AMA: Former TFA Corps Member, Current Commercial Real Estate Junior Broker

copecre's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 302

Hi all,

Long time WSO reader, but first time poster. The site's been a huge help as transitioned from Teach for America into the commercial real estate world, so I figured I'd try to give back a little.

A bit about me: I graduated in 2012 from a New England liberal arts college. Always knew I wanted to go into real estate (family background in investment and development), but decided to do TFA before starting. Taught English for two years in a middle school before transitioning to commercial brokerage. My long term plan is to learn the market doing leasing then transition into investment and development.

Happy to answer any questions you might have about Teach for America, breaking into real estate, networking, or otherwise.

Region: 
United States - Northeast

Comments (14)

Sep 19, 2014

Just for some background, I am a junior leasing broker too. If your ultimate goal is investment / development, why did you decide to learn the market through leasing brokerage instead of investment sales? Although you won't need to worry about the transition, isn't investment sales more applicable?

Sep 22, 2014

A few reasons: One, the firm I'm at provides an exciting opportunity to come in while some exciting things are happening. Two, and I think it was Trammell Crow who said this, leasing is the best way to become familiar with the product in your market. As you know, it's all hands on. Working on the tenant side, I can see what tenants want, where they like to be, and what they balk at. Lastly, having grown up on the development side, I wanted to see a different perspective of the business.

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Sep 22, 2014

How did you transition from TFA to RE? And where did you teach?

Sep 22, 2014
TwoThrones:

How did you transition from TFA to RE? And where did you teach?

Lots of networking. I started reaching to anyone in my network the summer before year 2 of TFA. That included school alumni, TFA alumni, etc. From there, I did the typical networking evolution: Email to schedule a call, call to schedule a coffee, coffee to interview. Real estate is interesting because the recruiting process is much less formal than banking or consulting - at one point, what I thought would be a quick coffee turned into a two hour interview with much of the senior team.

As far as using TFA as a spring board, the way it helped most was it gave me a chance to be in the "real world" with very low stakes. I almost thought of it as red shirting for two years. Being able to speak confidently about professional experience helped a lot, even though it wasn't in the same industry.

I taught middle school ELA at a charter school in the Northeast.

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Sep 22, 2014

thanks for doing the AMA! will put this up top on the frontpage this afternoon so you'll see more q's roll in, and will keep it on homepage all week.

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Sep 22, 2014

Anytime, happy to contribute!

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Sep 22, 2014

2011 Corps member, current consultant here. Always good to see another former corps member handling business in the private sector. +1

Sep 22, 2014

Thanks, always glad to see corps members in business as well. TFA is a great experience, but it sometimes takes some thought on how to best make the transition.

Sep 22, 2014

Nice. Current 2014 Corps Member. Did TFA refer you to anyone in Commercial RE or assist you in setting up coffee chats? How was your relationship with your principal / MTLD following your departure? I want to pursue an M7 MBA but am worried about obtaining solid recommendations. Do you have any advice regarding maintaining positive relationships despite only staying for two years? Thanks.

Best Response
Sep 22, 2014
SlikRick:

Nice. Current 2014 Corps Member. Did TFA refer you to anyone in Commercial RE or assist you in setting up coffee chats? How was your relationship with your principal / MTLD following your departure? I want to pursue an M7 MBA but am worried about obtaining solid recommendations. Do you have any advice regarding maintaining positive relationships despite only staying for two years? Thanks.

Great question, because this was tricky for me as well. I had a somewhat shaky relationship with TFA staff/school staff during my two years. Let's say my "professionalism" didn't quite fit in with the school culture, so I caught some flak. However, I was a pretty decent teacher and I cleaned it up for year 2. I'm still in touch with a few people (mostly, though, for the business relationships if I'm being honest).

My MTLD was great in making connections and referrals, but didn't have any CRE contacts. My executive director (small enough of a region where I was able to have a relationship) did give me a list of people to contact as well. I was always pretty upfront with everyone that unless an unbelievable opportunity at my school presented itself, I was going to be two and out, so that didn't come as a shock. I would recommend to you feeling out your situation; if you have a decent relationship with anyone (MTLD, principal, whomever), I would start asking for advice now. Your alumni coordinator can probably be a big help - mine referred me to the brokers she worked when they looked for space in my region.

If someone in your region or alumni network has an M7 connection, I would reach out proactively and just get his/her thoughts. Odds are, they were a corps member as well and know the process. Nine times out of ten, I'd say they'll be happy to help out.

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Sep 28, 2014

" Always knew I wanted to go into real estate (family background in investment and development), but decided to do TFA before starting."

Why TFA?

What's your view on the program?

Sep 29, 2014
GutShot:

" Always knew I wanted to go into real estate (family background in investment and development), but decided to do TFA before starting."

Why TFA?

What's your view on the program?

To be perfectly honest, I decided to apply to TFA on a whim. I'd always thought that teaching would be something cool to do later on in life, after I had set into a comfortable life routine. I was intrigued by the prospect of doing something way out of my comfort zone, have always liked "teaching," and I was a summer camp counselor for a summer in high school and liked being a mentor to kids. Plus, TFA looks pretty solid on a resume. I applied on the first deadline, went through the interview process, was accepted, and finally committed about an before the deadline. Happy to chat more about the reasons for the delayed decision over PM.

As far as views on the program, I'll be candid: I thought it was great for me. As I mentioned early, it felt a bit like "red-shirting" life for two years. I was able to develop professionally, gain a ton of workplace experience, and get used to being a responsible human being. I had a pretty good set up as far as my placement city, made a really good friend who also taught at my school, and for the most part worked with good enough people and kids. The toughest part for me was dealing with culture at my school and the stifling levels of bureaucracy and oversight. Given my personality and "culture," I ruffled a few feathers and had to work harder to stay on my administrations "good side."

Teaching, especially through TFA, is hard. There's no denying that. I don't think that Teach for America does a good enough job clarifying how difficult life is for a first year teacher. Because of that, a lot of corps members have a very tough time. I have friends in other regions (heck, even the same region) who hated TFA. I know people who quit after a year. I know people who quit after the first month. A lot of it comes down to personality, and how well you can roll with the punches. If you're considering a career in finance, you probably will be okay.

I'll leave you with this, however. I say that TFA was great for me, but I still have some concerns about how great TFA is for the kids it actually serves. At the risk of getting to philosophical, in my English class we read "Maus" by Art Speigelman. It's a graphic novel about the Holocaust. At the beginning of book two, the author does some self-reflection and has a frame with him sitting at his desk, negotiating book deals, movie rights, getting paid, etc. As the negotiation moves on, the frame pans out, and you see that his desk is sitting on top of dead Holocaust victims' bodies. Pretty brutal. As we read that, I couldn't help but relate my experience with the kids as those bodies. Did I "help" my kids as much as they helped me? I don't know. I like to think I did a pretty good job, but one of my biggest regrets is that I wasn't a better teacher.

TL;DR: I was intrigued by TFA and I think overall it's a good program with a lot of issues. Happy to talk more over PM.

Oct 3, 2014

Thank you copecre for starting this thread, I think your experience could be helpful for advising me. I just graduated in May from a "core-recruiting" college on the east coast with a math major, but I was never interested in getting into an investment related job (IB or real estate investing) until my last semester (I took an introductory finance course).

Since I don't have much experience or technical knowledge, I am currently working as a broker's assistant for my uncle who is a real estate attorney and residential/commercial real estate broker. I'm learning a lot by shadowing him and I'm studying for the real estate salesperson's license exam as a way of learning a lot more of about the industry.

I'm looking to break into some sort of real estate investment company (either debt-side or private equity), but not sure what else I should do to prepare for the technical aspects of the job (ie. are WSO modeling courses applicable?). Would would you recommend I do for further preparation? In addition, do you think this unconventional path will work? What other options do you think I should consider?

Oct 6, 2014
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