Mentor: an experienced and trusted advisor. Anna Riley: See the definition of mentor. 

Since it was founded in 1985, AZCREW has connected senior-level executive women in the Metro Phoenix real estate community. 

Over that time, Anna Riley has served as a pioneer and more importantly, a mentor, to hundreds of industry women through her association with AZCREW.  

“I view mentoring as critical because I had mentors myself,” says Riley, who recently retired after more than 35 years in commercial real estate, her final 13 years at Ryan Companies US as Regional Director of Management. “I realized how important they were when I was starting my career. They guided me and got me to where I wanted to be.” 

Riley was one of AZCREW’s founding members in the 1980s. It was an alliance of women who got together over lunch – and a much-needed forum to share experiences and develop relationships, she says. Men in other industry sectors had organized groups; not so for women. 

“It evolved into WICRE – Women In Commercial Real Estate,” Riley recalls. “We used to meet for lunch, share stories; have resources to share with each other. I always felt mentoring was critically important to help women advance in their careers, whether it was on the leasing and brokerage side, finance, or property management. There were opportunities out there. What was missing was guidance, support and networking.” 

WICRE grew and became part of the CREW Network, the industry’s premier coalition dedicated to advancing the success of women in commercial real estate. Today the CREW Network membership totals more than 10,000 professionals in more than 70 major global markets. 

“Anna and I were involved in early meetings in Arizona in the late 80s to bring women in commercial real estate together,” says Alisa Timm, regional director at Ryan Companies. “Thirty-plus years later we share an appreciation and love for supporting women through AZCREW. Anna exemplifies a true professional and we have all gained through her leadership.” 

Riley has also been active with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA); International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC); and Valley Partnership, serving on boards and committees. She holds the designations of Real Property Manager (RPA), Certified Shopping Center Manger (CSM), and is a LEED Green Associate. 

However, it’s her work with AZCREW in which she has been a true influence. 

“Anna is an amazing advocate for professional development for women,” said Carol Schillne, a first vice president at CBRE and chair of AZCREW’s Professional Development Committee. “She is passionate about growing and learning to improve her own skills and those of others.” 

Schillne moved to Arizona from California, where she was a member of the CREW Network. She has been in AZCREW for 5 years and said she met Riley at one of the group’s first lunches, “but really got to know her better over the past couple years as we serve on the board together.” 

How does Riley view the importance of an industry group such as AZCREW to increasing visibility and opportunities for women in commercial real estate? 

“Because AZCREW is specific to women (it does have a few members who are male), women really identify and relate to other women and how they are advancing in their careers,” Riley says. “It really exposes you to a realm with which you are more comfortable. Women can relate to your issues. 

“For instance, you might have a young woman trying to strike a balance between parenting and work. It reaches those barriers placed there by gender. Women are not always viewed as being serious about their career. AZCREW supports us in our careers and reinforces that our careers are important.” 

In Riley’s oversight of Ryan’s Southwest Region’s portfolio of office, medical, retail, and industrial properties, she mentored, trained, and supervised the team’s management and engineering professionals. She was also responsible for the implementation of customer, community, and industry relationships; new business development, strategic planning, best practices, and departmental profitability. 

Riley will leave big shoes to fill at Ryan. Words of advice for those following in her footsteps? 

“There is a lot to be said for a really strong work ethic and commitment,” she says without hesitation. “You can’t excel without putting your heart into it. You have to be proactive in how you learn the industry. You can’t sit back. You have to really be motivated and reach for the stars. If this is really something you love doing, you will excel at it.” 

Riley said she intends to remain active in AZCREW. 

“I am still on the Membership and Legacy committees and I will certainly attend AZCREW’s great events.” 

To which her one of her fellow AZCREW members said: “Anna is rewiring, not retiring.” 

Riley adds: “I’m leaving the industry that I loved to support the people that I love.”