The Cushman & Wakefield WIN Tampa Chapter publishes a recurring blog feature on its members, their accomplishments and the tips and advice they have for other women in the commercial real estate field.
In this post, interviewer Nicole Grzywacz catches up with Michelle McMurray, Senior Analyst with the Florida Research Team, who recently entered the role of WIN Tampa Chapter Lead .
Nicole Grzywacz (N) – So you’re going to be the new WIN president?!??!?! Are you excited?
Michelle McMurray (M) – I’m super excited. I think it’s going to be very different – in a good way. My goal is to get more attendees at our events. On average, we’re getting about 30 to 40 people. I think we can do better for an office of this size and I’m going to push the new executive board (e-board) to figure out why more new people aren’t coming to our events. What can we do to make them participate more? I would also like WIN to host more than just quarterly events. Why not doing monthly socials that are less formal? We have so many new faces and WIN is a great way to get our new employees ingrained in the company culture. WIN is all about creating relationships and finding someone to turn to for advice, professional and personal. Whatever we can do to get more camaraderie within our own team will be really great.
N – To your point about diversifying the group and adding more people, this e-board has a few property management folks on it, which our previous e-board did not. Are you excited to get some more PM people involved in our Tampa WIN chapter?
M – I think WIN doesn’t operate in a bubble and it doesn’t just have to be in downtown Tampa people… and I don’t want it to be just downtown. I really want to have as many people involved as can be. If that means we have to schedule events at a different time or have events in a different place, that’s what I want to do. I really want to diversify the events, so that they work for everyone who is a WIN member.
N – Reflecting on the past year, what was your favorite WIN event as a WIN member?
M – Hands down the “HOW YOU DID IT, HOW YOU MADE IT” Panel. It’s great for people to see the different avenues in commercial real estate you can take. CRE is a very broad field and that event showed all the different avenues you can take to make it where you want to be in this business. For example, you can start out like Julia Silva who worked as a receptionist and now she’s one of the top brokers in Tampa. LaShawn Bates worked in the basement of a casino and worked her way up to Florida Director of Financial Analysis here at Cushman & Wakefield. Plus, who doesn’t love story time?
N – You and I have been doing these WIN interviews as a team for the past year, but I don’t think anyone knows us necessarily and our story. I’m going to go back to our old-school generic questions now so people get to know you. So…how did you make your first dollar?
M –– This is my favorite question that we ask actually. I grew up in the ‘90s and Beanie Babies were a very big deal. I would get a weekly allowance of $5 and Beanie Babies cost between $11 and $12. The only way that I could get as many Beanie Babies as possible was to have my mom take me to the dollar store and I would buy the dollar bag of Blow Pops or Dum Dums. During adult swim at our local community pool in Atlanta, I would walk around with my bag of lollipops and I would sell them for 50 cents each. Those lollipops would get me the extra money I needed to buy the Beanie Baby that I wanted.
N – Where are your Beanie Babies living right now?
M – I’m pretty sure my mom threw them all away when I moved out.
N – Which was your favorite Baby Beanie?
M – I can’t remember the name of it, but it was a small Beanie Baby Huskie.
N – Mine was a multi-colored dragon. It was sparkly and I loved it.
M – I remember that one!
N – I might still have that dragon at my mom’s house. How old were you when you were hustling lollipops?
M – I was seven or eight years old.
N – HAHAH! Hilarious! So… a long time went by… where did you go to school?
M – My dream school was always the University of Georgia. I went to UGA for a semester and it did not go very well for me. I was struggling with some personal things, being away from home, and not having a support system, so it was not working for me. I called my dad one day and told him that I needed to come home. I came back to Tampa and enrolled at Hillsborough Community College for one year. After that year, I got into Florida State University in the real estate program. I loved FSU, even though we had a terrible football team while I was there. I had a great group of friends and that’s where I fell in love with real estate.
N – Your major was in Real Estate?
M – Yes, I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Real Estate.
N – When you started working after college, did you ever consider being a broker?
M – No. I’ve never considered becoming a broker. I am the type of person who needs a sense of security and I don’t feel that brokerage will provide that for me. I cannot have that level of volatility financially – it’s just not me.
N – You’ve been at Cushman & Wakefield more than two years. How did you end up here?
M – When I was in college, I had an internship at Bloomin’ Brands and I was working with their site selection team. They offered me a job after graduation. I liked it a lot there and was doing a lot of different things. I was running hundreds of Pro Formas to estimate if a restaurant would be profitable or not. I managed timelines for all the brands and relocations. I was there for a year and a half and after that time, they restructured and I went to an incredibly small valuation firm where I was one of five people. It was a huge culture shock. The place was challenging because it was so small and I didn’t like that. I did get to travel a lot and do valuation for senior housing properties. That job made me a great communicator because you are asking people questions that they don’t necessarily want to answer. You have to get your point across incredibly fast. After close to two years there, a recruiter from Cushman & Wakefield reached out to me on LinkedIn and I was here two weeks later. It has been an awesome journey ever since then.
N – We like you. We’ll keep you. You’re constantly reading and keeping on top of the news. What do you find to be helpful in your day-to-day trend spotting?
M – I’m obsessed with the news app on my phone. I don’t like to watch the news because I think it has too much personal inflection, so I prefer to read everything. I’m reading my news apps at lunch, before bed, basically during any down time. I read local news, international news, BuzzFeed… it’s important to know what’s going on so I can think about how it impacts our local market here in Tampa. Big macro things impact the market, so they impact Tampa. I also read the Tampa Bay Business Journal. I’m huge on Twitter and LinkedIn and go on twice a day just to get a feel about what’s going on, what are people posting about, what are people talking about. Internally, too, our Florida Research team usually shares interesting news and stories. I try to always read and share anything that I feel will impact Tampa.
N – Tell me one thing in the past 2 ½ years here that was your face-palm moment.
M – Our Research team does not track owner-occupied office buildings, BUT there was one specific building that was unique because it was kind of owner-occupied, kind of not, so I took the building out of stats. One of our brokers actually did a renewal in that building for 130,000 square feet, which in 2016, was one of the largest deals done in Hillsborough County, but because I took it out of stats, that building didn’t get captured. The article came out and this deal was not featured. I knew it right away when I saw the article that this deal was completely overlooked. I let down the broker and that didn’t feel great. With that said, I make mistakes every day.
N – On the opposite spectrum, what has been your biggest accomplishment here at Cushman & Wakefield?
M – Getting promoted (Michelle was recently promoted to Senior Financial Analyst) was a big deal for me because I fought hard for that. I knew I deserved it and I was loud about it. It’s so ingrained in you to not fight that hard for something you know you deserve because you don’t want to be too loud, but at the same time, I know what I’m worth, so I fought hard for that promotion. The other huge win was that something that I personally created beat out a product that our competitors charge a significant amount of money for. Something that I drew on a piece of paper, and was my idea, was pitched to the client and it won. That was a really proud moment for me. That ingenuity has propelled me on a path that no one expected out of this role. I had no clue what I was doing or how to do it, but I knew I was going to figure it out.
N – In Tampa we have a unique situation because we do have a lot of female producers comparatively speaking to other markets and the industry in general. That is not typically the norm and we’re lucky in Tampa to have so many female leaders. With that said, I’m curious how you feel about the use of hashtags like #girlboss.
M – I’m not particularly happy with that hashtag. It’s such a gaffe on the part of corporate America. I am not a girl. You are not a girl. Julia Silva is not a girl. Mercedes Angell is not a girl. LaShawn Bates is not a girl. These are grown women who make a ton of money for themselves AND on behalf of their companies. No, these people are not girls. There are so many other words in the dictionary to describe how powerful women are and you choose the word “girl.” Its use is demeaning to me. It feels like multiple steps backwards to me.
N – I have evolved so much over the past ten years with being a female in leadership and something that we take very seriously in leadership is the fact that we don’t socialize words such as “girl.” #GirlBoss was a good term to use 10-15 years ago. It’s catchy and cute, but we’ve evolved past cute. I could not agree with you more.
M – Words are incredibly important and perception is everything. When you associate strong, powerful women with the word “girl,” you are automatically discrediting that person.
N – Do you want to tease any events for next year’s WIN Tampa chapter? What’s one thing that YOU want to do?
M – I really want to do another panel, but I want the focus to be on real-life scenarios and have people explain their journey. The last panel we focused a lot on what it was like being a woman in real estate and this time I want it to be these are the steps I took or didn’t take to get to where I am today. I think that would be an interesting panel.
N – We’re super excited to have you as the incoming WIN President.
M – I’m excited. We’ll see how it goes.
N – It’s going to be great.