Meet Our New CREW Careers Committee Chair - Karen Wunsch!

May 21, 2018
Written by: CREW Austin

Karen Wunsch of Masterplan has been a CREW member since March 2016 and immediately got involved in CREW Careers and due to her excellent planning skills was recruited as the event chair in 2017.   Her dream job may be a career in private investigation but in the mean time she is a “master” at navigating land uses including rezoning, permitting & other real estate entitlement processes.  If you ever get lost on the Texas roadway system, she is the one to seek for advice! 

Current Career:  I have served as Masterplan’s managing director, since the opening of the Austin office in 2014. Masterplan is a land use consulting firm, headquartered in Dallas, with a long-standing reputation for perseverance and success in rezoning, permitting, and other real estate entitlement processes.  

Past Jobs:  I now have over 20 years of experience in the field of planning and development. I spent the first half of my career working in municipal government. My first job after earning my Master’s degree from Texas A&M was for the City of Houston Planning Department, followed by several years with the City of Garland near Dallas. Although the experience sounds grudging, it was the right fit for that period of my life, and it helped provide valuable insight into the zoning and development review processes as well as an understanding of how best to balance the needs of the community with the goals of developers. After relocating to Austin in 2006, I worked for a civil engineering firm as a planner and client services manager. I credit my close working relationship with developers and civil engineers during that period with providing a more well-rounded appreciation for the business of land development, as well as the associated complexities that are unique to Austin. My favorite job was the summers that I spent during high school working as a lifeguard at the neighborhood pool, but I’m sure I couldn’t tolerate the heat (or the sun) today. 

Professional Aspirations:  I want to continue to grow my firm’s recognition in the Central Texas market and become the preferred collaborator among developers, engineers, and other professionals for complex land development projects.  

What is the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year? Why was it a big decision:  Easily the most difficult decision was bring on another consultant. After experiencing several reductions in force at a previous company during the Great Recession, I’m still cautious about bringing on new employees too fast for fear of having to later let them go. 

Briefly, can you explain something that is really complicated, but you know well:  The Texas roadway system. I have lived in Houston, the Dallas Metroplex, San Antonio, El Paso, Midland, San Marcos, College Station, and Austin. From an early age, I always paid attention to the routes, whether on a road trip or running errands around town. I did not think of it as skill set until I met my husband, who has a terrible sense of direction, and I started teaching my daughter to drive, who is even worse.  

Describe a mistake you made in your career that you really learned from:  Be mindful of where the cameras are positioned at a public hearing.  

What do you want to do when you grow-up:  Be confident and wise – the specific role does not matter that much.  

What is one professional accomplishment that you are most proud of:  I was able to successfully rezone a challenging tract on RR 620 in Austin even after receiving a recommendation for denial from the City staff and Zoning and Platting Commission. Obviously, I prefer to secure favorable recommendations prior to starting the public hearing process, but sometimes you just have to move forward and press on without it.  

Five Minutes of Fame:  If you add up all the random news segments that I have appeared in over my life, it might add up to five minutes. For some reason, I always seem to be a good candidate for the generic opinion from the person on the street. Over the years, I have made the news for doing nothing in San Antonio, Dallas twice, and even my first month living in Austin about eleven years ago.  

Describe a time when you were faced with doing something you didn’t know how to do – how did you handle it:  Figured it out. The best way that I know to do that is to break the challenge down into smaller tasks, which allows me to recognize those aspects that I do know how to do. Next, I get out of my comfort zone, do research, and seek input from others. I also try to keep a scratch pad handy for those eureka moments when I am driving, in the shower, or about to fall asleep.  

Lives with:  My husband Brady, a software engineer and excellent handyman, and my two daughters, ages 16 and 14, two black cats, only one of which I like, and my golden- doodle, Baxter.   

Hobbies:  Hiking, planning vacations, making to-do lists, and attending my daughters’ sporting events.  

Pet Peeves:  Styrofoam! I hate how it sounds, feels, tastes, etc. In that order.  

If you could do it all over again what would you change:  I would get actively involved in professional organizations earlier in my career. When I was younger, I did not recognize the importance of cultivating professional relationships into personal relationships and the opportunities, knowledge, and fulfillment that those relationships provide.  

If you had $40,000 to build your own business, what would you do? I love sleuthing. I would become a private investigator.  

If money and time were no object, how would you spend your days?  As boring as it sounds, I would probably spend my days much like I do now – spending time with my family, raising my kids, doing meaningful work, and trying to work out more and eat healthier.  

Favorite Quote or Saying:  Nothing is worth more than this day. 

One of your 2018 Goals:  Having a CREW Connection announced at a luncheon.