Capital Ideas: NAI’s Gisella Haidar on Learning, Growing, and Thriving in CRE

Among the many things that make NAI Global’s network so successful is the incredible talent of our hardworking professionals across the globe. We are privileged to work with the best and brightest in the commercial real estate (CRE) industry, and stand in awe of the tenacity, drive, and incredible accomplishments of the professionals that make up our network.

Few people embody those ideals better than NAI Global Senior Vice President of Capital Markets, Gisella Haidar.

Gisella recently graduated with honors from New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate with an MS in Real Estate Development (MSRED). She also received multiple accolades during her studies, including being selected as an ICSC Scholar in 2021, a WX scholar in 2022, and being named Trepp’s Spring 2023 “CRE Future Leader.”

Gisella was also one of just two students in the entire 2023 MSRE and MSRED graduating class to receive the University’s Schack Leadership Award – an accolade reserved for those who demonstrate “exceptional commitment to the Schack community and academic excellence.”

We caught up with Gisella for an in-depth Q&A on her accomplishments, career goals, and advice for those working in CRE. Here’s what she had to say.

Q. Gisella, that’s an incredible list of accomplishments! Did you do anything special to mark them, and getting your degree?

I think it’s very important to acknowledge the hard work and effort you put into reaching specific goals and milestones, but I think of it as more of an ongoing process. I like to keep a record of my achievements because it helps me remember the progress I’ve made and maintain a sense of gratitude. And it motivates me to pursue future progress and success.

Q. Was there someone special who inspired you to study and pursue a career in CRE? 

My family has been the most significant influence on my career and studies. When I was 16 years old, my family made the courageous decision to move from Argentina to the United States in search of better opportunities.

My parents always encouraged us to learn and set an example by furthering their own education. Even right now my father is pursuing a Ph.D. So, he’s really my biggest role model for lifelong learning.

My siblings are also a tremendous inspiration. They all have successful careers or businesses, so their achievements, along with those of my parents, motivate me to reach new heights in my own career and educational journey.

Q. What was the toughest challenge that you had to overcome during your studies?

Trying to find a balance between having a full-time job and doing a master’s program was probably the toughest thing. Especially because I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities at the same time and served as vice president of the real estate students’ organization, as well as the program’s liaison for women in CRE.

When I started the program, I think I also had this idea that you have to attend every single event to make the most of what’s on offer. After a while, I learned how important it is to really be selective with your time and where you’re putting your energy.  I realized that I needed to focus on the events that really aligned with my personal and professional goals.

Q. That’s definitely good advice. What else do you think new professionals just starting their careers or studies should know? And do you have any advice specifically for women working in CRE?

The best advice I can give to someone who has just started their career or studies is to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and growth. Seek out mentors and professionals in your field who can provide guidance and support. Additionally, don’t be afraid to take risks and step out of your comfort zone, as this is often where the most valuable learning occurs.

For women in CRE, my advice is to invest time and energy in honing your skills, expanding your knowledge, and staying updated with industry trends. Be proactive in seeking out learning opportunities, attending workshops, and networking with other professionals in our industry. It’s crucial to build a strong professional network and seek out mentors who can provide guidance and support.

And when you reach the point where you can provide mentorship, give back!

Q. Within your own career, is there an area you consider your specialty?

Over the years, I’ve gained extensive experience with CRE capital markets and investment sales. I’ve been fortunate to work with a diverse range of clients and an excellent team during that time. I’ve been directly involved in successfully executing transactions worth over USD 1.2 billion.

Q. That’s an impressive figure. What would you say is the key to your success?

My approach involves conducting comprehensive market analyses and due diligence, developing targeted marketing strategies, and leveraging our extensive network to reach potential buyers and generate maximum interest in the properties we represent.
I also pay meticulous attention to detail and make sure I stay up to date with market dynamics, trends, and new opportunities.

Q. What CRE trends are you keeping an eye on at the moment?

Upcoming debt maturities is a big one. The estimates are that over $1 trillion in debt will come due within the next five years. This will be problematic as borrowers try to refinance their existing debt, especially in a capital markets environment where interest rates continue to rise, and property values remain low.

The office sector and flexible workplace trends are also worth watching. It will be interesting to see what happens with office buildings, especially in Manhattan, as vacancy rates remain elevated. There’s also growing interest from developers in converting office to residential, with large amounts of capital flowing in that direction.

Lastly, the impact of artificial intelligence in CRE. It has the potential to reshape certain aspects of the industry, such as property management, and to boost operational efficiencies. I think it will be interesting to see how the industry adapts to these technological advancements. 

Q. We agree that there’s certainly some interesting potential there. On a broader level, are there any specific changes you’d personally like to see in the CRE industry in the years to come?

One change that I really hope to see in the CRE industry is more women taking on leadership positions. Right now, the number of women in C-suite roles is still low. We’ve made some progress in diversifying our talent pool, but we still have a long way to go in terms of having a stronger representation of women in leadership.

Q. Lastly, but certainly not least, would you mind telling us a little about what drives you outside of work and studies? What else are you passionate about?

I love music! I play the piano, sing in the Astoria Choir in Queens, and take salsa classes. Also travel, exploring new places, and spending quality time with my family.

I’m also passionate about giving back and making a positive impact. I actively participate in mentoring opportunities and contribute to career programs for students through the NYU Schack student organization. I think it’s so important to share your knowledge, experiences, and insights with people who are just starting their career.

Gisella, thank you so much for your time and insight. We’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to get to know you and to learn what underlies your incredible work ethic and drive to succeed.