Digging into the complexity of the components involved in getting a deal done and working with people to accomplish goals and dreams are what drive Debbie Adams, whether that means bringing together the team that created the Edge Houston office in 2011 or mentoring newcomers to the industry.
Moving forward, Adams, third from left in the photo, would like to create a training company to teach the business to young people entering CRE.
She is passionate about studying Texas history and art as well as spending time with friends and family in her off hours. Adams would also like to someday live in Italy.
Getting involved in her parents’ homebuying process as a junior in college first sparked Crystal Allen’s interest in the “exhilarating” world of real estate. Then a professor steered the then-finance major into CRE as a way of maximizing her degree and she hasn’t looked back since.
“No matter what project we work on, tenant we represent or general knowledge we are sharing with business owners of all kind, we not only put ourselves in the client's shoes but we also work through the eyes of the consumer,” Allen said. “The result maximizes returns for all in addition to creating great places.”
Allen said she is grateful to work in the tightly knit and supportive Houston commercial real estate industry and especially for the women who came before her in less female-friendly times and paved the way.
In her off time, she enjoys traveling and sharing new things with 6-year-old daughter Mila, in addition to cooking, time outdoors and ballet. One thing she will never be called is a condiment queen: “I DO NOT eat sauces. Catsup, mayo or mustard ... nope.”
Nancy Almodovar calls Nan and Company Properties a marketing company “that just happens to sell real estate."
“Very early on in my career, I was able to identify one of the most important aspects of our industry, which is being able to reach as many viable eyes as possible in order to properly represent my client's needs,” said Almodovar, a lifelong entrepreneur who has helped expand the company’s offerings over time, including the launch of the Nan New Homes arm of the brokerage that allows first-time homebuyers to purchase new construction homes with no money down.
“These are the deals that make real estate worthwhile,” she said.
Outside of work, Almodovar is a physical fitness enthusiast, leading her kids on family bike rides and activities that teach them that life is about more than money and “without your health, nothing else matters.”
Dr. Ishnella Kaur Azad is blunt about what led her to co-found her boutique commercial real estate investment and asset management firm.
“I wanted to make the average person rich, especially women,” said Azad, who earned her M.D. at Baylor College of Medicine and took an unexpected turn into CRE, where she set about making that dream come true.
Today, Azad’s company is 75% female and owns and manages assets worth $500M, with $85M coming this year alone.
“My first- and second-generation investors are able to live their dreams through mailbox money,” she said, adding she hopes to emulate her mother’s example of kind and tenacious zeal for tenants. “People first. Always.”
Azad enjoys time at the beach with friends, especially sailing. She is an amputee who is “loving my life more than ever.”
Having earned a master’s degree in architecture, Shannon Bedinger found a home in commercial real estate, which sits at the intersection of a wide variety of professions working in parallel with her first love.
“I still feel this exuberance almost 20 years later when we set out to begin new projects,” Bedinger said. “The ability to collaborate with a wide variety of industry professionals, all working towards the same goal of sparking innovation, is inspiring to me.”
Bedinger takes pride in the teams she has worked with and led over the years, and counts Bisnow Houston Director Kim Schell as a 20-year mentor and friend. She has self-professed lofty goals going forward.
“I am a futurist and idealist, so that can be challenging to temper my ideas sometimes,” she said. “I hope to be a part of creating some of the most notable real estate projects of this decade and shaping the stories of these assets for the public and business community.”
Bedinger is a fan of farmers markets, museums and exhibits, and writing, and said she is a mean poker player. She has two little girls “that keep us on our toes” and recently rescued a pug.
Jennifer Campbell was drawn to commercial real estate for three reasons.
“I liked that it is constant problem-solving, every deal is different, and I get to work with people,” said Campbell, who takes greatest pride in growing a team in a challenging field that operates like both colleagues and family.
She jokes that her eventual goal is “world domination” and she holds a black belt in taekwondo, but when not at work, she loves making her daughter belly laugh.
It’s the long-term perspective the company takes on projects to benefit the community, though, that continues to fuel her enthusiasm on a daily basis.
“We are focused on how [projects] will look in 50 years from day one,” Dorros said. “This impacts everything from street design to landscaping to architectural standards; we do everything in a way that will preserve the natural beauty and quality of our developments long after we are gone."
In addition to spending time with her husband, Chris, and children Eliza and Sam she enjoys traveling and cooking. Her flair for the culinary arts led her to open Agnes Café and Provisions during the pandemic alongside a friend.
After practicing law for a decade, Lesa Nickelson French made the transition to CRE to use her skills in an industry “that allows you to be in charge of your destiny” and to achieve a work-life balance that permitted her to spend as much time as she could with her only child.
That was 17 years ago, when there were only a handful of women in the industry, French said — a situation she is helping to right working in the education sector, including with charter schools.
“It was my education that allowed me to pursue this career,” she said. “I want all children to have that opportunity.”
French enjoys spending time with family, friends and her new puppies, in addition to travel and dining. She was shy as a young child, quipping, “I think most people would be surprised to hear that tidbit.”
Ashley Frysinger takes lifting up other women in the industry seriously, chairing Kimley-Horn’s Women’s Leadership Group, participating in the company’s Lasting Impact for Tomorrow initiative to recruit, develop and retain talented women, and getting involved with CREW Houston — including a stint as its president.
That involvement comes naturally for Frysinger, who benefited from numerous mentors throughout her career and hopes to positively impact the careers of all 6,500 Kimley-Horn employees.
“I had the opportunity early in my career in Dallas to work with multiple senior male clients on a variety of development projects who always treated me with respect and dignity,” she said. “I was young and lacked their years of experience, but they trusted me in my abilities and shared their thoughts and knowledge throughout each project.”
Outside of work, she enjoys travel and family time. She likes wearing dresses and the color pink, but notes that “on the other hand I enjoy fast cars and airplanes!”
The challenge of creating meaningful architecture for healthcare clients that all have unique missions and visions while serving the most vulnerable people in society gets PJ Glasco out of bed every morning.
She is also a strong proponent of diversity who takes pride in the impact she’s made on her firm.
“I enjoy bringing diverse teams together to create amazing relationships with my clients and love hearing positive feedback on how important that diversity is to my clients,” said Glasco, who named CannonDesign national health leaders Abbie Clary and Mike Pukszta as two strong influences on her career to date.
Moving forward, she hopes to give back by mentoring, supporting and advocating for the next generation of talent. She relaxes by spending time with family, “whether it's sports, or school stuff or watching movies or trying new restaurants” and is a fan of complicated cross-stitch.
“It's something that always throws people off,” she said.
Ilene Goldfine is proud of her team at Hines and the personal growth she’s achieved as the company evolves and scales to new heights.
It was the very idea of transformation that drew her to CRE in the first place.
“I loved the architectural aspects of real estate, including the understanding of how iconic buildings are built,” Goldfine (center in photo) said. “In addition, seeing how an asset can transform a skyline, city or even neighborhood is fascinating.”
Goldfine names Hines Chief Financial Officer Keith Montgomery as her mentor and credits the company for helping her to have “accomplished more than I ever imagined.”
Goldfine enjoys watching college football, but she is a fan of all sports and a die-hard Michigan Wolverine.
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Michelle Johnson saw commercial real estate as a natural fit. She began her career working for Fortune 500 companies before moving into brokerage as a commercial leasing agent and then transitioning to an adviser on the tenant rep side.
“I’m passionate about helping business owners find the space of their dreams,” said Johnson, who has racked up several honors for her work in recent years, including being named to the list of Women Who Mean Business and 40 Under 40 by the Houston Business Journal and as a Top 20 Young Professional Under 40 by the Houston Association of Realtors.
But it’s the ability “to successfully run a profitable business during the pandemic and beyond [that] speaks to my growth and tenacity as an entrepreneur,” she said, adding she hopes to extend a hand up to other women and others to follow in her footsteps, especially through her Commercial Real Estate Pros Training Academy.
Music festivals and concerts with husband Byron are on the calendar outside of work, as is cooking and eating with family. She is also a U.S. Army veteran who was on active duty training soldiers to properly use protective equipment in the event of a chemical attack around the time of 9/11.
“Serving in the military showed me more mental, physical and emotional strength than I ever imagined,” she said.
With both her father and uncle working as developers, Julie Kleine grew up visiting job sites, touring new real estate developments on family vacations, viewing architectural models and hanging around sales offices. As a teen, she worked as a sales assistant and sold homes for her father’s company, and her first job after university was in the international division of Stewart Title.
“I guess real estate is in my blood. I love it,” Kleine said.
DC Partners’ recently completed The Arts Residences at Thompson San Antonio and The Allen are among the projects she’s most proud of.
For The Allen, “we took some huge risks and invested early on in a ground-up sales gallery and innovative sales technology,” she said of the sales tool that kept sales flowing through the pandemic. “I wanted something to help people see themselves living at The Residences at The Allen. I wanted homebuyers, future tenants, and our hotel partner to be able to see their space, how it felt size-wise, and the materials altogether, experience the WOW of their views, the color of their cabinets, flooring, countertops and bathroom shower slab.”
The experience taught her the world can change quickly and dramatically, and how to adapt on the fly — a lesson she plans to carry into the future, learning from customers and partners to keep improving along the way.
Spending time with husband Erich and children Isabelle, 10, and William, 8, is her true love, though the family was formed in rather dramatic fashion: “I almost caught on fire walking down the aisle on my wedding day,” she said.
Lauri Goodman Lampson knew a career in design and architecture was in the cards since she was a young girl poring over her mother’s home design magazines, especially the architectural floor plans.
“That is why I am in this business, to create places and experiences that people love,” said Lampson, who listed helping design Exxon Mobil’s massive Houston campus as a career highlight, and said her “aha moment” was coming to understand how design can influence human behavior and thus drive business success.
Three mentors — former PDR Director of Design Wayne Braun, former Chairman Drew Patton and former President Joanne Taylor — made indelible marks on her career, and she said she hopes to also be a leader others admire and seek to emulate.
“My dream is for PDR to broaden our reach and have a more significant impact on the human experience across the boundaries of market sectors,” she said.
In off hours, Lampson enjoys hanging out with her husband and two teenage boys, all of whom are performers. Her husband is a musician and one son plays trumpet pre-professionally while the other is “a baseball-playing pre-law student.”
Contributing to her community via an industry that impacts where people live and play brought Catherine Lee to CRE, but the experiences she’s had along the way have kept her engaged.
Career highlights for Lee include working with then-business partner Jacob Sudhoff on Douglas Elliman’s expansion to Texas in 2019 and navigating the challenges of the pandemic over the past two years. Continuing Elliman’s statewide expansion continues to be a goal.
Lee enjoys spending time with her dogs, family and friends whenever she can, and she is a self-professed “fast-food connoisseur.”
Alison Malkhassian knew commercial real estate was for her when she wound up spending more time in the offices of Grubb & Ellis as an intern than studying finance in class during college.
“It is a tangible commodity unlike an equity or bond,” said Malkhassian, who became the city’s second female acquisition professional in the late ‘80s and counts Camden’s Ric Campo and investment partner Russell Gordy as mentors. Mentors have been important in her career, and she has never forgotten the advice received from one early champion.
“A mentor once said, ‘Alison, when you are out looking at deals you have to use your senses — roll down the windows and smell. Use your eyes to see what types of cars are in the parking lot and at what hours. And above all else, if you are looking at deals and you don't drive more than 100 miles a day you're slacking off!’ Probably more than anything, I like the hunt.”
Malkhassian said she is blessed by not having to make deals, having spent the better part of the past seven years taking advantage of a great selling market to dispose of two-thirds of Alara Ventures’ conventional portfolio.
Outside of work, she enjoys traveling with her son and husband, helping the Houston Humane Society and entertaining.
Creating spaces for communities, families and friends to gather together got Heather Nguyen into commercial real estate, but in recent years, sharing her Asian culture has become a passion — one that has increasingly turned her to building centers that are Asian-centric yet welcoming to all wishing to experience the culture.
“These centers bring together a mix of Asian cuisines from all over Asia in an environment that allows it to be more easily accessible and approachable for Asian Americans and non-Asians alike,” said Nguyen, who hopes to grow such centers across the country and potentially even abroad. “It's taking what I've learned in developing traditional centers and adding my Asian spin to it! The real reward is seeing the outcome of the community embracing a culture that was so foreign to them before.”
Nguyen enjoys spending time with her 15-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, traveling and discovering the world together. With her family, Nguyen has formed a foundation, Toys Fore Kids, to deliver Christmas presents to children that have to spend the holidays in the hospital, shelters and foster homes.
Connie O’Murray, who began her career in accounting, got her CRE start when she accepted a position with a developer in Denver. The job started as a financial role, but she also found herself taking on property management responsibilities, growing into the role as that firm's portfolio expanded.
“I found that I loved the integration of the financial component with tenant-facing interactions and the ability to drive value through exceptional management,” O’Murray said. “I decided to take my career in that direction and haven't looked back.”
Over the years, O’Murray has been deeply involved with the Building Owners and Managers Association as its president in Colorado Springs and Denver, and now as vice president-elect in Houston.
“I have had the ability to impact careers and influence the industry,” she said. “BOMA helped me to initially get my career off the ground through first-class training and education, and then presented me with the opportunity to lead.”
O’Murray is a lover of nature who can be found hiking and skiing whenever possible. She also loves theater, wine tastings and attending sporting events and calls herself “a pretty good chess player.”
Drawn to commercial real estate by the accounting complexity of the industry, Geri Pacheco said she is pleased to have been part of helping grow Arch-Con into an organization whose clients, vendors, subcontractors and community partners have made a notable impact on Houston and the state at large over the last 22 years.
She credits CEO Michael Scheurich as a mentor whose vision and drive inspire and motivate her to be a better employee and person. Looking forward, she hopes to attain an MBA so she can teach college-level accounting courses after retirement.
She enjoys reading and spending time with family. Few know that Pacheco is the youngest of 14 children.
"I learned to compromise and speak out at an early age," she said.
As a perfectionist drawn to bringing organization to chaos, architecture was a natural calling for Jackie Rye with its “infinite number of decisions and details which all require an order to become something more meaningful.”
Rye joined Method when it was a three-man shop that specialized in industrial only and has helped the company grow to four locations, more than 60 employees and designing for all sectors “with a style and ego-free approach that makes it different than anywhere I have ever worked.”
When she has time to relax, Rye spends time with family, reads good books and is what she calls a casual exerciser.
“Really just enjoying the little things in life like the wind in my hair and the sun on my face,” said Rye, who has also traveled the world in search of the perfect scuba dive site. Her current top pick is the Blue Corner in Palau within the world’s first shark sanctuary.
Brandi Sikes is a firm believer that God guided her both into CRE and to an early job at Trammell Crow Co., despite it being the lowest paid of three job offers.
“I knew I was supposed to take the risk,” said Sikes, who has gone on to play an integral role in the One MRO Building at City Centre where she and her team brought vision to reality for Marathon Oil.
Looking to the future, she hopes to work on projects shaping the future of the city, like East River, and hopes to emulate her mentor Martin Peck, who invited her into tenant representation and guided her through the decision-making process to come to Houston.
In off hours, Sikes enjoys time with family and friends, Bible study, working in the orchard and good wine. If she had not gone into CRE, she would have been an artist.
“I changed my major in college from commercial art to business for fear I wouldn't make any money,” she said. “I have a deep need to express the beautiful images I see. There's more art in my future.”
After starting at a public equities hedge fund, Kelli Walter transitioned to commercial real estate for its stability and outcomes that were within an owner’s sphere of influence.
“Beyond the appeal of the asset class, the team I joined was an obvious fit from the start,” Walter said. “I had the most faith in that aspect of this job before I even really knew what it would entail or where we'd take the platform.”
Since then, Walter has helped foster a strong team in Partners’ investment division, one made up of mostly women — “young, driven, working moms who care so much about our families and our careers.” And going forward, she hopes to lead the charge in redefining what best-in-class CRE means, whether it’s adoption of new technological tools or better understanding the psychology of tenant relations and transactions.
Walter’s favorite hobby is cooking with her husband. Few know she owns a Fiat 500X after going on a vintage Fiat tour of Italy years ago.
One of the highlights of Micki Washington’s career is sharing research and thought leadership on neurodiversity and designing for DEI in a role all about how people interact with spaces.
Washington calls her mother her biggest role model, teaching her to persevere through difficult times and to not allow the opinions of others about her limitations or difficulties as a minority female dictate her outcome. Emulating her mother has also driven her to become a mentor for others, encouraging more women to break into leadership, become managers or register as architects.
In her free time, she is a maker of things, from food to skin care.
“That also goes along with my everything from scratch motto,” she said.