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Bisnow Honors Seattle Power Women: Part 3

Today we bring you the third installment in our eight-part series on Seattle Power Women, recognizing six more influential players in the industry. We're profiling each of these women and then honoring them the morning of Nov. 3 at a special awards reception.

Scotta Ashcraft, First VP, CBRE


Scotta Ashcraft tells us her first real industry job started in 1994 at Spieker Properties, where she worked for nine years. During her tenure at Spieker, she was more of a generalist, handling everything from property management to brokerage. That experience gave her a solid perspective on institutional brokerage for when she moved on. There’s a level of interactivity in the culture of the real estate industry that motivates her, she says, and while it’s always great to finalize a big, notable deal, sometimes the most rewarding deals involve helping smaller clients who are just starting out and growing their businesses. Scotta says she loves everything about what she does: working with clients and brokers both at CBRE and other firms to get the deal done. She says technology has really changed the business, advancing performance and expectations, though sometimes it feels like the industry has lagged in keeping up with the latest trends. Her advice for women and others getting started in the industry is that being a broker is essentially like running a small company within the company. Keep your eyes on your own paper and focus on your business and your clients. The only person you need to compete with is yourself. (Speaking of competition, here's Scotta with Bobby Wagner of the Seahawks.)

Liz Dunn, Principal, Dunn & Hobbes


Liz Dunn tells us she always wanted to be an architect or a city planner, but since she was a math whiz as a youngster, her parents and teachers pushed her to computer science in college. She took about a 10-year detour in tech, but then went back to school and studied urban planning and real estate. She bought a tiny piece of property and built a building—it was trial by fire. She says she loves design, her tenants and when the right deal comes together. When you’re executing a real estate project, you’re building a piece of city, she says. There are challenges, including how the design of projects that Seattleites will live with for generations are being driven largely by equity sources from other places and entities that don’t have a local stake and aren’t invested for the long term. Her advice for women and others getting started in the real estate industry is that once you’ve got the skills under your belt, start your own company so that you call the shots! And find local sources of equity that are aligned with your values.

Lori Hill, Managing Director, JLL


Lori Hill tells us she started as a research analyst right out of college and spent those early days cold-calling brokers about their listings to update a market database. If you find it aggravating to receive sales calls, imagine the challenges of cold-calling professional cold-callers! That of course was in the days before CoStar and other internet-based listing services. A few years later, after getting her MBA and working as a financial analyst, she was recruited to join an investment brokerage team. Over the ensuing 15 years, Lori handled the disposition of over $6B of real estate assets. The most rewarding part of her job, she notes, isn't the high-profile transactions or the recognition that goes along with them, but rather the times that she's made a significant positive outcome for her clients. For example, she's handled investment sales transactions on behalf of private local clients that allowed the clients to realize lifelong goals. One client told her that he hoped his college-aged daughter, a business student, would grow up to be like Lori. That, she says, was one of the nicest compliments she's received during her career. Lately, Lori adds, she's been keenly aware of the lack of diversity within the commercial real estate industry overall and particularly within the field of brokerage. Attracting young and diverse talent would greatly benefit the industry. Her advice for women and others getting started in the industry is not to follow the herd or spend time trying to fit in with the crowd. Rather, differentiate yourself based on your unique skills, actively seek mentors and be willing to listen to constructive feedback.

Shelley Gill, Managing Partner, Kinzer Partners


Shelley Easter Gill (here with her daughter) tells us she's always loved numbers and solving puzzles—the more complicated the better. She also loves building things, including ground up or creating value in an underutilized asset. She started in commercial real estate as a financial analyst for a small boutique firm, and now she's able to combine analytics, puzzle-solving and value-creation to help clients identify the real estate that fits their needs. The most rewarding part of her job, she says, is being able to apply her expertise and creativity to solve real estate problems, develop strategies and deliver significant value to clients. She also loves that every client has a new and different challenge related to their specific priorities—that keeps things interesting. Born and raised in Seattle, it's important to her to work on projects that have a positive impact on the city and region. The biggest challenge in the industry these days is that it's consolidating, which will change the landscape nationally and locally. Another challenge, which is also an opportunity, is data and technology—being able to interpret and analyze data. Her advice for women and others getting started in the industry is to stick with it. Focus on your strengths and be true to yourself, she says: You don’t need to be like everybody else to succeed.

Laura Ford, SVP, Colliers


Laura Ford tells us she started in commercial real estate in the data bank, right after graduating from the University of Washington. She says the most rewarding part of her job is working with and meeting so many smart, interesting people. Also, she says, she's a deal junkie, both in figuring out how to position properties and then putting lots of deals together. One of the biggest challenges affecting the industry in Seattle these days, she says, is traffic and transportation, especially as companies put more people into smaller spaces. Her advice for women getting started in the industry is to go into the business prepared to work hard and smart, have mentors, and find a niche and become an expert in that area. She believes the major advances in technology over the past 10 years have made it easier for women to get started and succeed in commercial real estate, and that the business has gotten more sophisticated and analytical.

Stacy Amrine, Director of Program Management, CBRE


Stacy Amrine tells us she landed in real estate by chance. After graduating with a flight officer degree, she needed to find a job to fund the rest of her flying hours. So she took a job as a receptionist at Trammell Crow—and 23 years later she's never left CRE. She says she's been very fortunate to work with a series of great bosses who pushed her to try new roles and grow her experience in key sectors of the business. The most rewarding part of her job, she says, is being able to work with people across the globe to get exposure to cultural differences. The biggest challenge in the industry is the changing workforce. Employees want more freedom and options in how they work, instead of being chained to a desk in an office. Office spaces are going to need an overhaul to meet the many demands for attracting talent and minimizing operating costs, including being functional with optimal use of space and technologically advanced. Stacy's advice for women and others getting started in the industry is to understand the bigger picture and how what you're doing contributes to the overall goal. You'll have more opportunities and become more valuable to your company if you expose yourself to all lines of the business, she says. Also: don’t be afraid of failure, or at least use that fear, which is common enough, to drive you to find solutions.