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Sisters at the center of influence (SATCOI) is a group of young, successful, and accomplished women, with each one in a leadership role. Each woman has a unique story in their leadership journey and each one is constantly striving to better themselves by continuously learning. SATCOI is a community where it’s safe for these leaders to grow together as they share experiences, victories, challenges, defeats and challenges with other strong women. By highlighting each woman’s story, it can be helpful and impactful towards the next generation of young leaders, both women and men.

To start off the SATCOI series, I want to highlight Rachel Chang, the Marketing Manager of Legacy West! Rachel embodies fearlessness in a way that reminds you to experience, explore, and ask questions. From her story, she reminds us that you matter and that you absolutely should take up space. Everybody gets scared, but Rachel teaches us how to handle the fear and change that is inevitable in life. We can all learn something from Rachel Chang.

Q: Hi Rachel! Tell me a little about your job role and what a day in your life looks like?

A: Hey! So I am the marketing manager of Legacy West, which is a large mix-use property in Plano, which is in North Texas. There’s some retail, restaurants, corporate offices, and residences and to be honest, a day in my life looks different every day, depending upon the priorities. I like to tell people that my job is broken up into buckets. One is tenant relations, working with the 57 or so tenants and making sure they’re up to date on promotions. As well as other things such as how traffic is doing in the stores, initiatives on marketing and how to drive sales. Second bucket is community relations, which is making sure that I meet people- meeting customers, people that are visiting the property, people that are visiting the city, people of the city of Plano, chamber of commerce, local publications, things like that. Another aspect of my job that’s important is events and programming, which is all the fun stuff on property like music programming, outdoor fitness classes, happy hour hikes. The last bucket is the actual marketing through social and digital channels. And then there’s some out-there stuff that falls under my belt like helping pick out what flowers go into our landscaping, little things like that you wouldn’t expect as part of the job, but that’s part of the fun!

Q: Did you always want to do this?

A: *Laughs* No, I told my dad when I was young that I loved jingles in commercials and I wanted to work for an ad agency, but my dad said that I liked math too much and should be an architect. It cracks me up now because my dad’s a civil engineer, my brother’s in construction management, and my mom’s in interior design so I told him I know you’re just trying to start a family business! But I wanted to be an architect since I was twelve and went to school for architecture and then was in the industry after graduating and realized I hated it. All the parts of my job that I loved had nothing to do with my industry, it was all business related and soul-sucking for me. I quit without a plan, took a bit of a sabbatical. Something one of my former bosses said to me when I was leaving the industry was “don’t just apply for positions you’re qualified for, apply to companies you’re passionate about.” So I knew about this place called the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and applied for a front desk role and took the job. It was probably the most fun job I’ve ever had in my life. I got to meet entrepreneurs and play ping pong and serve coffee. Then I got promoted to the director of events and programs position and I got to handle projects like Dallas Startup week. I got to meet Gary Vaynerchuck, he signed one of my books and was a really cool guy. I tagged along into meetings I found interesting and I just wanted to know about all these entrepreneurs and it was cool being in the same room as these people. I got to meet people in Dallas through that. Then I got recruited for an accelerator in Dallas, worked there for a year, traveled a lot to Europe and looked at new tech startups. Then went on to be general manager at a coworking startup called the Riveter and it was female focused. So, I like to call myself an ‘experience explorer’ and I’ve spent a lot of time doing that. I like to talk about this, because for a lot of women especially, it can be really daunting to switch careers. We ask ourselves if you don’t check all the boxes, do you even apply for it? What my early twenties taught me is that this is the time in my life to try different things, before I find the thing that I want to dedicate my life to. Because you have to work for the next forty years of your life, so if you spend 3, 4, 5, or 10 years looking at different industries and different jobs then you still have quite a bit of time to work. And it’s the majority of your day so I took that to heart. When I applied for the job at Legacy West, I applied for the digital assets producer position and then after the interview they told me they’re not going to hire me for that job, but that they have a marketing manager position that they haven’t posted it, but it’s the position above and they thought I would be a great fit for it. So, it’s my first job in marketing and my first job in real estate, but I love it. I get to incorporate a lot of the aspects of my previous careers into what I do now.

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self and/or younger girls?

A: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t feel like you have to dedicate your life to the first thing you find interesting and some people do, but studies show an astronomically large number of people don’t actually use their degree. One of the things that took me so long to leave the architecture industry was this feeling that I found success in this industry and people were rooting for me here, but I didn’t love it. It was really hard because I felt a lot of pressure and thinking “what are people going to think” and I remember a classmate called me when I quit saying “oh my god if you don’t make it, how am I going to?” There’s a lot of pressure to have it all figured out, but the reality is you have time. I would encourage people to have grace on themselves and give themselves a chance, have fun and explore. This is the time in your life to do it, even if you’re 40 years old. It’s never too late. A better question would be what’s advice you wish you had taken. I think I am where I am from listening to my mentors and the guidance that was given in my life, but people consistently told me to slow down, enjoy myself, and remove the pressure I put on myself and I didn’t listen then, but I’m trying now!

Q: Did you have trouble with glass ceilings in your career or being the only woman in the room?

A: I have historically been in industries that are male-dominated and I personally have not experienced much of the horror stories that you hear go on in the corporate world, but I have witnessed it throughout my entire career. It is a reality. Especially with one company that I worked for, I won’t mention which one, but they had a very public image of protecting those kinds of instances and internally it was completely different from what they portrayed. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to find the success that I have, but I also have a lot of privileges. I am of middle class race, white, female, college educated, and I am six feet tall so men have to look at me in the face when they talk to me. As I do get older, the more I feel like there’s no room for error when you’re a female, which is the hardest part as you get further into your career. I’ve had advantages, but I have also worked really hard and I wish I could offer more insight, but those instances do exist. I remember in my first job out of college, the presidents of my company had a presentation and talked about their five year plan and how they were going to double the size of the company. When they got to the leadership side, it was all older white males. Towards the end of the presentation, they asked if anyone had any questions and I was the youngest person in the room and I asked them “with the intent to double the company and foster new talent, how do you expect to retain someone like me who looks at that leadership side and isn’t represented? Why stay with the company, if a female like me, if I’m not represented, how will I know if I’m ever going to have access to those opportunities?” They actually had a good response and shared that this was a problem within their company and they gave actionable steps that they were taking. I wish they had included that in the actual presentation! Afterwards a lot of the women that were managers in the company came up to me and thanked me for asking that question and that they were too nervous to ask that question. Those women were getting to the point of leadership, but didn’t know these opportunities were available until I asked that question. I probably sound more aggressive now recounting the story, but I imagine that at the time I was more nervous. It was a question worth asking, I was genuinely curious if there was space for me.

Q: What are the most important qualities of leadership to you?

A: Having integrity at the end of the day and persevering. I want to focus on how I make other people feel rather than how they make me feel. I want to be honorable in the work that I do. Also gracious with the people around me. When I was young I had a difficult time with managing a team, and I made a girl cry and I felt really bad about it, and that girl is a great friend of mine now. Also, I want to bring my quirky personality and be myself without worrying about presenting a certain image to my team. I’m still not at the point of my career where I have done a lot of leading, but I am learning for that next step of leadership. That’s the legacy I want, that people feel better or are better having known me. That if they hear my name, they have a reaction like “Rachel? Yes I love that girl!”

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