“Do hard things” is one of DeLea Becker’s mottos.
It’s one she took to heart with one of her toughest projects, 1201 East Cesar Chavez, a three-year renovation of a 111-year-old building in East Austin that was beset with challenges. After bringing in all three of her companies — Becker also heads Beck-Reit Asset Management and heavy civil contractor Beck-Reit & Sons — to get the project completed, the tenant that had signed on pre-completion defaulted, leading to an 18-month default process that was swiftly followed by the pandemic.
Though the property was eventually sold in summer 2021, Becker looks on it as the hardest, most complex project she has ever been involved with.
“I lost a lot of sleep. I learned more than I could imagine and I now use that knowledge and wisdom to assess development projects quicker than if I had not been through that experience,” she said. “It made me smarter, wiser, sharper and quicker.”
Becker is now taking that hard-won knowledge and using it for the benefit of others, deciding this year to partner with other women in CRE to buy buildings.
“I am surprised how many women know this industry, financing, investments like the back of their hand — they are shattering records — but fearful to use their own money to buy commercial real estate. I want to change this, even if I can only do it with a handful of friends.”
Laura Beuerlein is proud of her company and her team, but she takes most profound pride in the ability of CRE to make and change a community.
“We are providing people places to work and play, and building neighborhoods and communities,” Beuerline said, adding that “the fun is just beginning for me” in terms of accomplishments, friends to mentor, and chasing and landing big deals.
In addition to her role at Heritage Title, Beuerlein has served on the National Multifamily Housing Council and is a member of its executive committee and its PAC board. She has been active on various Urban Land Institute councils for more than 20 years, was a founding member of the Real Estate and Finance Council at the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business and is an executive committee member and founding partner of the Austin chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women.
Beuerlein loves to garden, cook, spend time at the lake and attend UT football games with husband, Steve, and sons William, James and Richard.
Beuerline attributes some of her success to losing both parents at age 14: “They died 10 months apart, to the day, and I lived with my older brother and sister for my high school years. A sad turn of events but one that made me a strong and independent leader from an early age.”
As an architect for nearly 50 years and the owner of her own architectural and planning firm for 40, Donna Carter has been a major force in the development and growth policies that have made downtown Austin a 24/7 community.
With a mission to prioritize historic and cultural preservation while promoting economic development, Carter helped launch the planning process that resulted in a downtown plan that encouraged residential development and pedestrian-oriented streets. The Second Street retail district and the city’s Great Streets plan are legacies of that vision.
Carter hopes to continue her work drawing young people who have traditionally been underrepresented in her field to become architects, planners, preservation workers and developers. She loves hiking, traveling to urban and natural destinations and is an avid birder.
Rachel Coulter didn’t get where she is by backing down from a challenge.
With a transaction volume totaling 6.5M SF over the past 20 years and having closed 550 transactions, ranging from small leases to elaborate large single-use buildings, Coulter credits her success to “being a tenacious leader that doesn't back down when told no.”
Coulter said she is proud of the team Stream has built to lease a complicated downtown portfolio for the largest office landlord in Austin, and said she hopes to be known for mentoring other up-and-coming brokers in the industry.
When she isn’t working, she enjoys traveling with her family. She and her husband also breed miniature longhorns.
Combining her passion for design with the support of a team gets Wendy Dunnam Tita out of bed every morning.
“Working in our industry, we have the potential to build and shape communities, influence how our city looks, and make people's lives richer with beautiful spaces that really work,” Dunnam Tita said, adding that leading, mentoring and supporting diversity and inclusivity in architecture and design are priorities for her, as is growing Austin’s artist and maker community.
To that end, she helped lead an effort with AIA Austin to create a Women in Architecture committee; the Leadership Collective, a leadership development program now in its fourth year; and a three-week exhibit and lecture series titled Shape the Conversation that she said is still having a ripple effect several years later.
She is a supporter of green space and conservation as president-elect of Pease Park Conservancy, exploring the potential of public-private partnerships to maintain green space in the heart of the city. She’s also working with AIA Austin and the Austin Foundation to bring the city a formal center for architecture.
“I love Austin and see it … as a model for 21st century cities,” she said.
She has negotiated more than $500M worth of building leases in the last 10 years and has nearly three decades in the industry, including eight years at The Staubach Co., where she served as president until its merger with JLL in 2008.
But Diana Holford is modest about the reason her peers selected her as a trailblazer.
“Endurance,” said the award-winning broker, who has worked with large corporations like Apple and AMD, as well as smaller companies like NetQoS and LifeSize Communications. “[I] have been in this business quite awhile; experienced a number of real estate cycles.”
Holford is proud of the number of brokers whose careers she has helped launch and looks forward to assisting occupiers with “the new paradigm that is corporate facilities.”
Away from work, she spends time with family and enjoys time at the lake and travel. She believes many would be surprised to learn she has been skydiving as a solo jump, not assisted.
Laura Huffman has dedicated her career to making Central Texas a better place to live and work, but she is quick to point out she couldn’t be an Austin trailblazer without other women, including those on her team and the leaders of other Austin chambers, currently all helmed by women.
Huffman, her team and partners have helped shape some of the largest infrastructure projects in Austin’s history, from new airport investment to reshaping Interstate 35 to the Project Connect high-capacity transit system expansion. But some of Huffman’s proudest moments came during the uncertain and frightening days of the early pandemic.
“This was an unprecedented time for our community and there were a lot of questions and very few answers,” Huffman said of the daunting challenge the chamber faced when the city’s mayor and city manager asked it to lead the business community in reopening safely and encouraging best practices. “The Chamber led on this issue and our economy recovered more quickly and did better than our peers throughout the pandemic. I am so very proud to have played a part in that.”
Helping lead the city to the largest economic expansion ever is one goal accomplished, but there are others ahead, including affordability and resiliency.
“How do we continue to grow as a city while still being a place that everyone can call home? How can we adapt to our growth and ensure that we have the infrastructure and resources to support that growth while the natural world around us changes?” Huffman said. “Those are the challenges of Austin’s future and I am looking forward to working with people from across the region to tackle those challenges.”
Huffman enjoys time outdoors, frequently swimming at Barton Springs Pool and finding her way into the Hill Country as much as possible. The mother of four is also an avid traveler.
Over 39 years, Helen Jobes has closed 134 commercial transactions totaling 5.1M SF and leased over 900K SF of commercial space, racking up plenty of accolades and honors along the way — among them the Top Brokerage Award for Gold Eagle Investments and a CREW Top 10 Women in Commercial Real Estate citation.
Jobes is active in both the industry, serving 11 years on the Real Estate Council of Austin board, including two years on its executive committee, and in the community, chairing the Project Bridge event for several years to benefit the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department.
Over the years, she has mentored a number of now successful real estate professionals and has been tapped for international assignments, including hosting the China Real Estate Chamber of Commerce along with the mayor of Austin, the Chamber of Commerce and Opportunity Austin, a delegation of 30 Chinese investors, in 2009. The following year, she was a guest speaker at the International Forum of 50+ Communities held in Sanya, Hainan, China.
To relax, Jobes spends time at The Reserve on Lake Travis with family, taking special joy in boating and jet skiing with her grandsons. Few know that Jobes was an accomplished saxophonist and twirler through high school and college.
Tiffany Lauchlan has been a leader in five markets over her 25-year career, taking on Southern and Northern California, Las Vegas and Phoenix before landing in Austin.
“Every time I enter a new market, I have to reinvent myself, re-establish my reputation and create a brand-new network,” Lauchlan said. “I have been able to do that each time I relocated.”
Along the way, she is proud of the others she’s given a hand up, whether that’s helping them find a new career opportunity, establish themselves in a market or connecting them with the right people. Most recently, she helped a former employee in San Jose navigate some critical conversations with his boss, which resulted in him getting a well-deserved promotion.
For her next act, Lauchlan hopes to grow ECR’s management portfolio another 2M SF and execute a succession plan when the time is right.
A member of the Freedom Boat Club, she enjoys boating on Lake Travis, which she calls her happy place. And while she might not be a Texas native, she came to the state prepared: “I owned seven pairs of cowboy boots and two cowboy hats before moving from California to Texas.”
Having gotten her start in the industry from her mother-in-law, Emily Lee takes helping others seriously, paving the way for new women leaders and ensuring every employee is equipped with the tools and knowledge for lasting success.
Lee and her mother-in-law are two of the three founding partners of Pearlstone Partners and she has since founded her own brokerage, Prospect Real Estate, helping grow Pearlstone from a property management business into a full-service real estate enterprise. Through her brokerage, Lee has been responsible for the sale of more than $459M in locally developed real estate.
“I am committed to leading by example and ensuring my team has the confidence to maintain a strong presence in their developments,” Lee said.
She is also committed to serving the community, guiding charitable contributions of more than $1M during her tenure. She has been active in the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Real Estate Council of Austin and is a member of the Austin Board of Realtors, the Texas Board of Realtors, the National Board of Realtors and the MLS. She is also involved with Habitat for Humanity, Austin Pets Alive, Community Foundations and Caring for Cambodia, whose mission is to educate a generation of Cambodian children.
This past summer, Lee and her husband attended a mission trip to Cambodia with Caring for Cambodia. And when she has the chance, Lee enjoys traveling with her husband, family and friends.
“My husband and I have spent a big chunk of our lives working and building Pearlstone Partners and Prospect Real Estate, so when we have time to just spend between the two of us or have our kids around it’s something that we make sure to take advantage of,” she said.
When Vicki Beal McDonald first went to work for Foundation Communities, affordable housing was not necessarily recognized as an integral part of development in the Austin community.
But it was a mission that resonated with McDonald, who said she understood from the beginning such real estate needed to be successful enough to produce income that would provide wraparound services crucial to families succeeding while meeting high standards for durability, sustainability, ongoing and preventive maintenance, and strategic capital investments.
“Over time, this has produced attractive, well-maintained properties that are positioned to provide affordable housing for years to come,” she said, pointing to the 12 properties and 1,900 units in the portfolio when she joined in 2005 versus the 26 properties and 3,733 units Foundation Properties operates today. The firm has 800 new units in the pipeline.
McDonald’s proudest moments came when the organization was able to move families and seniors left homeless by Hurricane Katrina into its first hotel conversion project, which had been set to start construction.
“The evacuees arrived with nothing but plastic bags filled with whatever they could grab, with water stains on torn shirts, and with so little hope left. But once they were given that 200 SF space of a hotel room, the transformation was magical,” she said.
“As donations started to roll in — clothing, bedding, cookware — these evacuees turned the hotel rooms into homes, and they turned the building into a community. The smells and sounds of New Orleans and of happiness started to return. This experience made me realize how vitally important a space to call home is to everyone.”
As an attorney, much of Nikelle Meade’s work is confidential. But she has put her stamp on some of Austin’s most iconic projects, serving as land development counsel for multifamily housing developments, hotel and resort projects, office developments to support the city’s exponential attraction of major employers, and civic and recreation projects.
“These are not ‘one-and-done’ developments only benefiting a few — they are economic building blocks making Austin a stronger community and expanding the opportunities for Austinites,” said Meade, who has also served on the Regional Mobility Authority Board and is involved with her firm’s Infrastructure Act initiative, which will help bring $35B-plus to Texas transit, telecom, the energy grid and more.
Meade is an active board member and volunteer for Austin Habitat for Humanity, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, the Downtown Austin Alliance and Texas Health Action. She is a mentor and frequent presenter to young CRE professionals through the Real Estate Council of Austin Young Professionals and was elected president of the Real Estate Council of Austin, serving as its first Black president and one of only four female presidents in its history.
She has won a host of accolades, including being named a Texas Top Women Lawyers by Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers, a Top Austin Attorney for Land Use by Austin Monthly magazine and Lawyer of the Year by Austin Black Business Journal.
Going forward, Meade plans to continue mentoring the next generation of real estate trailblazers and improving industry diversity.
Meade is passionate about racing cars and confesses to being a speed demon at the track: “I find it fun to drive 180 mph!”
As the only female managing director of a global commercial real estate company in the region and a woman who found early success with the help of mentors, Erin Morales is committed to extending her hand to others.
“I hold this position with great responsibility and opportunity to open doors for more women to enter the industry,” said Morales, who joined Avison Young in large part due to its mission of building resilient communities and addressing inequalities. “In this new phase of my career as managing director, I am working on channeling my experience to grow the Avison Young brand and team in Central Texas in a number of ways, but certainly [those involving] recruiting emerging and diverse talent.”
An Austin Business Journal Heavy Hitter from 2003-2021, Morales enjoys taking on complex assignments that require problem-solving on several fronts: navigating high-growth periods, long-term projections and multiple deal transactions that allow clients to grow by an order of magnitude.
In her spare time, she enjoys boating and wake surfing with family and admits that despite living in Austin for 23 years, she’s “still a Texas Aggie at heart.”
A veteran of solving business issues via design, Sandra Paret’s latest focus is understanding the future of work and helping businesses understand the importance of community-based architecture — combining work-life balance with leading-edge technology.
Paret’s most fulfilling accomplishments include being part of what she called the globalization of architecture through strategic account management.
“Connecting the dots globally to provide clients resources when and where they need them is a small way to contribute to the built environment,” she said.
Paret said she is a firm believer that an architectural or interior design education opens many doors and her goal at STG Design is growing in a way that empowers its employee owners to create the type of practice they want to be a part of.
In her spare time, Paret spends time with family, including furry friends, watches professional tennis and enjoys exploring new places.
Other than that, she said, she’s an open book.
“I don't think people would be surprised by much about me, I enjoy meeting new people and deepening existing relationships and that only happens with a lot of transparency,” she said.
Relationships with clients and colleagues are the key to Judy Pesek’s 31-year career at Gensler opening, building and growing offices.
And as a believer in paying it forward, that entails building relationships with budding design professionals through the Gensler Studio, which she launched after being approached by the dean of the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture in the early 2000s. The program helps students gain a full understanding of delivering a project from start to finish by engaging an actual client and teaching and mentoring them through a hands-on process.
“My focus is on mentoring the next generation of leadership and working with students early in their studies,” Pesek said. “I want to expose those who may not have considered a profession in architecture or interior design and build a strong pipeline of future designers.”
Pesek enjoys spending time at her ranch with family and friends where she can be found tooling around on a John Deere tractor and attending “any and all Longhorns sporting events.”
Stretching beyond her comfort zone, persevering through adversity and learning to enjoy the journey are lessons Marcy Phillips learned early and never forgot as she navigated the world of commercial real estate.
“As a female real estate developer in a male-dominated industry, it forces you to have grit, be a good listener and learner, strategize and pave a path and most of all, to enjoy the creation,” Phillips said.
Phillips leads Ryan’s multifamily platform in Texas, which is breaking ground on 1,100 units this year and has several more deals in the pipeline.
In addition to being part of Ryan’s senior leadership team, Phillips serves as a board member on the Downtown Austin Alliance, among other civic connections. As someone who enjoys learning and evolving, she hopes to continue mentoring others, sharing the nuggets she picked up along the way.
Outside of work, she spends time with her husband, three kids and two dogs, tackles home renovation projects and occasionally indulges in binge watching her favorite shows.
At the intersection of students and employers, Mandy Pope’s role involves creating opportunities for purposeful interactions between industry executives and young people seeking real-world experience and some of the top positions at leading firms across the country.
“I'm most proud of the relationships I've developed between our Real Estate Center and industry professionals, and of course watching the students hatch and go out in the world as little chicks, and to see them grow professionally over time,” Pope said.
Pope said the pandemic has been one of the most pivotal points in her career. Despite a world in lockdown and many students seeing internships they’d already secured canceled at the last minute, the center’s strong industry relationships ensured every one of them found internship opportunities for the summer of 2020.
“This just speaks volumes to the commitment and support these real estate leaders provide us in ensuring the success of the future,” she said. “It was a very touching time for me personally, realizing how fortunate I am to be able to call on these relationships and provide our students opportunities even during very difficult times.”
A landscape architect by education and training, Pope enjoys gardening, hiking, swimming with her kids and binging on TV series and books.
Cynthia Powell, only the second woman partner and the sole nonfounding partner in HPI’s 30-year history, got where she was the old-fashioned way: working her way up from director of operations to vice president, chief operating officer and now president.
That’s an example she hopes will be repeated again and again through HPI’s Manager In Training program, which has filled the company's ranks with employees who have steadily moved up.
“My goal is to continue to grow with the company and to do my part to develop the next generation of leaders, including women in leadership,” said Powell, who has seen HPI become the largest property management firm in Austin during her tenure, with growing offices in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas, and diversification into storage, senior housing and apartment development nationally.
Outside of work, Powell enjoys running and working out and has participated in races that promote charitable giving since her teenage years. One little known fact about Powell is that she once drove a black Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am.
For Phyllis Snodgrass, being a trailblazer takes a backseat to being a teammate, ensuring everyone — staff, partners and the greater real estate community — is rowing in the same direction.
“We made a bold decision early on in my tenure — as a leadership team, we decided that it was more important to solve the affordable housing problem than for our organization to exist,” she said. “It was our job to find solutions that could, if they worked, even put us out of business.”
To that end, realizing Austin couldn’t build its way out of the affordability crisis constructing Habitat homes alone, Snodgrass and her team took action, designing new housing types to fit into a more urban environment, partnering with builders and developers to provide an income-qualified homebuyer pipeline and assisting with the sale and long-term affordability restrictions, and doubling down on housing advocacy to facilitate more homes being built at all price levels.
Snodgrass recently moved to an acreage in the Hill Country, a long way from her roots being raised by a single mom in a working-class neighborhood in Victoria, Texas, and working her way through college on a diet of many peanut butter sandwiches.
“That experience has made me extremely grateful for every opportunity given to me,” she said.
Diana Zuniga is a true trailblazer, one of the first women to practice commercial real estate brokerage in the Austin area, one of the first women developers in Central Texas and one of the first women to be elected and appointed to leadership positions in several male-dominated real estate organizations, including chair of the Real Estate Council of Austin.
The 252-unit, 400-foot-tall Spring Condominium project at the corner of Third and Bowie streets in downtown Austin, which she calls “arguably one of the most innovative buildings of its time,” is among her proudest accomplishments. She also gives high marks to her most recent development, 701 RIO, a 123K SF office building at the corner of Seventh and Rio Grande streets, which is designed to complement the historic neighborhood in which it sits.
A fan of travel and wake surfing, Zuniga is a former Kilgore College Rangerette, a member of the drill team, and took inspiration from that experience.
“The Rangerette motto, ‘Beauty knows no pain,’ has served me well throughout my career,” she said.