Upon graduating from the Baker Program in 2015, I accepted a role as a Development Manager with Skanska USA Commercial Development in Seattle, Washington. Skanska is best known as one of the world’s largest construction companies, but it is also a commercial developer with offices in cities across the United States and Europe.
Skanska uses the cash flow generated by its construction operations to finance development; because we are self-financed, our development teams have the freedom to innovate and the capital to execute on complex urban projects. This is a dream job for me, given my passion for cities and the built environment.
My Journey from Cornell to Skanska
My journey to Skanska really began in the fall of my second year at Cornell, when I formed a team for the 2015 MIT CASE Competition with fellow Baker students Jason Henderson, Dan Gualtieri, and Martin Moser. We submitted the case in February and learned that we made it to the finals in April, where we defeated teams from MIT, Columbia, Harvard, and Penn, among others, to win the competition. We were the third Cornell team to do so in a five-year period. Not bad.
And while the victory was sweet, for me, the best was yet to come. One of the judges for the competition’s final round was Lisa Picard, then the head of Skanska’s Seattle development office. A few weeks after the CASE Competition finals in Boston, Skanska posted an opening for a Development Manager in Seattle. I reached out to Lisa, who remembered me from the competition and invited me to interview. We immediately connected over a shared set of values, and my education and experience were well aligned with her expectations for the role. After I met with the rest of the small and tight-knit Skanska development team in Seattle, they made me an offer, and I promptly accepted.
The Impact of the Baker Program
So it was just over a month after commencement that I relocated to Seattle, a city in which I had no family, no friends, and no professional connections. It was trial by fire, but I was able to establish myself in relatively short order because of the foundation I developed while in the Baker Program. The quantitative education I received at Cornell is certainly useful in my position at Skanska. That said, it’s really just the baseline. Anyone coming out of a top tier graduate real estate program can model cash flows.
The Baker Program helped me differentiate myself in other, more substantive ways. My courses in planning made me a quick study of Seattle’s zoning and entitlement processes, so that I could quickly understand and evaluate specific development opportunities for our team. I knew how to identify key brokers, consultants, and other stakeholders in the market, and had the confidence and communication skills to engage them. And I had a roster of professors, classmates, and fellow alumni upon which to lean for expert guidance. Ultimately, I had all of the tools to hit the ground running almost from day one. I owe that to my two years at Cornell.