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Developing Leaders Spotlight: Working for Meaningful Change

A career in the commercial real estate industry requires problem-solving, teamwork and determination – making it a natural fit for Briana Harney, a recipient of NAIOP’s 2020 Developing Leaders Award. She played on the women’s Division I field hockey team while pursuing her undergraduate degree at the University of California at Berkeley, and she now competes on the Olympic Club’s Women’s Field Hockey team in San Francisco. Harney earned a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Briana Harney headshot

As vice president with NorthMarq, Harney places both debt and equity for her clients, leveraging her knowledge of the market, a reliable out-to-market strategy, and strong relationships with lenders to bring the best capital markets execution to her clients. During her career at NorthMarq, she has been involved with closing over $2 billion in debt and equity transactions covering the full spectrum of property and transaction types.

She is an active member of the NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area chapter, where she currently serves as co-chair of the Young Professionals Group alumni committee as well as co-chair of the membership committee. NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area honored her as Developing Leader of the Year in 2019; that same year, the chapter also recognized her with the Financing Transaction of the Year for 1 DE Haro. She graduated from the chapter’s Young Professionals Group in 2017. Harney also serves on the board of directors of the Berkeley Real Estate Alumni Association.

NAIOP reached out to this driven dynamo for her thoughts on career development, professional highlights, and opportunities during this time of great change.

NAIOP: What do you think will be the biggest opportunity emerging from the past year?

Harney: The confluence of the pandemic and racial injustice in the U.S. has placed a spotlight on how our communities and social systems have failed to protect the most vulnerable populations and provide equal opportunities for all to thrive. I believe the biggest opportunities emerging from today’s crisis lie in developing new ways to build and use real estate to promote meaningful change.

Personally, I am passionate about addressing the complex issue of creating a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workforce in commercial real estate. I joined NorthMarq’s DE&I (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) Committee; as co-chair of NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area’s membership committee, I have worked cross-functionally with our chapter’s I.D.E.A. (Inclusion, Diversity, Equality and Accountability) Committee to address diversity initiatives; and through BREAA (Berkeley Real Estate Alumni Association), I have helped develop a series of panel events focused on racial issues and community development. It is my hope that our industry emerges from this crisis with a more diverse workforce so that commercial real estate, and the economic opportunities it represents, is more reflective of and better serves the communities in which we live and work.

NAIOP: What has been a highlight of your career so far?

Harney: Closing $260 million in construction financing on 1900 Broadway in Oakland has been the highlight of my career thus far. This was a highly complex transaction that my team and I had been involved in for over a year. We had a fully negotiated deal and were in the closing process when COVID-19 struck the U.S. The week that closing was scheduled, the Bay Area announced shelter-in-place orders. The entire transaction team buckled down and navigated through the extreme uncertainty of the time and successfully closed that week. The project is now under construction and I can’t wait to see it as a living, breathing asset. The experience taught me the value of having a solid team on all sides of the table that will bring grit and tenacity to a deal they believe in.  

NAIOP: What is one piece of practical advice you would give to Developing Leaders who are just starting out in their careers?

Harney: The piece of advice I always give to other Developing Leaders and young professionals is to work for people that you admire, can learn from, and who will invest in your success. I cannot over-stress the importance of company culture and working in an environment where you feel inspired and supported.

I have been fortunate in my career to work for fantastically smart people who are willing to spend time openly and honestly answering my questions, responding when I seek advice, and encouraging me to reach for the next level. Through these relationships, I have soaked up professional knowledge, best practices, and career guidance from each one of my many mentors and emerged with a vault of collective wisdom that I would otherwise not have been able to acquire.

This is part of a series of profiles of NAIOP’s 2020 Developing Leaders Award recipients, who have distinguished themselves through exceptional commitment and contributions to the industry. This prestigious award was presented at NAIOP’s CRE.Converge Virtual 2020 conference. Watch this two-minute video to learn more about NAIOP’s Developing Leaders program. Applications for the 2021 Developing Leaders Award are now open.

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