Beyond the Board: Claire Cormier Thielke

Claire Cormier Thielke is the newest board member at Zillow Group, a real estate and rental marketplace dedicated to empowering consumers and connecting them to professionals who can help.

Claire began her career in real estate young – at just 13 years old, she persuaded her family to move after locating the perfect home on the MLS! The early start clearly paid off. Since then, she’s served as Chief Operating Officer of Investment Management for Hines and, most recently, managing director of Hines Asia-Pacific. Claire’s industry expertise, combined with the rigor she’s developed after decades as a professional track and field athlete, is certain to support and strengthen Zillow’s boardroom.

How will your professional background and experiences benefit the team at Zillow?

Claire is a true professional chameleon, seamlessly transitioning from athlete to real estate developer and most recently, to adjunct professor at Stanford. She’s met every chapter with energy, rigor and demonstrated results.

Fascinated by how cities grow and evolve, Claire focused her studies in urban planning. She then began her career in emerging markets. With every new role, she’s been careful to reflect on lessons learned from previous projects and experiences. “You can see patterns in one place and apply that to others,” she explains. These insights have served her well as she’s taken on more senior and nascent roles, like creating the real estate fund business within Hines.

“Zillow,” she explains, “is at the cutting edge of real estate.” She believes that her first-hand experience in financing, regulation and P&L management will be helpful to the company. Moreover, she’s excited to apply the lessons learned in fund management as a board member. This will provide invaluable perspective as Zillow expands its offerings.

How did you know that Zillow was the right fit for you?

Zillow was searching for a seasoned real estate professional to join its board. Claire connected with the company through the Athena Network, an organization dedicated to supporting female executives.

From the first conversation, Claire was impressed. She explains that when deciding to join a board, whether for profit or non-profit, “there’s a level of introspection [that I look for]. What’s on their roadmap – strategy, tech, people?” She believed that “Zillow had [this introspection] in spades. It was part of their DNA.”

Zillow’s commitment to diversity also deeply resonated with Claire. “It’s a brave thing to be so blunt, to be open about the need to add diversity. They took the [The Board Challenge] pledge, set a goal, made it public,” she explains. This amplified her admiration for the company and its leadership.

How will you contribute as a board member at Zillow?

Claire uses a clever athletic analogy to describe joining a board. ”It’s like coming into the relay race, mid-way,” she explains, chuckling to herself. She shares that it’s important to get up to speed quickly and learn the dynamics of the organization. Once onboarded, Claire chooses to adopt a “brain in, hands out” approach. Her job is to add value, ask questions and bring perspective to the management team.

As she reflects upon her own growth as both a professional and a board member, she draws upon yet another insightful athletic reference. “Practice is painful, but when you get to the competition – you’ve seen it before.” There is no doubt that Claire will bring that same competitive spirit and tenacity to her work within Zillow’s boardroom.

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