Our annual International Women’s Day feature is something I look forward to each year. It is an opportunity for us, and me in particular, to highlight a range of incredible women at different points in their careers in the traditional industry of New Development. The official theme of International Women’s Day this year is Embracing Equity which got me thinking about the ways that each of us, regardless of our gender, circumstance or access to supportive resources, can drive change and create opportunities for ourselves and others.
This year, as the world returns to normal and the market corrects, we have the unique opportunity to change things up. Rather than a Zoom interview or a formal 1:1, we invited four powerhouse women to Spark HQ for an informal conversation about their career.
Principal, Valour Development Group
Manpreet Berar is one of my dearest friends so this interview was very special to me. As a friend and as an industry peer, it has been very cool watching her personal and professional development. Manpreet has honed a special quality about her that allows her to simplify complicated outlooks — her ‘matter of fact’ way of approaching complex challenges, is incredibly refreshing to remember when I’m drowning in my own excuses or complexities. I am incredibly excited that she agreed to sit down with me and share them for this feature.
Beginning her career about 12 years ago, she has successfully executed various roles and capacities related to the acquisition, development, sales and marketing of roughly 2,000 homes within BC’s Lower Mainland. She entered the industry as a Completions Coordinator for a highrise in Yaletown, and moved to a larger company joining the Sales and Marketing team where she progressed from Sales Assistant, to Sales Coordinator, into head office and eventually Sales Operations. After changing companies, she pivoted to Land Acquisitions and Development focusing primarily on deal underwriting, municipal entitlements and supporting overall strategic decisions.
“I see real estate development as a puzzle and it was a goal of mine to be able to speak to every part of that puzzle.”
Manpreet breaks her defining moments into micro and macro instances which include deals, projects and the lessons learned from them. Focusing on a pivotal project where there were many challenges : “There was one specific project that had many complexities. We had servicing constraints, dealt with metrovan, aggressive topography, extensive tree retention, an encumbering road network, and invasive species — we didn’t have every issue in the book, but there were many, and you get solution oriented very very quickly to ensure the project works, and apply those lessons and perspectives to future projects”.
I asked Manpreet if there was anything she wished had been accessible to her when she got her start in the industry — “I don’t look back and think ‘oh I wish this was available to me,’ I think it’s important to make decisions based on knowing where you want to go, so I would constantly seek and reach out to people I knew were already there or had done what I was striving to do or learn.”
I resonate deeply with the importance of accessing and utilizing a variety perspectives, experiences or approaches. To this, Manpreet explains, “if there is something I didn’t know I went out and learned it. If there was something I found intimidating, I questioned why and tried to understand that. The more time you take to learn and understand, the less intimidated and fearful you are of something — it helps build confidence in general.”
Curious about the impactful pieces of advice she’d been given, Manpreet shared a story of a lunch meeting she sought out with a woman leader in construction in which Manpreet asked her about the overall challenges she faced in the construction industry, the leader replied– ‘as long as you know what you are talking about, no one can ever say anything to you’–“I always carry that with me.” I found this quite striking, and although it may seem obvious, Manpreet summed it up perfectly by stating that “to be successful you have to know what your strengths are, but you really have to know what your weaknesses are.”
“Knowing your weaknesses more than your strengths is an advantage.”
For Manpreet, “discipline and consistency are huge.” She explains that there can be “5–10% of something you don’t love to do, but that small percentage is imperative. I think if you are disciplined and consistent, doing the things you may not necessarily enjoy pour over into things that are incredibly important and ultimately help you achieve your goals and be successful.”
And successful she is. Asking about the upcoming projects her company, Valour Development Group will be bringing to market in the Fraser Valley in the future, she energetically shared— “I am excited about the projects we’ve been working on but, I am also excited about what our peers are doing in the industry and I’m really looking forward to seeing them launch their projects and be successful. I think it will be fun to see that over the next 12–18 months.”
This sentiment of community extends to the fact that what is being achieved by Valour, is an authentic and tangible mission to build homes and further develop communities, “It’s not about us, it is about the homes we’ve built and will be building. It is about the customers, the homeowners, the families that are going to live in them now and in the future,” and that is a leading driver for Manpreet, “I don’t see it as ‘have to,’ I get to. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to do what I do and I feel very grateful for that. It’s just our job to do great work.”
As we discussed the notion of balance and navigating career, family and friendships, Manpreet expressed, “I don’t think there is any such thing as balance. I think there is a spectrum and sometimes you are more busy than other days, and sometimes you have more time for family than other days, and I think you sort of navigate that movement, but I love the work and I love what I do so there are no concerns there.” Manpreets philosophy of loving what you do and doing what you love, leads to the advice she would give to someone who one day wants to be doing what she is and she shares, “what I tell my younger sister is that you can do anything you want, it will just depend on how hard you want to work. It is entirely up to you.”
“That’s the beauty of life: You get to constantly learn new things and I think it’s a mistake if you stop learning. It is a mistake if you stop asking questions. There is always more to explore.”