He is known as the father of Community Management and rightly so. When you meet Jeevan D’Mello, a Board Member and International Faculty Member of the Community Association Institute (CAI), you can feel the passion he has for the subject. Having spread the knowledge in many leading conferences across the world, and been a role model to numerous aspiring OA’s out there, it was only apt to get an insight into D’Mello’s life and his vision towards Community Management.
In this tête-à-tête with Megha S Anthony, D’Mello takes us on his journey in Community Management, the challenges he faces and his advice to aspiring Community Managers.
You are known as the ‘Father of Community Management’ in the Middle East. Is there a lot of pressure to have a title like that bestowed upon you?
It is a real honour and humbling experience to have received such a title. While it makes me feel a bit older than I am, it is indeed uplifting and as such I feel a lot of responsibility towards the real estate management community in Dubai, UAE, & the Middle East and in fact around the world.
It has also spurred me to take the mantle on seriously and I have been travelling across the world over the past two years spreading the message about the importance of best practices in real estate management and to support the importance of continuing education, leadership and above all customer happiness. In a very short time, I had the opportunity to speak in several countries. In fact, I just returned from the Institute of Real Estate (IREM) Global Summit in San Francisco where I was one of the featured speakers and I spoke extensively about Dubai and the community management profession in the Middle East. The feedback I received was amazing, and I believe I was successful in promoting the profession in the Middle East to those outside it. I hope in this way I can l live up to the expectations of this title that has been bestowed on me.
Who was your mentor?
There have been many people who have played a great part in my development into the profession, and I must thank Emaar Chairman His Excellency Mohammed Alabbar for his vision and the great opportunity to work with him for over 15 years that helped me grow as a real estate professional. My boss, Mr. Ahmad Al Falasi, Group Executive Director at Emaar Properties was also instrumental in nurturing me during my time there and gave me the opportunity, the autonomy, and the support to develop further.
If I must single out one person as my mentor it would have to be Michael Packard, the Senior Vice President at Associa in the USA, which is the largest Community Management company in the world. In fact, it was him who first publicly pronounced me as the ‘Father of Community Management in the Middle East’ several years ago and then reiterated the same on stage in front of thousands of my peers in the United States last year when he received the President’s Award.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been many highlights however the ones that really stand out are:
• Being the Community Manager for all of Emaar’s iconic communities and properties, including Burj Khalifa.
I don’t believe I would have received this opportunity in any part of the world and therefore always grateful to have lived in Dubai and able to witness the transformation of this great city and be an intrinsic part of its growth and development.
• Among the many awards I received, there are two that are special to me. The first is when I was awarded the ‘Rising Star of the Year’ by the CAI in the USA. And second, the ‘President’s Award’ at Boca Raton in the USA, which is the most prestigious award in the world of Community Management.
• Another highlight is something that I had been planning for a long time and only came true recently was the publication of my fi rst book on real estate management. This book is published in Spanish due to the content being focused on managers in the Spanish-speaking work. Titled Los Mejores Administradores de Fincas del Mundo, which roughly translates to ‘The World’s Best Real Estate Managers’, it was released globally in May 2019 in the USA and then in many countries across the world, including Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, and Brazil. It will be soon be released in Italy and Colombia. After the tremendous success of the book and excellent feedback received, I have decided to develop it into a series with the title The World’s Best Real Estate Managers that will be published for diff erent cities and countries starting from early 2020.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career and how have you overcome it?
Challenges have been many, but each challenge has helped me grow as a person and as a pr ofessional. In the early days of the industry, it was a challenge to educate both professionals and homeowners on the importance of owners’ associations and all the aspects of the business. As this was fairly new to this part of the world, there were many questions and also disbeliefs. It took a few years to bring the much-needed understanding to the business.
If you weren't working in this field where would you be?
There are three fi elds of work I love, education, entertainment, and travel. So, if I wasn’t in this fi eld, these would be the ones I would choose as I am passionate about them. The great news is that I am actually doing all of this along with my chosen profession of community management. I travel extensively, I speak and teach a lot of courses around the world and in the evenings and my fr ee time I enjoy music and singing.
Your advice to young OAs’/ professionals?
Community Management and managing Owners’ Associations is a tough business. It can cause severe stress and thankless conditions and it is very easy to get burnt out. My constant advice to young professionals is to stay the course, even when times seem tough and the future seems bleak. This is a great profession and something that is not going out of fashion. The built envir onment needs good professionals, homeowners want good people to take care of their properties, developers need people like us to ensure that their vision for their properties are realised and governmental regulators need proper compliance to the laws and regulations. So please do not give up or give in easily.
Embarking on continual education is a must. The world is moving quickly, technology is evolving rapidly. If we don’t keep up, we will become redundant and the people we serve will move ahead with professionals who are knowledgeable and updated.
I also ask all our colleagues to become educators to others. One of the key roles of the community manager is to educate and create awareness about our industry to all the stakeholders including developers, homeowners, tenants and service providers. We need to spread the knowledge so that they clearly understand their roles and responsibilities and the need to work together to achieve a common goal of safety, security, enhancing property values and community wellness.
What is your vision for Community Management in the region?
My vision for Community Management is that everyone in the profession attains a high level of education and professionalism. Management companies must treat their staff fairly, accord them respect and give them a chance to develop themselves professionally and personally. We must also have proper representation in governmental forums and raise the profi le of the community management profession itself. My endeavour is to change the perception of owners, board members and residents in communities to ensure they view community managers as professionals in the real estate management arena and take their advice seriously.