Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing writer and editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Broker’s Leadership Journey
Learn how Devon Thomas of Alaska honed her leadership chops at her state and local association, which, in turn, helped her become a more effective manager.
January 4, 2017
Devon Thomas is keenly aware of the correlation in real estate between business growth and industry involvement — and she’s seen it play out repeatedly throughout her career.
Over the past 14 years, she’s climbed the ladder as a licensed assistant, team member, team leader, and now managing broker of 80 agents in five offices at Century 21 Realty Solutions in Wasilla, Alaska. During that same period, she has worked her way up in leadership roles on local, state, and national association boards and committees. This year, she’s serving as the president of the Alaska Association of REALTORS®.
Those looking to build confidence and gain industry insights, she says, should look no further than their local REALTOR® association. The volunteer positions she’s taken on have given her the gumption to strive for greater leadership responsibility within her own career. And, despite not always feeling fully prepared for the challenges, she’s never been afraid to jump in and try
“I don’t think anyone who steps into leadership says, ‘I’m ready,’” Thomas says. “But this experience has provided me with so many tools that I can bring back to help my agents be successful.”
After graduating from Chaminade University in Hawaii with a communications degree, Thomas earned her real estate license in 2002. A year later, her team leader, Kibe Lucas, encouraged her to join a committee at the local Valley Board of REALTORS®. “At that time, I didn’t know what RPAC was or what the legislative committee did,” she says. But her involvement was a crash course in organized real estate.
Following several years serving on the convention and program committees, Thomas was named a board director in 2011. “I really cared about the future of our industry, and it was an industry I saw myself in 20 or 30 years from that point in my life,” she says. “By that time, I really got the value of REALTORS® and what they do for homeownership.”
Thomas served a two-year term as a local director. During Alaska’s state convention, the incoming state president asked if Thomas would consider running for the Valley Board of REALTORS® president position. “At the time, it was kind of unprecedented,” she says. “There were people who came up to me and said, ‘You have young kids; are you sure you should be doing this?’” But Thomas ran unopposed, and once elected, people were supportive, she says.
In 2012, as her local board’s president-elect, Thomas attended her first national meeting at the REALTORS® Legislatives Meetings and Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. “I just showed up at the YPN meeting and started participating in the round tables,” she says. Thomas then went back to Alaska and launched the Valley Board of REALTORS® YPN during her year as president. She chaired it for two years, then started serving on the national YPN Advisory Board and became a director on her state association board. She chaired the committee in charge of the association’s website and logo rebranding. A year later, she threw her hat in the ring for the presidency of the Alaska association. Her opponent stepped aside to support her run. At nearly the same time, Thomas was promoted to broker-manager at Century 21 Realty Solutions.
“This whole experience has developed me as a leader,” she says. “I don’t think I could have become managing broker if I hadn’t done all of this first.” In addition to building confidence, Thomas says her leadership experience has honed her public speaking skills, taught her how to best approach challenging situations, and helped her establish credibility.
Thomas is also currently serving on NAR’s Housing Opportunity Committee and is involved with a local homeless teen advocacy center. Now she’s considering a future in politics after her term as state president.
“The moral of the story is find people and reach out to them,” Thomas says. “You’re going to be more successful if you can seek out other leaders to help you along the way.”