Non-Target Construction to MF REPE - 14 Years Later
Don't post here often, but wanted to share & answer any questions of aspiring FIN/RE folks. I've seen so many different things on this forum and others, many depicting the "right way" and "proper path" to go about things. I think an influx of people I've seen on both here and other forums (as well as those that I've spoken to IRL) believe that in order go to to any high finance job, you need a target undergrad, M7 grad diploma, and need to work 100+ hours out of college for the next five years of your life.
Now, to be clear - if you're on this forum, you probably know that's bullshit. Yes, having those things is needed in some circumstances and definitely will never hurt you, but it's not the only way. I'll run through my story briefly of how I got where I am today in a "few short years" (LOL), and encourage you all to ask any questions you may have. I'm not on here all the time, but I'll do my best
Fucked up from the get-go. Was at a non-target non-major school w/ shit GPA and no connections. Turned it into REPE Associate role at top MF REPE, which only took like 14 years.
I'm 31, and currently a full-time associate at a T20 MF REPE serving the Washington/Baltimore/NoVA metro area. If you did some digging, you could probably find who. My technical role is "Second Year Real Estate Private Equity Associate", something that I never thought I would dream of, much less see in my LinkedIn tag at this age, if ever.
Undergrad f*ckups & more!
The reason I say this is because I was a massive f*ck-up, who finished my first semester of college with a 1.2 GPA at a mid-level state school. My major wasn't even finance-related, I was behind on classes, and never thought I'd see the interior of an office, maybe a cash register though. My major was Building Construction, however - and it was a pretty damn good school for BC too, consistently ranking T5 in the nation. This is what turned out to save me.
See, the whole reason I chose the school I did (VT) and do the major I did, is because I like to build shit, for lack of better words. I spent hours on SketchUp and Revit as a kid, just designing buildings, doing my own thing. Architects didn't nearly meet my self-set salary requirement, but BC piqued my interest - working for a major construction company and running site operations, doing project management, and everything in between is what could turn a dream into a reality.
So, after the 1.2 GPA fiasco, I decided to step back and decide what I was doing. I had a couple of internships my first two years at a general contractor but decided I really was more of a suit-in office guy rather than a high-vis vest on the site guy. This is when I wondered - what's the financial aspect of construction? How could I merge and mesh my name-brand construction degree with a finance-oriented degree, something that could satisfy my goals?
RE Minor Addition:
Any person on here who works in construction will tell you that so many of the ops guys want to end up in Development and RE. It's more money, it's a higher ceiling, and it takes away that "laborer" feel to an extent (if that's what you're worried about - I've met multiple dudes who are, for some reason). Going from GC to Development isn't necessarily a hard task, it's just a change in pace. Once I decided that I would rather wear dress shoes than Timbs, I tacked on an RE minor to my degree to bolster up some holistic items. I had to go five years in college anyway due to my freshman fiasco, what was the harm in tacking on a minor?
Turns out, that minor was the best damn thing I ever did. I secured a position out of college as a Development Analyst, for a MM REPE and Developer on the West Coast. Now, I mention REPE but I had nothing to do with that department - those guys sat on the nice & renovated floors up top, while the Dev guys sat down below. I say this like I'm complaining, but I'm not whatsoever - I was eternally grateful to even make the switch out of construction. However, the ceiling was limited from this point:
MBA? Yes, or no?
If you work for a developer, you can excel greatly in your field. I knew that from the start, but it's not on the same level as working for an MF REPE fund, and it seemed that the only way to get there was to go thru the REIB route, which I had missed the train for. It became clear (to me) - I needed another degree. I cringed at the thought of going back to school, but I knew that if I actually wanted to do what I wanted to do, this would be the best course of action.
I spent two years at that same MM Developer as an Analyst, knowing that a Developer Associate role was attainable (without an MBA), but I'd be here awhile. While I don't think it's necessary to have an MBA for high finance roles, I think based on my non-target education and non-finance major, why not?
I applied to a lot of MBA and MRED programs, trying to weigh options. I had a pretty good GMAT - it wasn't M7 level, but it was good enough to get me into a solid program, a T25'. My study habits, organizational skills, and test prep had GREATLY improved from undergrad, as working an industry job will do that to you - no question. I then moved back across the country to the East Coast, and completed my degree at a Northeast school, and was ready for the future.
Well, turns out it's not that easy to snag an MF REPE Associate title, even with a T25 MBA. There was still a long road to go. Here I was now, sitting at 26, having spent seven years in school. But, it was a complete flip - seven years ago I thought a real estate agent role in a Midwestern town would be ideal. Now, I have two degrees, operations and development experience from the construction site, and significant finance experience side as well from my time spent in work and postgraduate internships.
Post-MBA Opportunities - FT:
Speaking of internships - I received a full-time offer as a REIT Analyst (post-MBA) after scraping my way into an internship with them after my first year. Evidently, my performance caught their eye... nice! REIT isn't what I wanted to do though, so I still had to move forward.
You may be thinking - yo, shut the fuck up. You made your switch, we get your point. And I get that. The thing I'm trying to convey is that the flip is possible, practical, and more importantly - fucking DOABLE. It still shocks me that I was able to make the switch, not by my Calculus I grades in undergrad, but by interacting with people and being able to learn.
Switch from REIT to REPE:
I stayed in the REIT Analyst role for three years, never moving up to Associate. That wasn't an issue though - the reason I was able to switch from REIT to REPE was due to the experience and holistic job treatment I worked with involving property types. Think about it - if you're sitting around at a well-known MF REPE, experience with all kinds of property types, multi-modeling, and everything in between is categorized far greater than what school your degree was from. Yes, as I mentioned in my first paragraph - this shit all helps you. But, it's not the end-game. While expanding my job search, I finally received an offer from a T20 MF REPE group as an Analyst again, three years ago.
To be 30 and still be an Analyst may not sound appealing or be conventional whatsoever, but I made it work. It was quick at this job too - only 1.5 years as an Analyst, before I was promoted to Associate at a rifling old-man age of 31. Now I sit here, prepped and ready to continue my career in the role I never thought I'd obtain, hoping to make partner by 40. I had a long 20's - a very fuckin' long 20's, but I flipped the construction knowledge and turned it into complete finance.
This isn't an orthodox journey, nor am I recommending you make it. I made a lot of mistakes, fucked up a lot of times, and spent a lot of extra time, money, and mental capacity doing stupid shit that didn't help me. But here I am now, and all I can do is go up. Unless I get fired - who knows?
At this point, if you got any questions, comments, or anything in between feel free to drop 'em down. I enjoy talking about this, and it's even better to share them with other similar people. This isn't meant to be a "happy LinkedIn-esq yay you can do it" post, it's just one example of a transition.
To whoever may read this - I wish you luck in the field. Yes, it can be brutal out there, but my story is one of many with respect to the fact that it is possible to make a lateral switch by virtue of plugging your resources and allocating your time balance in the workforce. Good luck & Godspeed!