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Part of the Crew

Exciting and fun—just two of the many words that can be used to describe what it’s like to be part of the multidisciplinary CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Network

Pass the Word
When business development manager Leslie K. Whitby (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) moved to Philadelphia in 1994, the only people she knew were Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Antonio Banderas—rather, she was familiar with the characters they played in the movie classic, Philadelphia. This was a problem: in business development, who you know matters as much as what you know.

Twenty-one years later, Leslie is one of Stantec’s most experienced and enthusiastic business development managers. And she credits a large part of her success to the contacts she’s made through the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Network. “If there’s an opportunity anywhere in the city, you’ll hear about it through CREW,” Leslie says.

CREW Network was founded in 1989 to advance the achievements of women in commercial real estate. With 9,000 members from every major market across North America, the group offers powerful connections to engineers, architects, lawyers, and others with a professional interest in that sector. Members meet regularly to talk shop, network, and fundraise for worthy causes.

Anchors Aweigh
It helps that CREW events are fun. Leslie, a five-year veteran of the membership committee of her local chapter and its soon-to-be chair, advocates that every CREW event—including the annual membership drive—should include three critical things: chocolate, champagne, and conversation.

Shortly after Stantec principal and architect Maria Wilpon (New York, New York) joined her local chapter, she attended a CREW event on a beautiful twentieth-century boat, sailing from Manhattan along the Hudson River. While mingling with other chapter members, Maria listened to a lively talk about the history of New York’s famous skyline. Later, as she stepped off the boat, she had the image of the sun setting behind the Brooklyn Bridge seared into her memory—and business cards from 12 new professional contacts in her hand.

All Hands on Deck
But Maria’s favorite aspect of CREW is the wide variety of professional women she meets. “CREW brings smart women from various backgrounds together, so members connect with different people working in many disciplines and areas of practice,” Maria says.

Why is this important? “Research shows that diverse teams come up with better solutions,” says Judith Nitsch, founder of Nitsch Engineering and 2014 national president of CREW. “And by diverse, I don’t just mean in terms of discipline or training, but also in age, sexuality, and ethnicity as well.”

CREW drives creativity by encouraging diversity and conversations across disciplines—something that’s also important to Stantec. That’s why CREW has attracted the attention of Stantec leaders like chief human resources officer Emree Siaroff (Toronto, Ontario). It’s also led Stantec to sponsor CREW at the international level. “CREW’s kind of multidisciplinary networking is very promising for us at Stantec because of our integrated service model and involvement in so many market sectors,” Maria says.

Maria Wilpon (left) and Leslie K. Whitby both leverage CREW Network to advance their careers—and have fun.

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