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SoCal Power Women: 5 Questions With Shea Properties' Lillian Kuo

Want to get a jump-start on upcoming deals? Meet the major Los Angeles players at one of our upcoming events!

This limited series profiles SoCal Power Women who have helped shape cities, neighborhoods, businesses and lifestyles in Los Angeles and Orange counties. These women will be honored at Bisnow's SoCal Power Women event Dec. 13.

An MIT and Harvard University grad, Shea Properties' Lillian Kuo oversees 5M SF of asset management, property management and leasing for Shea’s retail, industrial and office portfolios in California and Colorado.

Shea Properties SVP

Lillian Kuo
Shea Properties Senior Vice President Lillian Kuo and her husband, Nick Malik

How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

I work for a development company and oversee the operations (meaning management and leasing) of all the retail, industrial and office properties. The retail projects are mainly grocery-anchored neighborhood shopping centers. Our properties are located in prime locations in California, Colorado and Washington.

What is the biggest business problem you have faced and how did you solve it?

This is an ongoing challenge, but it’s finding qualified employees who fit into our corporate culture. The market is tight, so it is increasingly more difficult to identify strong candidates and we want to make sure the personality, work ethic, values, etc., are a good match with our team.

We are extremely careful and try to understand as much about each candidate as possible through interviews/screening, and we have to be patient. It’s tough when you’re short-staffed to not want to overlook certain things but it’s much worse in the end to hire poorly and have turnover.

What is one thing you think companies can do to address wage and gender inequality?

Proactively and regularly reviewing the makeup of the employees and comp levels and ensuring a proper balance when hiring, promoting and/or making annual salary adjustments. Equal pay is an important piece of a successful company and companies that prioritize wage transparency and equality will see more committed employees because they know they are being fairly rewarded for their work. 

What piece of advice do you give others entering the industry?

Figure out specifically what you enjoy and what your strengths are and look for positions that are aligned with those things. Real estate has so many different product types, companies, positions and they can vary tremendously. For example, someone who is an excellent sales person might not be a great property manager and vice versa because the skill sets required for each position are so different. Also, once you spend a few years going down a path, it is harder to change directions without taking a step back. Nothing wrong with doing that but it’s just something to consider.

What do you do to unwind when you’re not working?

I spend most of my time with my family (husband and two young daughters), and I also try to exercise regularly. Scheduling time with girlfriends is important too (although pretty often, those times end up revolving around play dates for our kids or taking a yoga class together)!

Meet Shea Properties Senior Vice President Lillian Kuo at Bisnow's SoCal Power Women event Dec. 13 at the LA Grand Hotel Downtown.