Stream Spotlight | Jess O’Hara

April 06 4 min read

As Stream continues to grow its business and people, we are taking this opportunity to spotlight our talented employees from all service lines, cities, and departments. These individuals are selected because they have made a significant impact on Stream, the commercial real estate industry and the local community. We are focusing most recently on taking a closer look at Women of Stream who are making an impact at the company, in the industry and in their communities.

For those that don’t already know her, we would like to shine a spotlight on:

Jessica O’Hara, Senior Vice President in Stream’s Chicago office. Jessica joined Stream in 2019, with a focus on office landlord representation. She specializes in maximizing asset value through creative leasing efforts, market and financial analysis and lease negotiations. Jessica focuses on expanding Stream’s acquisition, development, leasing and property management platforms and on growing Stream’s presence in the greater Chicago area.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Kind, altruistic and hard-working.

How would you describe your role at Stream?

I wear a lot of different hats, some days I’m out at one of our various projects touring and helping a tenant figure out their floor plan, other days I’ll be heading up lease training for our analysts and associate brokers, and most importantly I get to spend a lot of time helping grow the Stream brand here in Chicago. There is so much variety in my day-to-day via exposure to clients, brokers, architects, etc…  I truly thrive from the challenges that come with working with many different business lines.

What first intrigued you about the CRE industry?

After I graduated, I read “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” which laid out the groundwork and basic principles of CRE investing. It made so much sense to me, and I decided to learn more. I found an internship at a small broker shop in Madison,  which launched me into the industry.

Which aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

I love being out of the office because it gives me the opportunity to interact with people from all different areas of the business; contractors, owners, architects, furniture vendors. We often become the project managers, so to speak, for these assets, putting together the puzzle pieces that create the story and brand for the properties we’re leasing.

What was it that initially drew you to Stream?

I’ve spent most of my career at the bigger shops and after hearing more about the Stream platform and advantages, I understood the opportunity that stood before me relative to the bigger firms. Here at Stream, we are empowered to seek out opportunities and are then given the tools to execute those projects creatively and with an ownership mindset that is atypical of other firms.  Lastly, to have the opportunity to be on the ground floor of growing the Stream office in the Chicago market was something I couldn’t say “no” to.   

What’s the most exciting project that you are working on right now? Why is it impactful to you?

We are working on a 330,000 SF office redevelopment project in an underserved community of Chicago, 3245 W Arthington. The city’s relatively new Mayor has put a lot of emphasis on building a framework for the city to invest in its neighborhoods, particularly in the South/West neighborhoods, hence the name of the program, Invest South/West. Historically, these neighborhoods have seen little to no investment from companies that occupy space in the CBD, but that has changed in the recent year with Blue Cross Blue Shield and Discover Financial making decisions to move some office functions to these areas. Highlighting the desire for large corporate users to be more socially responsible, especially given the social unrest of 2020.  

Our hope is that projects like this will continue to positively influence job creation across all income levels and continue to deliver opportunities to these areas of the city.  

What does success look like to you?

Success to me is about making an impact and building lasting relationships. An amazing mentor of mine, Debbie Frank, recently passed away. She was very successful in her career, but it wasn’t just about the number or size of the deals she did. She was a major advocate for women in commercial real estate and had a knack for connecting people. Whether trying to helping a recent graduate find a job, or brainstorming a career move, she was always generous with her time and had a way of taking any self-doubt you might have out of the equation. If I can empower half the number of people that Debbie did, that would be a success to me.  

How does the organizational culture at Stream support you and your goals?

They do just what they say they will.  They support me and my goals through open and honest conversations. 

CRE has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, have you seen a shift in recent years?

Here in Chicago, we are fortunate to have a good representation of female professionals in the agency leasing world. It’s not 50/50 but around a 60/40 ratio of men to women. In other markets, female representation is definitely lacking, but I am confident we can change that through efforts like those currently in the works with the Women of Stream committee. It will take time, but we have some of the best people in the company working towards more diversity in the workplace.

As a female leader, what is the most significant barrier you have faced in your career? How did you overcome it?

I’ve dealt with my fair share of chauvinism and barriers, but one that sticks out most is when I was told I would have a hard time getting hired by a new firm because I was of “childbearing age”.  First off, completely inappropriate and I was not going to allow this one man’s opinion to limit what my goal was in my next career move. Insert coffee with Patrick Russo a month or two later and the Stream opportunity was born.  

What advice have you received that you wish you had learned earlier?

Care less about what people think of you.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant, what would it be?

Skating backwards. Can’t do it, I have tried my whole life.