Riddle us this: What does the Brooklyn Bridge have in common with a McDonald’s Happy Meal?
Turns out, quite a bit. But for our purposes, the short answer is Stephanie Landis.
A little more than a year ago, Landis’ employer of 15 years, PSI, was purchased by a global firm called Intertek. PSI was privately held; Intertek is a $3 billion company, publicly traded on the London exchange. And Landis is now one of its 40,000 worldwide employees.
“Intertek does all kinds of unusual testing,” Landis said. “For example, they test every toy that goes into a Happy Meal to make sure a child can’t swallow it or verify that a sheet does, in fact, have a 1,000 thread count.” Intertek’s origins, in fact, date back to Thomas Edison’s lighting laboratories – scientific royalty.
PSI’s is noble, as well. Its Pittsburgh laboratory tested the original cables for the Brooklyn Bridge. “And more than 100 years later, PSI came back and did all the required testing and upgrades of the existing bridge … . Both companies have very long histories, and now we are integrating as one: Intertek-PSI.”
The London-based firm (like PSI, its domestic HQ is in Chicago) has some impressive Orlando real estate to tout amid its new acquisition’s resume. PSI did testing on the redevelopment and expansion of the Citrus Bowl, as well as the new, award-winning Daytona Speedway.
“We do most of the work at Walt Disney World and Universal, as well,” says Landis, a (mostly) Orlando native. Her family moved to Longwood from Pennsylvania when she was 8. She describes her Seminole County childhood as idyllic.
“I did all kinds of activities!” she remembers. “Horseback riding and gymnastics and camping with the Girls Scouts. I took piano lessons from an older woman who lived up the street.”
As childhood fell away, however, so, too, did many of the interests. She describes herself as “an adult bookworm.” She has an active monthly book club with 11 other friends; they each host once a year. And they don’t just do it for the wine. “Mostly,” she laughs. “Usually at every meeting, about half of us have read the book.”
Though the double-degreed Landis is likely conflicted during college football season – she did her undergrad in economics at UF, then an MBA from FSU – there’s none whatsoever when it comes to her career path.
Winding her way through aviation with positions at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, then Orlando Sanford International Airport, it was there where real estate crept into her resume.
“The airport has a very large industrial park and I was put in charge of its leasing and so got my real estate salesperson’s license,” she explains. “While I was working there, the airport built a brand-new terminal, during which time I got to know many of the engineers and contractors and other professionals bidding on the projects. Eventually – as is so often the case – someone knew someone who knew someone,” she laughs.
And with a background that matched their needs, she was brought onboard at PSI, where as business development manager she’s now responsible for “client relationships, bringing in new business, and selling all the services we do out of our Orlando office.”
“Being in this position, with our client base, I am able to meet so many different people!” she says. “We don’t just work with general contractors, we work with owners, developers, engineers, banks, hospitals, the Department of Transportation …. All these people are so diverse and my job gives me the opportunity to meet and work with them on a daily basis – and I love it.”
PSI was also where her involvement with Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) began. And again, it was all about who she knew.
“At the time, CREW’s current president was Dawn St. Clair, a woman with whom I’d built a relationship through all the community events we did at the airport. When I moved to PSI, I became a candidate to join and she sponsored me. That’s when I got involved.”
Now co-chair of the Programs committee, Landis notes that while women have come a long way in the industry, there are many miles yet to tread. “On a monthly basis we struggle with getting quality speakers who are women,” she notes. “Even in my office I see it: I am one of only two manager-and-above employees who are female….
“Strives have been made,” she says, “but we have a long way to go and CREW is doing a phenomenal job in Central Florida to get women involved, promote them in the industry and give them an opportunity to showcase what we do, what we can do, and enable us to do business with one another.”
At press time, Landis was set to take a break from work, and about to head out on a 10th wedding anniversary trip to Ireland with her husband, Dennis. It was supposed to be a trip to the homeland – or so she thought. She’d grown up with grandparents who instilled in her a sense of Scotch-Irish-German pride.
“Then my husband bought me one of those DNA test kits for Christmas.”
Turns out that Landis, whose maiden name is a very German Weidner, is 62 percent British.
“And less than 5 percent Irish!” she laughs.