As a vice president and leasing officer at Prologis – the world’s largest owner and manager of industrial space – Lisa Reddy doesn’t spend her days sitting behind a computer. And that is just the way she likes it. Lisa has spent her entire career in commercial real estate and even got a dual MBA/Masters in Real Estate from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. What is it about commercial real estate – a field in which women comprise just 35 percent of the workforce – that Lisa says gets her out of bed every day ready to take on the world?
Industrial real estate: A day in the life
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa spends most of her days meeting with other people – for example, brokers she depends on to lease Prologis’s available property; tenants who currently lease space; and potential customers who are shopping for a place to base their business. She also interacts regularly with Prologis colleagues who work in property management, accounting and construction.
Prologis is a major player in industrial real estate, commanding more than 3,300 buildings in 19 countries on four continents that comprise a total of 687 million square feet. Lisa is part of a small team that oversees 30 million square feet of property in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and her individual portfolio totals 13.5 million square feet – which includes 150 buildings and 250 leases.
Industrial real estate is a sub-group of commercial real estate and, although many of her tenants are household names that contribute considerably to the global economy, Lisa says their products are often “under the radar.” Industrial space is often used for heavy manufacturing, light assembly, and R&D or as warehouses, data centers, and showrooms, for example.
Lisa loves real estate, but like any industry, it has its challenges. As she explains, “When buildings are full, rents can increase, and this is a hard pill for customers to swallow. Prologis takes a lot of pride in how we operate, and it is important for me to have an honest conversation and spend face time with customers so they understand.”
Success in real estate: People skills and a big picture perspective
The ability to have tough conversations is one of many qualities necessary for success in real estate leasing, which is part of the broader essential skillset to work well with people. It is also important to “be able to see the big picture and how you are contributing to the overall objectives of the business,” Lisa adds, a skill that she developed while pursuing an MBA.
Lisa says she has risen through the ranks at Prologis because of her dedication but also because she has made the most of opportunities. For example, she was asked to be part of an internal project to look at the way Prologis operated its leasing system. As a result of the initiative, Prologis overhauled its global system – which has reduced processing time and allowed for more face time with customer and brokers. “It was a two-year commitment,” Lisa says, “and it showed them that I understood all the components of the company and am here for long haul.”
Tips for success: Honesty equals credibility
Lisa is that rare person who visualized her career path while she was still a business undergrad at the University of Southern California (USC). After a series of internships in various fields – including marketing, human resources and real estate – her favorite was a real estate internship during her senior year.
Lisa recommends to young women who are trying to determine a career path to “have internships and talk to other people and ask them what they do on a daily basis. It might feel intimidating, but talk to as many people as possible and hear their stories. Learn about it and see if you like it.”
Lisa’s other advice is a reminder of what many of us are taught at a young age: always be honest. “The person on the other end of the conversation may not like what they hear, but they will appreciate the truth. When people know the real issue, they can work toward a better solution,” she says. In a long and successful career, honesty is essential because “it equals credibility,” she explains.
MBA gave her distinction, especially during a recession
The decision to get an MBA at USC’s Marshall School of Business occurred when Lisa was working as a commercial real estate broker. Because she “wanted to be on the ownership side,” she says an MBA was necessary to “round out my overall picture and gave me the skills to make the transition to have a lasting career doing that.”
She chose to do a dual MBA and Masters in Real Estate as a way to set herself apart. When she graduated from business school in 2008, a major recession was beginning. With five years of work experience under her belt when she started her MBA, Lisa says the MBA allowed her to build on her work experience. Comparing her studies as a business undergrad to an MBA student, Lisa says, “As an undergrad, you don’t have the practical knowledge to build from.”
Find a company that values both career and family
As a woman in an industry in which women make up just 35 percent of the workforce, Lisa admires Prologis because they actively seek to increase the advancement of diverse employees, including women. “Breakthrough is a Prologis program that enables women to discuss career advancement, and both men and women participate,” she says. She believes Breakthrough works because “it brings together people going through the same thing.” Lisa rightfully adds that advancing women in the workforce is imperative across all industries, not just in real estate.
Prologis is also supportive of working mothers, Lisa says. As a mother of three boys, she advises women “to first and foremost, find a company that values employees who want both a career and a family.” She knows that with a busy career, she cannot participate in 100% of her boys’ activities, instead emphasizing the quality of her participation. Lisa also brings her boys into her work world sometimes by showing them the properties in her portfolio, and she says they are proud of her and interested in what she does.
This passion for her work is what Lisa attributes to her success. “My only suggestion to young people starting their careers is to love what you do. If you wake up every day dreading going to work, maybe you’re not doing the right thing. I love what I do, and I never feel that way.”