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From Leasing Agent to SVP

scenic apartment view
September 2020

Name: Debra Kopolow
Company: Pinnacle Property Management Services
Title and brief job description: Senior vice president, providing oversight and execution of operations in Pinnacle’s Southwest region<>
Years in the industry: 44

What was your first apartment job?

My first job was right out of high school as a leasing agent for Lincoln Property in Dallas.

Describe your job now.

In the multifamily industry, we are destined to wear many hats and be all things to all entities. My primary job, however, can be a bit like running a talent agency. I am empowered to recruit and motivate dynamic individuals in the pursuit of excellence. If you don’t have a team of passionate individuals who thrive in challenge with a desire to exceed expectations, it is difficult to make the impossible possible.

Who was your greatest influence in the industry and how did that person influence you?

My greatest influence in the industry happened to be my mother. In her short time on Earth, she instilled the core value of integrity. Because I was a product of unconditional love, my greatest joy is cultivating the success of others.

What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it?

The recession of 2008 hit Las Vegas hard. It was a time for strategic measures in fee management. The creative minds on our local team adjusted our specialization by supporting the many servicers who were just learning the industry. Pinnacle became a leader in that specialized field, which propelled economic growth and opportunity. Our business platform continues to benefit from the culture of agility that was a byproduct of that downturn. We recognized our ability as a team to pivot and rise to any challenge.

What is your ultimate goal in the apartment industry?

I hope to stay on the leading edge of innovation as our industry evolves, and always remain humble to our service environment roots. The delicate balance of technology and extraordinary people allows us to thrive in this high-touch industry.

What has the apartment industry given you, personally and professionally?

My 30-plus-year tenure with Pinnacle has allowed me to promote career opportunities for many people. My heart overflows with joy when I see people along the way make a positive impact in our world and have their own dreams become a reality.

What’s your favorite or funniest apartment industry story?

With over 40 years of escapades, there have been some wonderful moments. Some of the memories that still make me smile include an annual conference in San Diego, a bus ride with the company founders and a detour to Tijuana with my colleagues.

What’s one thing you or your company does that sets you apart?

Pinnacle is strictly a fee management company. The culture of service and investment in people is the key to our success.

Success is best when shared. How do you or your company find ways to give back?

Pinnacle’s team members thrive on affecting change in the world. We lend a hand at every turn, and at every company function. Our team members work year-round with neighborhood and national nonprofits, and prioritize community service at every company event. Last year, we worked more than 273 events and spent more than 6,000 hours giving back to our communities. We also raised $183,000 for charity. I guess you could say that community service sits at the heart of our company culture, and this makes me very proud.

What volunteer roles do you currently hold?

On a personal level, my life and those I love have been affected by cancer. I give back to several foundations to ensure I do my part. Although it never seems to be enough, it is paramount that I continue the fight.

How has your experience as a volunteer helped in your career?

Giving of myself is always the best medicine. I have empathy and compassion for my team, my peers and my clients, which allows me to focus on what really matters. I am grateful for all my blessings and they inspire me to pay it forward.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I am an absolute movie buff. I love to escape for two hours and live in the cinema. I think in my next life I am going to be a Hollywood star!

What did you want to be growing up?

Plan A: I had an eternal dream to be a flight attendant and travel the world. You had to be 19 to apply, so I worked as a leasing agent until that day. Fast-forward to joining the skyway of Braniff airlines. My dream came true, until I realized from my journey, I get airsick. Plan B: leasing agent. The rest is history.

What do you want to be doing five years from now?

I look forward to celebrating the evolution and greatness of my dynamic team.

If you could talk to the person you were 10,15 or 20 years ago, what would you say?

I would say to my young self that it is no coincidence the rearview mirror is always smaller than the windshield!

What’s your favorite quote?

The best is yet to come.

What’s your favorite song or musician?

“Here Comes the Sun”—in my world, it shines bright every day!

What’s the biggest difference you see between our industry today and when you started?

Technology and instantaneous response have changed our environment. We have too much data and not enough information.