Pay It Forward: “Never Run From A Challenge” Advises Capital One’s Cathy Janke

Real Estate

Innovation lightbulb.

Cathy Janke is a senior vice president for commercial real estate lending at Capital One. Based in Dallas, Janke will be responsible for originating and managing both agency and balance sheet loans.

Cathy Janke Cathy Janke, Courtesy photo

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle as a woman in your particular role? I would say my biggest challenge has been breaking through to the senior management/leadership level.  CRE remains predominantly male-dominated, which can be daunting, but I have always been lucky to work with very supportive people that lift me up and provide growth opportunities. I like to volunteer for projects and offer my assistance to others which gains you both exposure and an opportunity to learn something new.  Never run from a challenge, run toward it.

Commercial real estate has historically been a challenging industry for women. Little by little that is changing, but where would you say commercial real estate needs to improve for women? Women do not want opportunities because of their gender but because they are earned through hard work and being smart. I still see qualified individuals (not just women) passed over for opportunities because of nepotism or who the other candidate knew. Sadly that “good ole boy” network still exists. However, I firmly believe the younger generation is more open to gender and racial equality, which will hopefully grow the industry out of this challenge.

How can women better position themselves for success both in general and in your specific area of focus?  Women must really get out there and really get active in organizations tied to their industry.  Volunteer to be on a committee or help with a specific event.  For years I would go to industry breakfasts or lunches and wonder why I had no real connection with the organization.  It all changed when I got on a committee that really interested me.  

What is the best piece of advice you have received that has helped you succeed in your industry? Pay it forward. I grew into the person I am today because people took interest in me and my work ethic. They gave me an opportunity and it is incumbent on all of us to do the same. We need to share our experiences, provide guidance, and give opportunities to future leaders.

For the next generation, two pieces of advice: 1) help others by sharing your knowledge; and 2) give back and become active with a non-profit or other organization whose mission resonates with you and that makes a difference in your community.

What, in particular, can women bring to the table as the industry continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis? Common sense and a sense of stewardship. We can take a negative view on how or when this crisis will ebb, or we can take an inclusive approach with our clients and our partners. No one caused this situation, but we are all impacted, and it behooves us to muddle through it together.

Would you advise your daughter to begin a career in CRE? Absolutely!  The opportunities are endless and there is nothing like the feeling of being part of a property that changes the skyline of a city. When you take a piece of dirt and help turn it into a place someone can live or buy groceries it means something – it is tangible.  I love that about CRE and I would want every little girl to have that opportunity. To get a foothold I would recommend looking for an internship with an engineer, general contractor, developer, etc. to ascertain which focus within CRE is most interesting. Those types of opportunities were really not available when I was growing up, but if they had been, I can only imagine the success I would be swimming in today!

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