An Undeniable Woman
This is part two of the weekly series featuring the profiles of African American leaders in the apartment industry throughout Black History Month. An initiative of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, these interviews aim to highlight our existing leaders and promote inclusion within our organization.
Chanel Herrington is a longtime BAAA member with The Liberty Group and volunteer extraordinaire. She is our Diversity & Inclusion Committee Co-Chair, and honestly, will always lend a helping hand if needed.
Q: Hi Chanel! Tell us how you got started in the apartment industry.
A: Many moons ago (about 12 years ago) I worked as a U-Haul Storage Manager. I loved it, I thought it was exciting finding people the correct storage unit size needed, going over the contracts and when they didn’t pay on time, I collected delinquent payments. After thinking it over I thought maybe I could work in a leasing office, I figured perhaps it would be similar. I made up my mind to go for it, I printed out about 20 resumes, went to every apartment community I saw, and handed it to the manager. After about 3 days of this, I got a call for an interview and was hired on the spot. I worked as a Leasing Agent for about 4 years and was promoted to Assistant Manager. I’d say about 4-5 years later I crossed over into the Supplier side.
Q: How did your previous experience before property management help prepare you for your current career?
A: I honestly feel working for U-Haul was the perfect prep job with showing the units and collecting rents. However, I also worked as a server for Red Lobster during the summer breaks while home from college. This was a wonderful experience for customer service and people skills.
Q: Let’s talk Diversity & Inclusion. You’re one of our D&I Chairs. As a whole, how do you feel the rental housing industry is doing in its D&I efforts?
A: I think there’s room for improvement. I’m big on representation and I know how important it is to be able to see people in higher positions that look like you because I didn’t. I didn’t see a black Regional Manager until I was in the industry for almost 5 years and had already been with 2 companies. The black Property Managers I saw mostly worked in low-income communities, with little budgets, and struggled so much that work wasn’t enjoyable. I remember when I first started in the industry, searching the sister properties of the D-level community in which I worked, I was SHOCKED and I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were. After speaking with the teams of these sister communities I realized they had a lot of things we didn’t, lavish resident events, happy hours and so much more. I remember feeling less than and cheated, and I couldn’t help but to think the teams at these communities were mostly white and my team was all back. I know this still happens today, so yes, we have more work to do.
Q: If you could give your younger self a piece of advice when first beginning your career in Property Management, what would it be?
A: Latch on to your mentors more. I‘ve been blessed to have wonderful people throughout my career that have helped me in so many ways. Krystal Hall, my first property manager, a black woman that hired me with no experience, truly took a chance on me. Soyini Hodge, a Regional Manager that looks like me and inspires me all the time. She poured confidence into me without even knowing it. And Jill Angel, for being the edge I needed. She showed me how to be tough and go after the things I want.
Q: February is Black History Month. It means many different things to different people. What does Black History Month mean to you?
A: Black History Month is so important, it’s what this country was built on and it’s the legacy of those who took chances. I also can’t help but to think of NOW, Black History is in the making today. I’m truly living my ancestor’s wildest dreams, I’m an educated, black woman in America, and I’m free to dream, I’m an “out” lesbian with a wife and child and so much more. Black History has to keep growing, we have a lot of firsts to do and still a lot of hate to overcome.
Q: What level of support do you feel there is for minority professionals seeking to enter our industry? What advice would you give them?
A: The level of support is probably the same in any industry for a minority, and simply put that’s “a little less.” My advice for them is what I tell myself, before any meeting, any large event, or any hard conversation and that is: “be undeniable,” meaning, let your work speak, be a good person, and be true to yourself.
Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
A: Funny, this is something my 13-year-old son asks me at least once a month. My response is always to be invisible. This superpower in my opinion is one that keeps on giving. It would be kinda cool to be a fly on the wall. Imagine the insight you would gain and all you could uncover.
Q: What are you most proud of and/or trying to achieve? Personal or professional!
A: I’m most proud of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. This space has opened my eyes to so much and I think it’s helping others to open their eyes too. Before D&I I honestly felt alone, I had so many feelings that were hard to process about the industry and the association, I wanted to share, just never knew it was possible or what that would look like. D&I is freeing me in a way I didn’t know I even needed to be freed. I’m thankful and I hope it goes on for a very long time.