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Bisnow Honors Los Angeles Power Women: Part 4

Los Angeles Other

Today we bring you the fourth installment in our 10-part series highlighting some of the top leaders in SoCal commercial real estate. Bisnow's Los Angeles Power Women recognizes 50 influential players in the industry. We'll bring you profiles on each of these women (read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3) and then honor themOct. 11 at a special awards reception.

Vicky Schiff, Managing Partner, Mosaic Real Estate Investors


Mosaic Real Estate Investors managing partner Vicky Schiff (pictured above with her son) had every intention of becoming a doctor while in college, but an internship with a commercial real estate brokerage firm right after graduation changed her mind. It also helped that her father was a hotel and industrial developer in Las Vegas. One of the things she finds most rewarding about her job is "coming up with an idea by paying attention to industry movements and creating a business around it, then bringing people together to execute the business plan." The challenges she finds in the industry are that big firms are continuing to get bigger and "dominate certain parts of the market." Technology also is changing aspects of leasing space, finding debt and raising capital and is helping operating companies run more efficiently, according to Vicky. She suggests women in the industry find mentors, take calculated risks and write handwritten thank you notes to make themselves stand out. When she's not in the office, she enjoys spending time with her family, skiing and ocean swimming and bringing people together.

Tricia Esser, CEO, KTGY Architecture + Planning


As a college student, Tricia Esser went to work for an architecture firm that connected her to several of the founders of KTGY Architecture + Planning, where she later served as controller when the firm was founded in 1991. KTGY is celebrating 25 years in 2016, and Tricia is now CEO. Tricia works with KTGY’s leaders to continually move the discourse of architecture forward. She is most proud when she visits KTGY’s completed projects—she says it is rewarding to imagine how people will enjoy the spaces KTGY has designed. Tricia cites some examples of the firm’s work in Southern California: KB Home’s LEED Platinum Skylar in Playa Vista, which turned the traditional three-story townhome design on its side to appeal to the large Boomer market and multi-generational families that want spacious single-level living at townhouse densities; and Toll Brothers’ Capri Collection at Hidden Ranch in Irvine, a luxury collection of single-family homes that won the SoCal Home of the Year Award in 2015. When real estate development becomes very active, she tells us, the challenge is attracting and retaining the best and brightest talent architecture has to offer. Tricia has found the key to her success has been creating formidable teams by gathering great talent around her.

Nadine Watt, President, Watt Cos


After working at Watt Cos every summer as a kid, Nadine Watt (pictured with her husband, Andrew Jameson, and their daughters, Keira and Reese) decided as an adult she wanted no part of the family-run firm founded by her grandfather, Ray Watt. Ray founded his first construction company in 1947, and under his guidance, the company grew from a small building business to a large real estate development organization credited with more than $6B in completed projects, according to Nadine. Nadine initially opted for a career in the entertainment industry, but after working as a film development executive, she was suddenly out of work when the film company went bankrupt. She asked her family for a real estate project just to keep busy, but after a few projects and closing her first deal, she was hooked. "Real estate has become my passion," she says. The firm changed its strategy five years ago, which Nadine says was a difficult decision. The risk to outsource property management and focus on real estate eventually paid off. The multimillion-dollar renovation of Watt Plaza, Century City’s first green high-rise and recipient of LEED Platinum certification, is another major accomplishment. Nadine is the first woman chair of the Los Angeles Business Council and also serves on the executive committee for the Los Angeles Real Estate and Construction Council for the City of Hope. Nadine enjoys mentoring women and minorities aiming to get into real estate. She tries to set an example for her two daughters as someone "who works hard and is trying to make a difference" in the world, she says.

Kilroy Realty Corp, SVP Sustainability, Sara Neff


Kilroy Realty Corp SVP for sustainability Sara Neff (pictured with her husband, Mark Ganek, and children, Jane and Nora) dipped her toes in the entertainment industry before realizing she wanted to make “more of an environmental impact.” To learn how to help businesses align their financial and environmental goals, she went to business school, where she oversaw the business student sustainability organization on campus. Kilroy Realty hired her after graduation to start its formal sustainability programs. One of her proudest moments to date was when GRESB named Kilroy Realty as the No. 1 real estate company in North America for the past two years, she says. There are some challenges in the industry she is concerned about, including lease structures that have made it “impossible for other landlords to do energy/water efficiency work in buildings." Kilroy is a “strong supporter” of the IMT Green Lease Leaders program and earned the Green Lease Leader designation two years ago, and then the Green Lease Leader Team Transaction Award this year, Sara says. It’s important for women to get involved in the sustainability community, such as through USGBC, where she chairs the board of the LA chapter, and BOMA, Sara says. A wide range of perspectives is required to solve environmental problems, she says. She also recommends at least getting the LEED GA credential. Outside of work, Sara enjoys going to the beach and on forest walks with her husband and two young daughters. She also periodically loves to do improv comedy.

Christine Deschaine, SVP, Kennedy Wilson Brokerage Group


Christine Deschaine has found it extremely rewarding to watch Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, a project she was involved with early in her career, develop into one of the most sought-after urban areas in the country. She used the opportunity to execute the City of Santa Monica’s plan to bring in quality retail, restaurant and entertainment tenants to best serve the community, tourists and the daytime population. Christine has found her breadth of industry knowledge has helped her tremendously, and credits top-notch mentors for that knowledge. She would advise others to learn every aspect of the business from a seasoned professional interested in their success. The permitting and approval process that goes along with getting tenants open for business, she says, is one of the greatest obstacles she faces on a regular basis. Christine, pictured here in 2015, takes an annual trip to Uganda to work alongside local partners in the village to help bolster education and medical resources, distribute mosquito nets, support self-sustaining businesses and build water wells.