Background

Massy Larizadeh has over 25 years’ experience across the financial services sector, including in M&A and business development. More recently she has spent the last fourteen years in the property sector in strategy, capital raising, financial advisory and product development roles in investment firms and in corporate finance advisory. She has experience of working in the UK, France and the United States, and she has held senior management roles at GE Capital, GE Real Estate, Cushman & Wakefield Investors and Deloitte Real Estate.

Through Nurole, Massy was appointed to the board of London & Partners.


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Best Advice

Advice for anyone looking for their first independent director role?

Be clear about what you are trying to get out of it and what you can give to an organisation.

Be realistic about the roles you target and be open to high-quality non-profit board roles which are a great way to broaden your pool of opportunities and a good way into commercial NED roles.

Be persistent and don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll just walk into a role. There are lots of really high-quality people out there interested in taking on board roles. You need to invest the time identifying and preparing for opportunities.

Be prepared for disappointment - the competition for board roles is really tough. Learn from your rejections, don’t suffer them.


What is your best advice for anyone preparing for an independent director interview?

Have a CV that is not a description of everything you’ve done in the past as you would for executive roles, but tailor it to show how you are suited to NED roles and point out transferable skills.

I always try to speak directly to whoever is running the hiring process, so I can be appropriately prepared by knowing exactly what the organisation needs. For example, you should find out whether someone is being replaced or whether it is a new position, because it changes what an organisation will seek and their desired board dynamics.


What is the best professional advice anyone gave you?

Be focused and be determined.


What advice would you offer boards wishing to think more strategically about their real estate?

Real estate is an expensive asset on your balance sheet - make sure you have people in your team who are well placed to evaluate whether it’s your best use of capital. To do this properly requires a clear long-term view on where the organisation is headed, and should not be decided by the property manager who unavoidably has a vested interest.


What have been the key characteristics of the best boards you have worked with as an executive that you would advise other boards to emulate?

Boards with:

  • Diversity of experience where it’s clear what each individual adds to the group.
  • A chair that makes the board a safe space for debate rather than a battleground for point scoring.
  • Time carved out for regular focus on the bigger picture that does not get lost in the day-to-day activity. The difficulty in a startup environment is the pace of change - you can lose focus more easily. But it can happen in established organisations too.
  • Transparency, where there are no sidebar conversations.

What is your best advice for anyone with a background in large institutions thinking of starting their own company as you have done?

Be honest with yourself about how comfortable you are with uncertainty - can you afford it mentally and financially? Ask those around you if you are not sure. Are you really happy rolling up your sleeves? Don’t underestimate the infrastructure gap, especially if you’re used to a large institutional environment with lots of support.


What is your best advice for anyone thinking of taking on an international role?

Go for it. International experiences can expand your mind and make you a better person both professionally and otherwise. However, know why and where you are going and be conscious of differing cultures, politics and mechanisms, even if the move abroad is done within your current company.


When have you got it most wrong professionally and what did you learn?

With hindsight I could have taken longer to take certain decisions where at the time I reacted viscerally. With age comes patience.

But also, don’t plan too far in advance - opportunities change, environments change, and you should be alive to them.


If you could only pass on one piece of wisdom, what would it be?

Be true to yourself, your capabilities and interests, and stay determined, but remember to be kind to others. Not everyone has the same opportunities as you.



Your Nurole Experience

How did you hear about Nurole?

A friend recommended your site.


What made you sign up?

I had nothing to lose and was interested in finding out more about NED roles.


How have you found the experience as a member?

Nurole offers a great combination of interesting executive and non-executive roles. You need to spend time on it and go through the opportunities, but the process is easy.


What advice would you have for members applying through the platform?

Take comfort from stories like mine. Sometimes applying for board roles can feel like a black hole, so have faith and persevere.


In one sentence, how would you explain what Nurole does to someone who doesn’t know it?

Executive and non-executive listings site.



About You - 10 Question Quick Fire

3 words the person who has worked most with you would use to characterise you?

Strategic, analytical, fun (a good laugh!).

Favourite book?

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series.

Favourite restaurant?

The River Cafe in London, but If you are with people you want to be with, Pret a Manger can be fine too.

Favourite quote?

“I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member”, Groucho Marx.

Best holiday?

Any day in Italy is a good one - getting lost in Tuscany is best.

Favourite app?

Uber.

Professional achievement of which you are most proud?

Spending 2017 setting up a new business and getting two NED roles.

Role model / mentor?

No single mentor. Anyone I have worked with - many old colleagues.

When does your alarm go off and how many hours of sleep do you have on average?

6:45am (7-8 hours).

Best idea for a £10,000 investment?

Nothing in the UK. I would wait. Or if you can afford it, an amazing experience or a piece of art - just because you can, not as an investment.



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