Experience is the greatest teacher; being at the helm of our greatest feats and laying the foundation to build something extraordinary. Debra Wyatte, Chief Experience Officer, Cecilian Partners, has been able to utilize her experiences as an industry leader in customer experience in real estate to help the industry facilitate a positive and memorable customer journey with technology and data in the new home buying process.
Debra Wyatte joined Cecilian Partners in early January 2020 bringing well over eleven years of customer experience expertise working with community developers, production home builders, and Homeowner Associations. Cecilian Partners is headquartered in New Hope, Pennsylvania with team members spread across the country. In their own words, “We are a proptech company that is transforming the new home buying experience through technology, data, and human capital.”
How do proverbial ceilings make Women Leaders tougher?
The inherent bias plaguing almost all industries is targeted against women, they have to work harder and prove themselves constantly as compared to men. There have been countless instances where strong, successful female leaders have been subjugated to different standards. In most cases, women outperform their male counterparts but continue to face challenges This barrier has made women even tougher, determined, and tenacious. There is another side to it, as it can affect an individual mentally, as Debra shares, “My biggest barrier in my career has been myself. Not thinking I’m ready, waiting for a promotion vs. asking, salary conversation or lack thereof, etc. As a female leader, I have also encountered stereotypes around coming off bossy when I’m being direct and hearing “how it was a good thing I didn’t have kids with as much as I travel.” It’s hard to hear these comments so when I do I try to use them as fuel to keep going!”
In 2009 Debra started her career in the real estate industry. For more than a decade, she heard time and time again the challenges developers and builders had working together as well as the less than desired experience the home buyer had in the purchase process. These experiences led to the fateful meeting at the end of 2019 with Cecilian Partners Co-Founder, CEO John Cecilian Jr. & Co-Founder, CSO Phil Worland. It was here that she learned how they were using technology to solve both of the pain-points to make the customer experience better. She shares, “While my career has not been on the technology side it has been on the people side of the business so I jumped on the opportunity to make a positive impact on the industry starting in 2020.” Debra doesn’t believe in luck, but making the right choices, “I do believe that if you’re on the right path the universe will conspire to help you. Trust the universe!” Making these right choices comes down to the conditioning, the experiences along this path, and what lessons were learned through it. Debra has simplified this process to simple formulas which utilize her capabilities and drive her towards her goals. She says, “When I’ve been told you can’t do something I ask them what makes them think that? Is it from their own experience or a limit mindset? If it’s their own experience, I try to dive deeper and learn from them. If it’s based on a limited mindset I move on and let it go. If you give advice that doesn’t come from a place of support and growth then it’s best to keep it to yourself.”
“Consistency compounds. It’s the small actions you do every day that will make the difference six months, a year, five years from now, so don’t wait!”
Compounding Effects of Consistency
Debra considers her greatest achievement to be able to foster, nurture and grow amazing work cultures not just once but twice. She believes that people we work with form a family, and it’s up to us to decide what kind of family we want. As she puts it, “You spend a significant amount of time with your co-workers so I would encourage everyone to find one that is like family you either have or always wanted.” As for Debra, she has fine-tuned her approach when it comes to hiring people, namely the application of a “layover test” in simple terms, would she be willing to sit with them and enjoy the conversation. If not, probably not a good fit in their work culture, as she states, “You can always provide training but unfortunately you can’t train someone to be compassionate and smile.”
Good rapport and reputation go a long way in helping businesses develop, Debra applies her personal touch by taking time to get to know the clients, opening up herself to them providing them a feeling of personal connection. While it is an amazing quality to have, it can sometimes become tough as well. “I love helping others and what I do so it’s easy for me to over-commit and not make my own self-care a priority when the pressure is high,” shares Debra. “Knowing this about myself I make sure to watch for the signs when it’s time to start saying no and plan some much-needed time off.” As with so many aspects of her life, Debra keeps a few aces up her sleeve which she uses as the situation demands, like when partnering with new companies or individuals, if their words and actions don’t match then it’s a warning signal. Being in a position of power Debra knows the nuances and mantras for success, as she shares, “Consistency compounds. It’s the small actions you do every day that will make the difference six months, a year, five years from now, so don’t wait!”
Juggling work and personal life can be a tough assignment and requires lots of patience both mentally and physically, for the same Debra took up cycling a long time back. She says, “I love cycling and have been on an all-women club cycling team for almost ten years. Getting outdoors regularly is how I not only keep in shape physically but mentally as well.”
Looking Ahead: Strategic Planning & Actionable Work
As the 16th President of the USA, Abraham Lincoln said, “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.” Debra uses this as the cornerstone of her approach by breaking down the objective into smaller actionable steps and keeping commitments. Goals or deliverables should be set and then there should be constant follow-up, it needs to be a priority.
Something which Cecilian Partners understood early on, data is the future, the importance of data, and unlocking the immense potential which can be found in data analytics and machine learning has revolutionized many industries. Its value in real estate is being slowly understood. Debra says, “Our goal is to transform the customer experience in our industry by helping clients understand the best way to use technology, and understand and use the data they have in a way that makes sense for them and their business.” Like “The XO” a bespoke real estate software that provides a single platform for community developers and home builders to unify experience (X) and operations (O) data, or the “Xplorer” which uses interactive maps to transform how people explore communities, find points of interest, choose a neighborhood, and even see the street-level reality of a place. These solutions have especially impacted the way traditional Real Estate works and in this period of social distancing, they are the prudent choice.
As a source of inspiration and being closely involved with the community Debra has been able to identify key points that make a leader, she believes in continuously challenging oneself to grow professionally. “I average two to three books on leadership, business, health, etc. per month. While some of the content can be repetitive you never know when one of them will lead to an aha! moment for you,” says Debra. “My personal statement is to inspire memorable moments in order to make a positive impact in people’s lives and the communities, they live and work.