Future Advocacy for Equality in Property
by Michelle Singer, DisplaySweet
At almost two metres tall, Marcus Skeggs stands out.
But when he wore a sequined black tuxedo to a national award ceremony in October 2019 – flanked by management and colleagues from property technology company DisplaySweet – he made quite the impression.
“It was a bold choice,” Marcus admits.
“I had a fabulous time. When we went up on stage to collect our award with everyone including our investors I felt super comfortable and loved every minute of it.”
Handshakes and compliments followed, confirming Marcus’ bold wardrobe choice while validating his determination to always be himself. It’s become a permanent mindset and something he’s chosen to advocate for on behalf of others after having found his groove within the property industry for only a handful of years. A supportive environment has underpinned Marcus’ professional success, particularly since DisplaySweet managers suggested and encouraged him to apply for the UDIA’s inaugural Legends and Legacy program in 2019.
Established by the UDIA NSW Councillor and CEO of Diversified Property Group, Vanessa Pearson, the Legends & Legacy program helps foster the industry’s next generation of young leaders, providing invaluable networking and mentoring opportunities for Marcus and 13 other talented and future property leaders.
“Part of the appeal was the opportunity to form new networks and friendship groups, with passionate and like-minded people,” Marcus said.
“You don’t normally have access to this caliber of experience, it was a good opportunity to be more involved in the industry.”
The group was also given unprecedented access to some of Australia’s most successful and prolific property executives including Iwan Sunito, Chief Executive Officer of Australian development company Crown Group and Western Sydney’s dairy farmer and land developer Tony Perich. A natural storyteller and creative personality, Marcus relished the opportunities and instant support from his newly established circle of contacts. After working in advertising and design with EdwardJames (now the James Agency) on property campaigns and marketing for almost three years, Marcus joined Melbourne-based proptech company DisplaySweet as an account sales manager in April 2018. He relishes the role of winning new business and travelling across the eastern seaboard to see client projects launch to the market using the DisplaySweet technology.
“A lot of people hate cold calling, not me, I love the opportunity to speak to someone new,” he says.
“The key is to treat everyone with the same level of respect. It doesn’t matter if I get through to a Secretary, a Marketing Manager or a CEO, everyone has something to contribute. Treating everyone equally should be society’s default but unfortunately it’s not always the case.”
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Marcus after an incident at work during a training day with clients became a watershed career moment, strengthening his resolve to promote inclusion within the industry. While demonstrating the DisplaySweet app on an iPad to a team of agents, a Sales Director began to make comments about not being ‘creative’ enough to understand the technology. Marcus took his time to explain the software and process in greater detail but the comments became personal.
“Out of nowhere this agent said in front of his colleagues ‘a marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman’ and a few minutes later ‘children deserve a mother and father’,” he said.
“It was not long after the Marriage Equality Vote had been passed and it was the first time I’d ever encountered anything like that. I felt like I had been sucker punched.”
An uncharacteristically quiet Marcus returned to work unsure of how to handle the situation, admitting the incident affected him more than he would have liked.
“I decided to let John [DisplaySweet co-CEO John Paige] know what had happened and he was super supportive, he said it was totally unacceptable and called the client,” Marcus said.
“That’s amazing and rare for a CEO to be so forward thinking and care so much about his employees. He said I could let it define me or I could do something about it so it didn’t happen to others.”
As an active member of the Queers in Property (QIP) group, Marcus is an advocate for the LGBITQ+ industry and will take a seat on the UDIA NSW Diversity & Inclusion committee in 2020. The 22-member committee’s mandate is to advocate for change and greater equality within the development industry, a directive Marcus fully endorses and a vehicle with which he hopes will help provide a voice for those groups who don’t have one.
“The drawcard for me was the diversity part, as the industry is lacking in diversification from the LGBITQ community’s point of view,” he said.
“But there’s also a lack of marketing and sales roles represented in these committees. There’s a lot of advocacy on behalf of developers, which is great, but without marketing or sales teams these projects wouldn’t go far.”
It’s also an opportunity to set an example that it’s okay to be yourself in the workplace and a platform with which Marcus hopes will also bring about an era of cultural change.
“This is my opportunity to start flagging issues that can’t, and shouldn’t be ignored, because someone who may not be as strong as me might have a similar experience that not only ruins their day but their career too,” Marcus said.
“I’ve always felt comfortable being myself and that experience made me feel terrible, not about the work I was doing, but me as a person and that’s not okay.”
UDIA Legends & Legacy Program www.udialegendsandlegacy.com.au
Queers in Property queersinproperty.com.au