The 12 women who made AZRE’s Most Influential Women in Commercial Real Estate list are an extraordinary bunch. While that seems implied in the recognition, it’s something that goes beyond their professional achievements. Many of these women had to work their way through the ranks to a C-suite. One was a dealer in a casino. Another aspired to be a librarian. And one of the Most Influential Women was an ink-and-paint person on an animated Steven Spielberg movie. While all of the Most Influential Women in Commercial Real Estate likely know what it’s like to be the only female voice in a boardroom, they also impact their communities and their industry. And, all of them are changing the Arizona landscape one deal, building, drawing and deadline at a time.
The Most Influential Women of 2016 will be honored at a reception on Thursday, August 25 at Desert Botanical Garden. For tickets or for sponsorship information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the Most Influential Women inCommercial Real Estate for 2016:
Martha Abbott, vice president and studio leader, SmithGroup JJR
During her 26 years practicing architecture, Abbott has built a diverse portfolio of public and private work encompassing corporate, municipal, entertainment, mixed use and higher education projects. She is particularly interested promoting and fostering integrated project delivery and sustainable environments.
Advice: “Find a good mentor that will advocate for you, support and promote other women and … learn that appropriation of ideas is good thing.”
Greatest accomplishment: “When I started in this industry and looking for new employment opportunities, I looked for companies that had strong women in positions of leadership, with the intent that those would be more progressive and real promoters of women. Just recently someone said to me they wanted me to be their mentor because they see me as a leader who engages, challenges and provides opportunities. The fact that someone saw qualities in me that I aspired to early in my career is incredibly rewarding and makes me feel I have made an impact on the people I am with every day.”
Rebecca Lynne Burnham, shareholder, Greenberg Traurig
Burnham represents real estate interests in connection with the acquisition, planning, development, financing, operation and sale of real estate developments, as well as legislative and public policy matters pertaining to economic development and land use.
Advice: “Always be thoughtful and prepared, but don’t be afraid to lead or take risks.”
Greatest accomplishment: “On behalf of the Arizona Homebuilders Association, serving as a negotiator and principal drafter of Arizona’s military airport compatibility legislation, which established a framework for land-use planning around Arizona’s five military airbases and became ‘model legislation’ for other states. By restricting residential development in close proximity to the bases, the bases’ ability to continue their mission was secured and Arizona has been able to retain a strong military presence with its attendant economic benefits.”
Surprising fact: “I put myself through the last years of college and law school by working summers and holidays as a high-limit ’21’ and baccarat dealer at Harrah’s, Lake Tahoe. I actually had to take a pay cut to become a lawyer.”
Tammy Carr, principal, Mortenson Phoenix Operating Group
With project experience spanning multiple markets, including municipal, healthcare, manufacturing, industrial, hospitality, and corporate sectors, Carr brings more than 18 years of experience to her position for Mortenson.
Advice: “Assure you understand your client, team or partner’s objectives. If you do not know what their drivers are, value will be hard to deliver. Women bring a unique perspective to the industry, it is up to you to connect your insight to real value. Honing your communication skills, confidence to speak up and continual learning is critical for success.”
Greatest accomplishment: “Becoming a partner/principal of a local architecture firm at age 32. This was particularly rewarding as I don’t possess a technical industry degree. It was recognition of my business acumen and leadership skills, which has inspired other women within the industry to seek key leadership roles and propelled my career.”
Surprising fact: “I have future aspirations to a spend my pre-retirement days serving the community full-time as a municipal elected official. We’ll see where that takes me.”
Joyce Grossman, executive director, Arizona Association for Economic Development (AAED)
Since 2011, Grossman has served as executive director of AAED, whose mission is to serve as Arizona’s unified voice advocating for responsible economic development through an effective program of professional education, public policy, and collaboration. Previously, Grossman was a deputy director with the City of Phoenix, serving in departments that include Community & Economic Development, the mayor’s office and Phoenix Convention Center.
Advice: “You can make it happen and do not take no for an answer. Continue to persevere if your gut tells you it is possible and you can make a difference. Be creative. You can do things differently than what has been done before and succeed.”
Greatest accomplishment: “I am extremely prideful of AAED’s track record in providing outstanding professional education programming for those in the economic development field. This training keeps them on the cutting edge of job creation and wealth generation.”
Surprising fact: “Indy rock bands follow me on Twitter and ask my advice on various aspects of their band’s operations.”
Trudi Hummel, principal and board chair, Gould Evans
Hummel co-founded the Phoenix studio in 1996 for Gould Evans, a national architectural practice with six studios across the country. With 30 years of experience as an architect and design leader in the public and private sectors, she is skilled at engaging clients in an intellectual partnership that solves the design problem in an unexpectedly meaningful way.
Advice: “Focus on the big picture, trusting and empowering those with whom you work. And get involved in your community, speaking up and taking risks. It’s both impactful and personally inspiring.”
Greatest accomplishment: “Winning the Biodesign Institute for Arizona State University was a huge turning point and our largest and most complex project at the time. We are also quite honored to work with (Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community) on their new Justice Center, a beautiful integration of natural materials with their community’s rich landscape.”
Surprising fact: “If I had not become an architect, I wanted to be a librarian — just me and the books.”
Cheryl Lombard, president and CEO, Valley Partnership
Lombard has more than 20 years experience in politics, public affairs, media and community relations, and nonprofit management. Before joining Valley Partnership in March 2015, Lombard was the government relations director for The Nature Conservancy in Arizona and successfully led public policy changes on water and other natural resources issues.
Advice: “Be yourself.”
Greatest accomplishment: “Passing the California Bar Exam on the first try. It was so rewarding because it was so much information packed into my head with the unknown of what was going to be thrown at you with the test over a three-day period.”
Surprising fact: “My first job when I moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s was as a digital ink and paint person on an animated movie called ‘We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story,’ produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblimation animation studio. No credit given in the movie, but it was so much fun (and not on my resume). It was really just a computer version of paint by numbers.”
Lourdes Lopez, project engineer, PCL Construction
Lopez is president of the Greater Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC).
Advice: “Try something that intimidates you. It has the potential to mold you into a better version of yourself. My greatest learning experiences have taken place when I stepped outside of my own comfort zone.”
Greatest accomplishment: “I have been voted by my peers as president of NAWIC, chair of the Arizona Water Association Young Professionals Committee, and am a recipient of an ENR 2016 Southwest 20 Under 40 award. Having been voted by my peers into these positions is a demonstration of their respect towards me and confidence in my skills and knowledge.”
Surprising fact: “I love to trail run and weight train. As busy as my schedule tends to be, I make time so I can rack up a few miles on the trails and spend time in the gym. I’ve surpassed my expectations by getting to the point where I can run up to 18 miles on a trail and deadlift 185 pounds.”
Virginia Loring, president, Pimara Paul Koehler Structural Engineering
Loring leads the Native American Salt River Pima-Maricopa Pima Community member-owned structural engineering company. Loring is also an officer for the Salt River Business Owners Association and the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona. She has been involved with the development of many projects on the Salt River Pima Maricopa Reservation.
Advice: “As a woman working in the business world, I surround myself with people who have the same mind set and values as I do. Keep your life in balance. When you are centered within the world, everything will fall into place. Be creative and allow your mind to be open to new ideas and to never stop believing in yourself and your dreams.”
Greatest accomplishment: “Establishing a business, working at it to make it successful and finding great satisfaction in seeing that it can benefit others.”
Surprising fact: “The fact that as a Native American Woman I have three companies all dealing with a different aspect of business.”
Jennifer Schrader, co-founder and chief operating officer, Caliber, The Wealth Development Company
Schrader sets the asset investment standard for Caliber The Wealth Development Company’s acquisition strategy. She ensures the $160 Million worth of hotels, apartment buildings, single family homes, commercial properties and self-storage facilities are performing with maximum positive outcome. She oversees management of the company’s day-to-day operations, critical to generating revenue and accomplishing business goals.
Advice: “Hire and retain incredible people, even if that means hiring someone with more experience than you.
Greatest accomplishment: “Investor value creation. I am proud of Caliber’s incremental growth and ability to provide an alternative wealth development strategy for our clients. We have consistently provided secure and above market returns at all of our properties. This results in community betterment and investor peace of mind.”
Surprising fact: “Growing up in Detroit, I have a loyalty and love American manufactured cars. This love has driven me to implement efficient and cost cutting systems at all of our properties. It is often driven by innovation and infusion of technology.”
Cathy Teeter, regional director of sales management, CBRE
Teeter serves as regional director for the Southwest, leading CBRE’s Advisory & Transaction Services Occupier group in the Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Albuquerque and Tucson markets. In this role, she is responsible for development of CBRE’s occupier business and sales professionals. Prior to joining CBRE, Teeter spent more than 25 years with Cushman & Wakefield, where she most recently served as the senior operations manager for their offices in Arizona and Nevada. She is an active member of the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and NAIOP.
Advice: “ It is important to understand the financial side of the business. You need to build this knowledge base if you want to truly be an advisor to your clients.”
Greatest accomplishment: “I have had the pleasure of hiring a lot of very talented people and it is incredibly rewarding to see people I have mentored do well.”
Surprising fact: “I grew up on a farm in Minnesota and my first job was feeding the chickens and gathering eggs.”
Christine Veldhuizen, vice president of operations and designated broker, Cushman & Wakefield
Veldhuizen manages the Phoenix operations for a full-service commercial real estate firm with 175 licensees and total headcount of more than 300.
Advice: “The answer is always ‘no’ if you don’t ask so don’t ever be afraid to ask for what you want. It is important to be confident and not be afraid to speak up, you almost always come across better than you think you do.”
Greatest accomplishment: “Managing the day-to-day operations and the staff of our company through its many ‘brands and identities’, including BRE, Cassidy Turley, DTZ and now Cushman & Wakefield. It is rewarding because my role has changed dramatically with each of the transitions. Through every transition I have been given a new role with new responsibilities that have allowed me to grow and learn, and I have been able to remain with the same company and group of people that I really enjoy.”
Surprising fact: “I was the first place finisher in my category of the inaugural Pat’s Run in 2005.”
Pat Watts, co-founder, Deco Communities
Watts co-founded Deco and Starpointe Communities and has been extensively involved in real estate and operating businesses since 1986. Prior to founding Starpointe, Watts was the vice president of real estate investment for Vancouver, B.C.-based Anthem Properties, Ltd.,
Advice: “My advice to women is no different than to men in the industry; to be successful in real estate requires great flexibility. Be prepared to change strategies. All asset types — office, retail, industrial and particularly residential — are being impacted by the changing cultural and economic realities in the US. Be open to continual changes in direction.”
Greatest accomplishment: “Working with my partners to develop the Cabana brand of apartment renovations during the height of the recession in Phoenix is my greatest professional accomplishment. Not only did the Cabana brand allow our company to weather the recession, it is a brand that was so often copied in Phoenix that it noticeably changed the apartment market.”
Surprising fact: “I was a competitive figure skater and still love to be on the ice.”