Winter 2023/2024 Issue

Actively Seeking Opportunities for Leadership Growth

By: Marie Ruff

The 2023 Developing Leaders Award winners employ strategic approaches to their career development.

Leadership development is a process of continual growth and learning, according to the recipients of NAIOP’s 2023 Developing Leaders Award. These five commercial real estate professionals ages 35 and under were honored at NAIOP’s annual CRE.Converge conference this past October in Seattle for their exceptional professional accomplishments, strong leadership and significant community involvement. They shared how they seek opportunities to learn and develop as industry leaders, and why they also work to build up the next generation of commercial real estate leaders through mentorship and career development.



Andrew Chun, CHMM
Senior Project Manager, Langan Engineering & Environmental Services
NAIOP New Jersey
“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that a leader is nothing without their team. A big mistake I made earlier in my career was placing too great of an emphasis on my own career growth: I had to be the best at everything, handle every aspect of a project, and worked best as a lone wolf. After almost burning out and leaving the industry, I learned that I must shift my mindset from ‘me’ to ‘we.’ Since that time, I’ve learned to identify strengths in each of my co-workers, take the time to improve how I communicate, and provide an environment where each of my co-workers can thrive. Now I know that I couldn’t even do a fraction of what we accomplish together as a team.”


Jace Jonsson
Senior Manager, Office Leasing, Oxford Properties Group
NAIOP Calgary
“Intentional opportunity seeking is key for continual development as a leader. I will always be the first to put my hand up to participate in a project that may be out of my current scope of work and never back down due to being uncomfortable in a situation. Usually, what makes you most uncomfortable are the opportunities that will forever set you apart from your peers. Examples of this include public speaking engagements, covering tours or presentations for co-workers, taking on special projects and always giving 110% in everything you do.”


Maria Elena Poyer
Senior Development Manager – Strategic Property Program, 
World-Wide Operations Real Estate, Amazon
NAIOP Washington State
“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.”



Michael Testa
Business Development Manager & Senior Brokerage Associate, 
Ogden & Company, Inc.
NAIOP Wisconsin
“I constantly look for opportunities to say ‘yes.’ Since I was in college, I have set a goal to say ‘yes’ as often as humanly possible; this has led me to some of my biggest challenges and to some of my biggest successes. I love finding new ways to get involved with new groups or organizations to see how I can fit in and help them achieve their goals. I get to build new relationships with like-minded people, learn about industries or trends that I didn’t know about before, and make an impact on my community.”


Ryan Woods
Associate Principal: Commercial Practice Leader, 
The Beck Group
NAIOP Georgia
“Early in my career, it was about searching for opportunities both in and out of the office to show my value and build my network. Lately, I find myself looking to guide others to do the same, to build up the next generation of young leaders in design and commercial real estate. It is refreshing for me to work with many young professionals who are talented and just as eager and hungry as I was when I started my career. I have made it my responsibility to stay in tune with their needs and ensure they have what they require to develop in their career, while focusing on sharing the opportunity and spotlight with them just as my mentors did for me. That said, as my career has evolved, I have also had to learn that you cannot want something more than [people] want for themselves. It’s important to focus and help those who are putting in the effort upfront.”

Marie Ruff is director of marketing and communications at NAIOP.

About NAIOP’s Developing Leaders Program

Developing Leaders, defined as commercial real estate professionals ages 35 and under, constitute nearly a third of NAIOP’s 21,000-member network across 53 chapters. This group forms an active and valuable part of the association.

NAIOP membership connects Developing Leaders with dealmakers; keeps them at the forefront of commercial real estate development with exceptional education and research; provides them with leadership opportunities at the local chapter and North American levels; and protects their businesses with effective advocacy at all levels of government. Many Developing Leaders say that the partnerships they form through NAIOP with peers, mentors and industry professionals are instrumental to their professional success.

Interested in joining? As a Developing Leader, the investment you make today can pay dividends throughout your career. Become a Developing Leader member at



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