Meet Our Team: Johanna Knapic

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Johanna Knapic
Johanna Knapic, one of Birgo Realty's property managers

Tell me a little bit about your background.

I apprenticed with Birgo Realty through a startup program called Praxis as what I thought was a gap year during college. I ended up dropping out of the hospitality and human resource program I was in to accept the full-time offer that followed. I started my apprenticeship as general support, next moved to short-term rental management, then to property management with a focus in short-term rentals.

Which has been more valuable in your career, your education or your experience?

As someone with limited encounters in both, at least formally, I honestly don’t know yet. I’ve learned that they are not mutually exclusive. Education does not have to be “learn learn learn to one day be qualified to use this.” Instead, education can be applied practically in real-time by doing projects or assignments that generate value for the community while learning theory and wisdom from the curriculum. The same can be said for experience. Even the most tenured staff can further educate themselves by learning from experts on what they are experiencing at work or writing about projects they’ve dissected into bite size lessons. Either one, experience or education, can be a signal of competency as I market myself.

What's the best thing about your job?

I’m encouraged to do my job according to how I’m wired. Ownership focuses more on employees themselves rather than the roles they fill.

What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?

My senior year of high school I decided to take AP Literature. It doesn’t sound risky or lofty or exciting compared to a career in management, and it’s not, but throughout adolescence I struggled in English. I knew pretty soon I’d be in a career where reading comprehension and writing was critical (and I knew that because it’s critical in pretty much all jobs) so I challenged myself to take the hardest class my school offered. I agree that professionals should focus more on strengths than weaknesses, but that made it even more vital to recognize weaknesses early on while the deficit required to develop the skill still fell on me and not my company.

What skills have you found vital to your job?

Being able to jump in and take over! I want to say the phrase, “Don’t wait for the keys to be handed to you” because that’s literally how my job in property management started. I waited my first week or two for someone to give me my master key and walk me through the properties. Let’s just say I ordered the locks myself after my first move-in ended in tears (me, not the resident…) because I didn’t realize that when my name is on something, it’s my responsibility from the start. I don’t get a syllabus. I don’t get a rubric. I don’t get a schedule. I don’t get validation every day. If I want it, I must go for it!

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

Literally everyone has imposter syndrome. Whether you have four degrees, a killer portfolio, or a lifetime of experience, it doesn’t bridge the psychological gap you tell yourself you have. There are so many people who can do your job better than you, and that’s a great reason to keep going. Most likely, they can do lots of bigger and better things than you too. You have a comparative advantage; never underestimate it.

If you’re in property management specifically, my advice is to not overthink the challenge, but instead think practically and just Google it!

Is there a quote that motivates you?

The line, “Adieu, Adieu, All's Vanity” from Anne Bradstreet’s Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666. Isn’t it uplifting to remember nothing matters? Or maybe, as Gordon Spykman said, “Nothing matters but the kingdom. But because of the kingdom, everything matters.”

Who inspires you?

Cheesy answer - everyone I work with! They are all interesting, caring, gifted, and thoughtful people who do this job because they want to improve lives through real estate!

Dream job (apart from working at Birgo!)?

I have no idea. I thought I had a dream job until I fell into it last year. Now I realize how many aspects of my dream job will change over time as my life’s priorities adapt and industries innovate. Maybe I’d like to be the boss’s second-hand man, integrating her vision with the operation and finance of the company. But I’ll never lose my passion for hospitality!

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Something double sided! When you blend them together it makes an in-between color that you can’t quite name. I enjoy bringing differences together whether that’s people, culture, mindsets, or ideas!

What was the last gift you gave someone?

I love making cards! The most recent cover had a collage that formed an Xbox controller, but instead of buttons with the traditional markings, they were Christmas ornaments. It hid the present inside, a gaming gift card!

Teach me something I don’t know in the next minute.

The Black Death and the bubonic plague aren’t necessarily the same thing. All diseases under the Black Death are caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, but the diseases can manifest in three different areas of the body: lymphatic system (bubonic plague), cardiovascular system (septicemic plague), and respiratory system (pneumonic plague). Although the bubonic plague is the most common, it’s extremely rare for it to spread from person to person. More often, it spreads from animals (namely fleas) to people. Surprisingly, the pneumonic plague is the most lethal plus the most contagious due to excessive coughing. Without antibiotics administered the same day of symptoms, the mortality rate is 100 percent; death typically occurs within 24 hours.

Favorite cake?

Orange cake with powdered sugar instead of icing!

What books or articles should I be reading?

I know this is the part where I’m supposed to list professional development tools to make me sound important, but I’m a proponent for fiction. To me, it’s not a passive, unproductive pass time. It helps me conceptualize how humans process thoughts, relationships, and culture. When I can emotionally attach to others’ circumstances and conflicts, either through novels or music, I understand and retain more. There are infinite lenses through which to see the world - art, science, technology, geography, politics, nation states, religion, health - and fiction gives us eyes to see them all!

What does a typical weekend look like in your household?

It’s pretty boring. My roommate works afternoons and evenings every weekend. I try to wrap up work then plan my next week on Friday. Plus Friday night is my favorite day of the week to go to bed early. On Saturday, I’m probably spending time with family. If not, I’m exploring hobbies. Sunday is my church and chore day, plus I go to the coffee shop to do that weekly planning I meant to do Friday night but fell asleep halfway through.

What are some of your best or favorite personal achievements?

I would say being debt free, but as I work around real estate investors, I’ll choose another one. Most of my colleagues haven’t heard me sing because there are 100+ people around me performing at the same time. Joining the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh has been one of my favorite musical experiences!

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