An Interview with Real Estate Development Project Manager Natalie Gualy

Natalie and I met in 2005 when we worked together at a Nashville architecture firm. We bonded over Bloc Party and Natalie's inability to wear skirts. The list of things I love about Natalie is endless - how much she can eat, her mother's empanadas, her sisters, actually her whole family, but the most hilarious thing is how people freak out when they realize that I know Natalie. For someone who hasn't lived in Nashville for years, Natalie is the most beloved Nashvillian I know.

Natalie and I talk all the time, but I honestly know very little about what she does professionally. In Nashville, real estate development is a hot-button issue with folks ALL CAPS SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER online a la #newnashville. But in Seattle, it's a totally different scene. And with that, I'd like to introduce you to today's bitch, my friend, Natalie Gualy!

What is your job title and where do you work?

I’m a project manager for two different, yet related, companies – Eagle Rock Ventures (ERV) and Magnetic ERV. The companies are led by business and marital partners, Scott Shapiro and Jena Thornton. I’m their only full-time employee. We are a Seattle-based real estate development team that builds, enhances, and transforms buildings into spaces that deliver unique experiences.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I’ve been acutely aware of real estate development since I was out of college. I’ve worked at various architecture firms and our clients were always developers. I had a unique experience of working on the other side of the table before joining the ranks. 

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

After working in architecture for many years, I realized that architecture was not going to professionally fulfill me. I found myself asking bigger picture questions that architects don’t directly address – What does this neighborhood need? How can I create a space that’s important to a community? What can I do to save this historic building and ensure it doesn’t get bulldozed? 

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

I moved to Seattle in 2009 for graduate school. I followed the work of Scott and Jena throughout school and admired their projects. They create very thoughtful, responsive, and beautifully-designed spaces. I was working for a prefab builder that was going to construct their boutique hotel on Vashon Island (outside of Seattle). I ended up joining their team to work on the development of the boutique hotel. The Lodges on Vashon just opened this summer and we are really pleased with what has been created. 

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

Trust your intuition. 

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

My lack of directness has caused problems for me in the past. I thrive to be more succinct and direct so that everyone is aware of their roles, responsibilities, and scope of work.  

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I’d cook more. No doubt about that. 

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

I am really proud of a large mural we installed on a dilapidated parking structure this summer. We partnered with a local non-profit (Seattle Mural Project) and won a grant from the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. We held an international mural competition and selected a fantastic muralist, Ellen Picken. I’ve had many neighbors thank us for bringing a corner back to life through public art. 

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Honestly, Instagram (guilty pleasure). Second, email (work mode). Third, Flipboard (gotta keep up with current events). 

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Happy Hour. I live by myself, so I really value a moment of socialization, decompression, and libations with my friends after a work day. 

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

I don’t have coworkers. My bosses are great. However, I sometimes find myself craving a contemporary in the desk next to me. It’s a double-edged sword though. I also love that I can focus easily without distractions of coworkers. 

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

It bothers me when people believe real estate developers only care about making money. More often than not, I find myself in the room with individuals who care about how a city grows responsibly, what we can create for all types of people, how we address positives and negatives around us, etc.  

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

Depending on my mood, I’ll go with Six Feet Under or Arrested Development. Potato chips have consistently been a go-to snack in my life.

All photos courtesy of Natalie Gualy

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Political Strategist, Emily Passini!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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