In our next installment of Profiles in Success, a series where NAA talks to successful apartment professionals to learn how they got to where they are, we visit with the sole female on NAA's Board of Directors.
Name: Ronda Puryear
Company: Management Services Corporation
Current Title: Sr. Vice President. Oversees property operations, facilities operations and marketing.
Years in the Industry: 30 years
What was your first apartment job?
My first part-time job was in a fast-food restaurant while in high school. However, my first job in our industry was 30 years ago as a part-time leasing consultant working two afternoons a week as a fun second job.
Can you describe your job now?
As senior vice president, I oversee property operations, facilities operations and marketing for all of Management Services Corporation’s company-owned and third-party managed multifamily assets in the residential portfolio. One of the best aspects of my job is working with our corporate team in many aspects of development and acquisitions.
Who was your greatest influence in the industry (how did they influence you)?
It is difficult to select one person when there are so many who supported me along the journey. There are amazing supervisors and mentors who encouraged and challenged me to take on more responsibility while giving me leeway to make mistakes and reach successes. Then there are those dynamic leaders in NAA who offer many of us opportunities to lead, and mentor us along the way. My desire is to follow in their footsteps and give willing, emerging leaders an opportunity to grow in our industry. One of the best aspects for me in being a woman in our industry has been my fortune in working in companies and associations with women in leadership.
What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome that challenge?
One of my biggest challenges was being a mother while balancing a growing, challenging career. Setting reasonable, yet challenging, goals while working with a supportive community of parents, friends and an amazing family helped me to navigate the various stages of my career while fulfilling the needs of my family. All working moms share in this struggle. We are all in this together as we balance the need to love and nurture our children with providing a good life for our family, setting an example for our children, and meeting our internal desire to accomplish personal goals.
What is your ultimate goal in the apartment industry?
I am a goal setter at heart. Throughout my career, setting professional, financial and personal goals has been a priority. Once the goals are met, I set new ones and push myself a little further. Today my goals include giving back, whether it be mentoring employees in our company and our industry, or actively seeking opportunities to give back to my community.
What has the apartment industry given you, personally and professionally?
Our industry is truly unique. The relationships that you build support you in good times as well as challenging times. It is the relationships and friendships that are most meaningful to me, personally and professionally. The answer to any question is only a call or an email away. As a woman, the comradery between other women is unprecedented. We all understand the challenges faced throughout our careers and those that still exist. Our industry is filled with supportive women who are willing to guide others throughout their journey. My first boss, the one who truly caused me to fall in love with property management, was a woman. She supported and encouraged me, pushed me when I questioned myself, and laughed with me when times were tough. As I said earlier, this is what I hope to mirror for others. I love this industry.
What’s your favorite or funniest apartment industry story?
Oh goodness, funny stories are abundant in our industry. Some of my funniest stories surround our June conference, when all our colleagues convene for a time of education and networking. We shall leave it at that. Coming from a student housing background, the most hilarious stories involve the wonderful outlook of the university population. One funny example from days of old was the party experiment to test if certain alcohol really stains carpet. This is accomplished by using the substance to write “words” in the carpet. Experiment performed, result positive, pictures taken, carpet replaced, and parents not pleased. Even so, working with these emerging leaders gives me hope for the future.
What’s one thing you or your company does that sets you apart?
Our company is one at which people come and stay. It is a great company that is headquartered in the amazing town of Charlottesville, Va., with a family of employees who care about one another. Rarely does anyone start employment at MSC with the intention of staying for 10, 15 or 20 years but before you know it, you are that tenured person. A large percentage of our employees have been with our company for more than five to 10 years.
Success is best when shared. How do you or your company find ways to give back?
We believe in community. Every year, we participate in the United Day Way of Caring and Relay for Life. Our property teams choose a way to give back in their local community, whether it be volunteering in local no-kill pet shelters and local blood drives, collecting and working with local food drives, organizing law enforcement and fire and rescue appreciation days or participating in community workdays at local schools and parks.
What volunteer roles do you currently hold?
Virginia Apartment and Management Association Board of Directors, NAA Secretary, NAAEI Vice-President and various committees.
How has your experience as a volunteer helped in your career?
For me, it always goes back to relationships with people. Every opportunity you have to volunteer is an opportunity to meet new friends and colleagues. People are always open and honest about their work and life. The things I learn from colleagues in our industry make our company stronger and help me both personally and professionally. Not to mention, several have become my cherished travel companions.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I love to go to dinner and a movie with friends, go to wineries, read a good book and work in my flower gardens. Oh yes, and let’s not forget visit any beach, most especially the ones on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be a lawyer or a designer. It was luck and opportunity that led me to our industry.
What do you want to be doing 5 years from now?
I absolutely love what I do today. Five years from now, I hope I am fortunate enough to still feel the same.
If you could talk to yourself 10/15/20 years ago, what would you say?
I would tell myself to focus on a career that brings you joy. Work to make others feel comfortable and try to enhance their lives with humor and friendship. I would say to work toward a life of which you are proud, one filled with family, friends and surprises. Most importantly to be a positive role model to my children and other young women and men in our industry and community.
What’s your favorite quote?
“You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C. S. Lewis.
What’s your favorite song/musician?
Southern Rock ‘n’ Roll is my go-to. The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Lynyrd Skynyrd are at the top of my list.
What’s the biggest difference you see between our industry today and when you started?
There are so many changes, but the biggest has to be technology. The amount of data we maneuver through today is sometimes overwhelming. Everything is done differently due to technology. We are so much more advanced and focused on the data when making decisions. It is both exciting and overwhelming.