Team Member Spotlight: Amanda Johnson

At Optima, our communities would not thrive without the outstanding work from our spirited team of individuals. We recently sat down with Amanda Johnson, Marketing Associate at Optima, to discuss why she loves being part of such a passionate team and what she has learned throughout her experience here.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima.

Before joining Optima, I held various Marketing and Graphic Design positions for a handful of industries including Interior Design, Travel & Tourism, Hospitality, and Commercial Real Estate. Today, I’m the Marketing Associate at Optima and work alongside the Marketing Director, Ali Burnham, to manage and implement all aspects of the company’s marketing and brand management strategy on both a corporate and property level.

What drew you to Optima?

Tarryn, Optima’s wonderful People Experience Recruiter, reached out to me on LinkedIn and spoke with such positivity and excitement about the role and company, so I naturally had to learn more. Immediately after meeting with Ali, I became even more excited about the opportunity and the wide variety of projects I could potentially work on ranging from resident event flyers to presentations and digital advertisements to demographic research. It seemed like a job I could never get bored with where there was always something different to work on.

But the projects weren’t the only thing that drew me in. Optima’s culture, values, and mission stood out to me. To me, it’s always been important to find a company that aligns with my own values and beliefs (i.e. good work-life balance, volunteer opportunities, relationship-building events, etc) and Optima seemed like a great fit. The rest is history!

How do you view the concept of community at Optima? 

The concept of community is more-so a feeling at Optima. It’s easy for people to work together or live under the same roof, but it’s the strong sense of community that we strive for– we want them to feel at home. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the everyday lives of our residents and team members.

For example, we have a growing number of families at our properties with young children. Of course, we have many events that cater towards adults, but we wanted more ways to get the kids involved. In efforts to do so, we came up with a Kids’ Club at each of our properties which includes a rotating calendar of events, giveaways, and a move-in folder full of goodies (i.e. property treasure hunt, Optima coloring book, crayons, Kids’ Club passport, etc). Whether it’s through experiences, conveniences, or a change in design or features, we encourage feedback and take the initiative to go above and beyond.

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? 

“Speed and detail set us apart” is the value that resonates the most with me. I work on projects for all properties plus our corporate office that have different priorities and deadlines, so it’s essential that I stay organized and don’t lose sight of the mission and end goal.

I collaborate with each team, whether it’s the Architect, Construction, or Leasing & Management teams, while taking account of team member and resident feedback to develop strategies and marketing materials or collateral from those conversations. It’s important to be detailed throughout the entire process— from the ideation phase to the final design or solution.

What are some of the things you have learned in your time at Optima? 

Where do I even begin? I’ve learned so much at Optima and am constantly learning every day, which is something I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of. New knowledge is so valuable.

I’ve learned that when more people are involved in a project, the longer the process is. But, in return, the result is the best that it could be. Solo creating and editing is fun, but to be able to collaborate and bounce ideas off one another is extraordinarily beneficial.

What makes you most proud to be a part of the Optima team?

What makes me most proud to be a part of Optima is everyone’s genuineness and respectfulness towards one another. I always feel heard and appreciated.

This stretches to the resident-side of things as well. We have a passion for making living at our properties an unmatched experience through the relationships we build, services we provide, amenities we have, and innovative design that we create.

What do you hope to accomplish in the year ahead?

In the year ahead, I plan to support my teams as much as possible, design exceptionally, and learn more—especially from my first lease-up at Optima Lakeview!

Team Member Spotlight: Barbie Clemons

Our team is the heart and soul of Optima; the living embodiment of our values in action. We recently sat down (virtually, of course) with Barbie Clemons, Leasing Manager at Optima Sonoran Village, to talk about her journey working with Optima and what she loves most about being part of our team.

Tell us a bit about your background and the role you play at Optima.

I started out in sales and customer service before working at Optima. My experience ranged from working at a clothing company to managing bars and restaurants. I loved being in a fast-paced environment but wanted something new and got my real estate license.

An Optima recruiter brought me on board as a Leasing Agent at Optima Kierland. At Kierland, we leased up so quickly. The pace and the environment fed my soul. So after a year of different positions at Optima Kierland, I moved to Optima Sonoran Village and headed lease-up on the new tower. I was excited for the challenge: we were already 100% leased at Kierland and I couldn’t wait to work on the 800 units here. Within a year, I was promoted to the Community Manager/Leasing Manager role. It’s been amazing. I love this company and I love what I do.

What drew you to Optima initially, and what’s kept you working there all these years?

I was drawn in by the opportunity to use my skill set in a new environment. I’d done retail and hospitality and wanted something that would mix the two of them together — because in hospitality, I missed the sales portion, and vice versa. At Optima, I get to do both, all the while building long lasting relationships with residents and finding them homes they’ll stay in for a long time. 

I’m constantly challenged here: can we hit this number, can we get to the next level? It’s very progressive and that’s my favorite part about working here. This is a company looking to change and move and evolve, instead of doing what everyone else does.

How do you view collaboration and mentorship within Optima?

What I love about Optima is that it’s a collaborative team and environment. My voice is always heard. No matter what level I was at in the company, I could approach someone and say, “I have an idea, can we try this?” Even on the building side — we’re under this umbrella where we can touch everything. For example: when Optima Kierland was under construction, they asked us for feedback we’ve received and we told them residents want more closet space. The construction team pivoted and included that in the next tower.

Optima has a distinct set of values that really differentiates it from other companies. Which values really speak to the work you’ve done at Optima and your methodologies?

There’s a solution for every problem: that value resonates with me. I’ve worked every position that Optima has on the property management level — I’ve done leasing, leasing manager, and even right now, I’m filling in for a business manager position we have open. So I’ve gotten to be versatile and learn every aspect of the company in order to help out. To live and breathe and be part of a progressive company, you have to be that way. I love, love, love that it’s one of our core values. We can figure it out. Optima is always open to ideas that are outside the box.

What are some things you’ve learned during your time at Optima?

Teamwork makes the dream work. It takes every single person on your team to make properties run and to make us successful — whether that’s construction or our executive team. They really meld the mind; we talk at every level and we get to bring ideas to the table. That’s something I’ve learned and love about this company, and something that I was missing from other companies I’ve worked for. You don’t feel like a number here, you feel like your name and your voice matters. 

Celebrating World Architecture Day

Since 1996, the first Monday of October has been reserved for celebrating the practice and artistry of architecture. First established at the International Union of Architects Congress held in Barcelona, Spain, World Architecture Day marks a time to reflect on the potential of architecture; how it affects people, cities and societies. 

As part of our commitment to lasting impact, we don’t take this responsibility lightly. We truly believe architecture has the potential to change lives and we’re constantly inspired by the past, present and future of the industry. This year, the International Union of Architects (UIA) — representing the world’s 3.2 million architects — dubbed the theme of World Architecture Day 2020 as “Toward a better urban future.” Panelists on a global webinar will discuss challenges facing today’s cities such as housing, air quality and public spaces. Through coming together to solve these problems, we can enhance the human experience across the world. 

Optima team participating in the marshmallow challenge
World Architecture Day 2019 at the Glencoe Office

Although we take this day for reflection and contribution to the architecture world, we also love getting our team involved in celebrating. Last year, some of our Chicago office competed in the marshmallow challenge to put their architecture skills to the ultimate test. From architects to accountants to property managers, our staff raced to see who could build the tallest tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows. Luckily, the architects proved their expertise, coming in at first place — but accountants followed closely in second place! This year, we’ll be celebrating individually while working from home. 

From all of us to our fellow architects, Happy World Architecture Day! 

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Maintenance Supervisor

Glencoe, IL

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