Mentorship Spotlight: Meet Vickie McDonnell and Jean Batie
Tuesday, Apr 25, 2023
Alicia Mackay, our Scholarship Lead for the CREW Vancouver Education and Outreach Committee, sat down with Vickie McDonnell and Jean Batie to discuss their experience in the Mentorship program. Their story highlights how impactful a successful mentor/mentee relationship can be both personally and professionally and provides tips on how mentors and mentees can make the most out of their experience. For more information on our professional mentorship program, click here. Applications for the 2023/2024 program are open until April 30th, apply now!
Vickie McDonnell has over 40 years’ experience in finance and real estate. In her most recent role as President and CEO of Westminster Management Corporation (“WMC”), she was responsible for assessing acquisition, divestiture, and JV development opportunities, investing in mixed use development projects in the Lower Mainland, Victoria and Seattle areas as well overseeing an existing office portfolio of properties. Prior to joining WMC in January of 2011, Vickie spent 15 years at Belkorp Industries Inc., a large multi-faceted private investment firm. In her role as Senior Vice President, Real Estate, she focused on acquisitions, asset growth and oversite of a large portfolio of commercial investment properties in the US and Canada. Vickie has also held senior level positions with Bank of Montreal, Vancity and First City Trust. She currently is serving as a Corporate Non-Executive Director on the Boards of Westminster Management Corporation, Low Tide Properties and Montrose Property Holdings Ltd. She has previously been on the boards of Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland, FICOM and CUDIC. She holds a BA from University of Victoria and an MBA from University of British Columbia.
Jean Batie is the Director of Leasing at Wesgroup Properties. Jean joined Wesgroup in 2017 and is responsible for overseeing the leasing activity for Wesgroup’s commercial portfolio of industrial, retail and office assets comprising over 3 million square feet. With over 20 active commercial development projects at Wesgroup, Jean works closely with the development and construction teams to ensure that all new developments are positioned appropriately for the market. Prior to joining Wesgroup, Jean worked in the public sector as well as on the tenant side of the business. Jean was an active volunteer on the CREW Vancouver events committee from 2016-2018.
Alicia: Vickie, congratulations on an amazing career in CRE and transition into retirement. Can you please tell us a bit about your achievements in the industry?
Vickie: I use the term “retirement” loosely because I am currently on three corporate boards. I view this transition, from full-time employment at a CEO-level to board member, as an even bigger achievement as I can take everything that I have learned over the years and advise businesses and people on corporate strategies, execution, and support management in a different way than when I was working full time. This soft transition allows me to deploy the different skills and relationships that I have formed over the years and still stay involved in our industry.
Alicia: Jean, how did you learn about the CREW mentorship program back in 2018 and what interested you in joining?
Jean: I was volunteering with CREW on the Events Committee, and I knew a few friends who had previously participated. At the time, I was still quite new to commercial real estate, and I had felt behind relative to my peers. I jumped on the opportunity of being mentored by an experienced female in the industry. I was fortunate to be paired with Vickie, and she remains my mentor to this day.
Alicia: Jean, how did your relationship evolve with Vickie throughout the program? How has your relationship with Vickie impacted your career?
Jean: When I first met Vickie, she shared her accomplishments and how she had got to where she was, and I remember sitting there, amazed, and thinking, how do I make the most of this opportunity? She is sharing her time, energy, and knowledge, and I need to find a way to really get as much as I can out of this.
As we spent more time together, our relationship progressed to the next level. I had not initially thought I would achieve close to what Vickie had, but my mindset began to shift as I was sharing my problems and realizing that she had navigated through them before. I realized that the disparity between us was not as large as I had thought, and I was on the right career path. This realization opened my eyes to how I saw myself and the opportunities in the industry. As our relationship evolved and we became friends, I began to ask bolder and more strategic questions, which lead to more meaningful discussions.
I would often structure our monthly meetings with a “problem of the month”, something that I needed help with. This could entail anything from deal and relationship problems to confidence issues. This structure ensured that our monthly meetings would remain productive, but not feel forced. I would show up for coffee with one big question to talk about and the conversation flowed from there.
Alicia: Vickie, what enticed you to join the program as a mentor? How has your relationship with Jean impacted you both personally and professionally?
Vickie: As my career evolved, I found I was getting more satisfaction out of helping people. I am a big fan of CREW and how it has helped attract and support women in the industry. This brings me great joy as there were many years that I would be the only woman at the table or at the golf tournament. I did not have access to a female support network, and I wanted to help.
From the moment I met Jean, I felt an instant connection. The relationship did not feel forced. I looked forward to seeing her each month. The experience was gratifying as I was able to problem solve in a different way than in my day job and I was helping Jean. Jean would follow through with everything that we had discussed and report back to me. I thought, wow, I really feel like I am making a difference and helping someone in a meaningful way versus someone listening and not doing anything about it.
As our relationship evolved, the issues became more complex, multifaceted. There was not a simple answer to her questions, so we would delve into the topics, and it became very interesting. We started to get to know each other more than just professionally, personally. We knew what was going on in each other’s lives, which cemented the relationship. I felt nourished by it, and it really was a wonderful opportunity for me to grow. Meanwhile, I watched Jean’s confidence build over time as she took on more responsibility and became a more integral member of her team.
Alicia: Jean & Vickie, what do you think is the key to a successful mentor/mentee relationship?
Jean: Be prepared and open to talk about the issues you are dealing with. What do you want out of your career? What do you need help with? Be self aware and identify the situations where you constantly get stuck. Do not become fixated on one issue because the opportunity is much larger than that. This is someone senior and this is their time (which they do not have a lot of) and energy, and they are generously dedicating it to you to help you grow. Do not waste it. Make sure you are participating in the program for the right reasons. This is not a platform to just meet people, it is a platform to learn and grow.
Vickie: Be prepared with actual situations and follow through on the discussions. What made our relationship so much more fun and interesting was that it was authentic, and it did not feel forced. It really goes back to that connection piece and the emotional maturity of the individual. It does not matter how many years of experience they have or what their job title is, what matters is who they are as a person and their ability to take things to heart and follow through.
Vickie: In our discussions, I would listen to and absorb the issues that Jean was facing and visualize the position she was in and put myself in her shoes, from my lens. I would approach it at a 360-degree view, considering the parties and personalities involved. I really had to listen. It was not one of those things that you could show up for and it was easy, which is why I liked it. I would say, ok, this may not necessarily be the right move forward, but if I were in your shoes, this is how I would approach the situation.
Alicia: Vickie, what is your advice to women in CRE or wanting to pursue a career in CRE?
Vickie: First, find people to mentor you and stick with program.
Secondly, pace yourselves. It is not a race. Focus on what is in front of you and do it well. If you do, the doors will open. Think about it in the context of a 40-year career. Do not get burnt out.
Finally, think about how you communicate with people and the impact your words have on others. Stick to the facts, do not be subjective and take the emotion out of any given situation. When I find myself in an emotional situation, I stop talking and listening and take a few moments to internally reset and recompose myself. If needed, leave the room. Once you loose control of your emotions, you are no longer thinking rationally. Regain control.