As a recent college graduate, Emily Rankin was eager to get into corporate real estate. However, when she joined a Dallas brokerage firm as a junior broker, she found herself cold-calling executives in unfamiliar industries—and working in an office occupied almost entirely by men.
“Out of maybe 100 brokers, there were 5 women,” Rankin recalls. “But for me, quitting was never an option. I was determined to show that I was making progress and having success as a young woman in a male-dominated industry.”
Rankin picked up that perseverance—not to mention her competitive drive—during her time as a soccer player. The sport, which she played at the college level, also taught her the value of teamwork and leadership. She has gone on to apply those lessons to her career, including in her current role as senior director of real estate and facilities at global leader in secure logistics, Brink’s, Inc.
Unwilling to give up in the face of challenges on or off the field, Rankin quickly adapted to the brokerage world. After acknowledging to herself the limits of her knowledge as an industry newcomer, she decided to take a different approach to her role.
“I had to get innovative and think outside the box,” she affirms. “I didn’t want to call somebody in an industry that I knew nothing about and try to get their business, so I started researching industries that interested me or to which I had an internal connection to bridge that gap.”
Once she understood the industries that she was looking to serve, Rankin personalized her advice by addressing the impact of real estate on the logistics and performance of her clients’ individual businesses. “If you want to be in this industry, you really need to learn what makes an operation progress every day,” she advises. “When people see that you actually want to help them with their business’s bottom line, that’s how you earn their trust and build a lasting relationship.”
Rankin gained exposure to the brokerage’s corporate side as a regional manager before leveraging her holistic outlook in subsequent real estate manager positions. She then made her return to the brokerage space, this time as an industrial warehousing real estate specialist. That new specialization laid the groundwork for her jump to Brink’s in 2019.
“Out of maybe 100 brokers, there were 5 women. But for me, quitting was never an option. I was determined to show that I was making progress and having success as a young woman in a male-dominated industry.”
“Brink’s portfolio is quite large, and it specifically focuses on industrial warehousing locations for its type of business,” she says. “When interviewing for the job, I knew more than the average candidate because I was overseeing about four million square feet of industrial real estate at the time.”
Today, Rankin puts her experience to good use overseeing roughly 250 locations in the US and Canada for Brink’s. In addition to orchestrating leases and managing landlord relationships, she ensures that each building runs smoothly day in and day out. To manage her many sites and projects, Rankin turns to technology.
“I have a couple of tools that keep me afloat,” she says. “One is an internal database that tracks all of our leases—not just lease expiration dates but also when taxes are due, insurance reimbursement, and the like.”
A separate database automatically assigns and dispatches personnel in response to maintenance tickets submitted at Brink’s facilities. With this many locations, Rankin notes that something new will happen every single day so being disorganized is not an option.
Technology aside, Rankin relies on her team of four to handle lease administration, construction project management, facility coordination, and related matters. Although she admits that leadership doesn’t come naturally to her, her experiences as an athlete taught her the benefits of working together toward a common goal.
“When you’re on the field, there are 11 players. You cannot control everybody, so trusting everyone to do their job in order to get a win is huge.”
“When you’re on the field, there are 11 players. You cannot control everybody, so trusting everyone to do their job in order to get a win is huge,” she says. “That mentality plays into work and everything else in life. Whether on the field or in a business setting, teamwork produces a result.”
In addition to empowering her team to achieve results, Rankin strives to lead by example, while still playing by the same rules as the rest of the team. “If you’re going to lead a team, you have to be knee-deep in the trenches with them to demonstrate that we’re all in this together. You can’t sit on the sidelines and let your team do it for you,” she emphasizes.
When Rankin sees how much her team values her willingness to dive right in alongside them, it gives her the confidence to stay the course. Her ability to believe in herself has certainly strengthened over the years, but she has come just as far in terms of her overall career. “Even though I learned a lot of things the hard way or the wrong way or through trial and error, I wouldn’t trade those early years,” she says in retrospect.
The director recalls that in her mid-twenties, a CEO told her, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” She admits that it didn’t resonate with her immediately, but 10 years later when she understood his perspective. “It could be my generation, or the way I’m wired, but really slowing down and doing things the right way instead of the instant gratification of getting it done quickly has been my new adopted pace,” Rankin says.
The lessons and challenges have only driven Rankin to fight harder to succeed.