Optima® Voices: Conversations with Our Property Teams is a series that brings you closer to the individuals who make our communities thrive. Through these interviews, we’re shedding light on the dedicated staff behind the seamless operation of Optima®’s properties, highlighting their passion, experiences, and the personal touches they bring to enhancing the living experience for residents. Join us as we explore the stories of those who deliver — day in and day out — the quality of living that makes Optima communities extraordinary. Today, we’re talking with Emily Etland, Chicago Regional Manager at Optima®.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima®.
I have been in property management for about 20 years.  I started in leasing and have worked in many different roles, at many different property types.  Most of my life was spent in New Orleans, and I moved to Chicago about 4 years ago.  While I’ve spent the last few years in the fee management side of property management, I was excited to join Optima® to work directly for a company that is fully involved with each of their assets from the start.  While each of my days at Optima® is different, my role as Regional Property Manager involves overseeing our 3 Chicago area properties — Optima Signature®, Optima Lakeview®, and Optima Verdana® — and their daily operations.  This can range from their financial performance, to staff performance, to building operations and so much more.  I also act as the conduit between our site and executive teams, ensuring our site teams always have a voice.

How did you begin your journey at Optima®?
I actually began my journey at Optima only seven months ago.  While I wasn’t really on a job hunt, a recruiter reached out to me about the position and piqued my interest and we spoke a bit.  After that, I had an in-person meeting with our Director of Operations, Jamie Springer, and learned what she feels makes Optima® unique.  I then had a chance to meet with two of our SVPs and the rest is history!

What drew you to Optima® initially?
When I first moved to Chicago, I took a position as Property Manager. With being new to the city, I wanted to get to know the market by being on-site and working directly with a single team. As I grew to know Chicago, I wanted to return to a regional role that I had played in New Orleans. The opportunity at Optima presented an exciting opportunity for me to not only oversee a group of communities, but to work for a company that is vertically aligned. So today, I’m part of a team where everyone works from start to finish to ensure a project is always developed and maintained to a high standard.

Optima® has a unique set of values that differentiates it from other company cultures. How does that affect the quality of your work life? What values matter most to you?
I think Optima®’s values serve as a solid anchor in some of the tougher situations that we face.  I can’t count how many times we’ll be struggling through a problem and someone will quote one of our values as a way forward, like “there is a solution to every problem” or “do the right thing even when it’s hard.”  And while we often share a laugh afterwards, the fact that we’ve all internalized these values is so powerful, and personally gives me the conviction to stop and adjust my attitude and approach to overcome doubt or a sense of defeat.

Of all the Optima® values, my favorite is “be bold.” It pairs with each of the other values…and amplifies them.  Or stands all on its own.  And it perfectly captures everything I do each day.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima®? How does it differ from other property management companies you’ve worked with?
It’s interesting, every property management company I’ve worked for has done events and strived to create a unique brand for each community, while aligning with the larger management brand.  What is different about Optima® is as soon as you walk into one of our buildings, you know you’re in an Optima® designed space because of the extraordinary modern design. But how do you know you’re in an Optima® community?  That’s all in the people.  As a team, we are completely focused on making sure our residents feel at home. As a result, our relationships begin long before our residents move in, when we reach out to conduct “getting to know you” calls to discover their interests, so we can be ready to provide them with the best experience possible from Day One. Because of these early connections, we’re able to curate events that cater to residents’ priorities, and help organize the clubs that reflect what people care about — book clubs, mahjong, pickleball, game nights and so on.  Living in an Optima® building is being part of a community, a place that feels like home.  Building strong, lasting relationships is at the core of what we do, and a staple in how we build community for our residents.

What are some things you’re learning since joining Optima®?
Since joining Optima®, I’ve been so impressed with just how much architecture can lead even the day-to-day operations of the property management side of the business. From terms we use to highlight things on a tour, to how we hang art in our models — so much detail!

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima® team?
I’m proud to be part of a team that wants to grow based on things we’re learning, and responding to areas that need improvement. Things at Optima® move fast (speed and detail set us apart), but it’s because we’re constantly evolving so that we’re able to execute things at the highest level possible.  We never want to settle for a mediocre result, we want to provide the best to our residents and our team.