Customer service with a smile

Posted on Sat, 03/01/2014 - 12:00pm

By Lori Ziesmer

Caitlin in CannesMalibu East administrative assistant Caitlin Gilman and I had never met until our scheduled interview for this article. I walked into her office one evening, after a freezing-cold walk home from the train, and was immediately met with a warm handshake and a huge smile. She had been at the office since 9 a.m. that morning and would be closing out her day at 7 p.m. after we chatted. At 6 p.m. she was still full of energy. I knew right away that Caitlin was perfect to be “the director of first impressions” in our Management Office.

Caitlin celebrated her one-year anniversary with Malibu East in February. She enjoys working in the building assisting property manager Violette Deschamps, whom she considers a mentor with her vast experience in the property management industry.

Within six months of being hired, Malibu East sent Caitlin to a three-day class where she took the M-100 exam. The course must be completed and the exam passed before moving on to the CMCA exam, which Caitlin hopes to complete this spring. The Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) is the only national certification program designed exclusively for managers of homeowner and condominium associations and cooperatives. To obtain the CMCA certification, a candidate must demonstrate basic knowledge in many areas of community management, including governance and legal matters; budgets, reserves, investments and assessments; risk management and insurance; maintenance; contracting; meetings management; and human resource management. It is a difficult exam, and Caitlin is studying to understand the areas of community management that she normally is not involved with on a day-to-day basis working in her current position.

Caitlin was born and raised in Birmingham, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, where she lived with her parents and brother. When it came time to choose a college, Caitlin applied to only one school, Denison University, a private liberal-arts college in Granville, Ohio, which her brother also attended. At Denison Caitlin majored in communications, played on the golf team one year and was a starter in field hockey all four years.

After graduation Caitlin went home to contemplate her future and then moved to Chicago in 2009, where she accepted a position at Francis Parker School in Lincoln Park as the assistant junior varsity and varsity field hockey coach. Caitlin’s next work position was with NCSA, a sports recruiting and management company. NCSA helps athletes and families navigate the competitive and confusing world of college sports recruiting. Caitlin worked as a recruiting coach for all NCAA sports while at NCSA, enjoying the relationships she built with the students and their families. Unfortunately she did not see a long-term career path for herself, so she left to pursue other opportunities.

Knowing that she enjoyed customer service and working with people, a friend of hers working in property management in D.C. suggested she consider moving her career to residential property management. Caitlin enjoys that no two days are ever the same and that she gets to wear many hats throughout the day. She may be working on organizing invoices for payment, reviewing daily security and doorman logs, tallying time cards for payroll, working with vendors, answering calls and emails from residents, communicating with Malibu East employees or speaking with Board members. With 499 units in the building there is always something going on that needs her attention. Caitlin considers her organizational skills to be one of her strengths, and thrives on being able to juggle many balls at the same time, prioritizing what projects need to be finished first.

In her spare time, Caitlin likes to explore Chicago and local restaurants with friends. She has done a lot of the normal tourist things Chicago has to offer (boat rides, visiting “the Bean,” shopping on Michigan Avenue) and had a membership at the Field Museum. She enjoys reading all types of books, including mysteries, romantic novels and science fiction. However, her eyes light up when you mention movies. She has seen eight of the nine films nominated for the 2013 best picture Oscar, and with several weeks left to go before the Academy Awards are announced, I am sure she will end up seeing all nine. She has not seen “Nebraska” yet, and her current favorite to win the Oscar is “Philomena.”

Caitlin has a passion for travel. She has traveled throughout the United States and has collected many stamps on her passport traveling abroad. He parents currently live in Charleston, S.C., and she enjoys the climate and outdoor activities when she visits them. International travel has taken her to Japan, Paris, London, Rome, Venice and Barcelona. One of her favorite trips was in 2012 when Caitlin, with four cousins, her older brother and her 90-year-old grandfather, who is Norwegian, went to Norway together. The memories made on that trip will be with her forever. Caitlin’s next travel adventure begins in April when she and some friends will be traveling to Shanghai and Beijing, China, for 11 days. Having spent two weeks in China myself, I know she is headed on another amazing journey.

Caitlin wants the residents of the building to know that she is very approachable and here to assist them with their needs within the guidelines established by the Board and the rules of the Association. To make all of our lives easier as residents, we are reminded to keep Caitlin and Violette in the loop on any construction plans for our units so that the proper paperwork can be completed, and to notify their office of any resident telephone number or email changes so they can communicate with us in case of an emergency. If you have questions, do not hesitate to call her at 773-271-1732 or email her at

If you have not had a chance to meet Caitlin in person, I encourage you to stop by the office during business hours and introduce yourself. Her warm and charming personality will brighten up your day, and you might be able to offer a suggestion for her next travel destination.