A world leader

Cecilia A. Mowatt's international rite of passage

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Name: Cecilia A. Mowatt
Age: 41
Title: President
Company: GVA Worldwide
Education: A.B., Stanford University; J.D./
  M.B.A., University of California,
Marital status: Single

“I am just beginning and I’m so excited,” beams Cecilia A. Mowatt, the newly appointed and first international president of GVA Worldwide. An organization of industry real estate leaders formed in 1994, GVA operates in over 70 markets worldwide. Handling a diverse range of commercial real estate demands, including purchasing, brokering, tenant and landlord representations, strategic marketing, and management, GVA completes approximately $7 billion in annual transactions.

Awaiting a flight from Chicago to London in the Admiral’s Lounge of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Mowatt, who will also hit Paris before she heads back to the States, is on one of her cell phones. She speaks of how she is looking forward to the challenges of managing the changes underway within the organization. One of which is to oversee a more centralized group, which used to be primarily supervised by a board of directors. She will focus specifically on client management, new business development, and increasing interstate and international services.

Fluent in Spanish and French, Mowatt is also optimistic about the cultural exchange. “I am first generation American. My parents immigrated to the States — my mom from Columbia via Panama, and my dad from Jamaica,” she relates, “so all my life I’ve been exposed to people from other cultures, and that’s normal. That’s what life is about. That’s one of the things I bring to GVA, the ability to embrace people of different cultures.”

Mowatt believes her interpersonal skills are both her strongest asset and sometimes her Achilles’ Heel. “I’m quite the egalitarian when it comes to my fellow human beings. I hate to think that I’m making anybody uncomfortable,” she says. But more than being a people person in the broadest sense, Mowatt is a proficient and established leader whose managerial skill sets embrace vision and mechanics. “I am very process and detailed oriented,” she explains. “I am also very strategic and big-picture oriented.”

Early in her career she worked as an attorney for the branches of enforcement (198631987) and reorganization (198731988) for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Chicago, where she investigated corporations in reorganization under Chapter 11. She spent six years at American Information Technologies Corp. (AMERITECH), where she was promoted from manager of corp. strategy and staff manager to director, where she oversaw the financial administration of the $17 million annual rent obligation for a 200-property lease portfolio.

In 1994 Mowatt joined the McDonald’s Corp. as a senior asset manager where, among other responsibilities, she analyzed underperforming restaurants and improved their profitability. In her last position she identified and pursued real estate portfolio acquisition opportunities as director of business development for U.S. Acquisitions.

Greatest Professional Challenge: “Because I always want to help, the challenge is making sure that I’m focusing on the specific functions of my role. It’s so easy for me to jump in and offer to help. I’ve had to learn to say no at the appropriate moment, to hold back and let others struggle from time

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