ADVANTAGE BUILDER: DJ SANDLER
At a time when Fast Company declared adaptability to be the most important skill for 21st century business, DJ Sandler has exactly the right resume. He has held high-level communications and marketing positions for three different Fortune 500 firms. But he’s also worked as small business owner, an artist, a musician, a record label founder and at a tech startup.
As CBRE’s Senior Director, Marketing & Communications for Southern California, DJ draws on his portfolio of experience in multiple disciplines to stay abreast of the swiftly evolving commercial real estate landscape.
“We have to be agile and embrace constant change because the industry is moving at light speed.”
“We’re making incredible investments in people and technology to offer our clients faster, more accurate ways to imagine space and solve their real estate challenges,” Sandler said. “I believe Marketing is the key steward to leverage those solutions. We have to be agile and embrace constant change because the industry is moving at light speed.”
COMBINING CREATIVITY AND CURIOSITY
DJ learned to follow his curiosity and explore multiple passions growing up on Mercer Island outside of Seattle. His dad was an architect and musician; his mother was the Director of Admissions at an art school and a member of a modern dance company. “My younger brother and I grew up roaming the woods,” he said. “It was like a rainforest, actually; it rains a lot there. There was always music and art and a creative spirit in my house.”
His family spent a few weeks every summer at a rustic cabin in La Push, a resort town on the rugged Pacific Coast in northwest Washington State, surrounded by the mountains and forests of Olympic National Park. La Push is a mecca for fishing, surfing, hiking and whale watching. DJ also loved geology and was an avid rock and mineral collector. “I was a free-spirited, gypsy kid with a ton of eclectic interests,” he said. “I never had one true calling.”
“There’s never a dull day and no such thing as a finish line.”
In fact, after graduating from Seattle University with a degree in criminal justice and sociology, DJ’s career almost went another direction entirely. He spent a few years as a juvenile probation officer, working with troubled teens and former gang members. “I’ve always been fascinated with human decision-making, and criminal justice, psychology and sociology seemed like a good way to explore that,” he said. “Marketing ended up being the right field for me, because it was the only discipline that truly embraced the eclecticism of my passions – art, technology, science and the bottom line. There’s never a dull day and no such thing as a finish line.”
LEADING FOR SUCCESS
DJ has spent his entire career on the West Coast, with leadership roles in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and now Los Angeles. He manages four key pillars for CBRE: build brand equity, drive client engagement, promote CBRE’s products and help its professionals win at point of sale. “I consider it my primary goal to build a cutting-edge marketing platform so all of our professionals are able to bring one-of-a-kind solutions to our clients.”
He is continually synthesizing his business and creative acumen with years of experience in other industries to bring a fresh lens to CBRE’s marketing efforts, and to inspire his team of 30 professionals.
“I oversee an incredible group of business development marketers, public relations professionals, writers, content and web marketers and digital creatives,” he said. “Empowering and challenging the people on my team and seeing them grow brings me the most satisfaction.”
“Empowering and challenging the people on my team and seeing them grow brings me the most satisfaction.”
DJ also has a seat on the executive committee and works closely with Lew Horne, President of Southern California and Hawaii, on strategy and operations. “When I was interviewing with CBRE, Lew was showing me his SoCal organizational charts. Then he turned his upside down, and said, ‘this is the way I look at my org chart – I’m on the bottom and my job is to serve my team.’ That really resonated with me. That’s how I try to lead. I find the most success when my team succeeds.”
KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Outside the office, DJ spends his time with his wife and two-year-old daughter. “I’m wrapped around her finger and proud of it,” he jokes. They play on the beach, hike in the mountains and host jam sessions with the guitars, piano and drums in their living room. “My daughter has started to sit at the piano and bang on the keys and sing – it’s amazing to watch,” he said.
DJ and his wife are avid travelers, touring Asia, Europe and the U.S. But they’re staying close to home until their daughter is a few years older. “I’m at a place now where I’m centered on the simplest things – being with family and friends, playing music and enjoying the outdoors. Those things by far make me the happiest.”