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Bisnow Honors Bay Area Power Women: Part 9

San Francisco Other

Today we bring you our ninth installment in our 10-part series highlighting some of the top leaders in Bay Area commercial real estate. Bisnow's first Bay Area Power Women recognizes 50 influential players in the industry. We'll profile each of these women (read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7 and Part 8) and honor them at a special awards reception Sept. 21 at The Sir Francis Drake.

Nina Tran, CFO, Veritas Investments


Nina Tran’s entry into real estate finance began with a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers. There, a love of advising real estate clients to get their financial houses in order led her to joining what is now Prologis, the largest global industrial REIT. Today, after 18 years at Prologis and three more as CFO of Starwood Waypoint Residential Trust, she serves as CFO for Veritas Investments. Veritas manages $2B in real estate and is the largest owner of apartment mixed-use buildings in San Francisco. “The most rewarding part of my job is helping a company grow,” she says. “From hiring the right talent to putting efficient processes in place to building the organization's systems and overall infrastructure.” As the opportunity to purchase distressed property cheaply is no longer as compelling as it was a few years ago, firms like Veritas need to be very intentional and diligent in deploying their capital, she says. Despite the challenge, the advice she gives to younger workers rings true to the wider sector: “Don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone; it can be scary at times, but it will absolutely give you a chance to learn, grow and advance in your career.”

Kristin Anderson, CEO, Eric F. Anderson Inc


It was almost inevitable that Kristin Anderson entered construction. “It’s my family business,” she says, “I grew up with Eric F. Anderson Inc.” While she trained as a mechanical engineer in college and entered the high-tech sector, her roots called her back. In 2008, she joined the company to lead EFA to its next destination. Kristin says the most rewarding part of her job is continuing the legacy of EFA. The firm, founded in 1945, has been involved in defining projects across the Bay Area. The company has evolved to stay a market leader—EFA is a certified Women-Owned Business. “To be in business for 70 years and women-owned is amazing," she says. "We’re ready for the next 70 years.” What advice does she have for women who are just starting their careers in real estate? “It takes a lot of hard work, but being successful in any job takes a lot of hard work. Just be strong and don’t let anyone make you feel less.”

Nancy Morse, Senior Managing Director, Newmark, Cornish & Carey


While Nancy Morse spends the majority of her time advising various clients from Fortune 500 companies to high-tech startups, she is most proud of spearheading the relocation of Career Closet, a nonprofit helping women who need advice on proper dressing, and training, for jobs (a CREW Silicon Valley project). She assembled 23 CREW members to locate, secure, design, build out, furnish and stock a new space. Nancy was originally drawn to commercial real estate because it incorporates all her business passions and strengths: sales, marketing, design and project management. She appreciated that shed be working directly with upper management and C-suite executives, the decision-makers of the firm. As the industry has evolved, it has become much more sophisticated, Nancy tells us. Tenant requirements must be more specifically designed to create corporate culture, and greater financial analysis and increased legal review are necessary to tightly align with corporate strategies. “Today, real estate professionals require many more tools to create real estate solutions than we did in the past,” she says. Nancy enjoys entertaining and spending quality time with friends to unwind.

Gaye Quinn, Managing Director, Westlake Urban


Gaye Quinn has served as planning director in San Mateo, San Leandro and Emeryville, CA. The perspective she gained from those three cities enables her to be successful in her current role as managing director at Westlake Urban. Gaye is responsible for strategic planning and the execution of Westlake Urban’s development activities, including governmental entitlements, site evaluation and project feasibility analyses. Obstacles in the industry today, she says, include outdated rules and systems—from zoning to finance to marketing­­—that are ill-suited to the needs of today. “After a 60-year pattern of suburban development where growth happened farther and farther away from employment centers, the market has now changed and there is strong demand for properties that are closer to transit and jobs,” Gaye says. Westlake Union is making sure to prioritize the design of the spaces between buildings as much as they focus on the buildings themselves. “The world is begging for new ways to do this work as we become more and more aware of how the world is changing,” Gaye tells us. She enjoys practicing Bikram yoga and traveling with her husband, Mark.

Ashley Shawlee, Senior Project Manager, Pankow


Being the daughter of a residential contractor has its perks. Ashley Shawlee says she loved being on the job site with her father and got to experience firsthand the creative problem-solving the profession requires. After graduating with a degree in construction management at Cal Poly, she started a career in her chosen field, realizing that it was a perfect combination of engineering, hands-on creating and business. The time she spent getting her MBA at the University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business, influenced how she tackles challenges like talent and technology. For example, to keep her teams motivated and focused on the task at hand, she fosters a culture of pride within her teams. “Celebrating personal and team wins both big and small are great reminders of how rewarding my job is,” she says. That cultural focus also drives her advice to women who want to enter real estate. While it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and passive at the start of a career, they can realize their dreams “if they keep believing they’re brave and find a support system,” she says.  “If you aren’t having any fun; you’re doing it wrong!”