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San Diego Power Women: Part 3

Today, we bring you the third installment of our 10-part Power Woman series profiling the 50 most influential women in San Diego commercial real estate. Then join Bisnow and partner Allen Matkins on June 25 for a cocktail awards reception to honor these amazing leaders at the San Diego Public Library, 6-8pm.



In April, MG Properties closed what was a banner deal for COO Patti Gray: The firm and Intercontinental Real Estate Corp picked up Anaheim’s 768-unit Madison Park Apartments, the largest single property (by units) purchased in SoCal since 2013, capping off $258M worth of acquisitions over the past seven months. Patti has been with the company since 2005, and since then, MG has more than doubled in size. The Edina, MN, native went to UC Santa Barbara, originally eyeing the hotel industry. After graduation, she worked for a local real estate investment company for 10 years, learning the business as a project manager, regional manager, and eventually president of the property management division. She went on to work for Equity Residential as a senior regional manager before moving to the smaller, growing MPG. Her advice: While education and experience are always important, real estate management is “ultimately a people business where you can excel with hard work, common sense and a desire to serve your customer.” She and her husband have two teenage boys who keep them busy with sports and social activities, but when Patti has some downtime, you can usually find her at the beach.



Tracy Murphy oversees development, leasing, property management, finance and more for BioMed’s $1B, 3M SF life sciences portfolio in San Diego, which includes the upcoming LEED Platinum i3, a 315k SF project delivering next June. Tracy tells us it’s something she hadn’t dreamed of 13 years ago when she moved to town after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. She didn’t know anyone and decided to build a local social network through bartending in the evenings. Through pouring drinks, she fortuitously met John Frager, then CEO of BRE Commercial, who recruited her as marketing director. “I was reluctant at first, but then fell in love with the industry,” she says. She moved on to working as a life sciences broker at BRE, then later co-founded Grubb & Ellis’ life science practice. Her advice: “Trust your gut, focus on your individual brand and activate a network, especially the right mentor.” In her spare time, she enjoys being with her kids and husband, as well as playing beach volleyball and abstract acrylic painting.



Murphy Development EVP Kaitlin Murphy helped pass the Otay Mesa Community Plan Update in San Diego, successfully securing the first Business Park–Residential Permitted zoning in the whole city for the company's Brown Field Tech Park. The only woman to receive the 2013 NAIOP Developing Leaders Award, she began her career copying for Murphy Development during her college summers and working as a commercial mortgage banking analyst for HFF. Murphy Development has over 100 acres of entitled land in San Diego, and Kaitlin tells us the firm is likely to go spec at its Siempre Viva Business Park by Q4. Her advice: “Speak up and show up” and don’t be intimidated. In her free time, Kaitlin is an insatiable traveler and is busy planning for her wedding to fiancé Mike Arduino (snapped with Kaitlin on a recent trip to Kauai).



DTZ project manager Debra Aitken has worked on nearly 2M SF of office interior projects for such clients as Rockstar Games, Uber Technologies and Brookfield. She grew up watching her father design movie theaters in the '60s for desolate Canadian mining towns stuck in the permafrost of Northern Ontario and Manitoba. Those experiences inspired her in two ways: Forge a career in commercial real estate. And live somewhere much warmer. Twenty years ago, Debra was working for a contract furniture manufacturer when she moved to San Diego and observed its real estate market. “I knew I wanted to get into the game,” she says. Eventually, she landed an opportunity to work with the corporate real estate department of California Bank & Trust, before joining Cassidy Turley last year. Debra is an avid sailor, golfer and spin/pump participant. Her advice: “Get up early, know your stuff and become the go-to person in your field. And don’t wear sun dresses and open-toed shoes to construction job sites.”



CBRE VP Natalie Dahl started with the brokerage 14 years ago as a marketing associate, but now leads the firm's capital markets unit in its institutional investment division, putting her on point for all marketing and financial analysis endeavors. Natalie tells us jumping into commercial real estate was a “process of elimination,” as companies left and right were in hiring freezes due to the dot-com bust. Natalie says it's critical for young women entering the business to demonstrate a strong work ethic, and learn everything you can about the business and industry. That can be anything from requesting special projects to simply doing the heavy lifting for an executive's presentation. “Most executives or senior professionals welcome someone who can be their 'right-hand person,'" she says. "Sitting at that table also allows you to visualize yourself there as a key contributor, and chances are you will be one in short order.”