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Member Spotlight – Carrie Gurza

Author: Lean In Canada

Date: May 12, 2018

Categories: Lean In,Member Spotlight


Tell us a bit about what you do, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I work as a Senior Associate in the commercial real estate investment arm of a pension plan in Toronto. I started out running spreadsheets and crunching numbers to help support +$50 million real estate investment decisions just over six years ago, and my role has since evolved to include contract negotiations, asset management, and the oversight of an Analyst. Being a part of a small team of just 13 people managing a ~$13 billion portfolio (yes, it’s like each one of us oversees $1 billion – NBD), has afforded me the opportunity to wear a multitude of hats and be front and centre when dealing with partners, advisors, and 3rd party managers. While closing a deal I’ve been working on for months is exhilarating, and getting a construction project off the ground really gets my juices flowing, when I break down what it is that gets me out of bed every morning and excited about coming work, it is the relationships I’ve built and the community that I am proud to be a part of that is most fulfilling.

I am lucky enough to work for an organization that has successfully curated a group of highly-talented, warm, and humble individuals who I am able to continually learn from and who I am comfortable and eager to be working side-by-side with every day. In conjunction, the world of institutional commercial real estate is actually relatively small, and one that is extremely close-knit. Even on a global scale. Between travelling across North America and Europe to meet with our business partners and attending a number of real estate conferences and networking events throughout each year, I have met some of the smartest and nicest people across all levels of management, many of whom have now become familiar faces, and some of whom I can now call mentors, colleagues, or friends.

Within my role, I am fortunate to have built a valuable network – a supportive community – that is filled with individuals that I can freely exchange ideas with, seek insights from, and who inspire me to be better and reach high. They are what I enjoy most.

 

How does your workplace promote an inclusive environment?

My surroundings at work are fairly diverse from a multicultural standpoint. Jury’s out on whether this a by-product of HR’s recruitment prowess or by virtue of being Canadian. Either way, my organization is made up of people from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds, as well as those from the LGBTQ community. This makes for an inclusive and socially-sensitive environment. When I roam the halls or if I’m booked in for meetings on other floors, however, while the company appears to be pretty balanced between the makeup of men and women, I happen to work on the investment floor where women – particularly in entry and mid-level positions – are disproportionally under represented.

In the face of a new environment in which a much-needed spotlight has been shined on culture, equality, and respect in the workplace, through a couple of new initiatives my company has taken steps to refresh their approach to communicating and enforcing their values across the organization.  We’ve undertaken to offer mandatory and regularly occurring employee training/workshops on respect, harassment, and inclusivity in the workplace, and have also formed a Council on Culture (CoC). I was thrilled to be invited to sit on the CoC where our mission is to gather intel from within the company and best practices from outside the company to ultimately implement new resources, tools, and processes to create an even stronger, more inclusive, and safer culture for all.

 

How are you leaning in?

I speak my truth. As we all know, women across an array of industries and from the far reaches of the globe, have come forward in numbers to share their experiences of falling victim to positional power and sexual harassment within the confines of their respective work environments. It wasn’t before long before cases of sexual misconduct hit much too close to home for me, after having learned of two separate personal accounts of friends being harassed at work which both involved sexual predation perpetrated by a senior leader. Fired up, I was overcome by a strong will to say something at my own company in an effort to raise the bar and try to set a new precedent for ‘best practices’. While I was scared of what others might think of my opinion, and questioned whether I was worth being heard, I drowned out the negative noise and spoke up. I leaned in. I drafted an email to my immediate team members and the company’s C-Suite that included a link to an important NY Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/opinion/why-is-fixing-sexism-womens-work.html) and discussed the importance of setting an example for other organizations through the joint efforts of both men and women working together. To my delight, I received nothing by positive feedback from all recipients and was subsequently tasked with making a game plan that would then be put into action. I’ve since created a working group within my team who are focused on the implementation of our action plan, and have also been invited to sit on the company’s newly formed Council on Culture.

 

Name one notable woman (or women) you think deserves a shout out – and what would you like us to know about her?

Sam Schreiber, who is a close friend and true champion of women. Last summer, Sam tapped into a palpable energy and strengthening desire among the women in her close circle of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to connect with other women in more meaningful ways outside of their respective work industries. She channeled this energy to form a vision that would challenge the traditional networking model and that would see a group of strong women across various industries come together to form an intimate and curated member community rooted in the formation of genuine relationships. She promptly turned that vision into reality, and like a BOSS, incorporated a non-profit organization in the Fall of 2017 called womens inTOition (@womensintoition_). The group is now made up of 50+ Toronto-based women with 5 to 15 years of career experience who have come together to form meaningful and supportive connections. Womens inTOition is meant to serve as a new kind of women’s community, focused on the establishment of genuine relationships among its members (whose careers span across a variety of industries), the exchange of stories and ideas between members, learning from the inspirational women who have led the way, and holding open discussions about the difficulties women experience inside and outside the workplace. I am proud to have served as one of the Directors of this inspiring initiative since inception, and even more proud to have someone like Sam to call a friend.

 

Tell us about the best ‘mentorship moment’ or networking opportunity so far in your career.

Through the recent formation of womens inTOition, I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to network and be mentored by some amazing and distinguished power women who have both joined us at our quarterly dinners, and who have also generously donated their time as event panelists, most recently at our Spring Forward event which took place this past March 2017.  The event offered me a unique experience to help recruit and connect powerful women with my cohorts, while at the same time affording me the opportunity to listen and learn from health & wellness leaders in their respective fields of practice. I acted for the first time as a panel moderator, and had the privilege of interviewing a Psychologist, a Naturopathic Doctor, a Meditation Coach, a Nutritionist & Level 4 Essentrics Trainer, and a Soulcycle Instructor. Beyond getting the chance to interact with expert professionals in a way that felt different – more mature – than ever before, the event was also a huge success, with a turnout of 90+ people. To me, the most valuable reward was helping to create an environment where others were able have fun, network, and form new and genuine connections.

 

Lastly, what is your favourite quote/song that you live by?

Shake it Off by the one and only Tay Tay Swift. It’s catchy, it’s anthemic, and it’s awesome. Her lyrics are so simple yet so cathartic when life’s inevitable hardships try to take us down. The haters – yeah they’re gonna hate. Heartbreakers – we all know they gonna break. The fakers – well, they fake us out. But, what are we gonna do? We’re gonna shake, shake, shake it the off!

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