The Journey of Laura Dietz: Owner/Broker/Auctioneer, Summit Realty

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NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswoman, Laura Dietz. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories! 


I would love to tell you years ago while sitting in my college classroom, I dreamt of becoming a real estate professional, but that would not be true. I could go with a resume of my life, but this would be a novel, so I will start with the day my real estate journey began.

January 17, 1994, 4:30 AM, a day etched in my memory forever. The Northridge earthquake claimed my home, knocking it off the foundation. Three days later, my husband of many years died. Reality set in like the jolt of the earthquake. I was now alone, my home destroyed, and the sole support of myself.

In my previous life, I enjoyed, in my spare time, working with several charities. Event planning, fundraising, and finding real estate to purchase was second nature for me. I decided I loved working with people, helping others, and venturing into a new industry would be stimulating and very rewarding. I set my mind on a career in real estate.

Upon obtaining my real estate license, I joined a national/international real estate company. That worked well for five years. Then it dawned on me that I was giving several thousand dollars a year to a broker that could be going into my pocket. I obtained my broker’s license and created Merlin Enterprises, named after my rescued Arabian horse. Throughout the next few years, Merlin Enterprises grew and specialized in residential, commercial, REO’s, and government contracts. I spent numerous hours servicing my clients as well as attending conferences, conventions, and networking. I created a name for myself and a following in the industry.

While attending an out-of-state conference, I was approached by a real estate auctioneer. He offered me the opportunity to add real estate auction services to my already booming real estate business. I jumped at the chance. Merlin Enterprises now offered California a new real estate auction company. My business was thriving, but after 13 scheduled auctions, my auctioneer developed a case of homesickness and announced he needed to go back to his home state. I enrolled myself at the American School of Auctioneering and, upon completion of the courses, became the first woman certified real estate auctioneer in California at that time. I soon decided to distinguish my real estate business from my auction business and created a women-owned business specializing in real estate. Summit Realty was born.

Summit Realty presently has four offices in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. I am as passionate about real estate today as I was 26 years ago. Working with people to fulfill their dreams of homeownership, coupled with helping fellow agents by sharing my knowledge and experience plus continuing my education in an ever-changing industry, fills my days with gratitude and satisfaction. I would be remiss in not mentioning there are those days of frustration as well, but I still find time to go back to my roots and be hands-on involved with my charities, even serving on the board of directors of the Warrior Dog Foundation.

laura dietz

The Journey of Nancy Obando: Senior Vice President, Mountain West Financial

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NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswoman, Nancy Obando. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories! 


Being an advocate and empowering others came at an early age for Nancy. Coming from personal experience, she understands the systemic struggles and cultural nuances that may stifle growth and development within various minority communities. Early on she understood that she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives — Especially minority women like her. She saw the struggle her mother endured and accepted because she believed she did not have another choice. Growing up in a home where women are not to be seen or heard, the belief that she was to be raised like a lady and simply marry a man who will take care of her financial needs was simply not a value she believed in and certainly not a value that she plans on instilling in her 2 young sons. Her drive comes from the struggle of being outcast by her own parents simply by choosing to move out, be independent, and go to college. Nancy saw the struggle and stumbling blocks she faced in her own home and understood that she was going to make a difference and empower women’s lives — to give other minority women the courage and voice to dream and achieve whatever their goal might be. She mentors, sponsors, and advocates for women empowerment. Nancy’s vision is creating wealth opportunities through homeownership and to establish a deep-rooted foundation toward mentoring more women leaders in the real estate, finance, and development sector.  

“Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg  

nancy obando

The Journey of Brandy Nelson: Executive Director of Foreclosure and Commercial properties, Windermere Homes & Estates

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NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswoman, Brandy Nelson. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories! 


Covid 19 has changed the way we do business but we have adapted and thrived. Our business was done through Zoom which allowed us to have a larger target audience and kept us all engaged. I have Zoom calls daily which is good and bad, considering I sometimes have 4 Zoom calls a day and find it hard to get other work done.  On top of adapting to everything else, I had to also adapt to having a 4- and 6-year-old at home with online schooling.  As a mom who runs a business and a team, you feel that you have to be at all places at once. But we make it work.  The pandemic has caused a lot of stress but being able to have groups and Zoom calls was able to keep everyone energized, motivated, and successful.  Many women I know wanted to give up because they felt that they had no choice but they were given options.  We had lots of masterminds and worked on what is working now in our business.   

brandy nelson

The Journey of Vanessa Montañez: Sales and Business Development Manager, US Bank

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NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswoman, Vanessa Montañez. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories! 


I have had a wonderful journey thus far filled with ups and downs.  Not everything planned has turned out perfect. Your life is what you make of it. 

I have been in residential lending for twenty-five years – I love my career because I am able to provide strategies and implement programs for the diverse segments to grow generational wealth.   

Not everyone was born into wealth.  Many of us built our wealth through real estate, investments, careers, and self-employment.  What I want to share is that it takes hard work, perseverance, and ensuring the numbers pencil in before making an investment.  Before taking the plunge into real estate, make sure your numbers provide a positive rate of return before investing in real estate.  If it takes years to invest, that is OK! Life is a journey, not a race.     

Being part of NAWRB has provided me an incredible opportunity to meet like-minded professionals from various industries who want to empower other women.  I have been able to successfully speak across the US on women’s homeownership and why women’s purchasing power matters. I created a PowerPoint deck that speaks to the power in numbers and how women hold the power for homeownership, purchasing power, education, and wealth in America. 

I encourage you to become part of NAWRB and become a delegate to grow your career and voice. 

vanessa montanez

The Journey of Leora Ruzin: Senior Vice President of Wholesales, EPM

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NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswoman, Leora Ruzin. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories! 


My story is one that has been told before, and it is not totally out of the ordinary. I had a troubled childhood; one that was fraught with abuse and neglect. I was often left to take care of myself, and that self-reliance is the foundation for everything I do. I grew up far quicker than I should have but having a level of maturity that early on has served me relatively well in my adult life.  

Well, before I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to do more in life than what my small town would afford me, so I graduated early and joined the Army. My time in the service is one that I look back on fondly, and one of the biggest regrets I have from my younger days is that I did not retire from the military. I would re-enlist in a heartbeat if I knew they would take me back, and the life lessons I learned have helped shaped the leader and person I am today. 

I have dealt with unimaginable loss in my life, and nothing has had a lasting impact on me quite like the death of two of my children. While I am blessed to have four children, losing Victoria and Hayden in infancy is an indescribable experience. While it took me a long time to recover from the losses, I truly feel the experience has made me a better mother and a more compassionate person. I understood the importance of giving love and praise as often as possible, not only with my kids, but my family, friends, and colleagues. Life is fleeting and you never know when the next comment you say to someone may be your last. 

When I got into the mortgage industry in 2007, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My background was in accounting and human resources, and I was largely ignorant of not only the industry but how much it was in turmoil during this time. All I knew was that, as I was learning more about the business while handling the office manager duties, I became more and more entrenched. Before long, I was not only managing all the payroll, accounting, and HR, but I was instrumental in building dedicated mortgage back-office operations. I stood up a closing department, post-closing department, and oversaw all the licensing and compliance for the company. The rest, as they say, is history.  

Over the last 20 years, I have battled ovarian, cervical, and colon cancer, and am happy to say that I have been in remission since 2016. I have endured so many surgeries, treatments, and stays in the hospital, and there are times where my body reminds me of all I have been through. I have battled depression, anxiety, and a severe panic disorder throughout all of this, but I never let it get in the way of me achieving my goals and dreams. I will not lie in that there have been moments in my life where I wanted to give up, especially when I was also faced with misogyny, sexist and discriminatory treatment in the workplace. As a victim of rape and sexual assault, combined with a childhood filled with being told I was not “good enough” or “pretty enough”, it has been easy for me to believe it when I was told I was not worthy of the positions that I have worked so hard to attain.  

As I entered my 40’s, I experienced a paradigm shift in my way of thinking, after dealing far too long with discrimination. With the help and support of my most trusted friends and colleagues, I made the decision to invest in myself and got into a coaching program that literally changed my life. Through this coaching, I have gained valuable tools to advocate for myself, promote my own self-worth, while removing the negative space I was letting the “haters” rent in my head. When I combined this mental shift in thought with a renewed focus on improving my physical and mental health, after a recent medical scare and the unexpected death of my mother, I can happily say that I am stronger than I ever have been. While I still encounter misogyny and discrimination and am still working on my mental health issues, I am now equipped with the tools to rise above them 

My goal and vision as a Delegated Spokeswoman for NAWRB are to be able to use my life experiences to help other women who have a story like mine. In addition, I want to take the passion I have for this industry to help others achieve the American Dream of homeownership. I specifically want to help our veterans and service members have a better and more secure transition from military to civilian life. I want other women who have had to suffer in silence to know that they are not alone and that they can achieve their goalsWith the tools I have access to through NAWRB, along with the network of phenomenal women who are also Delegated Spokeswomen, I am excited to see what I can accomplish in the months and years to come.  

leora ruzin

The Journey of Laura Harbison: Broker/Owner, Realty Executives Southern Nevada Properties

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NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswoman, Laura Harbison. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories! 


Laura Harbison, Broker/Owner of Realty Executives Southern Nevada Properties, does a fantastic job of managing her very busy life, as a successful business owner and the matriarch of a family of nine.  She has compiled an impressive list of real estate accolades during her three decades of experience and now, in partnership with her husband John, is one of the most successful Real Estate Brokers in Southern Nevada.  

But it wasn’t always a seamless journey. 

For someone who is so obviously adept at the business of real estate, it’s surprising to learn that Laura started out in college at UNLV with dreams of a different kind.   Originally majoring in Computer Science Engineering, and then switching her major in her junior year to Quantitative Management Systems with an emphasis in Operations Research (with core study in finance, marketing, and statistics),   Laura saw herself entering the corporate world after college graduation. 

During her first year at UNLV, one of Laura’s sorority sisters (Delta Zeta) was working at a real estate office and suggested she apply to be an assistant. Flexible jobs were hard to find, and this company needed help seven days a week, at all hours of the day, so it was an opportunity to be employed full time while still being able to work around a heavy class schedule.  It wasn’t something she had ever considered doing, and she had been keeping busy and paying the bills with a variety of odd jobs prior to that. However, she applied and started the following week. Soon she was working in varying capacities at the company, sometimes performing receptionist duties, other administrative and clerical duties, and eventually working as an assistant to the top agent in the company.   By the time she completed her degree, she had also obtained her real estate license. While there, Laura took the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the business and gain all the experience she could. She said she initially thought real estate would be a stopgap until she got around to her “real” career. 

In the meantime, Laura had fallen in love with the industry and came to the realization that she wouldn’t face the ‘glass ceiling’  in real estate that she might encounter if she took a different path.       

As she would eventually discover, three decades ago, real estate was also a challenging career for a woman looking to excel.   That didn’t turn out to be 100% true though…  After she had been with that particular company for a period of years and was one of its top producers, Laura became pregnant.  That pronouncement earned her a  30 percent decreasein her commission split, and she saw that less qualified males were receiving preferential treatment. Instead of doing the expected thing and quitting her job, Laura stayed at the company, following through on a vow to herself to become the number one agent in her office and one of the top ten agents in the company overall.    

Two years later, while standing on a stage at a company awards ceremony, Laura had what she described as an epiphany.    She was receiving multiple awards, among which were being the top producing agent in her office and the ninth highest producing agent in the company overall (out of over 700 agents with the company at that time). She had kept her promise to herself, and NOW she could leave. 

That was about the time that representatives from the local Realty Executives franchise had begun to speak to Laura about coming to work for them.    The company was female-owned, and Laura was intrigued by the idea of working for a woman-owned company.   Laura looked at other real estate companies as well but felt her possibilities for success were much greater at Realty Executives, and she made the final decision to make her move.    Her former employers didn’t make it easy for her, but the worse their behavior got, the more assured she was that she made the right choice.  She walked away from her last 7 closings and took a leap of faith.   The previous company was so bitter over her exit that they actually sent her 7 checks for $0.00 (as each of the 7 sales closed), among other antics.   

Besides the idea of working for a woman-owned company, one of the things that most attracted Laura to Realty Executives was the freedom she was given to put together a team and run her business as she felt it had to be run.    By her second year there, she was not only the top producing agent in the company but also the top producing agent worldwide for the franchise system. 

The advantages of working in a positive business environment cannot be overstated.   Open communication, employee engagement, and the collaboration and sharing of ideas are some of the basic tenets of good business practices and Laura says these were all present in those early days at Realty Executives.  From the very beginning, she just put her head down and did her job, and that type of work ethic was appreciated by her new company.   Her entrepreneurial spirit was embraced and encouraged. 

Laura is not the type of person to bounce around from job to job.  She considers herself a nose to the grindstone kind of person, a hard worker who just wants to perform well for her clients. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have ambitions. After some time with Realty Executives, she asked to open up her own satellite branch, which she did with great success for many years.   Then in 2016, she was offered the opportunity to become the Broker/Owner of her own franchise, and she jumped at the opportunity. 

Realty Executives was also a company that supported her personally as well as professionally.   They did not consider her (large/growing) family as a hindrance, but rather an asset.  In addition to running her office and managing her employees, Laura also made time to start a charity (A Touch of Home, that benefits Title One Hope – the Homeless Education Division of the Clark County School District), be a Girl Scout Leader for 9 years, and has been a Catechist teaching 7th grade for her church parish for the last 16 years (a position that she still holds today).   

About 16 years ago, Laura’s husband John joined her in the business.    In the early 90s, Laura had encouraged him to get his real estate license, but he wasn’t really interested at the time.  

Eventually, he changed his mind and went to work with her. Now he is an integral cog in the company’s wheel, handling what they like to call “Field Services”, which includes a lot of the marketing functions (such as photography, video, 3D tours) and property management functions such as weekly property checks, walk-throughs, attending inspections, etc.    Their partnership works so well because while John is out making sure all is well with the properties, Laura sticks close to the office, ensuring that things are running smoothly there. Together, the two of them manage to make the business side of their relationship work with the personal side, which is quite demanding. 

The Harbisons are parents to seven children, ages 31 to 12, and four of them are still living at home.  As anyone who has ever been a parent to more than one child can attest to, one of the most challenging things to accomplish is time management, especially with the young ones. Homework has to be completed, play dates have to be made, and sporting events need to be attended. 

Last year,  in 2019, John and Laura experienced every parent’s nightmare, when they lost their oldest son to a very aggressive cancer that had been detected only 12 months prior.   During that prior 12 months, they worked together to keep the business afloat, while dealing with doctors and treatments (much of that out of state due to the rare type of cancer), and while taking care of their other 6 children’s needs (physical and emotional).   While many families are torn apart by these types of events, it has brought the Harbison family closer together.       

Over her 30 years in the industry, Laura has obtained many professional designations — ABR, AHWD, BPOR, BS, CDPE, CRS, DRB, GRI, PSA, RSPS, and SRES.   Among her many other accolades, she has been named one of the top 100 agents in the country by the Wall Street Journal and has been Realty Executives’ #1 Team Worldwide 16 different years. 

Laura says she also sees strength in numbers when it comes to staffing her office.   Her goal is to continue to foster a workplace climate that encourages team collaboration and success. Being in a position to create that kind of workplace for herself and her employees is surely one of life’s highs. 

laura harbison

 

The Journey of DeAnn Golden: Senior VP & Managing Broker, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties

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NAWRB’s Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council brings you the story of NDILC member, Kellie Aamodt. With our Story Tree, we want to showcase the ups, downs, and in-betweens of our team’s careers and lives. Help us grow our tree by sending in your own leadership stories! 


DeAnn Golden’s Journey Bio: 

While I am still not sure what a “journey bio” to capture my ½ century of “journeys, “ I am going to “date” myself here. When Desiree requested a Journey Bio” I thought maybe she was asking about my 1980’s fanclub membership in one of the most popular American rock bands of all times: Journey! The first LB album I owned was theirs! Granted, I was 3 when they formed!   

So, I had to laugh when I realized that what Desiree wanted with a “journey bio” was some REAL words about the women in REAL estate on this panel that maybe our REAL friends from 3rd grade would share if introducing us.  

Then, I realized I could probably give you my life journey with some of the most popular hits from thband Journey.   


 Song #1 – Growing up 

Don’t Stop Believin – I am a “small town girl” from AthensGA (not Detroit). My parents (and greatest role models) always just said don’t stop believing in your dreamswork hard, and don’t let anyone steal your zeal for life.  

When people tell you that you can’t do something, don’t stop believing. You can and just think to yourself“just watch me”.  

 “We are all searching” so don’t let anyone stifle your journey. It will lead you to places — places and moments you never thought possible.  

 went to Tulane in New Orleans as a collegiate swimmer. That was something I never would have believed I would have experienced if I hadn’t really lived it!  Who knew, when a swim coach saw me splish-splashing in the neighborhood pool at 4 years old, that it would be my thing!  Keep in mind this was all Pre Janet Evans and Michael Phelps “cool swim factor”, and the guys in high school made fun of me because I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs during the training season up until Nationals or Trials.  Now picture that at Prom! Not pretty!  

 Fortunately, my Tulane degree led me down a path as a pharmaceutical rep with Merck in Mobile Alabama. Then I opted to pursue commercial real estate after earning an MBA from UGA and later segued over to residential real estate.  I am in my 25th year as a REALTOR® and earned a broker’s license in 2000.  Wow, crazy to believe how time flies!  

 And I will never stop believing and knowing that I truly have landed in the most awesome career, guiding people home and to their next best move, building generational wealth and priceless moments in their lives in the place we call home.  That coveted place that is most people’s most valuable asset. That within the past 6 months has become the place we were called upon to shelter in place to do our part to socially distanced and curb COVID.  


 Journey Song #2 –  

Open Arms –  Heartbeats are priceless. Cherish the people who share their heartbeats and laughter with you. Open your arms wide and give them your all.  For when “living without you, living alone…the empty house seems so cold”. The love of my life, Tony Golden, epitomized health and life and a love for everything and everyone.  His health endured setbacks starting in 2005 due to diabetes, and after ongoing setback after setback, he endured a stroke and heart attack in 2015 when our children were   21, 16,  6, and 3. He ultimately passed in 2017 after 2 years of intense medical challenges physically, emotionally, financially, which was more than I ever dreamed we could face as a family.  

 When everything seems lost, surround yourself with people that matter. Search for people that love to live, love and laugh. Live out loud for those you may have lost to carry on their legacy.  Lean in hard to your faith, your values and yes, don’t stop believing in tomorrow.    

 I’m blessed to have had Anita Grogan appear back in my family’s life after losing my husband, asking how she could help. I said move in. She did and because of her and my career, I am blessed to rise every day to be able to serve others. I do my best to support my family, provide for them, and give my all to all the others I am blessed to help in a day, a week, a life...   

 We call Anita “Nini” (that’s the nickname the kids came up with when they couldn’t say Anita) o“SP-Nini” because for us she is that “spouse like support” that has taken just what a “nanny” might be to a whole new level. For that, we are forever grateful with open arms.  


I do not think in my ½ century of life, I’ve ever had anyone but Desiree ask me to jot down my real journey — the one that no one would find when we google any of us. NAWRB has challenged me, opened my eyes, and given me a whole new perspective on what it means to be a delegate and why I am fulfilled being a member.  

Who knew that band could embody my journey when words are sometimes at a loss because of Desiree’s assignment!  

I still have no idea if this is what Desiree wanted but maybe there is a Golden Nugget or two in the above that no one knew about me! If nothing else, I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs for years as an adolescent; Growing up with green chlorinated hair and broad shoulders, everyone was always trying to understand what made me rise at 4:30 am to swim for hours a day.  Yep, I was definitely “that kid” and now I realize that being “that person” and being YOU is a great way to live.  

 DeAnn Golden 

#GoldenMoments 

#LifeisWhy 

deann 

“Getting Real About Leadership” with the NDILC and NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswomen

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Every first Thursday of the month, NAWRB Diversity & Inclusion Leadership Council (NDILC) will kick off each monthly theme with a Live Broadcast of the NDILC’s Ten Women Leadership Principles at 9:00 am PST.

December is #1. Acknowledge Trailblazers moderated by Erica Courtney: Know and learn from the women who came before you. We are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

Every second Thursday of the month, NAWRB’s Certified Delegate Spokeswomen will continue with the NDILC’s Ten Women Leadership Principle at 9:00 am PST with their Live Broadcast.

We are bringing real dialogue outside our four walls to build on these incredible Women Leadership Principles. Everyone is encouraged to add their stories to our Media Story Tree and share within your community of influence!

To RSVP for the NDILC Facebook Live, click here!

To RSVP for the NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswomen Facebook Live, click here!

To learn more about the NDILC’s Ten Women Leadership Principles, click here!

To learn more about how YOU can become a NAWRB Certified Delegate Spokeswomen, click here!