Yardi Canada celebrates 20 years with a spotlight on leaders who have helped the company grow. Today, we introduce Rob Podlesnik, director of Global Solutions and PSG for Yardi Canada. Podlesnik has been integral to the development of Yardi Canada—and it all started over a cardboard box.
Podlesnik, a York University graduate, began his career in property management. He joined Yardi Canada in 1998. At that time, Yardi Canada consisted of eight people in a brand new office space with absolutely no furniture.
“When I went in for the interview, it was literally an empty office with a cardboard box for a desk,” recalls Podlesnik with a laugh. “They positioned it well, like ‘Yardi Canada is expanding. This is going to be the first office.’ I decided to give it a year. It sounded very entrepreneurial and the atmosphere was completely foreign to me but I loved the startup culture.”
He contributed to that culture, helping to form a tight-knit group that operated as a family. Everyone wore multiple hats, helped one another, and maintained close relationships. They worked together to fulfill a grand vision, one where Yardi led the Canadian property management software industry.
Podlesnik began as an implementation specialist, where he worked on training and consulting, which suited him since he once considered becoming a teacher. The opportunity to visit clients, share his knowledge, and learn ways to improve the products through client feedback excited Podlesnik. But it wasn’t always easy. As a young road warrior, Podlesnik found it difficult to maintain personal relationships but his passion for the work he did and the growth kept him going.
He soon assumed a role on the client services team, which allowed him to put down roots personally and professionally. He was able to hire, nurture and grow the teams at Yardi Canada, the foundations of which are still in place. He is very proud of the way that the company has evolved in the Canadian market.
“The culture is still very team and family-based,” says Podlesnik. “People work with and even socialize with their respective teams and represent a tightly-knit community.”
Growing Pains and Successes
Reflecting on some of the highlights of his Yardi Canada career, in 2001, a contract with Ontario Housing marked the first large project for the social housing industry. Though it involved large implementations, everything went live according to schedule that December. It was a huge achievement for Podlesnik and the project team. Ontario Housing launched the development of an entirely new vertical for Yardi Canada.
One client rapidly became 43 clients. With each new addition, Yardi software matured to meet clients’ unique needs. Yardi developers also proposed changes that improved efficiencies and helped clients gain leverage over competitors.
“Our clients push us with tech and sometimes we push the clients,” says Podlesnik. “We listened to our clients’ needs and built technology to satisfy that. Clients also invested trust in the advancements that we proposed. It’s a dynamic, mutual relationship.”
Calloway REIT was the first Canadian client on Yardi Voyager 6 International. The transition from Enterprise to Voyager proved to be tough for the client. The latest Voyager product had removed features that were essential to Calloway. The REIT encouraged Yardi to resurrect functionalities from previous Voyager versions that proved useful for Calloway and other Canadian REITs.
Podlesnik says, “Inspiration comes from all different sources. What was old is new again. We take that as an opportunity!”
The industry is on the move, working from the field, in the office, and everywhere in between. Such movement has established the reign of mobile technology—but not all Canadian clients were onboard at first.
Says Podlesnik, “Canadian companies are more risk averse than their peers around the world. We had to teach our clients that mobility was the present and future–and we all need to get on board.”
Akelius was the first client to adopt mobility. Podlesnik attributes the early adaptation to the company’s European roots. “They are European, more forward thinking. They told us that they had been using mobile apps in other capacities for years.”
Once Akelius prospered, other companies were more willing to onboard with Yardi’s mobile offerings. Now, mobility is expected.
When Podlesnik looks forward, he sees the Canadian real estate industry surging towards greater energy efficiency, integrated solutions for enhanced customer service, and improved portals for vendors and investors.
“When I first began in the 1990s, the focal point was filling up buildings: renting and maximizing rent. Now, clients understand how the bottom line is improved through overhead savings. They want data on their energy use, faster service from vendors, easier and more accurate transactions. They also know that Millennials want a more full-service approach. Online portals, mobile services, and responsiveness from site staff are a must.”
A lot has changed since Podlesnik’s first interview over a cardboard box in an empty office. Podlesnik is honored to have taken the journey and he is proud of the results.
“It has been great,” he grins. “If I had to describe Yardi in one work, it would be ‘awesome!’”