2022 HousingWire Rising Star Morgan Salama, pictured above, is portrayed on the cover of the June HousingWire Magazine issue. Photo credit: Chris Plavidal
Strategy is the foundational element in building the future of the housing sector. And, if strategy is the foundation, we’d say that Morgan Salama is one of the key people building that foundation. First joining Realogy in 2017 under the company’s chief strategy officer, Salama, who now serves as the head of growth and partnerships her strengths in strategy and critical thinking to build partnerships and drive growth in the company.
But what really stands out about Salama is how she, from a young age, has learned to always find the power in connecting with people — whether that’s learning what growing in your career looks like from her parents or even diving into a group think tank to brainstorm potential partnerships in the housing space.
Salama met with the HousingWire team in Dallas to shoot the cover of this month’s magazine after being selected as a 2022 Rising Star, and during our time together, it was easy to see how she is capturing the attention of the housing industry as a force to be reckoned with.
For her interview, she shared that the best piece of advice that she’s ever received is to “listen up close,” and it’s that same advice that we share with you as you read through this interview.
HW: First off, congrats on being named a 2022 Rising Star. If you were standing on a stage giving an acceptance speech, who would you want to thank for helping you get where you are today?
Morgan Salama: First, if there’s anything that I have learned in my career, it’s that nobody gets anywhere alone. Not even sort of, and that’s probably a cliché thing to say, but I truly believe it. I’d say the first two people I would have to thank who I would be almost nowhere without is first my friend and mentor, Eric Chesin, Realogy chief of strategy, who was my very first boss at Realogy and without fail has made me better and believes in me. He is such an amazing and intelligent person who has shaped my career.
I always joked that these two people make up my personal board of directors. The other is Kristin Aerts Bourgoin, who serves as vice president of strategy and integration at Realogy and who I worked with for like six or seven years now. She’s a close friend and a force of nature. Whenever I’m in a spot with my career, where I either don’t know what to do or I don’t know how to solve a problem, she’s one of the first people I call just to get that advice and perspective.
Of course, I have to thank my parents and my close friends, they’re really my family as well, because they have built this space for me to have such a joyous career. Learning from my parents from a very early age that work is something that you can get a lot of joy from, that numbers can bring joy, that it’s this great part of life, and not just this thing that you have to do, shaped who I am, and shaped my ability to understand workplaces. When everybody else was sort of just sitting in high school classes, I was always involved in their life.
HW: You’ve accomplished a lot in your career, and yet, I still think this is the beginning of even more for you. What would you say is your “why,” meaning what keeps you motivated and passionate in your field?
Morgan Salama: I have a deep belief that kind of like hiking, living is a responsibility to leave things better than you found it. I think at work, and specifically working in an industry with such a responsibility to other people’s lives and livelihoods, I am motivated every day by the ability to have some small impact on other people’s experiences and housing and what it means to own something and to have a place where you belong. It motivates me. I am passionate about it, and it’s a huge part of the reason why I can wake up every day and be really excited to do this work.
The second part of my why I think people actually talk about a little bit less and that is the workplace side of it. I am very, very motivated by being a part of, in any way, making workplaces better. I think when people talk about impact in your career, you get so focused on customers that you forget that, especially at a large employer like Realogy.
Thousands of people have 40 hours a week affected by what this workplace is like, and I’m very motivated by building positive, inclusive, funny and kind workplaces. And, I deeply believe that both make the customer impact bigger and is a big part of the footprint we all have on the world around us if you’re in any industry.
HW: What’s one of your proudest accomplishments so far in your career?
Morgan Salama: I’d say the creation and building of the Realogy Leads Group a few years ago. I was really lucky to get to be a part of conversations with our CEO and business leaders about where we needed to focus strategically, and I got a chance to advocate and build a business case and be a part of the forming leadership team for Realogy Leads Group. The group is Realogy’s business unit that really focuses on the consumer and just on the consumer. But unlike a lot of folks out there that are just starting to focus on the consumer now, this Realogy Leads Group business unit was built on the back of 30 years of serving consumers directly and providing excellent experiences. I think by far, the fact that I was able to be a part of that conversation, be a part of that focus on the consumer, and then help and be part of the early leadership team building it out is something I’m really proud of. I remember the Word documents that I was writing out in the beginning, just talking about why and building these numbers-based cases. There was always a lot of passion behind it for me and all the other awesome leaders of that business unit. I think as more and more players coalesce around the consumer as a key focal point in our industry, it’s just something that I’m really proud of.
HW: Knowing there’s exciting room for growth and innovation in housing, why do you think strategy is a critical skill to have in this space?
Morgan Salama: I’ll start by defining what strategy means to me, because I’ve learned that everybody has a different version of that in their head. Strategy, to me, is putting real intent and listening and data behind how an organization prioritizes and focuses. It’s being thoughtful and intentional about that focus.
I would say the reason why I love strategy and the reason why I believe it’s absolutely critical, especially in this space and now, is because strategy becomes the focus when there’s a lot of potential things you could focus on. There are a lot of options in this industry of how to spend your time, and there’s hundreds of millions of dollars of funding coming in to solve different problems or improving different experiences. And with all that transformation and change, I really believe that you have to spend the time that is a real investment in listening and planning before you jump in and decide what’s going to be the highest impact. Especially when you’re at a company like Realogy, where we are the largest player in residential real estate in the United States. This comes with not only high stakes, but also a responsibility to ourselves, to our agents, to our consumers for focusing on what’s really important. It’s strategy that helps you get to that right focus for all of those involved.
HW: How have you witnessed the power of strategy in action?
Morgan Salama: Honestly, I’m very biased here — but I think the creation of my new role at Realogy Title Group is a great example! For the first time, Realogy has a role 100% dedicated to building simple and high-impact joint ventures with our franchisees. It’s a classic strategy story: Realogy has a clear competitive advantage in our title and mortgage expertise, we have this incredible group of more than 1,900 affiliated brokers, and clear industry focus on the intersection of primary services and the consumer experience. So we’re going big on it.
HW: How have you seen this industry come together through partnerships to create change?
Morgan Salama: The best part about partnerships is you can acknowledge what you do well and where you really want to invest time and energy. Ultimately, your partners have got to be focused with you on something that you have all decided is really high impact.
One of those that I’m most excited about is our partnership with Home Partners of America and the creation of our RealSure joint venture. I’ve watched as the company has really rallied around this amazing value proposition. I was a part of it from the Realogy Leads Group perspective, as we decided that not only did we want another partner in it, but we wanted to create a third-party joint venture whose sole focus was going to be on this pretty incredible consumer experience that unlocks accessibility and homeownership for people who can’t carry a balance in between buying and selling a home and unlocking a truly different experience, instead of just playing around the edges of the base consumer experience of buying and selling home.
HW: What can we expect next from you?
Morgan Salama: If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the last couple of years, it’s that I am motivated by who I work with, and I am motivated by solving interesting problems with impact on all sorts of different constituents. I’m really excited about my new role at Realogy Title Group because it checks those boxes, and I really believe that ancillary services, and title and mortgage specifically, are a huge part of the experience. It’s a huge part of what consumers are craving in the real estate experience — it’s a really smooth, seamless and positive experience. Many people are a little scared off from title and mortgage because they’re complicated, but I think that’s exactly why it’s exciting to me. It’s complicated, and it’s high impact. And the team here has built a world-class business that I am learning and becoming more and more a part of. If you ask me, I will continue to build on those principles of what’s important to me and continue to focus on whatever I can do to make a small, positive dent in this real estate universe we’re all in.
HW: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Morgan Salama: I’d add that there are so many people out there that are just starting careers, and it’s so easy to focus on what you’re doing and not who you’re doing it with. If there’s one piece of learning that I would love to share, it’s that it’s all about the people you work with, not just because you will have more fun every day and every week, and not just because they will teach you tactical things, but because they will make you better. And, they will affect the way you look at the world, whether it means your work world or your home world or a combination of both of them. This matters so much, and I am so grateful for the ability to have worked with the people that I work with, and just look forward to all the people I get to meet in the next 5, 10, 20 or however many years in my career. It’s a real joy, and I hope everybody gets that chance and builds in space to find those chances to work with great people.
To see the full list of HosingWire 2022 Rising Stars, go here.