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Spotlight Interview: Linda Early on Landing Her First Job And The Future Of The Multifamily Industry

Success equals talent plus luck. No one knows this more than Linda Early.

Linda got her first gig in the multifamily industry by chance (otherwise known as sisterly persuasion) after graduating with a Biology degree from James Madison University. Years later, she established herself as a vice president for Archstone. Then, came AvalonBay Communities. Today, Linda is a vice president with Brookfield Properties Corporation - and she has a lot to say on not just where she’s been, but where she - and the industry - are going.   

How long have you been working in the multifamily industry? 

I’ve worked in the multifamily industry since 1994. After I graduated from college, I stayed with my sister before figuring out whether or not I wanted to go to grad school. But at one point, my sister had enough of me sitting on the couch and told me, “Hey, they need somebody in the office of this complex. You should check this out and get a job.” 

What happened next? 

I started as a leasing consultant at a 1000-unit property with Charles E. Smith Residential. It was something I really didn’t even know you could have a career in. Even though data and research was something that I was interested in, I’m more of a people person and I liked working with teams. So, I just kind of started and never really looked back.   

You worked at Archstone for nearly two decades. Why did you stay so long? 

The customers were the focus of the decision-making. The company truly focused on making things better for them. But also, you were able to try things at Archstone - and you were able to fail. You were always given the authority to test things out, whether it was in your region or at your property. And that progress was never difficult or cumbersome. Ultimately, it led to a lot of really new initiatives that are now commonplace in the industry.  

Speaking of the industry, what advice would you give someone who’s just starting out? 

Try to take as many opportunities as you can and be adaptable. Whether it’s new development or renovating old properties, I think it’s always wise within your career to really have a varied background. The one thing that I was able to do early on was that I was able to go and work in different markets - and I think that really helped my career by giving me more experience and a bigger overview of the industry. 

What I’ve found is once you have experience in something, when companies are looking at a deal or a market, they ask “Hey, has anyone ever done this or worked in this market?” I can’t tell you how many deals I’ve been asked to look at because I had experience in something similar, so it’s wise to have a breadth of experience. 

What kind of qualities do you look for in an employee? 

There are two or three big ones I always look for. One is their ability to be resourceful. For example, being able to figure out what you don’t know and who you need to connect with to figure something out. Leadership is also a really big one for me. When we’re looking for someone, we’re trying to find a person that’s going to be able to lead a group of people and make sure that everybody understands what their role is. I’m also always looking for someone who is nimble. Every day, you’re faced with something different and you really have to be able to react. You have to be able to grow, particularly when you’re working for a company like Brookfield. You have to be okay with change - and changing direction, too. 

Piggy-backing off that, what quality of yours has been the most valuable in your career?  

I’ve always really been fascinated with how things work. In the multifamily industry, you’re faced with a problem and you have to dissect it - figure out how it works. And then, afterward, you have to make a decision on what to do to fix it. I really love this process. 

Having worked in the industry since 1994, where do you think the industry is going? 

Technology is becoming more and more a part of how we operate, so it’s a really exciting time in the multifamily industry. We’re always having conversations here at Brookfield about how to implement new technology into our upcoming projects. Of course, the challenge is that technology is changing so fast it can be hard to keep up. 

Challenging how? 

There’s a bit of a challenge when it comes to the technology as to what’s going to be available when the building delivers. Being able to predict that - and to make sure we’re preparing and planning - is always something that’s a challenge. That said, I think this is also one of the most exciting things about the industry.   

What’s one area of the industry that you think could benefit from improvement?  

Customers are looking for thoughtful design within their apartment and within common area spaces that can enhance their living experience. 

And finally, as a woman, where do you think the industry is going in terms of supporting career development for other women? 

When I first started, it really was a very male-dominant field. But I feel like the industry has definitely made progress. I consider some of the women that I’ve worked with as really close mentors and colleagues. Fortunately, it’s not uncommon anymore to see women in this field. 

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