This month, we wanted to take a moment to spotlight some of the incredible women who are making Extra Space Storage an excellent place to work. Though their career paths have been unique, all of them have faced challenges they learned to overcome, found mentors who could guide their job growth, and became leaders themselves in their respective fields. Get to know these amazing Extra Space Storage team members below, and read their advice for those just getting started in their own careers!
Amy Adams, Store Network & Onboarding Manager
Amy Adams has had a wealth of experiences in her career. After working in both healthcare and business management, her path eventually led to her current role as Store Network & Onboarding Manager at Extra Space Storage, where she leads a team in the IT department.
For Adams, working with various managers throughout her career has been a driving factor in how she approaches her own management style today. “One specific managerial style I encountered that was particularly negative has helped influence the way I manage those who report to me. It made a huge impact on me and created a desire to be a more evolved and approachable employee and manager.”
After seeing these management styles in action and learning from them, Adams decided two things would be important in her leadership role. First, she would strive to ask all of the questions she needed to ask to ensure she was on the right track with her work; and second, she’d provide clear expectations, training, and honest feedback for employees to create a positive and successful work environment.
“I have a genuine interest and appreciation for the people I work with and manage,” she explains. “I love learning what motivates them, understanding why they do the things they do, and discovering where their natural talents are. I think this really helps me to understand the best way to make my team efficient and motivated.”
Adams believes in letting her work speak for itself, something she acknowledges was not always enough in the past with other managers and other companies before she came to Extra Space Storage. “[I] knew I would never be promoted because it wasn’t even a thought in my managers’ minds. My response to that was to work as hard as I needed to in order to create a better situation for myself.”
No matter what job hardships arise, Adams recommends taking on new things and accepting new challenges to let others get exposure to your work so they can learn what you’re all about. “The advice I would give to other women who are considering a career in IT would be to own your career because nobody else will. Just put the time and effort in to become the best you can at what you do.”
Becky English, Senior Transitions Manager
Becky English started at Extra Space Storage as a recruiting intern, eventually becoming a recruiter, which then led to her current role as Senior Transitions Manager for the Operations department, where she works with partners from all over country to bring new sites into the company’s portfolio.
Prior to joining Extra Space Storage, English worked a wide range of jobs—even running a franchise business with her sons—all of which she believes gave her good experience. “I don’t think, until now, I thought of it as a career,” she says. “For me, the skills I have acquired doing a lot of different types of jobs have given me the best advantage…it’s helpful to get exposure to different fields and businesses.”
But throughout her experiences in various fields, there was also a unique struggle. English admits the hardest part of her career was trying to work with difficult supervisors. Though she says there were only a few supervisors like this that she encountered in previous jobs, the challenge was often the result of the way she was being perceived by these supervisors, which made it hard to find a good solution.
“I think one of the hardest things that women face is the difference in the way some characteristics are accepted and encouraged if men have them and criticized if women have them. Men are encouraged to be competitive, strong, and determined, but women are often criticized for these same traits.”
Working with a mentor helped English address this challenge. With her mentor’s guidance, she was able to take a step back and understand how to approach certain situations better. By taking the time to listen to those around her, English says that she’s been able to overcome perceptions that had gotten in the way of her career growth in the past. She also says some of the best advice she’s ever received was to be confident yet humble and always listen to suggestions and ideas from others.
“Find a mentor—or even more than one,” English adds. “Both men and women can help talk you through situations and give you advice on how to handle difficult situations.”
Jennifer Kelly, District Manager
When Jennifer Kelly joined Extra Space Storage as a Store Manager nearly ten years ago, she never imagined that her career would grow the way it has. Today, Kelly works as a District Manager. She’s had the chance to travel and be part of multiple storage acquisitions throughout different states, including Puerto Rico, which she says has broadened her view of the self storage industry.
Being involved in a position of leadership and having the ability to focus on relationship building are what Kelly feels have allowed her to grow in her role and improve her work with Extra Space Storage over the years. By getting the opportunity to collaborate with her peers and build trust with her employees, she’s been able to create a successful team and become more confident as a manager.
Still, Kelly admits that working in a traditionally male-dominated industry was difficult at first. She had to learn how to be more assertive to achieve her goals and establish herself among her peers.
“The most challenging aspect of my career has been building a level of comfort in having very direct conversations and not being afraid to hurt people’s feelings,” she explains. “I’m naturally a ‘feeler,’ so I want people to feel supported and empowered to become successful, [but] being direct and challenging them is a necessary part of growth.”
For other women who struggle with assertiveness in the workplace, Kelly says there’s no need to worry. Take it from her own experience. Not only has facing this discomfort and learning from it early on allowed her to grow in her own career, but embracing direct communication has made her work easier, helping her to better set goals for her team and lead them to success.
“You can still keep your humanity while still being able to challenge people directly,” she advises. “Don’t be afraid to have a voice. Share your thoughts and opinions, as a company’s strength comes through diversity.”
Jess Wiegert, Tier 2 Technician
Jess Wiegert is a Tier 2 Technician with Extra Space Storage’s IT department who’s currently training to become a team lead. Despite having started in graphic design, Wiegert ended up excelling in fixing software and hardware issues both in school and at previous jobs, so an IT path seemed like a better fit.
What Wiegert enjoys most about her technical work with Extra Space Storage is when her actions help alleviate the day to day for someone else. “Everyone’s time is valuable, so being able to fix something or make something better for the long haul is something I value greatly,” she explains.
But it’s not always easy or enjoyable. According to Wiegert, one of the more difficult aspects of working with software and hardware is having to investigate issues that seem to come out of nowhere. “Sometimes, it takes some creative thinking to get down to the bottom of it,” she says.
In these situations, however, Wiegert likes to recall some advice a former boss once gave her: “Find a way to make the magic happen.” In other words, treat the task at hand as if you’re the only person who can get the job done, and make sure to do research or reach out in order to follow it to the end.
Wiegert believes producing good work comes from a place of strong communication and customer service skills. She says it’s much harder to get things done or solved if you’re unable to communicate with people effectively. She recognizes that, sometimes, it can be tricky to set aside personal characteristics or individual perceptions that create communication challenges. But even if ideas or suggestions are called into question, operating from a place of confidence is what Wiegert suggests.
“The best way to handle any challenges such as these is to be clear and concise with communication and continue to move forward with what you know will get the job done,” she says. “My best advice would be to always keep the bigger picture in mind for yourself and for your career goals. Never sweat the small stuff that might get in the way.”
Katie Dodds, Senior Data Scientist
As a Senior Data Scientist with the Data Science department at Extra Space Storage, Katie Dodds is all about mathematics. Though she initially studied fashion design and at one point even considered going to law school, Dodds’ path eventually shifted toward a passion for statistics, which brought her to Extra Space Storage as a data science intern during grad school.
“It’s easy for me to communicate technical ideas and concepts to those with a similar background to me,” she states. “In school, you do a lot of presentations on these technical concepts, and you think it’s going to prepare you for the real world. That’s not how it was at all! I had to learn to communicate in a way that makes sense to someone who has never taken a statistics class, which was a challenge at first, but thanks to a lot of training and mentoring, I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”
Most of Dodds’ colleagues studied engineering, so she brings something unique to the team with her math background. Though she says she doesn’t use everything she learned about statistics in her work with Extra Space Storage, having that background gives her a different approach to solving problems, which helps diversify the team and make it easier for them to view issues from a variety of angles.
Dodds says her passion for numbers came with some issues, however—mainly that people doubted her decision to study math. Even her undergraduate advisor tried to talk her out of it.
“People assumed because I looked a certain way that there was no way that I was ‘smart enough’ to understand complex problems,” she explains. “Instead of letting it bring me down, I used it to motivate me and prove to myself that I can do hard things.”
Fortunately, in her current position, that’s not an issue. Dodds is able to fully embrace her love of statistics. For anyone thinking about joining a mathematical or technical field, Dodds advice is simple: “Apply for jobs that you’re interested in, even if you don’t have all of the expected qualifications. It’s rare that a candidate has everything listed in the job description…Put yourself out there, but be honest!”
Margaret Schroeder, Software Engineer
Margaret Schroeder worked as a QA Software Engineer before joining the Extra Space Storage team as a Junior Software Engineer. Throughout her time at her previous job, as well as in her current role as Software Engineer, Schroeder has run into her fair share of challenges, but she’s always found a way to tackle them.
“The hardest and best part about tech is there’s always something new to master, and sometimes it feels daunting to choose what to learn and implement for the company out of so many options,” she explains.
While Schroeder mostly finds workarounds by staying current with her training and applying what she learns in those trainings, she also believes that she’s been able to grow and improve because of her colleagues. “I have been able to work with some great people who have helped hone my coding style, techniques, and assessment skills. My mentors help guide my career by influencing which projects I would work on, which in turn guided my experience and expertise.”
Particularly when it comes to the software industry, Schroeder says one of the biggest challenges is that there’s a shortage of women in the field. While she’s had excellent mentors who’ve been women, finding female mentors and role models is more difficult in software engineering. “One of the ways I’ve overcome this is to focus on choosing mentors by skillset rather than commonalities. I have a great deal to learn from others, and I enjoy working with several people much more experienced than myself.”
When reflecting on some of the best advice she’s received from her mentors, Schroeder has a few favorites. The first is that it’s okay to not have the answers. It’s always better to say “I don’t know, but let me find out” than making something up. Another great piece of advice she’s gotten is to be transparent about mistakes and take corrective action. Everyone makes mistakes, but the ones who own them are more respected for it. And lastly, she’s learned that it’s good to be both a mentor and a mentee.
“It’s important to be a mentor and to have at least one mentor at the company you are currently working for…Being a mentor is having a team attitude, and one should help recognize others for their accomplishments, and they in turn can do the same for you.”
Monica Ruedas, National Sales Center Senior Manager
After starting her career with Extra Space Storage nearly 12 years ago, Monica Ruedas has worked in several capacities for the company. She’s been an assistant facility manager and a store manager in Los Angeles. She’s worked in the Southern California division office. And she eventually made her way to the National Sales Center, where she first ran the training department before moving into her current role, in which she oversees the day-to-day operations of the contact center as Senior Manager.
“It’s been a great ride, thanks to all of the amazing leadership at Extra Space Storage,” Ruedas says.
From working with customers on the site level to growing into a role within the sales center, Ruedas feels she’s truly learned how to help Extra Space Storage customers. “Being able to transition my operational knowledge to the NSC has been a great way to help improve our operation and ensure that we are always thinking [of] the customer and our front-line managers who do the hard work.”
Experiencing so much change throughout her career has been the most challenging thing for Ruedas. Relocating from California to Utah and leaving behind friends and family to pursue her career in particular was a hard transition. “It was scary at first, but I can honestly say that it’s been the best decision of my life. I’ve broadened my knowledge, and I work with the best team I could ask for!”
Ruedas says she loves working at Extra Space Storage because there’s a commitment to diversity and inclusion that creates a positive work environment. “Being a Hispanic female has never prohibited me from growing in my career. My leaders have been my mentors and my cheerleaders in this journey.” She adds that each team member’s unique ideas are what bring innovation to the company and make it stronger every day. “Being able to share our perspectives and being our own is what makes people want to work with you.”
As far as career advice goes, here’s what Ruedas has to say: “Work hard to accomplish your goals by putting in the time and attention. Surround yourself with people that you want to be like. Find a mentor that can guide you and give you honest feedback. Study and learn the things you want to get better in. Get an education—this is something that no one can ever take away from you. Finally, it’s okay to make you and your career a priority!”