Tell us a bit about yourself and your career so far
I began my professional career at a law firm where I advised attorneys on innovation patterns. I started to realise that I actually liked being an innovator myself, rather than reading about and supporting other people's innovations. I wanted to do something where the impact of my work was visible every day.
At Intuit, I led the development and modernisation of their data infrastructure as the Head of Data Science and Machine Learning Engineering/Principal Data Scientist. I then served as StubHub’s CDO and Head of US Engineering, where I championed their company-wide data strategy and oversaw the execution of a complete data transformation.
Every day, I think back to about three years ago, when I decided to join JLL Technologies (JLLT). It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
How challenging have the last few years been for you and JLL given the pandemic and global economic uncertainty?
The pandemic resulted in an increased need for data, as both building managers and occupiers required a greater understanding of their surroundings from a safety perspective. As a result, many real estate firms have only recently begun to think about how to leverage their property data, from leasing agreements to building occupancy rates.
Companies in the commercial real estate (CRE) industry and beyond are starting to recognise that becoming a data-driven enterprise provides them with valuable insights to better serve clients, maximise long-term value for investors and the broader organisation, and work towards strategic business goals – from reducing environmental impact to facilitating safer ways of working in a post-pandemic world.
At JLL, for example, we have created an easily accessible, traceable data platform from all of our data sources that anyone in JLL can use. It’s the most comprehensive, trustworthy and organised data in the CRE space, enabling us to function as a unified organisation and provide our clients with sharper market insights.
What were your biggest achievements in your previous role as CDO at JLL?
As CDO, I was responsible for aligning JLL’s business lines’ approach to gathering, extracting, storing and leveraging data assets to develop new value for investors, occupiers and the broader JLL organisation. My work here created a seamless transition to my new role as CTO, where I lead JLL's global technology development strategy and delivery, and oversee the newly-centralised engineering group within JLLT. Uniting our application engineers, data engineers, analysts and data scientists from across the organisation into our new engineering group ensures that we continue maximising business value for our clients through our technology and our talent.
What are your immediate and longer-term goals as CTO?
One of my goals is to bolster our organisation and strengthen the alignment between product and data strategy, which is critical as CRE evolves into a data-driven enterprise. I'm thrilled to be leading the charge as we optimise our teams to continue innovating and delivering best-in-class technology products.
With sustainability and decarbonisation being the top priority for all of our clients, I’m also working with my team on projects that incorporate the use of data and technology to reduce energy consumption and make the building lifecycle more sustainable, from construction to building operations. Using data to make a company's real estate footprint more sustainable and efficient is one of the most effective ways to get on the path to net-zero and meet long-term sustainability goals.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Technology adoption in the CRE space is a massive opportunity, but simultaneously necessitates educating stakeholders about the value of technology and data and how it can help transform the industry.
The breadth of CRE data can be intimidating since it’s not just data about the buildings, but also about the surrounding areas, the people inside and their activities. This kind of data is usually cultivated manually and is more difficult to collect and analyse.
Just 8.3% of CTO roles in the US are held by women. Do you see yourself as something of a trailblazer?
I want to be someone who other women can look to as an example of creating an impact in the technology field. The importance of role models cannot be underestimated. Women want to work where they see other women being given the opportunity to succeed. And I want other women who are interested in technology or pursuing technology to know that they can succeed, and that there is a place for them.
What can be done to increase the number of women working in technology and, more specifically, in positions of IT leadership?
There is lots that can be done. One of the biggest things is elevating female role models in technology. I believe that, when women see other women in positions of leadership and succeeding, they can begin to see it for themselves and are a lot more encouraged to try.
In addition to role models, mentors are also important. I strongly encourage women to find a mentor that can really help them grow professionally and offer them guidance as they make their way through their career.
Making sure you’re providing women with a platform and giving them space to voice their ideas is important as well. And really encouraging them to make their voices heard.
Being flexible and providing a work environment that not only works well for their needs and schedule, but really puts them in the best possible position to succeed, is also crucial.
Lastly, I think it’s important for everyone to be mindful of unconscious bias and make active efforts to become more informed. Whether that’s through workshops or training, knowing what unconscious bias is and what it can look like is extremely important to combatting it.
What is JLL doing to improve career pathways for women in technology?
There’s a variety of things JLL is doing right now to improve career pathways, starting at the top of the funnel and being very intentional about recruiting women in tech roles. Once they’ve been recruited, our focus shifts to retention and developing their talent to ensure their success. We provide tailored flexibility, benefits and growth opportunities.
We also have a Business Resource Group that solely exists for women in technology. Within this group there is a mentorship programme that pairs mentees with a mentor who aligns with their interests and career development plans. The group also hosts events and panels throughout the year and encourages important conversations around women in technology and how women can grow in their careers.
I also believe having women in leadership positions throughout the organisation helps improve career pathways as well. It empowers other women to visualise themselves in management and leadership roles and to feel more confident that they can also succeed and grow at JLL.
What advice would you give to young women looking to progress through the ranks in IT/technology?
If you have ambition, talk to people about it. Find someone who wants to mentor you and help you grow in the industry.
What's your favorite thing about working for JLL?
There are so many things! We're in an industry that’s very exciting. There’s a lot of interest and ongoing investment in proptech. And, since real estate technology and industry innovation are still in infancy stages, there’s a lot of room to grow. I love innovating and every day I feel the same energy from the great people here at JLL.
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“It's very different recruiting people for something you're building from scratch, compared to recruiting for something that is already running.”