It was a day in May 2019 that Melanie Chiu, broker at Engel & Völkers Toronto Uptown, won’t easily forget.
She was at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto with her four-year-old son Liam, who was receiving treatment for a type of cancer called acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Chiu’s second son, 18-month-old Levi, was being looked after by family, and she was pregnant with her third child.
Her phone rang. It was Humber College, calling her for an interview about a new facilitator position in their real estate salesperson program.
It was an emotional time. “I was teary eyed and putting on my smiley face to take the call,” Chiu says.
Though she was preoccupied with her son’s health, on the career front she’d long been interested in a role in real estate education. And the position seemed a perfect fit, combining her real estate experience with her background as a high school teacher. But with two children, one of them ill, and a third on the way, plus her job as a real estate broker and now a potential new opportunity on the horizon, it was a lot to manage.
Chiu was eventually offered the job, and, surprisingly, was able to fit it into her schedule.
The classes were online and scheduled on weekends, which allowed her to look after her family and continue to run her business. By this time she’d given birth to her third child, daughter Marcella, while still supporting Liam’s battle with cancer.
Reflecting on her many challenges over the past two years, Chiu says she was prompted to share her experience to counter all the doom and gloom in the world today.
“Much of the media is covered with stories of unhappy real estate consumers and other negative news regarding real estate professionals,” she says. “I wanted to share my story with the hopes of uplifting other fellow real estate professionals who are finding it difficult to redefine themselves and navigate through the pandemic and personal challenges.”
She believes mothers of young children especially might be able to relate to her own struggles.
Like a lot of people, Chiu has been juggling many roles recently. In fact her new college position is just one of three new jobs she’s secured in real estate education. After the birth of her first child, she took a bit of time off work, and in between care giving, enrolled in several courses to add to her list of credentials.
She received several new professional designations, three of them through the National Association of Realtors. These include the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) designation; Seller Representative Specialist (SRS) and the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS). Now Chiu will teach some of these same courses, beginning with the ABR course in February.
She didn’t stop there. In August 2020 she received an e-learning certification from the University of Calgary, all while taking care of her three kids during the pandemic lockdown and teaching on weekends.
Along the way Chiu met another facilitator from Barrie and together they collaborated on a six-module program for new real estate sales reps that fills the gap between what is offered by Humber College and what the brokerage and industry can offer in terms of education. They pitched the course to the Barrie & District Association of Realtors, which gave it their stamp of approval. The pair taught the first program this past fall and will offer it again in 2022.
“I think my experience can help others to realize how life can change quickly, if they haven’t already realized it,” says Chiu. “And that we are faced with choices to pivot and take action that can benefit our personal lives as well as our professional lives.”
Chiu says she’s learned a lot since she got her real estate license. “I didn’t realize the many roles one could play in the industry.
“Leadership in the real estate industry can be seen and experienced from different aspects. For me it’s the education pillar, for others they may want to explore personal growth through volunteering at their boards or OREA committees. There are so many avenues to get involved and continuously improve our industry for our clients and each other,” she says.
“The more I understand all the pillars that make this industry stand tall, the more I see there are many opportunities for professional growth that are not just in sales.” But she adds that staying active in real estate trading is “important to stay updated and current with what is going on in the industry. It never stays still.”
She admits the last two years have been an emotional journey with her son’s illness and she feels for others who are struggling too.
Chiu says she appreciates the support she’s had along the way. “I credit my family and friends who really showed up when I needed help, including my bulletproof husband John.”
Marcella is now 2, Levi is 4 and Liam, 6, recently completed his final round of chemotherapy and is doing well.
Through it all, Chiu says she was motivated by a desire to do something she could be proud of. And that includes sharing what’s she’s learned and encouraging others on a path of personal growth.
She would know.