Developing Leaders award leadership concept

Developing Leader Spotlight: Empowering Young Leaders in CRE

Driven by collaboration and exploration, Maria Poyer, a recipient of the 2023 Developing Leaders Award, has evolved as a dedicated commercial real estate professional, specializing in acquisitions and development. With a proven track record and throughout her career, she has shepherded over $4.9 billion in commercial real estate transactions and worked on various developments, bringing a wealth of expertise to every project.

Maria Elena Poyer

Poyer is a senior land acquisition manager – Americas with Microsoft Corporation. In her past role at Amazon, she oversaw land acquisitions, due diligence and development, ensuring each location aligned with project requirements supporting Amazon’s Global Customer Fulfillment network. Her background is enriched with brokerage experience at JLL and investment banking roles at Bank of America. Her collaborative approach has fostered strong partnerships with stakeholders and investors, and she thrives in high-stakes scenarios, consistently delivering results.

Poyer served as the co-president of “Women at Amazon,” Amazon’s largest ERG, supporting a community of over 30,000 members and 157 chapters. She has served on NAIOP Corporate’s Executive Board and is currently serving on the NAIOP Research Foundation’s research committee as a Visionary, in addition to being a member of the select National Forums. She has served in leadership roles with NAIOP Washington State including as co-chair of the Developing Leaders committee. In addition, she serves as a board member with CREW Seattle.

Poyer has volunteered as a weekly tutor with Reading Partners, a program that matches community volunteers with elementary school students reading below grade level.

NAIOP caught up with this inspirational luminary more about her commercial real estate career and how she grows as a leader.

NAIOP: Name a person who has had a notable impact on your career. What did they do that made a difference?

Poyer: I’ve always believed that holding out a hand to others and recognizing those who have helped you grow professionally is paramount to the success and growth of the CRE industry. This belief is reinforced by individuals like Kate Bryden, Kathryn Hamilton, and Bennett Gray from the NAIOP community, who exemplify leadership mentorship, and a genuine openness that creates a welcoming environment for all. At Amazon, Brad McKeich championed my endeavors, and managers like Phil Diepenbrock taught me the value of truly listening to understand. Also, I am grateful and have been inspired by many leaders during my tenure as co-president of “Women at Amazon” (Amazon’s largest ERG) and I’ve been fueled to advocate for gender equality and diversity in workplaces. On a personal level, my brother Alan, my partner Jon, and my harp teacher Marcia have each played a pivotal role in shaping my values, emphasizing perseverance, self-love, and unwavering tenacity. From the boardrooms throughout my career to the personal lessons from my friends and family, every interaction has been a stepping stone in my professional path. Their collective guidance has been the wind beneath my wings, propelling me forward in the CRE industry.

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

Poyer: One piece of practical advice I’d offer to Developing Leaders is to embrace your strengths and lean into what you genuinely excel at. We’re often told to focus on improving weaknesses. While it’s essential to strive for balance and growth in all areas, it’s equally crucial to recognize where your genuine passions and talents lie. Often, our strengths can guide us to our true calling. When we first start out in our career or even as we navigate through life, we set paths for ourselves based on preconceived notions without truly understanding if they align with our passions. It’s okay to pivot and explore different avenues. If you try something and it doesn’t resonate, move on. Conversely, if you discover a passion, dive in wholeheartedly. Don’t be confined by a predetermined path; instead, be open to the journey of self-discovery and growth.

NAIOP: How has being a member of NAIOP helped your career?

Poyer: Being involved with NAIOP for many years now, I explained to a mentee at a conference what NAIOP means to me. I told her, “At work, it’s important to have a close group of friends, mentors and sponsors. NAIOP has given me the space to find these things. NAIOP has become my networking family and has always given me support through both the new, exciting positions I’ve embarked upon, and also helped when it’s time for a change.” NAIOP provided me a platform to use a different set of skills beyond what I use in my daily career: event implementation, group coordination and tactical leadership. The skills I have learned from being in these various leadership roles have translated into my ability to successfully now manage a team of 11 direct reports.

In addition to the professional growth, my career has flourished from not only being actively involved in NAIOP locally and nationally, but I have also found lifelong friendships and mentorships.

NAIOP: How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

Poyer: To continuously grow and develop as a leader, I actively seek out opportunities that challenge my current skill set and push me beyond my comfort zone. I believe that leadership is an evolving journey, and I’m committed to continuous growth and self-improvement. I’ve learned the value of cross-functional collaboration, especially in commercial real estate, where understanding various perspectives is crucial. My involvement with organizations like NAIOP, CREW and “Women at Amazon” has enriched my leadership skills in different contexts, from event implementation to strategic planning. I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning and make it a point to attend workshops, conferences and seminars to stay abreast of industry trends and best practices. Lastly, I value the guidance I receive from mentors and peers and, in return, take pride in mentoring others, promoting a culture of continuous growth and knowledge sharing.

Read more about the 2023 Developing Leaders Award winners in Development magazine. Applications for the 2024 Developing Leaders Award are now open.

Marie Ruff headshot

Marie Ruff

Marie Ruff is Director of Marketing and Communications at NAIOP.

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