Amanda Steele’s career has spanned the business, government and community sectors – but property is now her passion. We checked in with CBRE’s executive managing director for the Asia Pacific to learn her career lessons.
Joining CBRE in 2013, Steele has previously held roles with Stockland, Suncorp, Insurance Australia Group, Sydney Water, the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership and Clean Up Australia.
She has worked with the highest levels of government and alongside boards, CEOs and political leaders including former Australian prime minister John Howard and US vice president Al Gore.
After Stockland “tapped” Steele on the shoulder in 2009, Steele says the “pace of the property industry was a big surprise – but a welcome one”.
“Other industries can be quite slow moving and bureaucratic when compared to property. In the property industry, when you have a good idea it gets implemented very quickly. If you enjoy change then property is the place to be.”
Steele also admires the “upfront” culture in property. “It’s a very straight-shooting industry.”
“My most defining career moment was becoming a mother for the first time and then returning to work,” Steele says.
“I was very conscious of the cascading responsibilities and decisions, and I approached the problem of flexible work in a creative way. I went to my employer with solutions, including job sharing with a co-worker who was also pregnant.
“Another defining moment was leaving Stockland,” she adds.
“Shifts in your career give you an opportunity to reassess. It allowed me headroom to think about what I wanted to do next, and to reassess my career focus.”
Driving the diversity agenda
Steele says the industry’s approach to diversity has changed “dramatically” in the last four years, and she applauds the work of the Property Male Champions of Change “for bringing the issue to the forefront”.
One of the areas still ripe for reinvention is in the capital markets space, Steele adds.
“When deals are being done, we need to be held accountable for the diversity of the team. But it’s not just the responsibility of real estate agents. It’s also the responsibility of landlords and investors to demand diversity in the sales teams they’re dealing with.”
Steele says she doesn’t explicitly point to her team’s diversity, “but clients notice, and they comment. So that tells me the industry has a way to go.”
To expand the talent pool, we need to widen our focus, Steele says.
“One of my best professionals comes from a food retailing background and she looks at property through a completely different lens and is hungry for learning because it’s all new to her.
“Every organisation is hungry for innovation, and one of the core indicators of innovation is diversity.”
What are Steele’s top three career tips?
- Focus on skills. “Be clear on what you like to do, but don’t lock yourself into a specific job role.”
- Seek out a sponsor. “I’ve never said no to anyone who’s asked me to sponsor or mentor them – and I never would. It’s as rewarding for me as it is for them, and I value the different lens I get to look through.”
- Don’t apologise for wanting work life balance. “No one could question my work ethic, but equally, they couldn’t question how important my work life balance is to me. I push back hard on that, and I’m unapologetic. I try to be quite disciplined. I hear woman say ‘I’m really sorry, I’ve got kids’. Don’t be sorry about that! Stop apologising about your life outside work.”
Amanda Steele is one of 20 women in property featured in Grow the Talent Pool, a report developed by the Property Council and EY in 2018 to continue the conversation on gender representation, diversity and inclusion in the property industry.