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Annie Hanna Cestra Named Woman of Influence by Pittsburgh Business Times

Congratulations,  Annie Hanna Cestra on being named a Woman of Influence by The Pittsburgh Business Times. This prestigious recognition is a testament to your exceptional leadership and contributions to our community. We look forward to celebrating your achievements on May 15, 2024 at Acrisure Stadium, where your remarkable accomplishments will be highlighted and honored.


Annie Hanna Cestra remembers well the early days at her family’s Howard Hanna Real Estate Services and the important need there was for someone to take on the broad responsibilities of most everything that wasn’t sales.

That was when her father and company founder Howard Hanna Jr. was engaged in working through a sale, and she found herself dealing with the scattershot leavings of paper work and other organizational detritus.

“I thought it was a wreck,” she said, recalling how her father left his checkbook in the car and how much was in disarray. “My father was a brilliant man, but not that organized a person.”

It was into such a need that Cestra self-invented her own career within Howard Hanna Real Estate Services and parent company Hanna Holdings Inc., pitching in to start with basic accounting and filling a variety of roles over the years as the company became the largest family-owned real estate firm in the U.S. Today, as chief operating officer, she helps to lead the company along with her fellow second-generation siblings Helen Hanna Casey and Hoddy Hanna III and a rising third generation that has been taking on more and more leadership roles.

As the non-sales member of the Hanna family, she said, “I had a little bit of background in everything.”

Among the various roles she played, Cestra hired the first CPA firm to oversee the company’s books, handled insurance and developed the first policies and procedures. She also served on the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission, as a director of the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh and as a delegate for the National Association of Realtors.

Of course, it’s a very different company now than when she was there for the opening of its first office, with Howard Hanna today operating more than 500 offices in 13 states with 15,000 agents and staff.

Over the years, Cestra has played a central role in the company’s evolving approaches to its offices, leading a design process to create more collaborative spaces for its clients, agents and other staff, something that took on a different urgency through the pandemic and afterward.

 “I honestly thought I had seen and done everything in business,” she said of Covid. “You had to pivot on a dime.”

It was a period that drove home a basic lesson for her that she seeks to live by: “I think the big thing is always be flexible and adjust to changes quickly and calmly.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? As a child, I cannot recall a day that went by without my mother, Anne Freyvogel Hanna, telling me I could do anything I set my mind to do. This instilled in me a great sense of confidence even at an early age.

What’s your defining trait? Flexibility — this has given me the ability to adjust to change without creating stress or drama. During Covid, this enabled the Howard Hanna Human Resources team and myself to come up with creative solutions to a drastic change in the work environment.

Annie Hanna Cestra’s Woman of Influence article appeared in the May 10 edition of The Pittsburgh Business.

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Last modified: May 10, 2024
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