Secretary to Senior Vice President in 20 Years

4w_Jeanetteflory_091113Meet Jeanette Flory, a portfolio manager at Bentall Kennedy in charge of $7.2 billion in assets. She’s had an amazing career trajectory: twenty years ago, she had just started in real estate as an administrative assistant.


4word: Tell us about the span of your career, and what led you to Bentall Kennedy in Seattle.

Jeanette: I started my career in Dallas in 1982 working for the multi-family subsidiary of the Vantage Companies, Drexel Management. Over the next ten years, I worked for a number of brokerage, development and investment sales firms and then joined a pension fund advisor, IBEX Institutional Advisors.  I handled all their due diligence and closings. In 1995, I relocated to the Miami corporate headquarters to take on Asset Management responsibilities for the portfolio. After three years, I joined Bentall Kennedy (aka Kennedy Associates Real Estate Counsel) as an asset manager in Seattle.

4word: You went from administrative assistant to senior vice president in 20 years. That is quite an impressive career track! Was executive leadership your goal when you began your career?

Jeanette: I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I got started. I wanted to leave Ohio, and chose Dallas because I believed it had a wide range of opportunities. Although I had a teaching degree, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to teach in a traditional school setting.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t really have a goal at that point in my life. I took the first job I was offered, and it changed my life forever. For me, success was about a couple of key relationships, never saying, “That’s not my job,” reading every document that came across my desk, and always wanting to learn more.

My two mentors never put a box around what I could do based on my job description.  That made all the difference for me. Early in my career, I often worked 80 hours a week, because I wanted to make sure I had time to work on whatever project needed to be done.

4word: What key moments, projects, or relationships helped propel you to success?

Jeanette: There were two very important mentors in my early career. My first boss at Drexel gave me a promotion within 90 days, and went to the Chairman of the Board to get a raise above the maximum allowed.  She clearly did not place a lot of emphasis on my job title.  She recognized that I was very interested in the business and was a quick study. Unfortunately for me, she retired early, so I ended up moving on to other opportunities.

As I changed positions, I took on more responsibilities. Interestingly enough, I met my second mentor/sponsor when I joined The Worthing Companies to work for the head of acquisitions and finance.

Once again, I was a sponge, absorbing as much information as I could about that side of the business. Steve and I worked together at six different firms over the next 10 years. His leadership is the reason I joined Bentall Kennedy.

4w_wed_300x300_091113Although he left the firm years ago, I would not be where I am today without his belief in me. Steve often put his reputation on the line in support of me, and there is no stronger statement that can be made. Thankfully, I don’t believe I ever let him down. I am very blessed to have come across two such amazing people who were so important in my success.

4word: What do you wish you’d learned earlier in your career?

Jeanette: I wish I’d had the same resources that are now available to help women come up through the industry. I also wish I had asked more questions when I was very young. I was always afraid people would figure out what I didn’t know.

I encourage those younger people that I work with to ask as many questions as they can early on when people assume they don’t know much. I also wish I had been more confident in what I did know early on, because I might have moved up the ladder more quickly.

But, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t change anything. I met some of the most amazing people along the way and consider myself amazingly blessed.


What are the keys to your success? Share your advice with fellow readers in the comments!