For our career series “How I Got My Job,” we’ll be talking to real people, working real jobs across a variety of industries. These people are pushing boundaries and have made their mark. They’ve found success on their own terms, and now we’re extracting their advice on how to carve out your own career path.
Checking up on honeybees and mingling with shoppers might not sound like the tasks of a marketing director, but our next spotlight sees the importance in being different and thinking outside of the box.
Lisa Resnic is the Marketing Director & Specialty Leasing for Richmond Hill-based shopping centre Hillcrest Mall. From a young age, she worked in retail with her father, and with a little hard work, determination, and guidance from mentors, she was able to take her experience and turn it into her dream job.
Now her days are spent helping the growth of Hillcrest Mall — whether that be nurturing relationships with retailers and shoppers, finding new ways to make the mall more sustainable, or planning big campaigns.
We had the opportunity to speak with Lisa about how she got her start, the most important things she’s learned during her career, and what makes Hillcrest Mall worth a visit. Take a peek below.
First thing’s first, what was the first job you ever had? The job after that? And how did it lead to where you are today?
It’s funny – often, first jobs have little to no significance on our careers. For me, it was a little different. My first summer job was at Sherwin Williams working under my father, the sales director. What you may not believe is my father is colourblind – working in the home décor industry! He would often call home asking me to look through our paint chips, but eventually, we realized it made sense for me to come in and help at work – technically my first retail position.
After living in England and Israel, I came to Canada surprised and delighted to see one of my favourite companies, Athena International, inside Toronto’s Eaton Centre. I had to work there. I was hired as a sales associate and moved up to store manager within the first year, where we published greeting cards, posters, and prints. Even more than Sherwin Williams, this position truly launched my career on a retail trajectory.
What’s a typical day at work for you?
The best part about this position is every day is completely different. First thing in the morning from home, I make it a priority to review Hillcrest’s online chats within our concierge service, looking out for anything we need to address. I begin my day with my priority to-do tasks but inevitably, within the first hour, I’m already sidetracked with more pressing matters — dealing with immediate issues that concern the operation of Hillcrest.
Then, once I arrive, the first thing I do is get a coffee and take an initial walk through the centre with other management team members before stores are open. From there, each day looks a little different. During our walks through the mall, we often get stopped by customers who have questions or comments. We’ll also approach customers at our directories to see if they need assistance, which often leads to other conversations. Because we’re in a suburban area, the pace is a little slower, so it gives us an opportunity to stop and speak with people. Now that it’s spring, our Hillcrest honeybees will be arriving any day now. We also make it a priority to go up to the roof to see how they’re doing. Although it’s not necessary to check on them every day, it gives us a few minutes of peace and sunshine.
Aside from customer relations, as the marketing director, my biggest role is nurturing relationships with our retailers and developing retailer relations strategy that helps create opportunities for our retailers within the community. Short term initiatives could look like reminding a retailer to submit its promotions and events to be housed on our website, whereas other days have me strategizing long-term plans such as our December holiday activations. We’re excited to bring something really different to Hillcrest this year! We’ve already began planning and will be teasing our idea sometime this summer. Lookout!
What has been the most fulfilling project you’ve worked on so far at Hillcrest?
What’s so special about Hillcrest is the fact that we revolve around our community — so there’s an ongoing sense of pride and fulfilment. I’ve seen many projects through during my four years here but for me, the most fulfilling have been the activities associated with the launch of the new wing, part of the #HillcrestGlowUp. Most notably, our #HelloKindness event saw the community and Hillcrest retailers come together to donate a total of $15,000 worth of new items for the domestic abuse survivors at Sandgate Women’s Shelter.
Along with this event, Hillcrest and Toronto Life coordinated our SHERO campaign where we publicly recognized female leaders in our community who are transforming the world around them – Shalini Konanur (SALCO), Danielle Eden-Scheinberg (Dog Tales Rescue & Sanctuary), Joanna Griffiths (Knix), and Dr. Tina Meisami (Dr.Borna Meisami Foundation). This campaign had a magnificent impact on me. The catalyst for this campaign was the#MeToo movement, so to be able to address similar issues on a smaller scale was not only the most fulfilling project during my time at Hillcrest but also my entire career.
In your time working, what do you think has been the most important thing you’ve learned?
Honestly, I’ve learned that it’s okay to be DIFFERENT. Seeing things from a different perspective, when used in the proper context, can propel you and your organization forward. Learning to have the confidence to do that took some time, and I now cherish the quality.
Be nice to people. Be empathetic. Everyone has stuff going on in their lives. Try and understand where they are coming from. A little compassion and understanding goes a long way. It helps build relationships and relationships are the foundation on which we conduct our lives both personally and professionally.
And lastly, mentor and share. Sharing knowledge and practices is a gift. Watching others grow and succeed is a wonderful feeling and keeps you moving forward it. Look for these opportunities.
How did you turn your dream job into a reality and get paid to do it?
I listened and absorbed everything I could from senior, more experienced people around me.
I have been exceptionally fortunate to work for organizations that believed in me and my potential — sometimes more than I believed in myself! I took risks. I kept learning and speaking up with confidence. One of my earlier positions was one I created for myself and as I think back, that was probably where my biggest leap in confidence came. Then, a year or so later, when a marketing position became available, I jumped at the opportunity. From marketing, I jumped into leasing and then back into marketing. It’s been an incredible journey with so much more to come.
What’s your advice to someone looking to get into your line of work?
Two words: work hard.
I’ve been in this business for a long time and I literally worked my way up. I’m proud of every single moment. I’m thrilled I found my calling in retail because I’ve been able to propel my marketing and leasing skills, but it took a long time before I began working on flagship properties and big events and occasions such as Hillcrest’s development. Work hard. Learn from everything that is happening even when it’s tough. It’s all happening for a reason.
What’s the best thing about working at Hillcrest?
We’re extremely fortunate that Hillcrest is owned by Oxford Properties because we’re encouraged to grow and be creative. The creative freedom we were given on both the south and north wing is exceptional. The same goes for our specialty leasing program. We want to be different, and that in itself is one of the most satisfying reasons to come to work every day. Another aspect is that we’ve watched the community grow and we’ve watched the shopping centre evolve to fit the needs and lifestyle of our community. Hillcrest prides itself on its environmentally sustainable programs. From our rooftop bees to our waste diversion rate of 86% (as of March 2017), we are making a dedicated effort to look towards the future. We’ve just been awarded a Business Achievement Award by the
Richmond Hill Board of Trade for Conservation and Environment. These are initiatives that make me feel good about working at Hillcrest.
What are three of your favourite stores to shop at Hillcrest?
This is easy! Sephora, honey, and Indigo since its December 2018 launch.
Why do you think Hillcrest is worth a visit?
There is a buzz at Hillcrest – and it’s not just the bees! There is a different feeling at Hillcrest different from other shopping centres. There is an explicit sense of pride from our guests and our retailers contributing to a strong community spirit and warmth that travels throughout the mall all seasons of the year. The #HillcrestGlowUp has created an excitement for our ongoing transformation, and it has shifted our place as a community centre to truly being the centre of the community.
Our demographic is a lot younger than what people might expect. Richmond Hill is full of young families who love the size and one-level layout of Hillcrest. We’ve got exciting retailers meeting the needs of our modern lifestyle like HomeSense/Marshalls, West Coast Kids, Sporting Life, Okaidi, and so many more. There’s room at Hillcrest for both style and substance. Whether we’re activating Lunar New Year story time sessions or coordinating coding workshops for kids in partnership with Old Navy, we recognize the values of our community, and we’re bringing those to the forefront of everything we do here.
There’s an authenticity at Hillcrest and I promise you, it’s worth a visit.
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