CCIM Q&A

CCIM Q&A: You Can See Me Now

StephanieColeman_CCIM

Health care has been a hot topic in the U.S. since, well, pretty much any point in recent memory. Considering it accounts for 17.7 percent of total GDP, according to federal data, health care rightly continues to be an important part of the national conversation.

To that end, commercial real estate plays its part in making sure doctors, nurses, and other health care providers are best positioned to care for all communities — from a neighborhood in the heart of Brooklyn to a small town in West Texas. Stephanie Coleman, CCIM, is a leading figure in the sector — joining JLL’s newly created health care team as vice president in September 2019. Within months, the COVID-19 pandemic upended the country — something she knew intimately as one of the first few positive cases in Connecticut. (She’s back to full health!)

CIRE magazine spoke to Coleman about her experiences, both personal and professional, to understand what to expect in health care real estate, what the CRE industry can do to improve diversity, and how her experiences have led her to where she is today.

CIRE: What have you learned from your experience in the health care sector during COVID-19? What are your expectations looking forward now that we are (hopefully) on our way to recovery? 

Stephanie Coleman, CCIM: As one of the first 20 documented cases of COVID-19 in the state of Connecticut, I experienced firsthand how unprepared the nation’s health care systems were. There was so much unknown about the disease. However, there was a stellar ramp-up of processes, strategies, and scientific info to deal with the pandemic, including research, testing, and telemedicine. It goes without saying that the work of the frontline health care workers was just stunning. 

At a very basic level, I learned — or relearned — that the simplest things in life are the most important, something as simple as dinner with your family. But I think the health care industry will be better, faster, and stronger because of this experience. I think it will reflect on what it was able to accomplish in response to COVID-19 and be able to apply those lessons to proactively change. I also think, now more than ever, there will be a focus on not only patient experience, but physician/practitioner experience as well. The workplace has to be desirable to attract and retain quality, experienced practitioners.

CIRE: What is something about the health care real estate market that others would find surprising or unexpected? If a CRE professional was curious to learn more about it, how would you advise them? 

Coleman: Many health care groups do not actively seek out real estate professionals to help with transactions. Many will spearhead their own deals, even as highly specialized as their needs may be. I think the best way to learn more is to find a mentor. Find a professional who is already transacting in health care and learn how to articulate the benefits of engaging representation — things like market intel, examining building infrastructure, and sharing data and insight regarding the ideal patient population and health care service line demand. Also, it’s important to become familiar with Stark Law, anti-kickback policies, and state requirements for medical offices.

CIRE: Diversity is a point of emphasis for many in the industry. How do you view your place, as a woman of color, in an industry that has been traditionally white and male? Why is representation such an important factor in building a more diverse, more equitable industry?

Coleman: I love the phrase, “If they can see me, they can be me.” I think my place is to be an example of, at the very least, possibility; it is possible to be a person of color and/or female and find a place to do good work in the industry. Representation, diversity, inclusion, and equity — it’s such a huge conversation. It is 50,000 shades of gray! I believe everybody wins when the workforce is diverse. 

Honestly, even with all the focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity, I feel more tension than ever. That tension opens wounds. In 10 years of running my own real estate investment firm, not one person ever assumed I was the property owner. Just two years ago, a colleague assumed I was hired as administrative support. These stories are endless. 

As a woman of color in CRE, at times I do feel isolated. But with the CCIM designation, that is not the case. I did the work, I earned the pin, and I belong. Period. The end.

CIRE: Working in the Northeast U.S., you have succeeded in a mature, developed market compared to other regions of the country. All the while, the CCIM designation could arguably be seen as less essential considering the competitively saturated nature of the market. What does the CCIM pin mean to you? How have you seen its value in your business? 

Coleman: As a woman of color in CRE, at times I do feel isolated. But with the CCIM designation, that is not the case. I did the work, I earned the pin, and I belong. Period. The end. That sense of belonging is liberating. Other CCIMs that I meet along the way, as clients or colleagues, understand what it took. There is a shared unspoken credibility. It is true the CCIM designation may be seen as less essential in the Northeast. To me, that doesn’t matter. I have the education. The value is in applying that education to my work every day. Not only do I have analytics, methods, and models, I have a vocabulary. CCIM Institute teaches a specific language in a world where two different people use the same word or phrase for two different things. This used to drive me crazy! It does not anymore.

CIRE: As an instructor with CCIM Institute, you get to participate in the active transfer of knowledge to the next generation of CRE experts. What led you to pursue teaching? What have you learned in your time as an instructor?

Coleman:  I did not have a formal education in real estate finance, and I wanted to understand the concepts so well that I could teach them, too. Also, teaching for the institute gave me another visibility point as a diverse CRE practitioner — again, “If they can see me, they can be me.” Aside from the expectation that online learning would only expand, I specifically chose to teach online because I imagined the groups would be less homogeneous. I have found that to be true. I learned that teaching is humbling; teaching is a craft to refine over time; teaching takes an exorbitant amount of preparation; teaching is an exchange of respect between student and teacher. When I took my CCIM classes, I thought the teaching staff was amazing. I never imagined I would be or could be an instructor. I am so proud to be one of the cadre. It is an honor.

Nicholas Leider

Nicholas Leider is senior content editor for Commercial Investment Real Estate. Contact him at nleider@ccim.com.

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