Alejandra Guzman | Vice President & Real Estate and Capital Attraction | New Orleans Business Alliance

One of the few accredited economic development organizations worldwide, the New Orleans Business Alliance was formed in 2010 through a coalition of business and civic leaders to employ the best practices in economic development to position New Orleans as the ideal intersection of commerce and culture.

In an interview with Insights Success, Alejandra Guzman, the Vice President, Real Estate and Capital Attraction of New Orleans Business Alliance has shared few key insights of the business and her journey.

Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader. 

The nature of the roles I´ve had in all of my professional positions required mastering the balance of blending technical and relationship skills. For example, working at the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) requires an understanding of a complex web of internal and external relationships in which I have to act simultaneously as a diplomat, influencer, team player, leader and listener. Economic development does not occur in a vacuum, so it is critical that we work well with others to accomplish our goals. In my position at Capital Natural, a leading management and administration firm for private equity funds and real estate investment projects operating in Mexico, I had to lead a multi-sector group of senior consultants to design and execute an urban development proposal that required me to understand when to switch from a leader to a follower. Although I was ultimately responsible for leading our project, it was critical that I had the capability to step aside and follow the lead of technical experts to deliver a successful project.

How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to appeal the target audience? 

At NOLABA, we are focused on enhancing the economic security of all New Orlenians by accelerating the diversification of the local economy, developing local talent and expanding entrepreneurial opportunity. We attract new business and retain talent in New Orleans, by aligning our brand with the international business community’s increased focus on diversity and inclusion to drive innovation and enhanced profitability. Our brand tag line: Culture. Equity. Prosperity.

Describe some of the vital attributes that every business personnel should possess. 

I would consider the ability of balancing and blending technical and relationship skills to be one of most importance. To achieve this one must be collaborative, empathic and supportive which allows a person to be team oriented and socially aware. I think that the success of most projects is multi-dimensional and that relationship skills influence execution.

As per your opinion, what roadblocks or challenges are faced by women in a corporate business? And what is your advice in overcoming them? 

It is an unfortunate reality that women still face challenges in the work environment including obtaining equal pay, harassment, and career opportunities. Although to tackle these issues we must advocate for societal and policy change, I believe there are personal tactics that we can take to navigate through this harsh environment. The first advice I would give is to invest in your professional development. It is important that as professionals we have a clear understanding of what are the skills that we need for our next career move. Finding an executive coach can be a great tool to help identify skill gaps and ways to address them. A coach can also help with preparations for salary negotiations and to address issues at work that have to do more with politics rather than technical skills. Most importantly, beyond being prepared, it is key for women to find a sponsor. A sponsor is that influential leader that will advocate on your behalf to open the door to new career opportunities, promotions and great assignments. To find your sponsor go above and beyond at your job and make yourself visible by taking on projects that provide exposure.

Have you in any ways contributed towards the cause of women empowerment. 

One of the favourite projects I have worked on in Mexico focused on helping women to improve their quality of life and promote economic activity in their communities. We did this by providing training opportunities so they can acquire the skills to find a job or set their own business. Also, by supporting them with loans so they can buy building materials to improve their homes and local communities.

What are your insights on developing a better environment for women to evolve? And how it could be helpful in growing businesses?

It is a top priority for organizations to make intentional efforts to bring women to decision-making roles. We can´t expect to create a better environment for women without us being involved in the decision-making process. Also, it is wide documented that diversity in perspectives can only lead organizations to better decision-making dynamics that increases profitability. Some strategies to achieve this may include specifying a target number of female candidates for each leadership position or having programs that encourage women to express interest in applying for leadership roles. These practices can be applied in any type of organization, public or private.

How do you strategize your game plans to tackle the competition in the market? 

At NOLABA, we make sure that all of our programs include data driven solutions. In the case of business recruitment, particularly retail, we use the best consumer analytics tools in them market to prepare pursuit packages. We make sure that when we recruit a business, we deliver the reliable data that will prove the probability of success in our market.

How do you upgrade yourself with volatile technological or business trends to boost your personal growth? 

A big focus of my current work is real estate development. One the reasons I love this industry is for its versatility and how it integrates a wide variety of disciplines – architecture, finance, community development, landscaping, engineering and many others. To be up to date on trends in the industry I have joined organizations such as the Urban Land Institute and also the U.S. Green Building Council. These organizations are the perfect platform to learn and stay up to date on trends. Another great way to stay up to date with trend is attending key conferences.

What are your future endeavours/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future? 

Through the New Orleans Businesses Alliance, I´m working to develop a strategy that includes real estate to promote development in disinvested communities. One particular program that we are looking to leverage is Opportunity Zones. This is a federal program designed to drive investment to communities that have lacked critical investment. It provides an incentive for investors to reinvest their capital gains into financial vehicles. I see a lot of potential in New Orleans and my objective is to have investors also see this potential and help them find success in our community. With the right projects in place our local community will be able to enjoy better services and quality of life.

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