Q&A with CREW Atlanta Director Dana McClure

As a way to get to know the CREW Atlanta leadership better, we will be interviewing the board members on their thoughts on CREW Atlanta, the commercial real estate industry, workplace issues and life in general. This month, we caught up with CREW Atlanta Director and Warner Summers Principal, Architecture, Dana McClure, AIA, LEED® AP.

Q. How is COVID-19 impacted you?

Initially and candidly, it impacted me on a very personal level. I’m such an extravert, which I knew before on some level, but didn’t truly appreciate what that meant. Back in mid-April when we were on lockdown, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, and found myself having to let my emotions run their course and then pick myself up by the bootstraps. Once I started going back into the office, it was a huge shift in my psyche. I regained predictability, and realized that lack of control was the underlying cause of my emotional shift.

We do a lot of corporate work for major corporations with stakeholders and boards that are very cautious when it comes to spending money right now. As a result, our work has slowed considerably. But compared to other architecture firms in the area that have had massive layoffs, we feel very fortunate that our financial impact has been minimal.  

As a new-to-my-career professional in the last recession of 2007, that hard reality shaped the way that I provide value today. It also taught me a lot about work ethic – that you’re entitled to nothing, and if you want something you have to work for it. This is different, but the lessons still resonate.

Q. What attracted you to architecture? 

My mother is an artist, who paints for a living, and everyone in my family is super creative. Design and drawing have always been important to me, but I also was really good at math. In high school, I started thinking about using my creative abilities in a career, and somehow got introduced to architecture. I then went to Clemson and earned my undergraduate degree in architecture, and really grew in my love for this field.

Q. What do you like about working at Warner Summers?

This is a smaller firm. We have 15 professionals. Early on in my career, I worked for a much larger firm, which was structured and terrific for me at that point in my career. I worked on high-profile projects, but ultimately had a niche role. When I came to Warner Summers, I was able to contribute at a high-level and apply my creative talents. We’ve managed some really interesting projects and I’ve learned so much from being deeply involved at all levels.

Q. What keeps you up at night?

The fear of failing or disappointing someone.

Q. What is your biggest challenge?

There are not enough hours in the day!

Q. What is the most important thing you’re working on right now?

Prior to the pandemic, I was actively working on growing our firm’s footprint outside of the Atlanta market. We have done work outside of the city for our Atlanta-based clients, but not necessarily from companies not connected here. Analyzing existing relationships, travel time, our possible costs and return on investment, and other logistics, we landed on Greenville, S.C. as an ideal market to which to expand. That’s largely on pause now, but we are still developing great relationships and are excited for what the future holds.

Q. What makes a successful leader?

A great leader is someone who is first a mentor, inspiring and guiding others into being better versions of themselves. As innately nurturing beings, women have a great opportunity to develop others, which is an excellent leadership skill.

Q. What commercial real estate trend is top of mind?

No doubt, returning to the workplace. Every company in America is grappling with this question. There are some with a knee-jerk concern that office space will never be the same, and while that may be true in some instances, for the most part, companies will go back at some point.

We were already looking at this issue of flexible office space before COVID-19 hit. Not everyone needs to be in the office every day and therefore doesn’t need a dedicated space.

So, we are conducting analysis that looks at retrofitting spaces for clients, helping them decide how many people can feasibly work in a space and coming up with solutions that are supportive of a post-pandemic lifestyle.

Q. What is your best advice for women in commercial real estate?

Don’t be afraid to be the only woman at the table. Don’t be afraid to use your voice. I was raised by two parents who supported me and encouraged me to grow into a confident woman, which allowed me early in my career to express my opinions. More women need to be like that. I can often be heard telling younger women in my office, “You know the answer to this already. Don’t be so timid.”

Q. What are you most proud of?

My daughters, Elle, age 6, and Ruby, age 3. Ruby is hilarious and keeps me laughing every day. Elle is just the coolest little person, intelligent and sophisticated. 

Q. What are your favorite words of wisdom?

“Fake it till you make it,” which goes in line with The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. You may be uncomfortable, but push through it. And then when you get through a challenge, reflect on it and recognize that it wasn’t that bad. When you face it again, you know you can do it. Then you’re an expert!

Q. Who is a mentor or a personal hero?

My former boss, Jim Ditzel, took me under his wing and guided me to the steps I needed to take to get to my position now. More importantly, he showed me how to be a good boss: Be compassionate and kind, work really hard and not be intimidated by anyone.

Another CREW member, Melinda Parrish, is my personal hero. She is such a badass – and she is the nicest person. She would do anything for anyone. Combining her amazing business sense with a hustler’s commitment, she gets so much done. But, she’s also a good person and takes care of people.

Q. What keeps you busy outside of work?

I love traveling, camping and being outside. I moved into a new house in March, so I’m still trying to get it right, which will be a long-time project.

Q. What is your last book read, interesting article read or movie seen?

The Connected docuseries on Netflix. There was an episode on Bendford’s Law, which really blew my mind.

Q. What is your favorite travel destination or place you hope to visit?

I am currently eyeing a trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, which will be my first out-of-the-country vacation when we get through the pandemic.

Q: What has CREW done for you?

CREW has opened me up to a group of women, who are successful, amazing and intelligent, but also just really fun and funny. Their uniqueness encourages me to by my authentic, silly and quirky self, and I am better and invigorated when I’m around them. 

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Author: Cristina Anderson

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