Get to Know BOMA’s 2021 Rising Stars!

May 6, 2021 • Caroline Pomilla

For the fourth year running, BOMA International asked its members to nominate the “rising stars” of commercial real estate. Despite only working in the industry for a few years, the three emerging professionals recognized here all demonstrate exceptional drive, dedication and the potential to shape the future of commercial real estate.

Leadership, effective communication and patience are key skills Zaena Rihani gained in her early professional years as a teacher—today, she’s using those skills to rise to the top of the commercial real estate industry. The Chicago-based Rihani began her unexpected property management journey back in 2016 while exploring a variety of different career paths. “I was offered the opportunity to work at a 1.2-million-square-foot, Class A office property for a few months as the company looked for someone else to permanently fill the role,” she explains. “I quickly became intrigued by the property management field and was determined to prove that I could take on the role long-term, which I successfully did!” After climbing the ranks from temporary hire to full-time real estate services administrator and ultimately becoming an assistant property manager, Rihani ventured into the mixed-use sector, where she currently works as an assistant general manager for Bucksbaum Leasing.

In just a short period of time, Rihani has added several professional certifications and designations under her belt, including a CMCP certification, RPA designation and Illinois broker’s license. “It’s important to be open to learning opportunities in this industry; there are always new concepts and strategies, and it's beneficial to stay updated on current trends,” says Rihani. In 2020, she was awarded the BOMA Foundation’s J. Michael Coleman Scholarship to attend the 2020 Virtual BOMA International Conference & Expo. “Not only did BOMA International’s annual conference introduce me to new concepts and technologies, but I also met virtually with a vendor who provided a solution to something my team had been searching for. It was great to bridge that connection and I would not have been able to do so otherwise,” Rihani explains.

Having experienced firsthand the benefits that scholarship opportunities can make in one’s career, Rihani is actively involved a range of initiatives dedicated to making such opportunities more widely available. She currently serves on the committee for BOMA/Chicago’s Reginald L. Ollie Inclusion and Outreach Scholarship—a scholarship designed to enable commercial real estate professionals who are members of historically underrepresented groups to achieve professional development through the RPA designation program. Rihani was also the co-chair of the CBRE Rising Professionals Organization (RPO), where her efforts tripled member engagement and helped allocate funds for employees looking to earn a broker’s license. “I basically just throw myself into anything that I think I can make a difference in,” says Rihani. Her active industry involvement goes on to include the creation of CBRE Chicago’s Diversity Committee, and on a national level, her participation with the national CBRE Diversity Council for Property Management.

Rihani, who was named BOMA/Chicago’s 2021 Emerging Leader of the Year, would like to one day become a director of property management and oversee a portfolio of several properties. Until then, she is proud of her accomplishments and is eager to continue growing. “I smile when I look at the lists of questions that I wrote when I first started out, because I now know the answers to those questions. It’s always good to keep track of your progress to see how far you have come,” she says.

Victoria Weier doesn’t waste any time when it comes to advancing in her commercial real estate career. In fact, Weier’s involvement with BOMA began before she even graduated college. “I was studying Business Management at the University of Central Florida and trying to figure out which path within the broader industry would be the best fit for me,” says Weier. “I knew I didn’t want to have a sales-oriented position, but I wasn’t sure what else was out there, so I contacted the head of the university’s Real Estate Club to see if he could point me in the right direction,” she says. It was then that Weier was connected with the Executive Director of BOMA/Orlando, who promptly invited her to attend an event hosted by the Emerging Professionals Committee. And, as Weier tells it, the rest is history: “Shortly after attending the event, it was clear to see that the property management field and BOMA/Orlando were where I belonged.” After regularly attending networking events, Weier was offered an internship opportunity with JLL, which eventually led to her current full-time role as an industrial property management administrator for Link Logistics.

Upon graduating from college last spring, Weier also stepped up to co-chair BOMA/Orlando’s Emerging Professionals Committee, where she strives to provide other early-career professionals with the same guidance and support she received when she was starting out. “It’s been a full-circle experience,” says Weier. “The Emerging Professionals Committee is near and dear to me as it made BOMA and the industry feel more approachable, so it’s been a goal of mine from day one to ultimately pay it forward by joining the committee and leading its initiatives,” she adds. Weier’s current responsibilities within the committee include identifying and designing educational materials for early-career members and hosting exclusive emerging professional-only events to increase a sense of community. “I am where I am today because of the connections I’ve made though the organization,” she explains.

According to Weier, having a strong peer network is essential for anyone who wants to succeed in commercial real estate, because the industry is always evolving, and you never know when you might need a second opinion or guidance on an issue. “A rising star isn’t someone who knows all the answers. It’s actually someone who is open to learning and isn’t afraid to ask their team or community for support,” she explains. And in the property management field, strong customer service skills can also go a long way. “My experience working in retail definitely prepared me for that aspect of the role. If you approach each tenant concern as an opportunity to work towards a solution, it’s much more fulfilling—and your tenant will notice the difference, too,” says Weier.

What’s next for Weier? “I’d like to continue expanding my industry education, particularly in the area of sustainability,” she says. “There is a lot of exciting work being done within the BOMA network and the industry as a whole to make a positive impact on the environment, and I hope to one day play a larger role in those efforts.”

“Like so many others, I sort of fell into the commercial real estate industry,” says Nathan Tursso. “My college degree is in sociology and I always thought I was going to be in the social services field,” explains the Minneapolis-based Tursso. Shortly after graduating college, Tursso ended up being introduced to the multifamily residential sector, where he started off as a property manager for a local developer and management company. “That’s where I really learned the basics of property management, like lease cycles, lease structures, customer service and how to conduct a property showing,” he says. After gaining three years of experience managing a residential property, Tursso was offered an assistant property manager position at a more than 700,000-square-foot Class A office building located in downtown Minneapolis, where he now holds the title of property manager.

“I’m very fortunate that my initial foray into commercial real estate occurred simultaneously with my introduction to BOMA,” says Tursso. “My general manager at the time was a very active member of BOMA/Greater Minneapolis. She took me under her wing as a mentee and really encouraged me to get involved with the organization,” he explains. Tursso hit the ground running by enrolling in BOMA/Greater Minneapolis’s Young Professionals Program (BYP), which offers introductory-level educational courses over the duration of several months to members who have five or less years of industry experience.

According to Tursso, once he completed BYP in 2019, “the next step was to join a committee.” Thus began his involvement with the BOMA/Greater Minneapolis Emerging Leaders Council, which he describes as a group focused on the “stewardship of commercial real estate for the young graduate.” The council’s activities include everything from attending college fairs, distributing marketing materials, participating in volunteer events and hosting happy hours and social events. “It’s been really fun and beneficial to branch out and meet a lot of people,” says Tursso.

Recently, Tursso worked with the council to organize a COVID-19-related discussion panel for members enrolled in BYP. As a rising star in the industry, his leadership during the pandemic has also involved participating on his company’s national COVID-19 Janitorial Taskforce. “While on the taskforce, I worked together with property managers across Transwestern’s U.S. portfolio to put together a blueprint of best practices for cleaning and disinfecting properties during the pandemic,” says Tursso. “That experience really helped me feel more connected to the industry as a whole, since we were all working toward a common objective and needed to lean on one another for answers. Thanks to BOMA, I was able to bring different perspectives and approaches coming out of other companies and share them with the Transwestern taskforce and vice versa,” he adds.

For Tursso, it’s the ongoing challenge of finding new ways to improve something—be it a tenant relationship, an operational issue or the physical building itself—that makes property management so enjoyable and fulfilling. “I don’t like to say no. Whatever the ask, I’m going to find a way to get us closer to that goal,” says Tursso. “I’ve learned that the less often you say no in this field, and the more you open up a possibility, then the better your relationships, knowledge and property will be.” This mindset has helped Tursso gain recognition early on in his career, most recently earning him a nomination for BOMA/Greater Minneapolis’s 2021 Emerging Leader of the Year Award. As for Tursso’s next challenge, he is interested in obtaining an RPA designation and is eager to continue learning more about the industry overall. “There is always so much more to learn,” he says.