Women in Multifamily: Kim Feliciano
An initiative of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, this series of interviews aims to highlight women leaders in the apartment industry during Women’s History Month and Gender Equity Month in March.
We were so excited to sit down and hear Kim’s story, and how she gained success on the maintenance side of our industry.
Q. Tell us how you got started in the apartment industry.
A: Well, when I first started I really didn’t know anything, and had just moved from Puerto Rico. I had a supervisor at the property I used to live at that gave me the opportunity, taught me the basics and started me as a groundskeeper. So then I started building my skills and learning to work on air conditioners, and then went and took my [EPA] test on my own and passed. After that I took it as a personal challenge to learn more and ask as many questions as possible. After a while of working there I decided to move on and move up, and I got an offer at another company (Camden). They gave me all the training I needed and I got more certifications and continued to build my skills.
10 years later I got the opportunity to become a supervisor, and just recently got my CAMT through BAAA. I also got started with Maintenance Mania and have come to really enjoy it. I finally got overall third place in 2019 - I wasn’t expecting that!
Q. What has your experience been like as a woman in maintenance?
A: Well, that experience has definitely been hard and challenging; to try to prove while you’re in a position you know what you’re doing. You’re constantly having to prove yourself to someone. When you work with a lot of men and you show off your skills they get intimidated. Even though your certification on paper is black and white - they still doubt you because you aren’t a man and they feel you have restrictions. Especially if you are in a position to give orders to someone underneath you who is a man.
But after a while they get to know you and understand that you know what you’re doing... but it takes a lot of time. I am so grateful for my team; I’ve worked with two awesome guys for the last 3 and a half years as a supervisor. They always say ok let’s do this, they help you out and they’ll do whatever they need to do and they know how I operate. We get along great.
Q. What ways do you think we can make maintenance more equitable for women?
A. That’s a tough question! I believe if the woman wants to do it, and to learn, then she should go get the training needed. I know BAAA gives a lot of classes, and they should utilize that. But, it does depend on the person; if she wants to do it, and wants to learn. I believe women are more mentally skilled, we use our brain more than our muscle and this makes us invaluable to the apartment industry and maintenance.
Q. If you were to start over, is there anything you would do differently today?
A. I would get more training from day 1 in every area and aspect. Instead of waiting for an opportunity to pop up, I feel I should have just gone out for myself to get the extra training. Then it would not have taken so long to get where I am. Other than that I wouldn’t change anything, because you have to face challenges to get to the top, and even at the top you’ll face challenges. But I know that I may not do this all my life - I want to keep learning, growing and moving up. Honestly, it’s been a real challenge to have a family and kids while continuing to study for myself and my career. When my children were younger I really had to manage my time between school events and my own career. Especially after hours when you’re getting emergency calls and you don’t know when you'll be home. Then you’re getting up early in the morning to take the kids to school. But as a woman, we have all these other responsibilities, where a man may not have those same things to take care of. So that is a challenge I've really had to overcome, but I wouldn’t change it - I am proud of where I am and how far I've come!
Q. What is the one trait you think people need to be successful in property management?
A. Listening: if someone doesn't know everything they should be truthful about that and be willing to learn. We call it a green guy. With that, we can work as a team. We spend 9-10 hours a day together, we should be able to communicate. That avoids a lot of headaches and costs.
Customer Service: everyday is something new, you get good ones and bad ones - nowadays you can’t trust anyone coming into your apartment. What is important is customer service and the way you talk to the residents. Even if they are mad - you kill them with kindness. We’re here 9 hours a day, we don’t need to create a hectic environment. Where I am, when I started it was hard; they thought someone new, and especially a woman, things won’t get done. But I built my team and we got it done. We had constant callbacks but we worked through them and now the residents really respect me and my team.
Q. Any words of wisdom to a woman starting out their career in this industry?
A. I don’t do much talking but I always show up and show what I’ve got. But; you can never give up. You’re always gonna get there - no matter how hard. Maintenance mania was my dream. I didn't get it right away, but I kept going and trying and giving it my all and finally realized my dream. This is such an honor for me and I thank you for the opportunity to share my story with you.