Debbie Ruane ‘14

Executive VP and Chief Strategy Officer

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

USD alumna and former Executive Vice President of the San Diego Housing Commission, Debbie Ruane
begin quoteRuane’s new venture, a real estate consulting firm focusing on middle-income housing, will be the greatest example yet of her ability to connect people and resources, as she looks to bridge the gap between banks, developers and cities.

San Diego Housing Commission

For USD School of Business alumna Debbie Ruane, every experience has been a brush stroke in the formation of a much bigger picture.

A budding entrepreneur and proven leader in affordable housing finance and development, Ruane has always been a connector—an expert in identifying, maximizing and unifying the resources necessary to progress toward an optimal solution. Though her propensity for this is evidenced largely through her legacy of leadership as Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC), it can also be seen throughout her entire career trajectory—from her earliest experience as a Senior Vice President for Bank of America to her newest ambition as founder and principal of her real estate consulting business, Norwood Development Strategies.

"After learning the finance and development aspects of real estate, I wanted to understand the third leg of the stool, and that was the political aspect,” she said. “When I took the job with San Diego Housing Commission, it was so that I could better understand why government can be perceived as bureaucratic, and why it’s a huge hurdle for developers and bankers to overcome in order to get housing built.”

Ruane’s new venture, a real estate consulting firm focusing on middle-income housing, will be the greatest example yet of her ability to connect people and resources, as she looks to bridge the gap between banks, developers and cities to build housing that is affordable for middle-income families.

“My hope is that I will be the connector,” she said. “That I can figure out a way to get these three stakeholders—who all want the same thing—on the same page.”

Ruane had been with SDHC for more than nine years, during which time she has held various roles of increased responsibility, catapulting at one point from managing three employees to a team of more than 100. She wanted to be an inspirational leader—one who maximized the talents of each individual and encouraged them to work together to solve problems—but without formal leadership experience or training, she recognized she needed to “step back and step out” to facilitate the success of her team. That’s where USD’s Master’s in Executive Leadership (MSEL) program came in.  

“The MSEL program was so pertinent on a personal level to each and every member of our cohort,” she said. “We were all encouraged to dive deep into our motivations, our strengths, our weaknesses and our ethics. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.”

The MSEL program created a framework for Ruane to not only continue supporting her team’s efforts but also to learn how to provide her leadership with what they needed in order to make better decisions. One of her biggest takeaways from the program was trusting in herself and her team, which also meant learning to integrate who she was as a leader with who she was in her personal life. Bringing her whole self into the workplace, she said, is what truly enabled her to build enduring, trusting relationships.

“I not only developed as a leader but also as a colleague and as a person,” she said. “It gave me more than I expected.”

Ruane’s firm belief that problems are best solved when teams are empowered to work interdependently is one that has been further solidified by her experience at USD. And as she looks toward the future, it is a philosophy that will undoubtedly serve her well as an entrepreneur.

“I felt a calling to try to be that connector that I always have been and that SDHC and USD have helped me fully grow into,” she said.

Contact:

Renata Ramirez
renataramirez@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-4658