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Interview with Amanda Steele, Managing Director at CBRE

Name: Amanda Steele
Job title: Asset Services, Senior Managing Director, Pacific*
Organisation: CBRE Pty Ltd
Key responsibilities: I manage the Asset Services business for the Pacific region. I lead strategy development and implementation for the Australia and New Zealand business, with a focus on exceeding customer expectations and delivering property management solutions that lead the industry.

*This interview was published in December 2017.

How did you end up as the Managing Director for the CBRE Asset Services Business?
With a lot of luck and some good decision-making. I haven’t worked in property my whole life, and that’s something that is really important to me [with regard to] diversity – I think the diversity of thinking is something that we often ignore.

I have always looked for jobs that are challenging, that put me outside of my comfort zone and that are big problems to solve. I had a career that was substantial in sustainability, and in sustainability it is all about strategy, long-term thinking and solving big problems, so they are skills that are easily transferable.

How do you see diversity in FM currently?
Woeful – it’s a really sad state of affairs, and it needs a lot of big-picture thinking. FM is a space where we really need to be innovating, and the only predictor for innovation is broad diversity.

If there was one short-term thing and one long-term thing that you could do to promote diversity in FM, what would they be?
Short term would be insisting that we have men and women candidates during the interview process – both as interviewers and interviewees.

Long term would be ensuring that graduate programs and broader education promote the great opportunity that FM provides for women and broader diverse ethnic groups, religious groups and people who have not worked in this industry before, and an understanding of what skills are required before they come across so that they can feel confident.

You have mentioned that sometimes people don’t want to talk to you because you are a woman. Other than having a man in the room (because that’s not always possible) how do you ensure that doesn’t stand in the way of opportunity?

I deliver. Every time. I do the very best I can. I was an unknown quantity when I took over as Managing Director of Asset Services. That was a gamble the business took, and I can understand people are sceptical of my ability to deliver, so I’ve made sure I delivered time and time again. We wanted ISPT, we’ve delivered Charter Hall, we have great growth, and we go after clients wholeheartedly and exceed their expectations. The way I overcome it is by proving over and over again that I can do as good a job as, if not better than, anyone else.

The FM industry is diverse and broad. What skill sets do you think are essential for adapting in this industry?
I think customer service can never be undervalued, and because the FM industry is all about people, that is a key skill set. Not just kowtowing, but true customer service: anticipating what the client might want, anticipating their needs and delivering on that. I also think customer service means building a solid partnership and having the respect for and from the clients, and the trust that you will deliver for them and that you have their back.

Following that, innovation skills, which I think will become more of a focus. There will be a lot of technology that delivers that, but we also need problem-solving in innovation. What’s the problem the client has, and how can I help them solve it? I think they are the key deliverables in the FM space.

When you think of diversity, what does it mean to you, and how is it different from when you first entered the workforce?
Diversity for me is about different perspectives, different minds from all different levels, and not just gender. Racial, experiential, age, religion – I think the more perspectives on decision-making and solving problems, the more innovative the solutions will be.

When I first started working, diversity wasn’t a priority issue. I think gender diversity is where we go to because we are more than 50 per cent of the population, but we’re not getting equality. Gender diversity was on the agenda when I started my career, and I think we’ve come a long way. But I do not think we are anywhere near where we need to be. Have I suffered discrimination in my career? Of course I have; it’s gotten better, but it’s also become more hidden.

I like the fact that people can’t call me the ‘girl’ of the office, but I don’t like that they may still think that I’m the girl of the office.