By HEDGIE GUNDRY
Smart, outgoing and dedicated, Caitlin Ellis, from DiJones Real Estate, is a real estate operations whizz with a love of all things related to technology and innovation.
What does your role involve?
In my role as Systems and Special Projects Manager, I’m responsible for the research, development and implementation of the best suite of systems for both our business and clients. With one central view of the customer in our CRM, we're able to offer the best service. I'm always looking out for new technology to implement into the business. Basically, this means I push a lot of buttons!
How long have you been in the real estate industry?
I’m a qualified special effects makeup artist who fell into real estate over a decade ago. Back then, there wasn’t much of a film industry in Australia and I knew I’d have to move to the US to pursue my makeup career. When I was weighing up my options, I saw a receptionist job going at my local real estate agency in Tamworth. I rocked up on my first day and thought, “yes, I can do this!”
How did your real estate industry career progress?
In that first role, I learnt all the facets of a real estate business, which was a really important foundation for me. When you start at entry level, you see how everything runs, what everybody does and how it all comes together. I started in reception, moved into property management and then became a sales associate. This is when I first met Kylie Walsh. Until recently, Kylie was the General Manager of DiJones Real Estate; when she offered me the opportunity to join the agency in 2014, I jumped at the chance.
“I love collaborating with all of the sales agents and property managers across the business. I treat every member of the DiJones team as a client and always strive to offer the best possible service to them.”
Why did you choose to specialise in the operations side of the real estate industry?
Exceptional operations and administration efficiencies are the backbone of any successful real estate business. You can have all the flashy sales and marketing tools in the world, but you won’t get very far without these solid foundations. I discovered that I had a knack for operations, and wanted to help achieve profit and growth targets, and assist with recruitment and retention. I love technology, spending time with clients and meeting new people.
Who do you look up to in the real estate industry and why?
Kylie Walsh has been my mentor for the past decade and she’s amazing. Her industry knowledge is incredible and she’s across all of the latest changes in legislation. You can ask her anything real estate related and she knows the answer. Having a mentor like Kylie is inspiring for me and I know that she’s also a powerful female role model for many women in the industry.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love that I'm always learning. Technology changes so quickly and it’s been exciting to embrace these changes at DiJones as we’ve grown from one to 12 offices in six years. I have to educate myself on a daily basis to keep up with new ways to improve our customer experience journey. It's always changing and it's fun to absorb new things.
I love collaborating with all of the sales agents and property managers across the business. I treat every member of the DiJones team as a client and always strive to offer the best possible service to them. I get to talk to different people and I’m constantly learning.
What are the key skills needed to be successful in your role?
First, you need to be solutions focused. This means always asking questions and thinking about your answers to questions before you respond. You have to take the time to actually find a solution and avoid just saying “no”.
Second, you need good communications skills. In our team, we always say that the phone is for communication and email is for confirmation. This avoids getting stuck in unnecessary email arguments.
And third, you need to be honest and open. Too often I see people come into the industry who won’t own up to their mistakes. But you have to say: “You know what, I made a mistake. This is what I’m going to do next time. And this is how we could do it better.”
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Winning the Operational Support category at the 2020 REINSW Awards for Excellence was definitely a highlight for me. This is such a prestigious industry award and something to be proud of. I’ve been a finalist in this category four times and this is the one I really wanted to win.
What are your goals for the next 12 months?
From a professional point of view, I’m really focused on the innovation side of the business at the moment. I’m currently undertaking a data science course, which I hope to complete later this year. This will help me ensure that we’re getting the most we possibly can out of all of our systems and look at how we can use them better in the future.
And personally, like most of us, COVID-19 has put everything in my life into perspective and I was really focused on my work-life balance. I was able to work more from home and was not expected to be in the office during rigid office hours. Not only was I more productive, but this flexibility gave me more precious family time, which I am hopeful will stay balanced during 2021.
When you’re not at work, how do you like to spend your time?
I enjoy spending time with my partner, family and friends. Most weekends, my partner and I will take our dog for a long walk and, more often than not, end up at a new restaurant or bar. It’s a win-win!
Is there a phrase you live by?
I really love this quote from Albert Einstein: “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
For me, this means we should all think twice before comparing ourselves to others or judging someone else based on inappropriate standards. I try not to beat myself up, and aim for what I’m good at and excel where I can.
What’s the best advice you would give to someone just starting out?
Be prepared to put in the work. Real estate is not a nine to five job and it can be hard. You're dealing with lots of different personality types. You need to be able to adapt accordingly, maintain clear lines of communication and set firm expectations – even when someone senior wants information from you yesterday.