Inspirational Woman: Lama Kanazeh | Head of Real Estate Institutional Client Solutions & Chief Operating Officer of Institutional Client Solutions, Blackstone

Lama Kanazeh Blackstone

Lama Kanazeh is the Chief Operating Officer of Institutional Client Solutions in Europe and Head of Real Estate Institutional Client Solutions in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, based in London.

Lama also serves as the Chair of the Women’s Initiative at Blackstone for Europe. Before joining Blackstone in 2008, she spent four years at Credit Suisse in their Investment Banking and Leveraged Finance Divisions. Lama received a BA in Economics and Political Science from Columbia University.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role

I was raised in the Middle East and moved to the US to go to university, initially planning to study law. I double majored in Economics and Political Science thinking the combination would prepare me well for my future as a lawyer. I started my career as a paralegal at a law firm in New York and quickly realised that it was not the right path for me. I then got a job in Investment Banking and eventually had a role which focused on Real Estate, which I really enjoyed.

In 2008, I joined Blackstone’s Investor Relations and Business Development team focused on the firm’s Real Estate Limited Partners in the Middle East and Europe. Today, I am the Chief Operating Officer of Institutional Client Solutions in Europe and Head of Real Estate Institutional Client Solutions in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The past 14 years have been incredibly exciting but also very challenging at times – a combination which is critical to professional growth.

What I love about my role is working with our clients to help grow our business. The investor relations team is the face of the company to the outside world and in many ways, shapes the image clients have of the firm. Through my role, I am exposed to people from diverse backgrounds from all over the world who bring different skills and perspectives every day.

Alongside my day job, I am the Chair of the Blackstone’s Women’s Initiative in EMEA. I have always received tremendous support from colleagues across the firm, both in the UK and the US. When the opportunity arose to take on the leadership role, I was delighted.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Like many women in the workplace, one of the challenges I encountered along the way was a feeling that I have to prove myself beyond what was expected of my peers. But as more and more women step into senior roles, that is changing. I’ve been fortunate to work for a company which puts women’s growth, mentorship, and success as a primary goal of its diversity, equity, and inclusion agenda.

That’s not to say that we rest on our laurels. While we have made considerable progress, we are determined to continue to work hard to ensure that the workplace is equitable and inclusive for everyone. I’m pleased to be sponsoring programmes and initiatives that help drive further change and growth.

What has been your biggest achievement to date? 

I have enjoyed every milestone in my career, so it is hard to pick one moment. I am fortunate that, at a firm with the size and scale of Blackstone, the opportunities for learning, growth and giving back are truly boundless. Taking on the role of Chair of the Women’s Initiative in Europe at Blackstone is an example of that. Since I started my role at Blackstone in 2008, I recognise the opportunities that I have had to call on support from senior colleagues and mentors, as well as network with other women at the firm across all levels.

The support and networks that I have built have, without a doubt, helped me progress in my career. The Women’s Initiative has offered me so much, and now I feel proud that I can give back.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

There are a few factors that I would put equal weighting on. The first is preparation. I think proactively preparing and putting in that extra effort to come across as prepared is critical.

The second is having resilience in the face of obstacles. Sometimes progression isn’t linear, so having the perseverance to keep going means you will eventually get there, even if the success may not look the way you expected initially.

The third is working as a team across the organisation and bringing people along with you in a process. The thought that any success is achieved alone is just not true. I believe I stand on the shoulders of giants and that collaboration and learning from others has gotten me to where I am today.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I am a firm believer in the power of mentoring. I have been lucky to have multiple mentors throughout my career who have helped me navigate opportunities and obstacles as they came my way and really help pave the way for me.

When you progress in your career, it is also critical to pay it forward and mentor others, which is something I enjoy. Lifting others is key to ensuring greater parity in the next generation of leaders.

I would encourage young women across the business world to put themselves out there, join working groups and networking events, so they can meet their peers and potential mentors.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self before starting out in real estate, what would it be?

The advice I’d give myself is to figure out what my strengths really are. We tend to like what we are good at, so trying to align strengths to different roles will get you on the right career path quicker.

My message to my younger self, and all young women looking to join the industry, is to take part in the early-pipeline programmes, such as Blackstone’s Future Women Leaders Programme, and external organisations focused on promoting diversity such as SEO London or Black Women in Asset Management.

This will give you the opportunity to build your networks and engage with those who are further ahead on that journey to learn more about the skills required for the various roles in the industry.  It is also a natural way to find mentors who will be your advocates and give you the support and advice you need to kick-start your career in this industry.

Tell me more about your role as Chair of the Women’s Initiative at Blackstone for Europe?

The Blackstone Women’s Initiative was first formed as an employee resource group to support gender diversity. Over time, the initiative has evolved and the group is now a fantastic vehicle for driving a multitude of programmes and changes across the firm focused on developing women’s careers and skillsets, fostering connectivity, encouraging organic mentorship relationships, and helping to shape our recruiting strategy.

What initiatives do you think the wider industry could benefit from?

I think experience-sharing and partnerships are essential to promote DE&I best practices, and to drive tangible changes to the industry.

We partner with external diversity and inclusion-focused organisations such as Level 20, and Black Women in Asset Management to broaden our recruiting pool to build a more diverse workforce. We also regularly invite inspiring female leaders to speak to our colleagues. Most recently, we had CNN Correspondent, Clarissa Ward and Angel investor, Deepali Nangia speak about their career journeys and share their experiences on how they overcame the barriers and achieved success.

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