Meet Your New CREW DC President
Lynn Stith Bennett began her career at Coakley & Williams Construction in 1987 and with the fastest female career progression in the company’s history, was promoted to Executive Vice President in 2018. In her role, Lynn oversees three Corporate Divisions: Risk Management, Corporate Services, and the Executive Committee. She is a known industry leader throughout Greater Washington. Among her leadership roles are President-Elect 2018 (President 2019) for CREW DC.
More than 30 members of the DC chapter of the commercial real estate association for women attended an intimate gathering at The Army and Navy Club in Washington, DC. Attendees got to know their incoming President, Lynn Stith Bennett. Moderated by Jenna Kirkpatrick Howard, Lynn answered questions regarding her career highlights, the future of CREW DC, and attendees learned a little more of the personal side of Lynn during the rapid fire questions.
One piece of advice for a younger person in their career? “Build your network early. Find those people that will support you and help you develop and grow. That's why I'm really excited about leading CREW DC next year. It's been really good for me and I want that to continue for others.” - Lynn Stith Bennett
>> Last week you celebrated 31 years at Coakley & Williams Construction. Why have you stayed so long?
I love what I do. I love construction. I love the challenge of buildings. I love the development of the teams. Initially it was my passion for building things. I like seeing what you're doing come to fruition and being able to see that built product when you're done. More importantly, I never felt like I had to leave to get the next opportunity. I started as a project manager for interiors, spent a few years doing that, then they called me and said, "You're going to build COMP USA in Gaithersburg." A building out of the ground? I was a little intimidated, but I had a great superintendent who really helped me. You could build a building for a million dollars back then [crowd laughs] so it was my first job that was over a million dollars. Then I moved into base building and worked with larger teams on more challenging projects. Then I moved into managing multiple teams. At one time they tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to lead the design group. That was the transition from managing projects and people to really managing processes and working collaboratively with architects and engineers. Then at another point, I saw a need. Another opportunity. I met with the owners to discuss my growing interests and desire to take on more. In the last 5 years, I've transferred less and less out of operations, although, I hope that I am always touching that. But I took on the corporate services side of things and I'm constantly learning more about Marketing, HR and IT. I've also been leading our executive team and have them moving in a direction, so really it's been about creating the opportunity. I didn't need to go anywhere else.
>> What's your favorite part of your current role?
My favorite part is that I feel like I'm having an impact. I'm people-focused, so I think a lot about our people. I'm trying to make things better for everybody within the organization. We are focused a lot on our culture and who we are and where we're going. We have some amazing people working with us. I love bringing strong people on and letting them do what they do really well. That is really the best part of what I do now.
>> What's the most challenging part of your current role?
Sometimes I kind of get charged up and excited about a new initiative but I forget that everybody isn't behind me all of the time. So, for me, that can be a personal challenge. I have to remember, slow down. Make sure everybody gets what we're doing here and bring everybody along to get the message across.
>> Who have been the mentors in your career?
As a young woman in the industry, and in the field, I didn't have a formal mentor or sponsor. But for me, it was the superintendents that stopped long enough to teach me. That's what happened at McCormick and how I really got my education, my understanding of construction was a superintendent who took the time. He was really good with me, and that has continued at Coakley. My supers have always had my back. They were the ones that gave me credibility in the field. I have one superintendent, he's still here, he started 6 months before I did. He was a carpenter and I was doing interiors work so we were working together and he is now one of our lead supers and does some of our biggest jobs. The superintendents are good people and they have been really good mentors for me.
Pat Caulfield has always given me opportunities to do some great things. When I raise my hand and say I want to do it, he'd be like, "Okay! Let's do it!"
>> Can you tell us about the future of CREW Membership?
Accessibility and creating different types of situations that fit the different folks in the membership. How do we use the people and the resources to the best advantage of everybody? We have some amazing people volunteering in committees and volunteering on the board and our co-chairs who work so hard. I'm extremely impressed every time I bump into them and see what they're doing. It's about using those resources and getting the best value. We are shifting all our admin services back to Network. They are going to do our admin services for us and we are in the search for an Executive Director. [Crowd applauds]
>> One piece of advice for a younger person in their career?
Build your network early. I wish that was something that had been available to me earlier in my career, I wish I would have found CREW earlier, having built this network of awesome women and to have the resources that I have through CREW now. That would be my advice, is build your network now and find those people that will support you and help you develop and grow. That's why I'm really excited about leading CREW DC next year. It's been really good for me and I want that to continue for others.