Valbridge Women’s Council Member Spotlight: Michele Wood
March 23, 2021
Title: Director of Research
VPA Office: Houston
I grew up in New Jersey, just outside of New York City (picture the opening scene of “Sopranos.”) After getting my BA in Art History from Rutgers, I did a year of AmeriCorps working with homeless families in Trenton and then moved to Tucson to do my Master’s degree in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona. After my daughter was born years later, I was looking for a part-time position that would be interesting but give me the flexibility. My husband is an appraiser so I started working with him at what became the Valbridge Arizona office but was then MJN Enterprises. We then moved our family to Texas to join the Valbridge Houston office in 2014.
What is your title and what do you do at Valbridge?
My current title is Director of Research. As far as I know, I’m the first to hold this title and the Senior Managing Directors in my firm have really let me create the role and explore ways to expand it. I started by doing a lot of research and data collection in support of specific appraisal assignments, but have since grown more toward doing research on more specialized projects and topics in the industry. I also have started writing a lot of the original content that Valbridge publishes on the website.
I also want it on the record that I won our company’s Chili Cookoff one year. As a Jersey girl taking on Texan cuisine, this was probably a “shots fired” sort of situation. Fortunately, my coworkers are fantastic and no one slashed my tires.
How did you become a part of Valbridge and VWC?
I’ve been a part of Valbridge since it’s inception! When the Women’s Council formation was announced, I immediately volunteered to be a part and became one of the original board members. It’s been such a privilege to serve in the organization and watch what women can build together. I’m very humbled to be the new incoming President of VWC.
What are your specialty areas?
My specialty areas are pretty much anything that appraisers don’t do! I love doing deep research dives and background work, learning new things in specific sectors and collaborating with different professionals around Valbridge offices and outside of appraisal.
What are some of the most interesting projects you've worked on at Valbridge?
How long can this article be?
Just kidding. One of my absolute favorites was partnering with a professor of real estate at Old Dominion University in Virginia and one of his colleagues to work on a study of how street art may or may not affect commercial real estate values. We did original research which was then submitted for inclusion in the American Real Estate Society conference in 2019. I was able to take our research and present it to real estate academics and professionals at the conference, which was a blast. I really enjoyed that work as it married my background in art history with my experience in CRE.
Another project I loved working on was a solar farm assignment. My partner was hired to solve a unique problem for a title company that needed to understand cost implications of having to move a great number of solar panels on a large solar farm in rural Texas. Due to confidentiality, we could not know the location or many specifics of this property. It was a lot of creative problem-solving! I ended up learning a lot about solar farms, the different kinds of equipment comprising them, and I had to use lots of people in my network to find the right contacts to help me fill in blanks. At the end of that week, our client was thrilled with what we put together and I felt so grateful and connected to my professional and personal networks. I always try to pay that kind of generosity forward.
What do you like most about working at Valbridge and being a member of the VWC?
I answer this question a lot as I am in charge of finding and hiring interns each year for our Houston and Dallas offices. What I value most is the perfect balance of national breadth and power with more local, individual firm control. We have fantastic resources that are only available at large firms, and a vast network of experience and expertise on which to draw. At the same time, each office is owned locally and can make granular employee-centric decisions that make sense for that place and that firm’s culture. We have strength and agility!
And, about the Women’s Council specifically, that’s easy. The VWC has emerged as the most engaging and effective way to build relationships and network connections across Valbridge’s member offices. I’ve built closer ties with some of the women and men I’ve worked with through the council than with some of my in-office peers! I feel like I have a really strong network at my disposal now.
The other thing I’ve loved to watch happen with the Women’s Council is how it really has become an incubator space within Valbridge to grow women’s leadership experience and skillsets. We’ve given a platform to many women who had never given a big PowerPoint presentation or moderated a panel discussion before. It’s been so exciting to be able to provide a safe space where people can take risks, get support and feedback and emerge with a new confidence in themselves and their abilities.