Sandra Hou, Director of Appraisal Services — West, has a compelling way of popping up wherever she’s needed. Which means her morning in the AssetWorks L.A. office might kick off with a kick-off meeting, supporting the sales team as a new customer begins their risk management journey. Then a quick lunch break might turn into a one-on-one session with a young valuation associate, where suddenly Sandra is lending an ear and sharing career advice. By afternoon, she could be deep in staff training or reviewing a project for quality control. Sandra comes to work daily with the intuition that pinpoints how much or how little direction a situation requires at any given moment, so her team is empowered to give each project their best.
Things have changed somewhat for Sandra since COVID-19 hit California, of course. The customer site visits and meetings have largely become conference calls, and the water cooler chats have transformed into purposeful texts — leaving her a bit wistful regarding the missing travel and impromptu in-office interactions.
But Sandra has proven adaptive to change. Having joined the AssetWorks Risk Management team in 2002, she worked at the company for over a decade before deciding to experience life on the other side of the fence, working as a Fixed Asset Manager for a school district and then as a Valuation Consultant for a Big 4 accounting firm. She returned to AssetWorks in 2014 with an enriched perspective. “It was nice to see how the school districts actually work,” Sandra said. “I got to understand them a lot more, their frustrations, their relationship with the unions and their challenges. Now I understand why they operate the way they do.” And that insight has helped inform her approach with customers today.
One of her favorite parts of the job is working with her team of young professionals, dubbing herself “Mama Bear” because she enjoys the opportunities to serve as a mentor. “Right now, because I work with a young team (all except one is under 30 years old), I get to be that person that helps them grow and figure out what to do with their lives, so they’ll be successful here at AssetWorks.”
She added, “I also love being there for clients when they have questions, helping them with whatever they need. Whether it’s for GASB compliance, or to have their insurance database updated… Anything that helps them achieve their goals… I work to know every single client, so the client feels comfortable to come to me with any issues.”
She also wishes more people understood how important property risk management is, even on a local level. “We go out to collect all of the information to help people save on their insurance premiums. We help school districts know what they have and what’s missing… When we do audits, we sometimes find up to thousands of assets that weren’t in the system.”
Currently, Sandra is wrapping up projects with several school districts, ensuring they’re comfortable with AssetWorks’ valuation numbers and finalizing their reports. With COVID-19 restrictions, gaining access to properties for on-site valuations has proven challenging, and Sandra admits she misses the travel. “I enjoy getting to see new places — places people might not tend to go for a vacation, like a school district in a more remote part of northern California. I like walking with the school escort and getting to know that person, why they’re there. I learn so much about other people through these projects. I discover general life tips.”
When Sandra’s not at AssetWorks (or currently working from home), she enjoys traveling with her husband Steve, and hiking with her dogs Meatball and Spaghetti, former rescue dogs and both poodle mixes. She hopes to someday visit all 50 states. With almost 40 under her belt, she’s on track to meet that goal, setting sights for new vistas, uncovering new ideas, and undoubtedly guiding others along the way.