As we come to the end of our Summer of Inspiration Series, we had the privilege to visit with Kristen McLaughlin, CAPS, CAS, to talk about why she believes credentials are so important and how it has helped her excel in her career.

Kristin is a Senior Business Development Manager for Mohawk Industries, the world’s largest flooring manufacturer, with a focus on the multifamily industry. During her career, Kristin has earned two credentials; CAPS and CAS. In 2019 she was recognized for her excellence and leadership in the apartment housing industry with the Certified Apartment Supplier of the Award. 

Let’s start with what led you to pursue your first credential.

I was one semester shy of graduating college when I had my first child and subsequently, never went back to college. Then, I kind of fell into multifamily and felt that since I didn’t have a college degree, I needed to be educated in the field that I was choosing as my career. As an assistant manager, I started taking some classes at a maintenance supply company where I learned how to rekey locks and change fluid masters. I thought if I’m going to be managing maintenance people, I need to know a little bit about their world. Then, I heard about the CAM program through the San Antonio apartment association and immediately signed up and started taking classes.

Why was it so important to get a credential?

At that time in the industry, hiring managers were looking for managers and supervisors to have a degree – they wanted that piece of paper. So I thought, well, I’m going to get a piece of paper in the industry that I’m in.

How has having a credential helped you in your career?

Well, of course, when the designation is on your business card or resume, it creates an opportunity to have a dialogue with people. So people will ask you either what it means, or they will see it and know that I am an expert in my field. 

Having that designation behind my name on my resume and business card has provided instant credibility and opened the door for jobs that I would not have been considered for without it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about earning a credential?

I would tell anyone that is a supplier in the industry to get their CAS immediately — as soon as they possibly can. It is a huge benefit to them as a vendor or supplier partner in the industry to be able to sit down next to a classmate who’s working toward their CAM. They can begin networking at that moment with potential customers. 

When I was the president of the PSC here in Houston, Texas, we instituted a requirement that you must hold your CAS designation if you are going to be a member of the council. So I take it very seriously. It’s a major benefit to the industry and for the individual who is investing in themselves.

We’ve heard complaints over the years that the financial component is too difficult – What was your experience?

So many people are scared of math. Let’s just put it this way, I almost didn’t take a job in the flooring industry because I was scared of math and measuring, etc. And here I am 20 years later and it really is so simple and nothing to be afraid of. Once you understand the “whys” and the “how’s” and learn the formulas, it’s simple and not scary or hard at all. 

Any other thoughts on the benefits of investing in yourself?

Well, for me now, it’s about paying it forward and encouraging others to get their credential.

I’ll give you an example. I had the privilege of mentoring a young man who was working for one of my clients in Houston. He was new to Houston and he didn’t know anything about the market or anyone in the association. I invited him to lunch one day and we talked about getting involved in the association, getting his CAS and about joining the PAC. He was a bit skeptical of the “politics” of the PAC committee but he ended up joining, got super involved in many areas of the association, and is now a co-chair of several subcommittees, holds his CAS and is a member of the HAA PSC. Recently he was told that he is the recipient of the 2020 CAS of the Year and I was one of the first people he called to share in his excitement. How cool to have someone I mentored earn the same award the year following me.  

I truly enjoy seeing the success of others so by investing in them, it actually benefits me too. It’s a personal acknowledgement to me that everything that I believe in and I encourage for others really does matter.