Outstanding Women in Business winner: Carla Ferreira
Title: Principal & Director of On-Site Development
Organization: The Aurora Highlands
Industry: Real Estate Development (Master Planned Communities)
Years in profession: 8
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Current neighborhood: The Aurora Highlands
Tell us about your role: Simply put, I am in charge of the “who, what, when, where, why and how” in development and a lot of the “why not” as well. I collaborate with my dad, Carlo, and our team on designs and potential uses for raw land. With The Aurora Highlands and our other master-planned communities, we are designing a small city, so our designs are meant to describe who will use this area and what future use looks like.
Big accomplishment: I believe connectivity, transportation, access and education are all critical components to help us achieve goals as a society. I am proud to have made huge strides in bringing all of these elements into The Aurora Highlands and the general region. The biggest accomplishment I have been a part of has been the amazing collaboration with the city, county and state on the Aerotropolis Regional Transportation Authority, also known as ARTA. The goal of ARTA is to create plans for critical regional transportation infrastructure improvements that are needed to improve access across Aurora and Adams County. We have already seen major developments in this increasingly important goal.
Specifically, an ARTA board has been created, and we’ve started construction for “The Aurora Highlands” interchange on E-470. We are well on our way to creating an I-70 interchange as well. These are huge milestones for us as a region. These interchanges bring connectivity and access to 20,000-plus acres of land that previously could not be accessed.
Additionally, we also have sold a special site to a hospital at The Aurora Highlands, which brings in the promise and hope of jobs and safety for our region as well. Access to healthcare and regular checkups is so important. It is always better to maintain your health before something serious happens, and residents of The Aurora Highlands and the greater Aerotropolis Region will have peace of mind knowing there will be a hospital close by. Not to mention, Aurora Public Schools has nearly finished its first school within The Aurora Highlands! It is set to open this fall. I couldn’t be prouder of what we have brought to the community and the region, and I am continuing to look forward to what is still to come.
Big goal: Over the next year, I need to spend lots of time and energy on creating goals for the future. This type of planning is a huge part of success, and we need to set achievable milestones with a specific timeline for the next 10-plus years. This will involve predicting and strategizing how to cater to the needs of our clients and residents now and also 10-plus years from now.
When it comes to the “now,” we are taking some time to enjoy the culmination of all our hard work as a company. Our grand opening is in July, and this year we will have 31-plus model homes open from more than five builders. We are hoping to have 1,000 new residents by the end of next year and a steady 1k-plus for the years to come. That’s pretty incredible! My biggest focus is making sure The Aurora Highlands is the most inclusive and peaceful place to live for any family or individual in the state of Colorado. Every decision I make, whether it be now or in the future, centers around this principle.
Who inspired you to lead, and why? All my life, my father not only inspired me to lead, but also to always listen. While I am constantly trying to emulate his leadership skills, I know that he has earned those skills after more than 40 years in this industry. Comparatively, I am just getting started. But, I am patient. I know that someday, I will have more maturity and wisdom, and I will have made enough mistakes and progress to be a step closer to the leadership and grace that he shows. I am surrounded by the most amazing people in our consultants and our employees who are also helping guide me along the way while I grow as an industry leader.
Big risk: Working with my dad on The Aurora Highlands was both the biggest risk and the best decision I have ever made. Having my dad as a mentor motivated me. But the biggest motivation was seeing his vision turn into reality with developments when I was a kid. I watched as he took a less-than-perfect piece of land, or sometimes even a hole in the ground, and he turned it into something beautiful. I had an unconventional path to where I am now. For a decade, I worked in the art and fashion industries before migrating fully to my family’s real estate development company. I knew that before diving headfirst into real estate, I needed to see the world and stretch my creativity to my metaphorical ceiling. Once I reached that ceiling, I knew I wanted to shatter it. To do that, I needed to own my own company and be free to extend my thoughts and creative limbs as far as they could go. I inherited this mindset from my father.
How can companies today better support women in the workplace? Equality, and that can look different from company to company. For me, that generally means having more women in upper management or in positions of power across the board. The goal is to have such a diverse group of talented, creative, hardworking individuals who work as a group in a way that is not subdivided based on gender identity, color, race, age or physical ability. Women bring unique perspectives, and we should be equally represented among groups of decision-makers.
What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Be kind to every single person you meet, even the ones who aren’t kind to you. You are so lucky and don’t even know it yet. Have fun and be happy because you must remember… you are 20! You have at least 50 more years to be successful in whatever arena that might be in. Take your time with things, go slowly and learn. Trust the process. It’s okay to make mistakes if you take every failure as a learning experience.
How do you relax and unwind? I have a few different ways to relax and unwind! I listen to music and dance in my living room with my dogs (Rufus du Sol is my favorite band). I also read sci-fi and fantasy books and lots of poetry. I draw cartoons and watch sci-fi and fantasy shows and movies. I love to look at the moon before I go to bed and be grateful for the day. I am an only child, so I have learned to keep myself entertained! I like to say that I am never bored for more than 15 minutes at a time, but those boring 15 minutes can also be powerful. Sometimes in that boredom, I find creative solutions to problems, or I think of something I want to design.
Denver-area business you love: There are so many amazing businesses in Denver, we have so many lovely friends who are restaurateurs and business owners I can’t list them all! I will say, two of my favorite are the Denver Art Museum and the CELL (Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab).
What else should our readers know? As a developer, my goal is to always be a responsible steward of the land and create something meaningful and useful for future occupants. As a queer woman, I like to think of the words of poet Rupi Kaur: “I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking, what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther?”