Meet Morgan Properties’ 1st Female CFO
Who is Marina Dikos and what shaped her path to the C-suite?
Recently, Morgan Properties named Marina Dikos as chief financial officer. The first woman to hold that position at the firm, Dikos has more than three decades of experience in both accounting and the multifamily industry. She took the helm from Patrick O’Grady, an industry veteran who had a significant influence on her professional career, she admits. Over time, he helped her build true self-confidence in her skills and knowledge by constantly providing her with opportunities to grow.
“(He) never assumed that I wouldn’t be interested or couldn’t handle the task,” Dikos told Multi-Housing News.
Now, she feels like it’s her responsibility to show other women striving to build rewarding careers that success is attainable, even in this male-dominated industry. One of the largest multifamily owners in the country, Morgan Properties and its affiliates own and manage more than 350 communities encompassing 95,000 units across 19 states. Dikos intends to have a significant contribution to the company’s future growth, while mentoring the younger generation of industry professionals—just as she was guided when she started out.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, MHN spoke to Dikos about her road to the C-suite and her plans for helping guide Morgan.
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You are the company’s new female executive officer. How much does this mean to you?
Dikos: I truly realized the weight of my increased responsibility over the past few weeks once the announcement about my role as chief financial officer went public. I have a wide range of feelings and mixed emotions. I am honored that our company owners, Jon and Jason Morgan, have entrusted me with this important position. I believe that it speaks volumes about the Morgans’ dedication to selecting the right individual that they believe is best suited for the position, regardless of gender or ethnicity.
I also feel a heightened sense of responsibility to other women to do my best and succeed, not only at Morgan Properties, but within multifamily, as well as other industries. I have the chance to set an example and demonstrate that they can also succeed. I hope my female leadership role reinforces that they can access opportunities just like I did.
What are your priorities as the company’s new CFO?
Dikos: As the new CFO, my top priority is to focus on streamlining our internal processes. Morgan Properties has experienced tremendous growth over the past several years, and now we need to strategically drive efficiencies through technology and automation where it makes sense for our residents and our employees. I also plan to collaborate and work closely with other internal departments to ensure goal alignment and coordination with any process changes.
How do you expect Morgan Properties to evolve from a diversity standpoint?
Dikos: Similar to how Morgan Properties has evolved into one of the nation’s largest multifamily owners, with a geographic footprint that spans 19 states and more than 350 unique communities, I expect the same from a diversity standpoint. Our company is committed to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion. We encourage initiatives that aim to create an inherently inclusive culture, where all employees are engaged and know they have a voice.
By investing in diversity training for all employees, Morgan Properties is able to educate its teams to recognize unconscious bias and help them understand how cultural differences impact how people work and interact. We recently created a Diversity Council of 25 employees, which brings people from different departments, levels of seniority, and geographic locations together to develop and implement a strategy where all members of the Morgan community feel heard, valued, and respected. I am proud to serve as the executive liaison on this new initiative. We believe that this will benefit us all individually and as a company, by bringing collective strength to incorporate our company’s values into our everyday thoughts and actions.
Throughout your career, were there instances when your expertise was underestimated because you were a women? How did you address those situations?
Dikos: I’m sure there were instances like those, but I never let myself feel that way. I always put my best foot forward and tried to come as best prepared as I could for a meeting, or make sure I had well thought-out points for my position or recommendation. I probably learned that from my hard-working parents, who are immigrants from Greece. When they came to this country, they never let anyone tell them that they didn’t belong. They taught us to always believe in ourselves and that we had the knowledge and expertise to be there in that moment.
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Tell us more about Patrick O’Grady’s mentorship and guidance, and what it meant for your professional development.
Dikos: My first job out of college was at Arthur Andersen in the early 90s, where I first worked with Pat, and then for several years into my career. At that time, more women were entering the workforce, including public accounting. Pat recognized that women were an asset to the workforce, and that, in order to retain women, they needed the same opportunities as men.
I worked on several special projects with Pat, where I learned business analytical skills and how to think outside of the box. He always provided me with opportunities to grow and was an honest, straight-shooter. He not only asked for my opinion but would listen to it and either use it, or think through it and provide feedback. He was a strong supporter when I started a family and reduced my work schedule to part-time when my kids were young.
How important are mentor relationships in multifamily?
Dikos: Finding and developing a relationship with mentors that young professionals respect will help guide them in their career. I would also recommend that, as they develop and work with different leaders whom they admire, that they learn from them and emulate the attributes that made them successful. Conversely, they should also identify some of the qualities they don’t like and turn them into positive traits.
When you look back at your career path, what is the most satisfying part of a job?
Dikos: I am particularly proud of the contributions I have been able to make towards the success of my organizations and being a part of teams that truly valued my thoughts and opinions.
Do you have a message for other females working in multifamily, as we celebrate women’s contribution to the industry this month?
Dikos: Believe in yourself and what you have to offer any organization. Women make up a large portion of the multifamily workforce. For an organization to be able to recruit the best talent, they must welcome and engage them. Build your self-confidence so that you can walk in a meeting not only knowing that you have a seat at the table, but that you deserve to be there. Recognize that women are growing in this industry.
I recently attended the National Multifamily Housing Council Annual Meeting, where over 700 women participated in their Women’s Event, representing nearly 10 percent of the overall participants at the conference. The impact of women is real, and we can all make a difference.