Serving as a councilwoman in Palisades Park, NJ, is only one of Cyndy Pirrera’s many responsibilities. She also serves as vice president of high-rise operations at Eatontown, NJ-based Wentworth Property Management Corp., a subsidiary of FirstService Residential Management.
It doesn’t matter whether she’s talking politics or property management, she says it’s all comes down to one thing: people. High Rise Facilities talks to Pirrera to learn more about how she made it to the top.
Q: How did you get started in commercial real estate?
A: I started as a legal secretary for three years. I was then hired at a property management company in New Jersey for the position of assistant to the vice president of finance. I started out in the financial part of the business, developing budgets and working directly with the vice president for the financial department. I developed a well-rounded skill set and gained experience in numerous facets of the business; I spent 17 years at this organization, with the last three years as COO running the day-to-day operations of the company. This experience prepared me for my current role at Wentworth where I serve as the vice president of high-rise operations, which I have held since September
Q: What are some of your biggest accomplishments?
A: I’ve been a part of the New Jersey Chapter of the Community Association Institute (CAI-NJ) for many years, and served as the 2012 president of the chapter (the second largest chapter in the nation). I’ve also held several other positions with CAI-NJ, including secretary, treasurer, and vice president. During my tenure as president, we worked on property management licensing, which is coming up for a vote in the New Jersey House. I also serve as a councilwoman for Palisades Park, NJ, and hold Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) and Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM) certifications. So I’m never bored!
Q: What do you enjoy most in your role at Wentworth?
A: I’m a people person. For me, I enjoy the interaction with people the most. I like the idea of helping people by bringing value and comfort to where they live. I enjoy problem-solving, too. When you’re in property management, every day is different. It’s extremely fast-paced; you never have time to look at a clock.
Q: In your decades of experience, how have you seen the industry change?
A: When I first came in to the business 17 years ago, there were maybe 20 property management companies in New Jersey. Now there are probably 200 New Jersey management companies. The competition is tremendous. Licensing will probably change that; the days of simply putting up a property management sign are probably coming to end, and this will benefit the industry, as well as clients and communities.
I also think boards are much savvier now. They’re made up of professionals – attorneys, engineers, accountants, etc. – who are much more hands-on, and much more involved than they were in the past.
Q: What advice do you have for property management professionals based on lessons you’ve learned?
A: With property management, I don’t think there’s any in between – you either give 100 percent of yourself to the job, or you don’t belong here. It isn’t the same as other industries; it isn’t just a 9-to-5 job. It’s 24/7.
People skills are also really important. You can be technically brilliant and understand buildings and their technical aspects, but if you don’t have people skills, it isn’t the right industry for you. You have to be a fabulous networker. You also need to be a fabulous multi-tasker. Some people are great at doing one thing at a time; in this business, though, you have to be able to do 10 things at the same time.
Q: What does the future hold for the industry?
A: For us in New Jersey, licensing is going to play an increasingly prominent role. For the industry as a whole, technology is going to be key. At Wentworth, our properties integrate web-based software to connect homeowners, board and committee members, and property management professionals. Tenants use it for anything from making payments to tracking work orders and maintenance requests to receiving info on weather emergencies, board meetings, and special events. The software also tracks packages, manages visitors, serves as a concierge, etc.
I’m also noticing that high-rise condominiums, in the past five years, have become much more about the lifestyle enjoyed by residents. Whether it’s having a theater or virtual golf, or offering club houses with activities, people are looking for amazing and fulfilling experiences that help set their building and community apart from others.