Membership Spotlight October 2020

Wednesday, Oct 7, 2020

Mary Shaughnessy | Senior Project Manager at JLL

mshaughnessy headshot

Mary’s formal training and work experience in architecture, urban planning and project management have produced a hybrid skill set that enables her to understand all aspects of the project, from both the client and service side.

Mary is known for her collaborative approach to project management, and her tireless pursuit of excellence on behalf of her clients.

She has been a CREW Vancouver member for 3 years. We are pleased to be sharing her interesting career story and a bit of insight into JLL’s project management team through her Member Spotlight below.


CREW Vancouver Q&A

Q: What was your path into the commercial real estate industry? What led you here?

I began my career in architecture and worked in that field for 12 years. I started in Seattle after finishing my Master of Architecture at the University of Washington, before returning to Vancouver. My career in architecture focused on heritage preservation, single-family homes, mixed-use and institutional projects.

There were parts of the role that I loved but I felt something was missing so I began mulling over my next chapter. I came across an opportunity to be a project manager for the relocation of Mountain Equipment Co-op’s (MEC) head office to its new space on West 4th Avenue and decided to apply. I landed the job and loved it. Being on the client side, I was able to be an internal advocate for design, having previously been on the service side. I discovered that I was hooked on project management and that it was a good match with my strengths and interests. The project took 18-months and I handed over the building to MEC two weeks before giving birth to my first son.

After the MEC project, I determined that I would return to work in project management rather than architecture. However, motherhood was surprisingly all-consuming, and I ended up leaving the workforce for a period of years and re-entering at age 48. I returned to my design roots during this time, balancing childrearing with undertaking renovations and other small projects mostly for friends and family but found it difficult to keep the thread going from a career perspective which made it more difficult to eventually find my way back.

Q: After leaving the workforce to raise children, how did you re-enter? Do you have any advice for people who may be in a similar situation?

In total honesty, it was a fortunate coincidence. I knew that I wanted to go back to work in project management and happened to be on the sidelines of my son’s soccer match when I got to talking to Tim Gilmour who was hired by JLL to start the Project and Development Services (PDS) service line in Vancouver about 8 years ago. We discussed my experience and interest in project management and it just so happened that he was looking for someone in that role to build a team for JLL.

When I started, we were a 3-person team and we worked with our brokerage group and JLL’s “mothership” out of the U.S. to build up the business. Much of the time it felt like a start-up and, for me, commercial tenant improvement was a completely new area. Almost immediately after being hired we became very busy, so it was trial-by-fire. It took some time to re-establish myself and learn the language of corporate tenant improvements, while managing 10-15 projects at a time, before I regained my full confidence.

My advice for anyone who may be taking time off but wants to eventually re-enter the workforce in their field is to try to maintain ties to your industry during your time off – attend industry events (virtually!), stay connected to people you were working with and reach out to new people that you may want to work with in the future, all with an eye to ensuring your name remains familiar and top of mind. LinkedIn is an excellent platform for keeping abreast of the real estate industry and fostering connections.

Q: Can you describe the role of a project manager within JLL’s Project Management team?

Within the Corporate Solutions business, we have a team of dedicated project managers. We also work with our Markets team to provide variable project and development services to individual clients. Our goal is to take care of everything so that our clients can focus on their day jobs. All the little details of a construction project can be overwhelming to clients at times, so it’s helpful when that part of opening a new space can be overseen by us and we can avoid redundancies, rework and costly mistakes, often more than offsetting JLL's fee for project management.

Q: Can you describe your role as a Senior Manager of Projects at JLL? You oversee all elements of the project, what does this look like?

I currently work exclusively on the HSBC account, serving as their trusted advisor and single source of responsibility and accountability for project performance throughout the entire process of their new builds and renovations in western Canada. There is always a long list of projects we’re working on and by having worked together for many years, we are able to find efficiencies and cost savings and achieve maximum results for HSBC.

Q: Why did you decide to join CREW? And what is your favourite CREW event throughout the year?

I was first made aware of CREW through Regina Marklund as we had come to know each other through Turner Construction. I remember attending a CREW panel with senior female leaders in our industry and they were discussing how to find balance, how to raise children, how to work in a man’s world and I was SO impressed with their insight and wisdom. CREW needs to run another event like that! On the other end of the spectrum, I love mentoring and supporting the ambitions of younger women (and men!) coming up through the industry, so the student network event is a personal favourite.

Q: What is the best advice you've ever received?

Singling out one piece of advice is difficult as I’ve been given so many excellent nuggets over the years, many of which I draw upon daily in both my personal and professional life. These are the top three:

  • Own your Career: you are responsible for owning your own career, no one else will do it for you. If you are serious about your career you need to make a career development plan. Work with your manager or a mentor to articulate a 1/3/5-year plan and then take steps every day to ensure your vision becomes reality. Volunteer for extra training, for mentoring, ask for stretch assignments and opportunities for not only yourself but also to empower people around you to grow and succeed.
  • Know Yourself: present yourself by who you are, not by what you do…that’s how people will remember you. What are your strengths? What are your passions? Be authentic within each context.
  • Lean Forward: be proactive, engaged, interested, make eye contact, attend meetings with pen and notebook in hand and, if you have something to contribute, say it in the room.