CAI elects its first International President

REM Times interviewed Jeevan D’Mello, who was recently elected as the President-Elect 2023 & the first International President in 2024
Staff Reporter | UAE | Community Management

Prof. Jeevan D’Mello is no stranger to the global Community Association Management industry. Popularly known as the ‘Father of Community Management in the Middle East’ among his peers, Jeevan’s contribution has been instrumental in moulding the younger generation into the sector and also managing iconic properties in the region.

At the recent  election at the Community Associations Institute (CAI) in Orlando, Florida, Jeevan was elected as the President-Elect 2023 of CAI and the first International President in 2024.  ​​CAI is a 49-year old international membership organization dedicated to building better communities. With over 40,000 members, CAI has 63 chapters worldwide, including Canada, the Middle East and South Africa.

REM Times caught up with Jeevan D’Mello, who gave an insight into his vision for the institute this time round. He also shed light on how the community management industry has evolved over the years.

Excerpts from the interview:

1. Congratulations on being elected as the President-Elect 2023 of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) and the first International President in 2024. You were the President of the Community Associations Institute Middle East chapter (CAIME) in the recent past, what is your vision for the institute this time round?

 Thank you for your compliments, they are truly appreciated. I have been overwhelmed with the results of the election for President held recently in the USA at the conference. Becoming the President-Elect 2023 and the first International President 2024 is indeed a great honor and immense responsibility which I hope to undertake with the help and support of my peers and family around the world. Getting elected to this esteemed global position is something that I never expected but it goes to show the amount of appreciation and support there is out there in our profession to keep pushing the boundaries. I am grateful to our leadership and to those many professionals out there who taught me and mentored me through the years since I first joined the institute.

CAI is now a global institute. It is spreading democracy by its very nature. It is giving a voice to managers and homeowners which while it is commonplace in the USA, isn't in other parts of the world and it is slowly bringing about change in society. I want to accelerate that pace of change. My vision is that the current membership of CAI must think globally and there should be a healthy exchange of ideas across the continents so that we learn from other cities and countries. This will benefit the profession worldwide. I am also committed to making this a profession of choice and a truly internationally respected and sought-after one. 

I have already built relationships with Community Association Management professionals in the Middle East, Far East, India, Europe, and South America, and over the next two years, I want to continue to expand CAI’s presence across the world and bring our valued education and best practices to all community associations.

My vision for this profession is that everyone in it attains a high level of education and professionalism.

2. Being one of the veterans in the industry, how have you seen the industry change over the years?

Yes, the industry has changed a lot since it began several years ago. The first freehold property in the UAE was handed over in 2002 and the concept of community association management was still only prevalent in regions outside the Middle East. In the early days of the industry, it was a challenge to educate both professionals and homeowners on the importance of owners’ associations and all the aspects of the business. As this was fairly new to this part of the world, there were many questions and also disbelief. It took a few years to bring the much-needed understanding to the business.

During this time, we had to deal with people who were not exactly pleasant to us at the first. I recall many heated debates and discussions with concerned homeowners and Owners Association board members whilst the industry was still developing and all of us were learning together. Now slowly but surely homeowners and professionals have begun to realise the need for good quality professional education and the importance of networking amongst peers. The CAIME chapter has grown immensely, and the meetings being held now are more vibrant and educational and bring real value to the membership.

3. Coming to the Middle East - You have been active in the market as well as training new aspirants in the industry. Is there something that you feel you have learned from the newer generation? 

One of the great joys of coaching is that I get to learn from those who I have the pleasure to teach. The newer generation has taught me the importance of digitalization and how to accomplish tasks that we have done traditionally in a far quicker and more customer-friendly way. Often, I have to amend the content of the course to adapt to newer words to reflect the state of the art.

We have to constantly learn new things and become future-proof. The world is moving quickly, technology is evolving rapidly. If we don’t keep up, we will become redundant and the people we serve will move ahead with professionals who are knowledgeable and updated.

I have also learnt that younger professionals have a far better way to look at their work-life balance than people of my age do. They allocate adequate time to wellness and recreation which is very important, especially in today’s fast-paced breakneck speed.

4. Your message for International Community Association Manager’s Day.

Community Association Management is a tough business. It’s easy to get burnt out due to the severe stress and sometimes thankless conditions in the job. My constant advice to young professionals is to stay the course, even when times seem tough, and the future seems bleak. This is a great profession and something that is not going out of fashion. My vision for this profession is that everyone in it attains a high level of education and professionalism. As professionals, we must learn to serve the needs of people who live and work in our communities.

The built environment needs good professionals, homeowners want good people to take care of their properties, developers need people like us to ensure that their vision for their properties is realised and governmental regulators need proper compliance with the laws and regulations. So please do not give up or give in easily.

My message to management companies is to please treat your staff fairly, accord them respect and give them a chance to develop themselves professionally and personally.