Convention Recap: Three Dynamic Days in Houston

November 14, 2017
Written by: Vanessa Manners, CREW Atlanta
Academy-Award winning actor and advocate Geena Davis presented the keynote address during lunch on Friday, Oct. 27.

When I learned that the 2017 CREW Network Convention and Marketplace would be held in Houston, I knew that would the perfect location for my first CREW Network convention experience. Although I’m now an Atlantan, I was born and raised in South Texas so it was a special feeling to be back in my home state.

Seven women represented our firm, Kimley-Horn, this year at the convention, including:

  • Jessica Rossi, CREW Charlotte 2017 President

  • Ashley Frysinger, CREW Houston 2017 Director (2018 President-Elect)

  • Miriam Brodie, CREW Northern Virginia 2017 Director of Communications

  • Chelsea Houy, CREW San Antonio Membership Committee and Emerging Leaders Program

  • Colleen Marnell, CREW Chicago 2017 Member Services Chair

  • Lesley Netzer, CREW Chicago 2017 Membership Committee and CREW Careers Committee

After the Marketplace on Wednesday evening, we walked through the adjacent Discovery Green Park together. Along with discussions about workloads and parenting, we also talked about what a fantastic organization CREW is and the impact it has had on all of us both professionally and personally. In the words of my colleague, Lesley Netzer, P.E. from Chicago:

“The 2017 CREW Network Convention and Marketplace proved the Network’s immense power. Recently returning from maternity leave, I made a conscious choice that for the remainder of the year, I’d focus on continuing to expand my network and build my practice. In the weeks prior to the convention, my colleagues across the country who were also planning to attend scoured the attendee list looking for potential connections. We researched warm connections and introductions from people across our firm and then reached out to attendees to try and set up quick meetings. This is standard practice for conferences, generally with a 50% response rate. We each reached out to about 10-15 women, but in this instance, every single CREW member responded within 24 hours with a “Yes! Let’s definitely meet up!” We were blown away. Those meetings produced quick but fruitful conversations about potential projects and introductions.”

“As always, I am blown away by CREW and the wonderful, empowering women it attracts.”

2017 CREW Network Distinguished Leaders Roundtable

2017 CREW Network Distinguished Leaders Sheila Botting, Deloitte, Crystal Maggelet, FJ Management Inc., Sherri Schugart, Hines, Angela Mago, KeyBank, Karen Whitt, Colliers International, with moderator Lori Kilberg, Hartman Simons & Wood LLP.

We hustled back to grab seats for the Distinguished Leaders Roundtable, moderated by 2015 CREW Network President (and former Atlantan) Lori Kilberg. The panelists discussed career challenges they faced and how they’ve overcome various obstacles along the way.

Dr. Travis Bradberry speaking at the 2017 CREW Network Convention

Opening Session featured speaker Dr. Travis Bradberry

On Thursday morning, Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, pointed out the seemingly obvious point that none of us are getting enough sleep. What we did not realize was how profoundly that lack of sleep is affecting our emotional intelligence. His three ‘silver bullets’ for improving our emotional intelligence were:

  1. Lower your stress levels

  2. Get enough sleep (most people need 7-9 hours per night)

  3. Lower your caffeine intake (and keep it to the morning hours)

In the evening, I joined many of my fellow CREW Atlanta members to eat tacos and learn to boot scoot boogie at a local watering hole. Our chapter had more than 25 members attend the convention this year!

Alison Beddard and Geena Davis QA - 2017 CREW Network Convention

President Alison Beddard with keynote speaker Geena Davis.

Our closing keynote speaker was the multi-talented Academy-Award winning actor Geena Davis, founder of the nonprofit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. This group engages film and television creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters—and reduce gender stereotyping—in media created for children 11 and under. Davis was engaging, witty, brilliant and inspiring.

Participating in the convention strengthens personal and professional development, but also strengthens our CREW chapters. Jessica Rossi, 2017 CREW Charlotte President, reflected on the personal, professional and chapter impact of the CREW Network Convention and Marketplace:

“As working professionals in a fast-paced industry, our time is often spread very thin. As we consider how best to spend our time away from family, work, and friends, events that offer us both personal and professional development opportunities move up on the priority list. For me, the CREW convention is one of those events. The Leadership Summit and Board Training provides takeaways for our local chapter, breakout sessions are educational and enhance industry knowledge, and Geena Davis’ work in promoting women in films was nothing short of inspirational. What an amazing keynote speaker! The opportunity to network with my chapter, my company, and other rock stars in the industry is invaluable.

CREW Charlotte feels strongly about helping our members realize the power of CREW Network. Hands down, the most effective way we’ve found to achieve this is to offer scholarships to Convention. We had 22 people from Charlotte join us in Houston this year! Once a member attends, they bring so much valuable information back to the chapter, returning with a renewed passion for creating connections and advancing women in the commercial real estate industry. With so many strong speakers, informative breakout sessions, and unrivaled networking opportunities, each attendee is easily able to find something that peaks their interest and keeps them engaged throughout.”

On the way to the airport, my Lyft driver Richard and I were talking about the inevitable traffic issues the downtown area would be facing over the weekend due to the Astros’ World Series pursuit. Imagine my surprise when he changed the subject, explaining there had  been a women’s real estate conference going on that week. The previous day, he’d driven another CREW convention attendee and she’d told him about our mission. He went on for quite a while, finally closing with, “doesn’t that sound cool?!”

Yes, Richard, it most certainly does, and I’m excited to experience it again in San Diego.

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Vanessa Manners specializes in marketing and business development for Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. - one of the nation's premier planning and design engineering consultants. She is a member of CREW Atlanta and serves on the CREW Network Communications and Editorial Committee.