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Wendy Deetjen Featured in Pay It Forward!

Pay It Forward: 'Surround Yourself With Smart People And Mentor Them To Take Over Your Role.'

You can’t achieve anything on your own. Surround yourself with smart people.

By Erika Morphy | March 08, 2023 at 01:44 PM

To read the article in its original format on, please click here.

Wendy Deetjen, 54, The Habitat Company; Chicago

As Senior Regional Manager with The Habitat Company, Wendy oversees market-rate multifamily properties across Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis.

Job title: Senior Regional Manager, Market Rate Portfolio.

Area of expertise or focus: Multifamily Real Estate Operations – Multiple Markets.

What has been your biggest challenge in your particular role? How have you overcome those obstacles? My most current challenge has been related to increased salaries and a decline in qualified applicants in the labor pool. I have managed through it by leveraging efficiencies through technology and creating opportunities for team members to grow and take on additional responsibilities. I find great satisfaction in being strategic, adaptable and solutions-oriented when anticipating and reacting to challenges and a changing work environment.

What about your current role/position at the company are you most happy with? It’s all about the people for me. I love the diversity of my responsibilities, managing client relationships, supporting my on-site teams and collaborating with the corporate support teams to constantly improve and strive for excellence. I take pride in my contributions to the success of the whole. I find great joy in improving asset performance and investing in my team and contributing to their success.

What is the best piece of advice you have received that has helped you succeed in your industry? I had a human resources professor in college who said something that stuck with me – he said to ask your employees what you can do to help them in their role. This question sparks thoughtful dialogue and is a great step towards relationship building and achieving your goals.

Do you have any advice specifically for the next generation? You can’t achieve anything on your own. Surround yourself with smart people and mentor them to take over your role so that when you are ready to grow, you can elevate them with you. Encourage them to do the same. Create an open collaborative environment. Take time to help people understand the ‘whys’ behind the goals and objectives. The roadmap to success is paved by people who understand how they contribute to the team and who openly provide feedback and suggestions along the way to help you get there. Would you advise any younger person to begin a career in CRE? Absolutely, it’s an exciting field with many areas of concentration. I love the diversity of my work and my days are never the same. I would advise young professionals to find a mentor and take advantage of learning opportunities and accreditations through organizations like the National Apartment Association and IREM.

How does this advice differ from what you may have received when you were starting out? I began in the industry in an entry level customer service/hospitality role and worked my way up through sales/leasing and management. I think the industry has evolved exponentially in so many positive ways. There is a huge focus on automation and platforms that allow us to work more efficiently and spend more time on relationship building with our residents. My advice is to make sure you network with those in the industry and follow the leaders until you become one yourself.

Please share with us the best lessons learned or a surprising component of your unique journey. Coming into the industry, I didn’t realize the breadth of experience I would gain in so many areas, such as management of private and publicly owned assets, owner-operator and 3rd party management, as well as operations of market-rate, affordable, retail and commercial properties. These early-learning experiences have helped pave the way for me in establishing and maintaining client relationships, analyzing financial performance, and developing business, operational and marketing plans, in addition to my understanding of new-construction lease-ups, and capital projects for investments across a range of asset types.

In your opinion, what takeaways did we learn from the COVID crisis? At Habitat, we renewed our focus on work-life balance and our commitment to supporting our team members’ needs as essential workers during a challenging work environment. When times were tough, we learned our strengths and the opportunities where we could improve. Our people have always been our strength and we have been forward thinking with technology, which helped with setting up remote work where needed. We continue to focus on applying our lessons learned by supporting our team members with efficient technology, streamlining operations and rethinking the way we do business so that we attract and maintain top talent.

What three words, phrases, statements or mantras would you use to describe your work mindset?

  1. You get what you focus on.

  2. Excellence does not require perfection.

  3. Surround yourself with people who are smart, that work hard and are humble.

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