Following my MBA at Cornell, I took a position as a senior associate in the investment originations group at Rockbridge, a hotel-focused private equity firm based in Columbus, OH. While I had worked in real estate finance prior to arriving in Ithaca, my experiences at both Johnson and in real estate classes and activities through the Baker program were invaluable in positioning me for success at Rockbridge.
When making the decision to attend graduate school, I had two main focuses: to improve my soft skills such as leadership and emotional intelligence, and to advance my knowledge and abilities with quantitative concepts that drive underwriting and analysis in the commercial real estate industry.
In addition, I knew that studying real estate in an academic setting would give me a different perspective than that I had previously gained through working – and that Cornell had some of the brightest minds to enable me to do just that. Upon reflection, I saw that Cornell offered a unique combination to advance these goals: classroom learning to introduce concepts followed by opportunities to apply these skills in real-world settings.
Leadership and Soft Skills
Cornell benefits from strong programming in leadership and soft skills development – in both coursework and immersion-style experiences. Classes such as critical thinking focused me on finding the root cause of an issue, and business ethics pushed me to think about the right way to do business. Johnson Leadership Fellows, where I served as a coach to a group of first-year MBA students, presented a lab where I could apply skills learned in the classroom to real situations.
Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis
Equally important to knowing how to work with people in the real estate business is knowing how to work with and understand numbers and data. Across real estate finance courses ranging from hospitality finance to financial modeling to securitization, I learned the why behind numbers that I had previously taken at face value.
In addition, I saw how to better manipulate and express them – both key skills in a place such as real estate private equity, where efficiency with time, accuracy of outputs and creativity in structure are highly valued. To complement this coursework, participating in case studies such as UT-Austin Real Estate Challenge gave an opportunity to showcase these skills in a fast-paced setting, and in front of industry executives.
Taking a step back from the business world for two years and immersing myself in the graduate school atmosphere at Cornell was a great decision. Doing so has given me a new frame of reference and made me a much more valuable contributor to what I do today.