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 Tracy Ratdavong, Assistant Property Manager at Optima Verdana®.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima Verdana.
I started in leasing and property management in Michigan very early in my professional career with a goal of moving to Chicago. In order to make this geographic move, I spent a few years in sales and technical recruiting. In one of my placements, I was recruiting candidates for a property management position and stayed connected with the individual who was eventually hired. I stayed in touch with her — only to find that she later recruited me for an assistant property manager role!

I feel like everything in my professional background has happened for a reason, including giving me the skills I need to manage lease-up and retain residents, provide great customer service, form lasting relationships, and build a strong team.

How did you begin your journey at Optima Verdana?
Prior to Optima Verdana, I assisted in managing two buildings that gave me exposure to the Illinois market. I heard great things about Optima and when I saw an opening, I immediately applied for the position. From the first meeting with the team, I felt an instant connection, which sparked my interest in working for such a great company. Every conversation I had during the interview process felt genuine and everyone on the team expressed how Optima cares equally for their residents and for their employees. I joined the team in May 2023 when Optima Verdana® opened to the public. Since then, I have been a part of the journey with the development and completion of this beautiful community, as we welcomed our first residents in August and completed construction in November.

What drew you to Optima Verdana initially?
I was really drawn to the Optima Verdana team from our very first conversation.  Everyone was so welcoming and had nothing but great things to say. They made me feel like they were truly happy in their roles and that made me excited to have a chance to be a part of that team.  I also really loved the fact that all our design, development, and management is all in-house. This really made me feel like I was going to have a real voice in managing this new community and that my ideas could help contribute to the success of our new building.

How do you view the concept of community at Optima Verdana? How does it differ from other properties/buildings?
To me when I hear community, I think of togetherness — and at Optima Verdana, it truly feels like everyone is family. We have residents who meet up throughout the week for pickleball and on the Sky Deck just to enjoy each other’s company. And because so many of our residents have been with us since the very beginning, they love coming by our office, excited to share great news about their lives. This is unlike anywhere I have ever worked or lived. We strive to provide the best service to our residents and give them not only a home, but a lifestyle catered to their individual needs. At Optima Verdana, we are a true community, and our team and residents work together to create an inviting environment that feels like home.

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?
Building strong lasting relationships has always been important to me and with Optima, everyone applies this together as a team and with our residents.

The support I have gotten from my team and management has helped me grow in so many ways. Everyone wants to help each other succeed and this value flows every day into the Optima culture. I believe you are who you surround yourself with and here at Optima, across all the various properties and corporate offices, we are an incredibly strong team, and we inspire each other.

What are some things you’re learning since joining the Optima Verdana team?
By being connected with our entire team, I have learned so much from every group. Starting from my early days at Optima, I was part of the construction meetings. I learned about the development and overall project management, which has helped me understand Optima Verdana in much greater depth. It has given me more knowledge so I can speak with current and future residents with more confidence and detail. Since welcoming our first residents, I have learned something new every day. I routinely work with our marketing, accounting, and asset management teams, which has pushed me out of my comfort zone to undertake new challenges. This has been rewarding in so many ways and I continue to open my mind to the endless possibilities at Optima.

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima Verdana team?
I am most proud to represent a team that strives to give the best and be the best. Everyone cares and encourages each other. Optima has built an incredible reputation and continues to stand out in terms of architectural design, concern for sustainability, attracting and retaining exceptional professionals, and providing a great place to work. I take pride in saying I work for such an amazing company!