How did you get involved in TMA?
Kelley McLaren, CTP
Michele: I joined the restructuring industry 20 years ago and got involved with TMA 15 years ago. BDO has always been supportive of TMA and with its strong presence in New York, I saw the organization had a great mix of age ranges, backgrounds, and areas of specialty.
I have served on the Programming Committee and now I am chair of the NOW Committee for TMA New York City.
I got involved through my previous company in California. I was looking for an organization for networking and business development opportunities and my CEO at the time was active in TMA and introduced me to the organization.
Hot topics in our community are: Leading Change, Successes and Failures, Mentorship/Sponsorship, and Earning the Role. Have you had any experiences in any of these areas that made a strong impact on you?
Michele: Yes, through taking on the role of NOW Chair, I am hoping to lead change. In the restructuring industry women's roles have become greater, but we are now at a turning point where we can help junior women more. We have a stronger voice than we did in the past and we have to use it.
In the current climate we are living, it is important to spark conversations on how women can support each other in all facets. This also plays into mentorship. It is important to know who you have in your corner who can build you up both personally and professionally. We as women think we cannot fail but we have to be okay with failing and not take it personally. We need to embrace our strengths and weaknesses and capitalize on them. Women need to understand that we are such a vital and significant part of the world around us.
Regarding raises I have had both successes and failures. I've had experiences of walking into a room, demanding what my raise should be based on my level of competence and work and receiving that raise.
Unfortunately I have also experienced failure in this arena due to my thought at the time that I did not need assistance from my male counterparts. I worked closely on a team with three male counterparts and I was the only one who went into the salary negotiations and was undercut. When I shared this with my male colleagues, they suggested all four of us negotiate together but I declined because I felt I did not need them. It was a learning moment in my career where there are times it is okay to accept your male counterparts' assistance and there are times when you need to stand on your own.
In regards to mentorship, I believe it is great to have more than one mentor and important to also have a male mentor. The benefit of a male mentor is he will provide non-gendered advice.
In your opinion, what's the most exciting/interesting trend or event happening in the turnaround and restructuring industry?
Michele: I think what is both exciting and nerve-racking is that we have been in a stall mode the last few years waiting for the other shoe to drop. We are living in a new world as evidenced by the upheaval in non-traditional lenders in the market as well as the light speed of technology. We are holding our breath to see what's going to happen next, but this is also exciting as the old conventions are out the window.
In our industry, the amount of time spent negotiating has shifted, we do not have time to waste anymore. You've got to come in with a fresh idea and be able to act on it immediately.
I think the most interesting trend is what is happening in the retail sector. Retail takes up such a large portion of commercial real estate and affects so many aspects of it such as employees and bog box spaces.
What is happening in retail is reflective of what is happening in America,
i.e., how people shop. People talk about the "Amazon effect" but I think it's the "smart phone effect." People utilize their smart phones for so many services.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
Michele: Do not try to use someone else's recipe for success...what works for someone else may not work for you.
Do not use someone else's definition of success. We as a society tend to see success in very black and white ways and defined by gender. Define success your own way.
Do not automatically accept stereotypical female roles in meetings,
do not volunteer to be the secretary. If you genderize yourself, then you will always be genderized.
We have so many underlying biases and we need to be cognizant of them.
What would someone who only knows you professionally be surprised to learn about you?
Michele: I have been writing fiction since I was in my teens.
I grew up in Southern California and was an avid surfer.