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Building the Future–Martha Gaitan-Manning

“It helps because I can communicate with them in a way that’s appealing and comforting. I try to understand instead of focusing on what I’m trying to say.”

The “It” in that quote is a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. The “Them” refers to clients, residents and tenants. The speaker is 38-year-old Martha Gaitan-Manning, ARM®, a property manager with Draper & Kramer, AMO® in Schaumburg, IL. 

It should come as no surprise that, as with many who enter this field, Gaitan-Manning didn’t see herself as a property manager. But likewise, “You can’t do much in psychology with only a bachelor’s,” she says, explaining that real careers in that profession start with a masters or doctorate, “something at that point I wasn’t in a position to do.”

A classmate told her about Draper & Kramer and how good the firm was to work for. She got a job–not yet what she saw as a career–as “a front desk leasing agent,” she says. “Then I became an assistant property manager in 2018 and a full property manager early in 2021.” Today, Gaitan-Manning manages a 180-unit garden apartment in Schaumburg. 

But the timing of her promotion to property manager is significant, coming as COVID-19 was still spreading its shadow over the globe. If there ever was a need for a background in psychology, and training in Neuro Linguistic techniques, it was then.

“For many of our residents, things–personally and professionally–began falling apart,” says Gaitan-Manning, who is one of IREM’s Next Gen CPM Leaders. “Many people don’t expect a landlord to care, and in fact there’s only so much we can do to assist people in their personal struggles. But we can at least listen to their problems. It’s a good skill to have. The most important thing is that they feel listened to, understood, and cared about. In that way, I believe, we’ve seen a lot of people through their life crises.”

Gaitan-Manning, who is currently a CPM® candidate, finds that much of what she applies to others in her work is also available to her for her own growth through both the Next Gen CPM Leaders program and IREM as a whole. She says they both feed her need for sharing and camaraderie. 

“It’s so important to be part of something bigger–something more than just your daily work,” she says. Sharing with others is a sort of two-way street, a process in which both parties can gain. “The Next Gen CPM Leaders initiative and IREM are the channels through which we can do that. That’s IREM’s primary significance to me.”

Even though COVID-19 is now largely in our rearview mirrors, Gaitan-Manning sees a continued need for back-and-forth communication and the need to listen. “We’ve seen a lot of change in the past few years in terms of what people want from their lives and their jobs,” she says. “Hybrid working and shopping experiences are changing, and new technologies are forming every day. There will continue to be changes we have to embrace because it all impacts where we work and live.” These are changes, she says frankly, “I’m looking forward to.”

This is especially true as the people we serve–be it client, resident or vendor–continue to grow more diverse in culture and language. “I’m seeing a more diverse approach developing in property management, and I want to be part of that progression.”

Beyond that, she isn’t clear on where she’ll be in the next 10 years. That’s understandable, of course. 

“No one knows where they’ll be in 10 years,” says Gaitan-Manning.” Echoing 2022 IREM President Barry Blanton’s view, “There are a lot of different directions I can take within property management. But whatever I’m doing, I know it will be built on the tools I have available to me now.” Those tools include those provided by her psych background as well as her involvement with IREM. 

“I’m just at the beginning of all of the possibilities and everything that can be,” she concludes. 

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