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March 11, 2020

Your Career is a Jungle Gym…Not a Ladder

In 2013, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg brought the concept of the Jungle Gym to our mainstream vernacular through her bestselling book, Lean In. The jungle gym, as opposed to a ladder, refers to how a person should regard his or her career. Instead of moving up a narrow path at every given opportunity, one should move over, up, diagonally, and even back a few steps in order to eventually move up. A jungle gym allows a person to stretch, grow, explore and adapt—all things that will help a person be the most equipped for every new venture.

A great example of this comes from Steven Scott Management’s very own, Mary Swanson. Swanson is currently the Manager at Third North Apartments and Gurley lofts, though she began her career as a Caretaker at Hillsborough Apartments back in 1991.

How Did She Do It?
Back then, caretakers had to spend time in the office while on-call, and this gave her the opportunity to shine. Through her work at the office, Swanson was able to accompany her manager to other projects, learning about building inspections and audits for buildings in receivership.

Swanson was then offered the role of Assistant Manager at Greystone Heights. After some time, her Manager gave notice, and she was able to take over as Manager. From there, she began covering short-term positions for other buildings during gaps in management. Swanson had a conversation with her Regional and Marketing Director. She let them know that she wanted to learn about new construction and multi-stage management. This gave her the opportunity to really grow and opened up many doors such as joining committees and helping to support other properties. Over the years, she went on to open Greystone Heights, Cedar Pointe, and then to Creekside Apartments, Cornelia Place and Waterstone Place, Eastwood Ridge and Cameron among others. With every new undertaking, she learned about something different: new construction, townhomes, commercial space, affordable housing, regional management, and more. She has also been fortunate enough to have worked on various programs and roll-outs such as waitlist program, mentorship program, MADACS employee appreciation/ nomination program, and some focus groups. Swanson also participated in many guinea pig programs such as rolling out AUM chargeback to residents and being one of two properties to receive cell phones for Property Managers & Maintenance to use. Through hard work, determination and bit of luck, Swanson has certainly made her way through the SSM jungle gym.

Swanson’s advice for those who wish to move up within the company:
1. Talk to your supervisor about what jobs/positions you might be interested in
2. Together, set goals to achieve the next level – whatever that may be
3. Ask about additional training opportunities with SSM (great trainers are in place) and/or MHA
4. If someone is looking to manage new construction – talk to a couple of managers who have worked on and opened new buildings. See if your impression of what that role is meets the criteria of the job.

Mary is an extraordinary example of someone that grown in her position and respected throughout Steven Scott. Thank you, Mary, for your hard work, flexibility, and dedication to Steven Scott!