 40-to-80-page books in a few days' turnaround time. It's a change for sure!”
Being the team’s sole dedicated designer, she feels freer to exercise creative license. “I feel like I'm in a position where there is a lot of growth opportunity and creative freedom—that's a designer's dream. My team trusts me to make decisions, which is great. Just about everything is a custom design, which makes it exciting! We’re not even together a year yet and we’ve already built a good foundation and are continuing to build. I mean, that's a great spot to be in, right?!”
Mentorship and The Path Ahead“My short-term goal is becoming a senior designer. I'm a part of our creative mentorship program. My mentor and I are having a lot of good, but challenging conversations. One of my focus areas is being promotion worthy, so there has been a lot of soul searching on that topic. I don't think I have all of it figured out quite yet, but art director certainly piques my interest for the future. I’m big on growth mindset right now—in life, in work and just personally trying to figure out how I can be better. That is a common theme with the folks at CBRE. There’s opportunity to grow, but there’s also the opportunity to challenge yourself here.
Life at Play“I've started cycling classes. Figuring out how to be active in a place with elevation is crazy! I’m still adjusting to Ohio and Colorado being such completely different places—in so many ways. The sun actually comes out here... and there are mountains. I’ve also been on the hunt for great Chinese food, pizza, and donuts...things that remind me of what I would get at home. I guess that makes me a foodie!
It's been a process discovering me in my new city. I'm an everything-happens-for-a-reason kind of person. It's not always an immediate gratification kind of thing. Sometimes you can wonder why certain things don’t work out, but at some point, something happens where it all makes sense. Then you say, ‘this is where I’m supposed to be.’”
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