Written by: Matrix360

Exploration coupled with the curiosity to learn has allowed leaders to grow and develop over time, evolving their mindsets and adapting to new challenges.

“Oh the places you will go!’ are famous words by Dr. Seuss that capture the essence of people who have made the metamorphosis into leadership. The ability to tap into your curious mindset to learn, trusting your inner strength, and learning to listen with intention are key attributes of a great leader. These attributes are reflected in our next leader spotlight in our Leadership X-cellence Series: Marcel Parsons, Senior Director, Asset Strategy & Valuations, at First Capital REIT.

Marcel’s early exposure to leadership opportunities prepared him for his path to success. His ability to lead with humility while connecting to people has positioned him to be an inspiration to many.

Marcel Parsons, Senior Director, Asset Strategy & Valuations, First Capital REIT

Where are you from and what is your cultural background?  

I am originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia and I identify as a Black Canadian.

What inspired you to work in the field that you are today?

I always had an interest in architecture, but I enrolled in a real estate class in my last year of university and that sparked my curiosity. I really enjoyed the financial component and that it was a tangible asset.  

What was your career vision when you first started your career journey?

Growing up, I was always a natural leader. I envisioned myself being a leader in some capacity.  When I was starting off my career, I knew I wanted to get to an executive-level position eventually. 

Were you aware of the commercial real estate and development industry as a career option for you?

No, I was not aware. I googled real estate jobs in my last year of university and stumbled upon the AACI designation. After some research, I determined that the AACI would be a good route for me to get into commercial real estate. It was a great step to build a foundation for real estate.

When was the first time in your life when you realized that you had the power to change or to do something meaningful?

I realized this when I used to play sports in middle school. Being the captain of a team and leading my teammates made me feel like I had the power to create change and guide others as well. As a captain, I was exposed to a variety of personalities and ultimately, the key was to bring everyone together. I enjoyed this a lot.


What are some of the struggles you faced throughout your career and/or life journey that you would like to highlight?

The lack of representation in executive leadership positions is evident in the commercial real estate industry.  Progress is happening when it comes to women, but not for people of colour. Luckily, I never felt discriminated against or held back for being a Black Canadian. However, at times I feel like I am not completely a part of the commercial real estate industry. Progress is slow and I am working on changing that.


Thinking more critically is so important in the times we live in. If you could go back in time, what piece of leadership advice would you give to yourself that you know now?

Have more confidence in your abilities and take more risks. Self-doubt and being scared of failure will not take you forward. Moving to Toronto seven years after I started my career was a big risk.  It forced me to have confidence in a city where I had no connections.


Did you have any role models/mentors that have shaped your career?

Personally, I would have to say it was an uncle back in Nova Scotia. He was someone I looked up to. He was a leader in our family, was supportive, and encouraged me to be my best self.  He was a man of few words but his actions spoke volumes. Professionally, I have been fortunate to have had some great leaders during my career. I recently rejoined First Capital REIT and part of my decision to return was the leadership at the executive level. They are smart, challenge their employees and are young. My current boss, the COO, I consider as my mentor. He is a great leader who cares about his team.


What is your mantra or what are your words of inspiration?

There are two things I constantly say to myself, “Do not come to an argument strong and wrong”, and “It’s ok to admit you don’t know something or made a mistake”, we are all human and need to remain humble.

Exposure to leadership at a young age and having the access to knowledge allowed Marcel the opportunity to develop his own internal leadership skills. His natural drive to tap into his curiosity for learning, coupled with his focus to continually do better allowed him to discover the commercial real estate industry.

Marcel was able to understand that challenging yourself to explore and take risks will lead you greater opportunities. Mentorship continues to play an integral role in Marcel’s journey and success and having exposure to a multitude of smart, innovative and dedicated leaders.  Marcel’s story is definitively inspiring to us, and we salute you, Marcel, as a leader!