Meet Malibu East's administrative assistant

Posted on Sun, 04/01/2018 - 11:30am

By Lori Ziesmer

Growing up in Brighton, a small suburb of Ann Arbor, Mich., with a population around 7,500, Melody Keegan dreamed of living in a larger city. Her father’s job moved the family several times over the years. When her father’s work brought him to Chicago, and it was time for Melody to consider colleges, she selected Columbia College to stay close to her family.

Melody lived in five states (Minnesota, North Dakota, Michigan, Texas and Illinois) before graduating from college. After living in Chicago now for more than seven years, Melody feels grounded here and that there is not a reason for her to move again.

Melody has always been a creative person. She loves art and illustration. She attended the art school at Columbia College, majoring in illustration with a concentration in fashion illustration. She graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in 2015. Melody had thoughts of doing editorial work for an advertising agency or fashion house, or perhaps illustrations for children’s books or fashion magazines.

While waitressing at a restaurant in the South Loop, a job she had throughout college, Melody became acquainted with a property manager from Sudler Property Management who frequented her restaurant. The property manager asked Melody to forward her résumé to her and suggested that working in property management might be a good career path for her to consider. At the same time Violette Deschamps, Malibu East’s property manager, was looking for an administrative assistant.

Melody forwarded her résumé to the Sudler property manager, who sent it on to Violette. A week later Melody got a call from Violette to come in for an interview. After the initial meeting Violette arranged for Melody to speak with Dean Lerner, the Malibu East account supervisor for Sudler, and Steven Levy, the president of Sudler, on the same day. It was a tense day of interviewing for Melody, who readily admits she knew very little at the time about residential property management. Everyone who interviewed her agreed Melody was a good choice to join the Malibu East team. She was hired in September 2016.

A year and a half later Melody is now 100% invested in property management and has found a career path that will interest her for the long term. She said Violette has been an amazing teacher, sharing her vast knowledge of the industry. Melody is not afraid to make the occasional mistake, because Violette helps her learn and grow from it. Some of her day-to-day responsibilities include processing work orders, billing late fees, processing vendor invoices, entering check requests in the Sudler accounting system, setting up admissions meetings for potential new residents, scheduling move-ins and move-outs, and filing paperwork, as well as being the first point of contact when a vendor or resident calls the office or stops by in person.

Melody commented that Malibu East is a very special building and that all the seasoned staff, Board of Directors and residents have helped her along this journey. With 499 units in the building there is always something to learn or that needs to be done. Melody recently started shadowing Lou Colletti and Mike Rostescu, our building engineers, on some of their calls and is learning firsthand how management works with the maintenance team.

Successful community management starts with understanding and implementing the essentials. In March, to assist with moving her career in property management forward, Melody took a 2½-day course on community association management offsite, in downtown Chicago. The class was followed by an exam at the end of the third day. Some of the topics covered in the course included the role of the community manager, working with boards, assessment collection procedures, understanding financial statements, and implementing maintenance requests. Taking this class and passing the M-100 exam are the first steps toward earning her CMCA credential.

The Community Association Managers International Certification Board was created to ensure community association managers perform their work with professionalism, integrity and knowledge of the industry. The manager completes coursework and then is tested on their knowledge, to obtain the coveted CMCA credential. Some of the topics that will be covered in the CMCA coursework include meetings, government and legal issues, budgets, reserves, investments, assessments, risk management and property maintenance.

Melody plans to continue her journey toward obtaining the CMCA certificate. Once obtained, the certificate will serve as the cornerstone for her career in property management. The test is difficult and covers many areas of property management with which Melody does not have day-to-day experience in her current position at Malibu East. Luckily for Melody, her boss and mentor, Violette, has held this certification since 2010 and will assist her with her studies as needed before the exam.

Outside of Malibu East, when Melody finds free time, she is out in the city trying all of Chicago’s great restaurants, going to see live music with friends, and enjoys running by the lake in the summer. Hoping to start traveling more, she currently travels primarily back to Brighton to see her family and ZuZu, her miniature dachshund. Melody considers herself a dog person, and knows most of the dogs in our building, calling them her favorite residents.

If you have not had the pleasure of meeting Melody in person, she would welcome you to stop by the Management Office and introduce yourself to her. You will find her to be warm and friendly.

My first interaction with her was by telephone last fall when I was looking for a recommendation of a company to check my hot water heater for a potential crack. I thought she gave a great first impression for our Management Office, from the smile in her voice to the quick call back with the information I needed.

Melody is happy to assist all the residents in any way she can, and looks forward to many years of working with all of us at Malibu East.