Atypical Diplomat/Military->MBA->RE thread. Brutally honest feedback appreciated.

Key questions: Too old? MBA/network too old? Too optimistic? NPV too low?

I'm almost 35 and a 12-year Navy submarine officer/diplomat, ~$140k/yr. Education: BS 3.5 nuclear engineering (top-5), MBA UNC, MA IR (top-5). First post here but I've been reading for 10 years.

I finished UNC's online MBA (I know…) in 2018 and was coincidentally medically forced out of submarines. I considered leaving for CRE, but the diplomat route let me keep my military retirement and I had the idea I could leverage international experience and language to do emerging markets CRE after retiring. I speak three languages, lived in Singapore and Africa, and have been to 35 countries. Currently oversee all DOD activity in a West African country.

3 years later we need to get back to the US for family reasons, and I am wondering if it's too late to switch. It's not Africa, it's our bureaucracy and incompetence and being handcuffed in every attempt to be timely, efficient, creative, and effective. Our systems are all broken and I'm not passionate doing this for another 8 years. Really not interested in government/mil contracting.

Since 2016 I've spent all my free time not researching military strategy and diplomacy, but analyzing deals, learning, and dreaming about CRE. I have very strong analytical, deal structuring and modeling, and sticks and bricks understanding, but my closest experience is owning 7 residential units. I'm working through REFAI certification and debating ARGUS cert; unfortunately I can't redo the MBA/network which is growing stale...

Would target acquisitions or asset management in office, industrial, or MF in Chicago or DC. Longstanding love for Chicago class A office, DC has good UNC network and gov/mil safety net if shit goes south. DC easiest transition in practical terms. Boston and Charlotte also attractive. Would target JLL, Brookfield, Carlyle, Hines, Harrison Street, Greystar, Prologis, or JBG Smith; would be thrilled with associate or even senior analyst at a good but lesser known shop. REPE probably not realistic. Maybe none of this is.

Standing by for monkey poop; thanks in advance!

Comments (12)

Oct 17, 2021 - 9:51am
PEarbitrage, what's your opinion? Comment below:

DM me I am happy to chat about this.  There is a ton of ways to transfer your skills into the CRE space.   The biggest hurdle will be transfer in levels. It will be really difficult to convince companies you will enter at an analyst or associate level.  However, if you focus on firms that primarily invest in government leasebacks your previous career will come in handy for sure.  It might also let you double dip and finish out your government service time to get the benefits as an official w2 consultant, no idea if this is possible but I have heard of things like this happening in the government. 

Oct 17, 2021 - 11:45am
JJAJJ, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First and foremost, thank you for your service. Given your unique skillset and the respect from your storied background in the military, I'd say you have a good chance to find a senior analyst/associate role. My guess is that you'll have an easier time with the process by reaching out and getting in front of recruiters and hiring managers. It's easier to outlay your story through a conversation as compared to a blind resume/cover letter drop. Have your technicals down along with your story and I think you'll be set. My only reservation about the senior analyst/associate roles at some of the firms mentioned is that they require long, tough hours and are a grind (i.e., running five different Argus scenarios for multiple renewal/vacate scenarios on a CBD asset in a broken market in which your MDs are stressed and barking orders through 10PM+ for IC the next morning in which you got staffed that same day). I'm sure that wouldn't be an issue, but it's more so the question whether you would want that for yourself and your family at this point of your life or career. To play devil's advocate, have you thought about expanding you own personal portfolio of real estate while you capitalize on your current role/exposure in in the meantime? Either way, you're in a great spot. 

Oct 17, 2021 - 5:13pm
insert name here, what's your opinion? Comment below:

JJAJJ, thanks for the detailed response. Not to get cocky, I average 60-70 hrs a week (~80 max) , often working past midnight (albeit from home). I field calls at all hours (also in charge of multiple aircraft movements including Presidential and Congressional Delegations, and I routinely liaise across 6 time zones). I regularly did 100-120 hour weeks on subs, but never again, hence my interest in CRE vs IB. FWIW my wife says if I have to be gone, she'd rather be in the US and she'd rather have me doing something I love.

Diplomatic work is all about relationships cultivated over coffee, runs, and booze-filled dinners and receptions; client-facing relationships in CRE seem similar. So I figure CRE would be roughly the same lifestyle, far better pay potential, and ostensibly more fulfilling. I get lost talking about finance and real estate; the same can no longer be said about foreign policy.

I do want to expand my own portfolio but to scale properly I really think I need to increase my income in the short run and get experience in the commercial space. 

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Oct 18, 2021 - 8:58am
insert name here, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks; that was a dumb mistake. It really isn't about politics, it's overwhelming bureaucracy and inefficiency regardless of party. I'm realizing I should have made the jump 3 years ago and time is ticking. Staying would be a good economic decision, but 8 years away from family and wondering every day if it's worth it isn't a good life decision especially when my passion and conviction is waning.

Oct 18, 2021 - 9:26am
billackmanschauffeur, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I can sympathize with that. 

I left at 7 or so. Similar feelings around time away (had children). Once I landed on staff I knew it was time to go. 

Mine turned out to be great economic decision. 

Only knowing this post about you, I can guess that what you want is ownership of something. Skin in the game. Upside. 

I am skeptical that you want to go jump in at an RE shop and get bully whipped with a crop of 22 year old analysts. 

Find a business. Raise some funds. Buy it. Enjoy a much better work life satisfaction and economic upside. 

Most Helpful
Oct 19, 2021 - 9:01pm
Undercover meme, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Might be nice to re-edit this comment so others cant google after you...

"one for the money two for the better green 3 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine" - M.F. Doom

  • 5
Nov 6, 2021 - 12:08pm
Undercover meme, what's your opinion? Comment below:

[] - any chance you could wipe the above comment so this poor dude doesn't get doxxed more lol

"one for the money two for the better green 3 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine" - M.F. Doom

Nov 9, 2021 - 10:10pm
kruzon, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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