Development Analyst Opportunities

In the interview process at three different developers, each of which has their own pros/cons to them. All three roles are Development Analyst positions. Company A will likely pay $70-75K with no bonus, while B and C will be in the $80-90K range and include bonuses. I have 2 years experience in capital markets. Looking for advice on which path to pursue (end-goal of DM/Director, so I can run/source deals on my own someday)

Company A: mid-sized GC that is building out their development arm

Pros:

  • Small team that has grown exponentially in last year, focused on middle-market multifamily and condo deals.

  • Room for growth but role / track isn't fleshed out well. Highly entrepreneurial group with flat org. structure

  • Learn from smart construction guys. Also located in same city I live in so short commute

Cons:

  • Lower initial pay than other two

  • Focus on finance / underwriting, not really touching entitlements/design/CM work but can learn from others at company about these areas

  • Less brand name recognition / work on smaller deals (middle-market MF and condo)

Company B: larger family-owned developer, focused exclusively on ground-up MF / mixed-use projects

Pros:

  • Larger development pipeline than Company A: $350MM+ in total volume

  • Likely a more fleshed out role / career track to a Development Manager within 3-5+ years

  • Better pay and benefits

  • More brand recognition regionally (well known in my city, 50+year firm that builds Class A MF)

Cons:

  • More of a focus on finance / underwriting, will need to go out of my way to learn more about entitlements/design/CM in addition to my own responsibilities

  • Family owned company where family members are still very much involved in day-to-day activities (executive roles). Could be a benefit for culture but assuming other young family members would be more likely to receive senior roles if they open up

  • 25-30 min commute from city (would need to get a car)

Company C: Gilbane Building Co. huge general contractor with projects across the country. Would be working for their development company subsidiary 

Pros:

  • Robust platform and deal exposure to large MF, student housing, affordable, and public/private partnership developments along the Southeast and mid-Atlantic region

  • Role will include work on entitlements, site selection, design, etc. in addition to finance

  • Proven track to a Development Manager within 3-5+ years. Development directors get carry (200-300 bps), which like most young guys in the industry is my end goal

  • Great pay/benefits and brand recognition 

Cons:

  • Likely more corporate-feel due to size, possibly less entrepreneurial 

  • 45-50 min commute from city (would need to get a car). Can WFM Fridays

Appreciate anyone who's still with me after that wall of text. What does WSO think I should do?

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Comments (19)

May 3, 2021 - 10:13pm

At this stage, getting a gig that will legit let you learn development, see/work on legit deals, and hopefully give you good personal mentorship guidance along the way is critical. Pay is very secondary, I would also tell you to be questioning/suspicious about promised timelines for promotions. Not all promotions are equal, meaning some places just give titles away but don't really give much more responsibility (or even pay sometimes) and others make them really count. 

I'm guessing this will be first job in development, so I can say that the second one will be easier to get (if you feel the need to jump shops, and frankly many do to advance their careers). So, going with the biggest "name" can have some value on a marginal basis (but really, not that important in hiring within the field), as can learning from the "biggest", be that the biggest company, biggest projects, biggest markets, etc. It is always easier to go smaller, more niche, harder to go the reverse (but again, lots of exceptions to this rule). 

So, I don't really know what to say other than I'd probably edge towards B or C, in part because you can probably get a job with a firm like A easily after time with B or C. Given all that you said, I would personally go with Gilbane (firm C), for really one main reason... "

  • Role will include work on entitlements, site selection, design, etc. in addition to finance

^that is really the defining part, if accurate, that can make for a great development job, one where you can go "full life cycle" with a project(s) and see the entire development process. For me, that would need the discussion, full stop (since you describe the opposite with the other two). Assuming you have an overall good feel about that role, would be my direction. 

To be fair, Firm B sounds good too, and if you have strong feelings about them and the role, not a bad choice by any means, but if you are kept on the "finance" team, don't be shocked if you have to make a real "jump" to get to do other stuff internally.  

May 3, 2021 - 11:29pm

Thank you redever.. My line of thinking is pretty much what you've described. While getting in early with a more "entrepreneurial" shop could provide faster growth opportunities, its risky and probably better to take that risk (if at all) when upside is commensurate i.e. in a more senior role years down the line.

To your point on company C, I'm really giving them a second thought (was leaning heavily towards B at first), as they were the only company that specifically outlined add'l work beyond underwriting and market research. It seems the others would be much more of a true "Analyst" role to start, where the main responsibilities would be connecting all stages of the development lifecycle (acquisition, pre-con, const, stabilization, disposition) through underwriting and supporting the development directors with debt/equity financing.

In addition, the variety in both target market location and property type feels safer this early in my career, as I'm still unsure whether or not I want to settle down in my current city. Working for a larger, national player would probably give me better options in that respect. Plus they have a few analysts already working together, while the others I'd be the sole analyst on the development team (maybe that's a good thing though?)

That being said company B would be my preferred property type (class A MF) and I've heard great things about them personally, so working there would be something of a dream job, so long as I could take on more PM/CM responsibilities over time (which they've said would be the case, who really knows though).

Regardless, I'd be ecstatic to land at either of the three as I've wanted to learn/work in development for years now. Appreciate your advice!

May 3, 2021 - 11:52pm

If A and B are actually as entrepreneurial as you're saying I'm sure you could get involved in the entitlement/design development process if you asked. Dev teams are usually fairly lean and it's good to know all aspects of the business, so as long as you prove yourself capable in the beginning and get your work done I can imagine you'd be able to ask for a wider variety of tasks. 

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May 4, 2021 - 8:14am

It is very possible the offer B is your best route, as it is an unidentified company (I do know Gilbane), harder for me to do any mental comparisons (if I even knew the firm). 

The "sole analyst" comment is interesting, I'm not sure what that means. My guess (and my firm has done something similar, as really "associate" is true first dev rank), is that they see the role as "development adjacent", meaning a more focused task specialist rather than true "developer". Pros and cons to this. Pros are that you probably (or might) work across all the firms' projects and teams and other divisions, so you can get very rounded knowledge of the firm (can make these very visible roles at junior level, that is always good). The "con" is that you are maybe not really on a development team, and thus not really doing day-to-day development tasks. Whether it feels this way is another thing. Some firms make an associate do the "analyst" role until a project matures for them to join (post acquisition), others may let someone remain in "acquisitions" mode for awhile.

If you are the "first" (you are the only by your statement), they probably don't have fixed rules or plans for this, could be good or bad depending on how you manage it. 

The Gilbane role sounds like a more traditional Development Associate role, but at the analyst rank (and analyst pay..).

Overall, the Firm B job sounds like a more unique role, that is not necessarily a bad thing (in fact, it could be a more awesome way to start), just harder to make comparisons directly.

May 4, 2021 - 6:37pm

I agree with all points made by Redever and personally I would also go with Gilbane if I were in your shoes. Remember that development is waaaay more than just the numbers and running financial models. Execution and being able to run a project is much more important at the junior level since you're not really expected to bring deals in and given what you've described, Option C allows you to really see the entire development cycle. If you were to interview at a different firm a couple years down the line, being able to talk about how you worked on financing deals, entitling land, design, and overall managing an entire project makes you much more attractive to a developer than someone who only worked on acquisitions/financing, especially if your goal is to be DM.

May 4, 2021 - 6:51pm

Agreed! Thanks for the help. Will add to the thread after my interviews this week. Hopefully will have a better understanding of each role by then

May 4, 2021 - 12:00am

Think that would be the case at both companies, specifically A because nearly all the guys came to the team from the construction side of the industry. As you've said, would still need to prove myself & finish my work before being able to ask for other tasks, while with option C it seems those type of responsibilities would be expected from me from the onset.

May 4, 2021 - 12:09am

I like C because I know Gilbane. Other people know Gilbane too, which always helps. None of the options seem so large that you'd not be able to gain exposure to different groups. Option A is only good if you are certain the place is solid and will continue to operate for the next couple years. Sometimes a GC will realize they are much better at being a GC than a developer. 

May 4, 2021 - 12:45am

Appreciate the insight.

~ "Sometimes a GC will realize they are much better at being a GC than a developer."

That's exactly my worry on option C, in addition to being siloed on "finance" team. They have a decent pipeline going ($180MM+) and have grown their team quickly in the last 2 years, but ultimately are likely best as a GC. Although they aren't focusing on the larger-profile projects that they typically GC for ($100MM+ urban core developments) and are instead playing in the MM ($10-50MM) space; which seems smart to me as they won't be competing against the big developers and can likely build cheaper than your typical mom-and-pop shops. So, my thinking is there could be real oppty to grow their pipeline, and even play a part in sourcing business earlier on (using contacts in debt/equity) to move up quicker.

As you can see, I'm going back and forth all day with the pros/cons of each!

May 4, 2021 - 8:20am

Not sure if maestro_ meant the GC comment to apply equally to Firm A as it should to Gilbane. It sounds like a possible risk with A, but the trend is more GC's doing some development, even on the side. The trick for a smaller/startup developer of any kind is can they raise money! Or is said money "cheap" enough to let them compete. Can they buy land all cash? Or dependent on loans and equity raises (buying all cash is the silver bullet to getting land these days without paying over-top dollar in many markets). 

Gilbane is a very large, diversified construction firm. Them having a development company is a very different deal (then some GC guys as you describe), the capital base, credit facilities, and just credibility in the marketplace is very different.

May 4, 2021 - 8:44am

I meant the risk of the GC halting development was more significant for the smaller firm. It seems less likely that Gilbane would stop proprietary development since it is more likely to be able to raise capital (both debt and coinvest/LP), as Redlever said. 

May 4, 2021 - 8:48am

Why are you worry about this right now? Do you have offers in hand? So many people here weigh opportunities at the interview stage. That should be done at an offer stage if multiple are received.

All would be great opportunities especially if first job. 

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