Bobbie Brunk, photo provided by Greystar

Bobbie Brunk always knew she would be a businesswoman.

As a child, Brunk learned many business lessons from her father, who worked as vice president of a steel company. Helping her dad to sort and file purchase orders helped shaped Brunk—who was recently named Greystar's director of real estate—into the even-handed leader she is today.

“I would hear him talk at the dinner table,” she says. “He would talk about people he worked with, and he would say ‘I really need to be fair to this person.’”

When she graduated from college and the time came for her to get a job, her father’s steel company in Hickory, N.C. was the first to offer her full-time employment. But she turned them down and accepted a job as a leasing agent in Charlotte, not knowing it would launch her into a lifelong career.

“I didn’t understand what the potential was and what this was going to lead to,” Brunk says. “My dad wanted me to work for the steel company.”

As a college graduate, Brunk began her career in 1986 and worked her way up through the ranks at Crosland Properties. She went on to work for Summit Properties and then Archstone for more than 15 years before being hired by Charleston, S.C.-based Greystar last October.

As investors dismantled the Archstone portfolio following the collapse of Lehman Bros., Brunk, 50, of Ashburn, Va., found herself looking for a new job. Her first interview with Greystar took place at an employee-recognition ceremony last year and solidified her suspicion that it would be the right move for her.

“It was interesting because I got to see the people here,” she says. “It felt like home. There was an immediate sense of comfort for me.”

As a natural leader, she also saw a unique opportunity to share her past experiences with a new team.

“The people you associate yourself with and the people you lead, their success is ultimately your success,” she says.

Rising through the ranks handed Brunk a lifetime of lessons that she applies to her career today and hopes to share with her new staff.

“I’ve worked with people that I haven’t necessarily agreed with in a lot of cases on a lot of important issues,” she says. “And I’ve worked with people that we were completely on the same page and both of them have helped me become successful. I learned how to do things and I learned how I will never do things.”

She recalls having particular difficulties while working for one supervisor who demanded her to really think about projects and presentations. Although it seemed like he was being hard on her at the time, it ended up teaching her a valuable lesson.

“[I learned to] dig deeper and ask questions,” she says. “He was always asking all these questions, which [was challenging], but there was a purpose. There was always a purpose.”

Lindsay Machak is an Associate Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.