Today Bernadette Reyes McDermott oversees projects worth millions as vice president of architecture at Public Storage, but she got her start much earlier—shadowing her dad on construction sites as a little girl.
Ever since then, each success has been a win for her family too, including her work overseeing branding of the entire Public Storage portfolio of more than 2,600 locations.
Succeeding with Family Support
The daughter of immigrants from Guatemala, Maria Izabel Reyes and George Federico Reyes, McDermott grew up near the Los Angeles airport to parents who supported and encouraged her to excel in school.
Her father had abandoned the dream of a university degree for himself in his native Guatemala, instead attending Los Angeles Trade–Technical College to qualify for work as an HVAC mechanical foreman to support his family.
“My grandmother does not have the school equivalent of a diploma. My mother only got to the 3rd grade because she had to help out her family around the house,” she said. “My family did everything they could to get me an education and go to college. They paved the way for a better life.”
They drove her 10 miles farther to attend a better school growing up, and when she was accepted to University of Southern California, they went to every USC parent event. Her dad became a season ticket holder, which he is still to this day.
When she earned her bachelor’s degrees in architecture and political science, with an emphasis in pre-law, she gifted the paper degrees to her parents, to hang in their home as a thank you for their dedication, love, and support.
“I kept the college acceptance letter because to me that was the most important thing for me because that signified a change in my family and my livelihood that my parents never got,” she said.
At Public Storage, we value diversity, and we know that all of our differences enrich our experiences at work and help us do a better job helping customers.
In all, more than half of our team and half of our top executives are people of color.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month we want to celebrate McDermott and the rest of our team.
Making a Difference on High-Profile Projects
McDermott went on to earn her master’s degree in business administration from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.
In her four years since joining Public Storage as vice president of architecture, she has led our Property of Tomorrow rebranding.
“Bernadette has a strong sense of ownership in everything she is involved in,” said John Sambuco, president of asset management. “She adds tremendous value in moving the company forward in the areas of sustainability and design standards.”
Prior to joining Public Storage, she worked for a privately owned general construction company. Her first major project was a $90 million high school for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the largest public school system in the state and the second largest district in the nation.
Through the years she was part of the construction teams for projects such as the New Naval Hospital in Camp Pendleton, the Los Angeles Federal Courthouse and the Cars Land ride at Disneyland.
McDermott is passionate about hearing the ideas and the goals of the people around her, as well as helping those on her team work toward their own career goals. In other words, she’s a good boss, according to people who work for her.
“Bernadette has the ability to both put you at ease when she is working with you and also pick her moments to drive her point and perspective home,” said Joshua Hunt, a senior architect for Public Storage. “It’s a delicate balance to be able to motivate, critique, and encourage your team all at one time, and she finds a way to do it very well.”
She said she has enjoyed joining the team and being a part of the company’s continued growth.
“It is exciting to see across the country what we’ve been doing,” she said.
Finding Strength in Family
Last year, she and her husband bought their first home, a moment that brought tears to her father’s eyes as his dreams and aspirations for his daughter came to fruition.
McDermott and her husband, Brad McDermott, recently welcomed their first child. As she navigates this new adventure, McDermott reflects on her family, including late mother, who passed away 11 years ago, and her paternal grandmother, Martha Susana Bolanos de Reyes, who is in her 90s.
“I come from very strong woman,” she said. “My mom had a very strong worth ethic and I always had that role model of I can be a working mother, but family will come first.”