In this episode the Propcast talks to Adam Stanley from Cushman and Wakefield about diversity, talent and race.
Click here to listen to Episode 10.
The Propcast by Louisa Dickins, co-Founder of LMRE the leading Global PropTech recruiter brought to you in partnership with UK PropTech Association, The UK PropTech Association is a membership organisation to drive the digital transformation of the property industry. This show will focus on connecting the PropTechs, real estate funds and VC’s globally…and get everyone talking about innovation of the build to rent environment.
About Our Host
Louisa started her career in property working at a well-known estate agency in London. Realising her people skills, she moved over to Lloyd May to pursue a career in recruitment. She now is a Director at LMRE, who are a specialist recruitment firm driven by PropTech and recruitment professionals, and Louisa oversees their 5 core areas. Louisa co-founded LMRE and provides a constructive recruitment platform to the new disruptors in real estate. Louisa is also on the board of Directors at UK PropTech Association (UKPA).
LMRE believe there is a better way to recruit. LMRE focus on a more comprehensive, client led focus delivering exceptional talent to the right place at the right time. They are passionate about the industry and passionate about people’s careers. LMRE spend time with each client to become and an extension of the business, and their transparency and core values help them grow with the sector. LMRE simplify recruitment and innovate with our clients and evolve the people driven, PropTech community.
About Our Guest
Adam Stanley is the Chief Information Officer and Chief Digital Officer for Cushman & Wakefield and is responsible for all client facing and colleague technology worldwide. A member of the executive team of this $8.8 Billion revenue company that provides comprehensive real estate solutions to clients in 70 countries, that offers cloud first, mobile friendly solutions. Adam has over 20 years of achievement in driving value from technology investments, and has implemented leading SaaS platforms like Workday, Salesforce, Microsoft 365, zsvaler, and Crowdstrike.
LMRE website www.lmre.co.uk
UKPA website www.ukpa.com
Cushman & Wakefield website www.cushmanwakefield.com
Adam Stanley’s blog www.adamlstanley.com/connections
Key Insights In this Episode
Hi, everyone, and welcome to the podcast. My name is Louisa Dickins, co-founder of LMRE and board director of the UKPA and I shall be your weekly host. Each week for 30 minutes we will be connecting with VCs, PropTech startups and real estate professionals globally and assist in bridging that famous communication gap we all love talking about. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Hi, everyone, and welcome back to the podcast. Today we’ll be discussing racial diversity within the real estate technology space, and today we’re joined by Adam Stanley, global CIO of Cushman and Wakefield. So welcome to the show, Adam.
Thank you so much, glad to be here.
And now let me give everyone who’s listening today an introduction to Adam’s bio. And so Adam provides strategic operation direction for Cushman and Wakefield’s client facing and colleague technology systems and infrastructure across all business lines and markets. As global CIO and Chief Digital Officer and a member of the Global Managing Board, he advocates for the best solutions for the best clients supported by the best talent. Now in addition to driving the advancement of technology across the firm, Adam is equally focused on the advancement of people, establishing an inclusive company culture and creating talent development opportunities. He’s an executive sponsor for Unity, the firm’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, in addition to being an active member of Build, Blacks United In Leadership and Development, and he’s an advisor for the Black Equity Task Force and he also serves on the board for Cushman & Wakefield’s Charitable Foundation. And everyone who’s listening, I’m sure you recognise the Cushman & Wakefield business, it’s a leading global real estate service firm with over 53,000 employees and 400 offices in 60 countries , it’s massive, but going into a little bit more about Adam’s 20 plus years industry experience.
Adam is a change agent with a proven success driving growth, performance talent retention and innovation. And an under Adam’s leadership, Cushman & Wakefield was named to the CIO 100 for 2018, 2016 and 2015 by CIO magazine. And he’s also been named by Huffington Post as most social CEOs, which I’d love to hear how you get that that title Adam. But prior to joining Cushman & Wakefield, Adam served as technology and security services Director for Aviva PLC. Adams numerous global and us leadership roles have included serving as the global Chief Technology offer Officer of Aon and has also spent nearly 10 years in the famous Deloitte Consulting Group. Adam has served on the board of directors of GATX Corporation since 2019, and is active in the PropTech startup community. He serves as a mentor and advisor to multiple accelerators, while serving on the board of directors of CEC 1871, which is one of America’s top incubators. And now, Adam, how you have enough hours in the day to cram this in I do not know, but nonetheless I appreciate you joining us on the podcast. So welcome again, and I would love to start the conversation. Today we’re talking about the importance of creating a diverse industry, which is notoriously difficult when you have two industries famously un-diverse combine, these industries of the real estate and technology. And so maybe we can kick start with telling the audience a bit about your journey before becoming Global CIO and Chief Digital Officer of one of the world’s largest real estate organisations?
Yes, it’s really funny, when you think through the diversity, for better or for worse my entire career I’ve been often the only in the room. The only black male, the only gay male, whatever that that group is, I’ve always been kind of the only one so you almost get kind of dulled to it after a while, and that’s the risk because you can’t take it for granted because if you take it for granted, you stop working to fix the problem. But definitely one interesting experience when I went into my first commercial real estate room, a massive conference coordinate where lots of folks go, I walked into this room and that’s when you’re just confronted with just how big of a diversity problem commercial real estate has. I had never been in a room so white, so male before and definitely was interesting. So I love the fact that you point out that technology has a diversity problem and commercial real estate has a diversity problem. So that intersection is a pretty big challenge.
And why did you choose this route to go into real estate and technology? What was your first role, a bit of a shock one of your one of your first conferences, but how why did he go into that industry?
Yes, well first of all, I’m a glutton for punishment and I like complex challenges! If you look at my career, I fought technology for years, when I was in consulting at Deloitte, I was a very proudly part of the strategy practice. I did M&A work, I did joint venture advisory work, strategic cost reduction programs, and anytime anyone said Adam, we need you on this client pitch or proposal for this technology engagement, I fought it tooth and nail. And the partners are Deloitte still tease me about it. Some of the partners that I work with, they’re like, “Wait, you’re a CIO now?!” because for years I fought it, but the reason I ended up getting into technology wasn’t because I was interested in technology, per se. It was because I was interested in leadership and at the time, and to some extent even today, there’s such a lack of leadership within the technology space, that there is an opportunity to fill a gap. And that’s what I love to do. I love to try to fill gaps, they’re great people who understood servers and networks and coding, but they we horrible with people management and leadership and development and talking to business leaders about technology.
And that’s the gap that I found appealing and frankly, it’s what kept me interested for years. And when I started hearing about commercial real estate, a friend of mine who’s an executive recruiter, called me and said, “Hey, I’d love for you to talk to this small firm called DTZ” I said, “What’s that” and he said commercial real estate. I knew nothing about commercial real estate, but I saw logos and buildings that I’ve worked in and started listening to him and talking to DTZ, and found what were their challenges. They needed leadership, they need a change agents, they needed to fix things and I thought that sounds fun. And so I took the chance, and literally from the first conversation to me actually joining the company was only 45 days, so really, really fast. And I came in and found that indeed they did have a leadership challenge. So it’s been a lot of fun.
So you’re a man that loves a challenge, what would you say when you first joined DTZ, now Cushman & Wakefield, what would you say the biggest challenge there was? And how did you manage it or get control over it?
Yes, I think first of all the biggest challenge was very similar to my challenge at Aon. And so to some extent, I almost call myself kind of the father who gets a chance to raise his kids again, and learn from the mistakes the first time. And what was similar between the two companies is they’ve grown by a series of acquisitions. And typically when you make a series of acquisitions, you have a choice to either do a massive integration right away, or when it’s very often the case, you just kind of make the cosmetic changes like the business cards, the logos, maybe the website, and then behind the scenes you don’t really do much other than that. And I think that’s really what had been the case. So really, when I came in, I was presiding over five different organisations instead of one. And so the biggest challenge was to decide how quickly do you try to change that, and in my experience, it’s akin to a bandage. It’s just, it may hurt more. But if you make the change as rapidly as possible, you can actually long-term gain so much more than trying to do things over a slow period of time. So my first effort was in essence, creating one global team, ripping all of these people from various organisations, and putting them into one team so that they felt like they were one team. So that was my starting point, how do I do that? How do I make all of these people feel like they are part of one big problem to solve instead of five small problems to solve?
It’s bringing in plenty of different people from different roles and getting them to share ideas, and also hopefully, innovate? I mean, that’s how we all progress, isn’t it? How we also to communicate across teams. After taking on that challenge, Adam, how long did it take you to do it? These are challenges every business is facing is bringing people together, so what’s the secret sauce?
No, so first of all, there is absolutely no secret sauce! And there going to be people that work with me now that are listening to this podcast, and they’re going to remember the painful parts of the journey. But sometimes, this is where Adam the “hokey guy” kind of comes in, because sometimes the thing that a lot of technology leaders miss, and a lot of commercial real estate people miss is everyone has this desire to belong, and everyone talks about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The piece that everyone always forgets that just belonging and ultimately, it’s the sense of belonging that brings out the best in people, the best in your folks, and sometimes creating that belonging is actually easier than fixing any of the other problems.
So there’s simple things that we did, we created an award that we called Go Red For Culture, and red was our color. So we had we bought Cassidy Turley, Cassidy Turley was a green logo. We bought DTZ, that was a blue logo, we bought Cushman and Wakefield, and they had a red logo. DTZ in Europe, the company’s was red. And so we jokingly referred to all of these colors kind of coming together and we collectively, as a company decided this was our logo. Our logo is going to be this red logo that’s all these companies coming together. And so we created this award called the Go Red Award and it acknowledged people who intentionally went out of their way to connect with people from different legacy organisations to solve problems. And so I know that the DTZ did it this way, and Cassidy Turley did it this way, and Cushman and Wakefield did it another way, but this award was someone who said, I don’t care about all of those legacies, we want to figure out the best way to do it for the new company. And that award was a coveted award and we came out Spirit Awards, and we gave money for these. And then at the end of the year, we’d have these videos where each team was encouraged to come up with a creative video depicting their year and what they accomplished that year. And we did all of these hokey things that are not typical technology, certainly not commercial real estate things, to create out of the sense of belonging. And that was really key.
And these are just these like initiatives or ideas that people just wouldn’t automatically think of, and these awards are brilliant. Lots of businesses for many years now in a corporate startups, they’re all looking at hiring diversity, but also making sure teams work collaboratively and their unified. When did you see businesses really start to take this seriously? Everyone talks about it being on their agendas, whether people do a call to action and start actually making moves, Cushman & Wakefield has been at the forefront of this, when did you start to see more headway being made?
Well the real answer, if I’m honest, is that hasn’t happened yet. I think that what’s happened now, and I think that this was brought forward in large part based on George Floyd’s murder back in May, which was kind of this watershed event where you almost need this unquestionably wronged act to occur in order for everyone to think about all of those grains that occurred prior to. So it’s a weird thing, because there’s been equity imbalance or there’s been inequity issues for years. There’s paid differences between the genders, there’s tremendous inequity when it comes to race, especially in the United States. Unemployment of African Americans is twice that of white Americans, the wealth gap of the average black family has something like $2,000 of wealth, the average white family has an average of around $140,000 of wealth. So there are all these really obvious things that have clearly existed for years. But it took literally a law enforcement officer kneeling for eight and a half minutes on someone’s neck, to really get people to think “Wait a second, hold on, there’s, there is a massive problem” and I think that that’s a good thing. And it’s created all of these conversations, that would not have happened before. The challenge is going to be turning that passion, that reaction to something that was so blatantly wrong into measurable objectives going forward. And I think that’s the only way we’re actually going to see improvements.
So right now, bravo to all of the companies, all of the CEOs out there who’ve made their statements. Bravo to everyone who’s hired, or changed their Chief Diversity Officers, bravo to everyone who signed on to the CEO Equality pledge, all of those things are fantastic symbolic gestures that really get the conversation going. The change is only going to occur when those same CEOs have equity and compensation targets tied to diversity and inclusion, because you only manage what you measure. And a statement is great but the first time a CEO has his pay reduced or doesn’t get a bonus because he hasn’t moved the needle on gender equity, because he hasn’t moved the needle on racial equity, that’s when you’ll really start seeing change occur. And that’s why I’m hopeful more companies will do that. I’m hopeful that the institutional shareholder groups will start demanding that and that’s when you’ll start to see the change.
Yes, I think what I’ve seen globally, is that these large institutions, agencies, lots of them didn’t have the Head of Diversity in place, they’ve started making moves to make these hires, not enough have them. They are putting all these structures in place, and it takes forever to put all these structures in place, we wish it could happen to the sooner. I’m currently working in HR teams who are in until they make these Heads of Diversity hires who are pushing for a more diverse talent pool, they find it extremely difficult. And from a person who hires people, I go to market, it’s my job to provide a diverse candidate range, but I think it’s also about attracting people and making real estate technology available for everyone. Do you think there’s maybe a lack of accessibility from a younger age to this? What can we do to get more diverse people from all backgrounds, races, genders into this space, because there’s a massive challenge there as well?
Yes, there is. And I would answer the question with two phases. So the first one is, there’s a fallacy out there that says, it’s impossible for me to find diverse talent. And so that’s the first thing. So there are too many people that are currently in the workforce, that are trying to find jobs to build their careers for me to accept any one thing, that is the talent isn’t there. So the first thing I would say to people listening would be, try harder. And I’ve talked with our head of talent and acquisition, and it’s just there’s this philosophy within the black community, we jokingly refer to it as one degree of separation. Meaning, if you mentioned the name of one person that you know who’s a professional degreed technologist, most likely I’ll know that person as well, or I’ll know one person removed. And so if you come to me and ask for a candidate for a role, it’s highly likely that I’ll be able to give you a diverse candidate for that role. If you ask some of your white male colleagues, they will be less likely to know the diverse tenants. It’s just a fact of life and a fact of relationship. So the first thing I would say is definitely try harder to find those candidates, and don’t assume just because the headhunter that you’ve always used can’t find your diverse candidate, that that candidate doesn’t exist. But the second thing I’d say is you’re spot on, you absolutely have to start at a younger age. Yesterday, I watched a fantastic movie called Enola Holmes, and I never even heard of it before but it was a is a story of Sherlock Holmes.
It’s on Netflix right now isn’t?
Yes I loved the movie and immediately wanted all of the little girls and little boys in my life to watch this movie. Because it’s just fascinating, it’s just a theory of starting at a young age to inspire this interest in science and technology and engineering and math. So yes, you have to start a lot younger, and so I applaud organisations like Inroads out there who are intentionally trying to get people in high school into internships from diverse populations. But you’ve got to look harder for the advanced career talent that’s out there, then you have to work harder to start younger, to find that talent, for sure.
Then speaking of inspiration, everyone’s always looking for senior management and leaders in that space are more experienced and in the senior roles whether it’s power to look up to and see how they’ve grown in the in real estate technology. A lot of them in real estate come from very similar profiles, and we need a lot of change at the junior level and at the senior level, it’s all parts of the tree. And now, another thing I would love to talk about as well for an employer or an employee listening in, what do they need to do to evoke change and balance? We spoke about inside, but what about outside of work?
Yes, I think that’s an excellent question. And I and I think that there’s one piece of advice I always give to my, I call them the straight white men and first of all, I want to make absolutely sure that people realise no one is the enemy. If you’re really trying to build an inclusive culture, diversity means all of the above. So diversity includes all genders, all races, all sexual orientation, it includes everyone. So there is no bad guy. And so, by default in diversity conversations, you start to refer to your straight white male friends, and they feel like they have a target on their back and they’re the bad guys, and that’s absolutely not the case. It is unfortunately the case that historically straight white men have gotten the leadership roles. And if you look at the Fortune 500 if you look at the FTSE 100, look at any index, the leadership tends to be straight white males. So the advice that I give to my friends that are in that bucket is not to feel bad about being in that bucket, but it’s to look around every meeting that you enter, or every event that you’re enter into, and just see what the audience looks like. What does your circle look like, and if you walk into a company boardroom, and everyone looks like you just think about that for a second. But in your personal life, do the exact same thing. If you walk into your church, if you walk into your local grocery store, if you walk into a theater that you go to, or a restaurant that you go to on a regular basis, just look around you and see if everyone there looks the same as you.
And if you find that the case in the majority of your life experiences, try to change your life experiences a bit so that you can experience different views and experiences. Because that’s really the beauty of life is that you get these opportunities to learn from different people. And if you’re not learning from different people in your personal life, then it’s going to be even harder for you to learn from people in your professional life. So change it up a bit, go to a different restaurants, try different cuisine, go to a restaurant in a different neighborhood, so that you can start to experience difference. And then you can bring those experiences into your work environment. And I think those the little things will make such a huge difference, because you have something else that you can talk about. You have another kind of factoid in your repertoire when you’re talking to your colleagues, you can talk about the Ethiopian restaurant that you went to over the weekend with your colleagues, someone around you is going to be listening. And they’re going to think, oh, wow, he went to that place, okay, I know that neighborhood. And they’re going to feel much more comfortable coming to you and talking to you about something else.
Yes, my first job, it was in real estate sales. And my business basically taught us to do that and said every person you meet, you should be able to find at least six plus ones. And a plus one is something you have in common. Every person you meet, maybe someone really difficult, that’s what you should be able to have and you should be able to share about six different experiences, and just communicate with people like we’re all on this planet together. Now Adam, stepping away from this conversation, one of the bigger questions, so Huffington Post Top Social CIOs, is this from going to restaurant to restaurant, from town to town..! How do you get that title?
It’s just so funny to me because since that came out, there have been several lists, and even in commercial real estate now, there’s a long list of the Top 10 influencers within commercial real estate and I was on his list, and all these other lists have come out. And it’s really, really funny but it actually goes to the same thing that I was just talking about, which is how do you reach people where they are. And one of the things that I found when I came into commercial real estate is, it was such an insular industry. And I would go into a room and with my peers, or I go to a theory tech event or something like that, and you get into these conversations and it’s name dropping. Everyone is his name jumping. Everyone’s like, “Oh, I’ve worked with Peter. Oh, you’re talking about John”, and because I wasn’t part of the industry, I knew none of these people. And it was really a non-inclusive environment, because you’re going into a meeting and half the meeting is talking about people you don’t know. And so what I did is I said I have to find ways to really meet and connect. And what I found is that social media actually allowed me to meet people kind of outside the walls of the company, and that I wouldn’t have otherwise met and so it’s amazing. In my first 90 days at Cushman & Wakefield, I met more brokers through Twitter and LinkedIn than I met through the company onboarding processes, and I was able to make connections with those brokers.
And after I connected with them, I said “Okay, so just curious what technology do you use in the company? And how do you use technology?” It was interesting, because I could tell that some of them, that was the first time they’re like, “Oh, wait, he worked for Cushman, he’s our CIO” and then they actually use that in conversations. And so they would have their sales pitches, and they talk to startups that they’re trying to do business with or technology companies that are trying to do business with , like “Well, actually I’m actually friends with Adam’s family, our CIO, I’ll ask him that question”. And so over time, it became kind of almost more of a joke that I knew so many people in commercial real estate within the first a year of joining the industry, but it all came from Twitter and LinkedIn and all of these social things. And frankly, I think it’s really important, and it’s something that people from outside the industry, they’re watching us, it’s really important. And if you are able to have an outsized reputation in social media, it actually helps the company because the folks that wouldn’t otherwise consider going into a technology role in a commercial real estate firm, they’re like “Oh, but I see him out there, I see these people, they’re very active” and that actually gives me opportunities to recruit that I wouldn’t otherwise have. So even though it’s kind of tongue in cheek that I even mentioned, there is value in that, in a recruiter being able to say, “Hey, this is a person who would be your boss”, and being able to look up and see that he’s out there, I see who he talks to. And so, now it’s a negative? Possible, because I have to be careful and not overly political.
Well as long as you are not going on like Trump does, talking about China all over Twitter. I followed you on Twitter, a long time before we started to getting to know you and you tweet a lot but it’s a way of engaging with people, isn’t it? Especially nowadays, where we unfortunately can’t get to these conferences or restaurants as well. And so some beauty in that. Adam, I’m really conscious of your time here but we’re coming to the end of the podcast and I’m sure lots of people would like to follow you on Twitter here and you’re a thought leader in this space. But is there also any bit of parting advice you’d like to share the share with our audience? You speak on lots of these panels about evoking change, is there any call for action you want to leave us with? And then let us know, the best way for people to connect with you.
Yes, absolutely. So first of all, thank you again so much for inviting me to the podcast and letting me be a part of your platform, I really appreciate that. That’s an honor and I never take that for granted. I think what I would leave with all of the listeners, and this is whatever part of the population you represent – do more, however much you did this year to get to know someone different, to reach out to someone different, whatever you’ve done in the past, even if you think you’ve been stellar, do more next year. Look around the rooms that that you enter and see who’s there, and see who’s not there and do more to try to bring those folks that aren’t there into the room with you. If you have the opportunity to explore different neighborhoods, different restaurants, that’s great but also invite someone into your neighborhood, invite someone into the restaurant that you’d normally go to. So I think it’s very easy for you to forget that’s for someone like me, my entire life I have to be in a room that’s different. But it’s also valuable for you to kind of go and explore and bring people bring people in so do that.
The second piece that I would say is don’t be afraid to make a mistake or to say the wrong thing. The last thing that that I want and that I think the last thing that we need, are tons of people walking around on eggshells, afraid that they’re not going to be politically correct and afraid that they’re going to offend. I would rather you come and say something to me that is completely offensive so that I can correct you, then for you to just not come around me at all. And so I encourage you to have those conversations. That’s how change can happen. And the last thing I would say is, if you have not put into your personal development objectives something relating to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, change that. If you’re not getting the pressure from above, if you’re not getting the pressure from your HR, take it on yourself to establish something that you can measure yourself by, to move the needle when it comes to diversity and inclusion. And I think that if enough people do that, then you’ll start to see a groundswell of change, because you have to measure something, to manage it.
Thank you so much for that, Adam. And what is the best way for our listeners to connect with you?
I am very active on Twitter. And so here’s how I work, if you’re interested, I write a blog, and my blog is www.adamlstanley.com/connections that’s my blog. And if anyone is interested in some of my thinking and my rants on leadership and technology, that’s the best way. And that’s once a month or so. Twitter, it’s probably my every day three or four times a day, it will be a little bit more politics, leadership, society, culture, probably a broader range of topics. And then if you want the pure what am I doing, and what do I think about the corporate world, LinkedIn is the best way to connect with me there. So I would say, follow me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn or if you have time, check out a few of my blogs on www.adamlstanley.com
Awesome. look Adam, it’s been a pleasure having you on the podcast and I’m looking forward to catching up with you after the show.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Thank you for joining us this week on the podcast and a big thanks to our special guests. Make sure you visit our website www.lmre.co.uk where you can subscribe to our show, or you’ll find us on iTunes and Spotify where all good content is found. While you’re at it, if you found value in the show, we’d appreciate it if you could rate and review us on iTunes or if you simply spread the word. Be sure to tune in next Tuesday, and I’ll catch you later
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