Glass ceilings? Closed doors? Not at JLL. We recognize the success and achievements of the amazing women throughout our firm. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’d like to highlight a few of the strong, smart, and ambitious women of JLL. We appreciate them not only this month, but every day. We hope they inspire you like they inspire us.
Meet Nicole Mihalka, Managing Director
What is your primary focus at JLL?
My main focus is agency leasing in the creative office sector of the Hollywood/West Hollywood and Eastside/L.A. River markets (Chinatown, Frogtown, Lincoln Heights, Atwater Village, and Silver Lake/Echo Park), although I dabble in a little bit of everything (tenant rep and building/land sales) in these areas.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
At the age of 4, I told people I wanted to be a lawyer so I could drive a Porsche. Which is funny, because I now drive a 2010 Toyota Prius! Later, I was on track to become a clinical psychologist/research scientist. While I pursued a B.S. in psychology at the University of Maryland, I was awarded a fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. My undergraduate thesis was focused on rhesus monkeys raised by cloth mothers and how their environment affected their biology. This does not segue into anything helpful for my commercial real estate career, except that I have some good stories about monkeys getting drunk.
How did you get into commercial real estate?
When I was 12 years old, I helped my mom look for our new house. Before realtor.com and Redfin existed, that meant searching the real estate section of the paper every day. I loved it, and in the years that followed, the first section of the paper that I checked was the real estate section. After college, I took a pause from the psychology PhD track. I fell into technology sales and happened to have a knack for it. But with the dot-com bust looming, I left tech sales and took a “safe” corporate job in the marketing department at Disney’s Go.com. Ironically, after 6 months, everyone at Go.com was laid off! I was faced with the question: “what do I do next?” After considering a career as a Hollywood agent, I was engaged by a sales placement firm. When they mentioned commercial real estate as a career option, I imagined selling a high-rise office tower. And that was it, I was in. In 2001, I was placed at DAUM (a regional industrial firm) in Woodland Hills, but I managed to establish a market presence in Hollywood. In 2009, I met Carl Muhlstein at a broker roundtable at the Mayor’s office. He reached out to me after that meeting and suggested that I blend my “street brokerage” practice with a larger platform. And so I did!
What was the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I received as it relates to being a woman in commercial real estate: in 2001, when I had just started in the business, I often introduced myself as “Nicole, I work with (male senior broker).” A female senior broker at my firm pulled me aside and recommended that I should introduce myself simply as Nicole Mihalka. She said that for me to make my own way in this business, I needed to confidently present myself as an independent entity. She also made the point that I wouldn’t always be working for that particular broker (which was true). Every time I run into her I remind her of my appreciation of this advice.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I’m really tired. Seriously though, I wouldn’t say I’m achieving balance, but more of a controlled chaos. Especially since I have a 14 month old, 3.5 year old, a husband, two cats, and a dog at home. The mornings are a bit wild around my house. I try to spend as much quality time as possible with the kids before and after work, but sometimes I’m taking a call with various screaming and barking in the background. I used to be embarrassed by that kind of thing, but I’ve chosen to lean into it. Open plans and dog friendly environments are key to the creative office model, right? In addition to family and career, I recently helped form a Neighborhood Council in my local community of Hermon, and was elected a council member. I’m also a Vice Chair of the Board of Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and active on the Board for the Hollywood Y. With all of this going on, it is tempting for me to stay up for hours after the kids go to bed to get stuff done, but I feel much more balanced if I get to bed around 9:30/10 p.m. Which rarely ever happens, but it’s nice to have a goal.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
I think there is still a stigma about young women joining the workforce and then losing them to motherhood. But I’ve hit my highest performance levels during the years I was either pregnant or on maternity leave. Of course this is partly due to being at a strong point of the market cycle, but I also have fantastic partners (shout out to Hayley Blockley and Carl Muhlstein) who helped make this possible. So my advice would be, don’t shy away from your goals or intended career because you plan on starting a family someday. Find a supportive team who will help you succeed. Women are great on focusing on what’s important to get stuff done.
JLL has been named one of the Top Companies for Executive Women for third straight year by the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE). Read more.
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