The alumni panel for the Distinguished Speaker Series for 2018 had the following Cornell alumni talk to students about their success in the industry:
Jonathan Cohen ’10
Jonathan has been in the real estate and construction industry for over 12 years. As a builder, Jonathan has overseen over 400 million dollars of construction including, residential, commercial, retail, hotel, education, healthcare and multifamily projects. After receiving his Master’s Degree from Cornell, Jonathan spent the next 5 years working for two highly regarded Connecticut-based developers, RMS Companies, and Spinnaker Real Estate Partners. As a team member, he was able to participate in, construct, manage, lease, market or sell over 600 million dollars of real estate before forming J. Forrest Development, LLC.
Rob Dunn ’10
Rob has worked in portfolio management, due diligence, acquisitions, asset management, and lease negotiations since graduation in 2010. For almost 3 years after graduation, he worked as an associate at Long Wharf Real Estate partners working with value-add equity investments in primary and secondary U.S. markets. In 2013, Rob transitioned to Hubb NYC as a Director in the Property Management division. In this role, he manages residential and mixed-use properties in New York.
Sarah Brown ’10
Sarah graduated from Cornell with a dual MBA and Master’s in Real Estate degree in 2010, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations in 2004. While at Cornell, Sarah was President of the Strategic HR, Leadership, and Organizational Effectiveness (SHRLOE) Group and Co-President of the Associate Real Estate Council (AREC). Since graduation, she has worked in various human resources roles for Bank of America and TIAA. For TIAA she has worked as Director and Sr Director HR Business Partner in Institutional Investment Products. With Bank of America, Sarah was an HR Manager for Consumer Real Estate Services and Consumer Marketing.
Khari Buck ’11
Khari has worked for multiple companies on corporate real estate strategy since her graduation from Cornell in 2011. From 2011 to 2013, Khari was in the Construction and Real Estate Advisory Services division of EY. Since that time, she has worked with CBRE in portfolio strategy for the MUFG Union Bank account and, more recently, the McKesson account. In that role, she has worked to transform the client’s workplace efficiency and helped to maximize retention and productivity. While at Cornell, Khari was a Co-President of AREC and was actively involved in Cornell Real Estate Women.
Ian McKay ’11
Ian McKay is a member of the Portfolio Management team at Clarion Partners, a real estate investment manager with more than $44 billion in assets under management. Clarion invests in a broad range of real estate strategies across the risk/return spectrum and across the major property types. Ian manages projects for the firm’s value-add and development funds, which currently include active investments in various multi-family, office, industrial, and retail projects, with a weighting toward multi-family investments. While at Cornell, Ian was involved in AREC and was an assistant editor of the Cornell Real Estate Newsletter.
The panelists began the talk by asking the students to introduce themselves in order to cater the advice towards their career interests. The panelists then gave a brief about their professional journey and explained how the Cornell education helped them pivot or continue in the pursuit of their respective aspirations. Ian explained how his background in construction helped him climb the corporate ranks at Clarion Partners as a portfolio manager for the development and value-add fund. Khari talked about her work in corporate strategy work, workplace strategy and portfolio optimization which has helped her in advising some of the largest clients in the country. Rob leveraged his education and position at Fidelity to currently work at Hubb NYC in acquisitions and asset management in Manhattan for retail and multifamily properties. Jonathan’s current role requires him to draw on his prior experiences to conduct development, residential & commercial construction and consulting assignments for different asset types. Sarah explained her decision to choose TIAA as her job out of the Cornell MBA and Masters. The mission of TIAA was actually founded at Cornell where the professors needed to be provided financial stability post-retirement. TIAA manages 1 trillion dollars for over 15,000 institutional clients and is the 3rd biggest asset management company in real estate globally. Sarah supports the supports the team that makes the institutional investment products at the company.
The panelists were then asked to reflect on how the financial market and job market performed at the time of graduation and how they dealt with the challenges. The answered unanimously saying that industry is cyclical and coming into a recession taught them how one can protect yourself in a downtown and create opportunities. This learning will be valuable throughout their careers. Sarah advised students that another important consideration was the level of risk one was comfortable with, given the scenario.
Ian mentioned that if you willing to put your mind to it, success will come to you and patience in the long term always works. Sarah talked about how her first job at Ernst & Young helped her discover new skill sets. She enjoyed the problem-solving aspect and learned a lot in the process. Rob advised students to be humble in the way they approached the job market and future opportunities. Jonathan pursued development after school and grew that experience to build the requisite expertise to set up his own company. Sarah had her 1st internship with Macquarie in a property capital advisory role in the US and the 2nd internship in Sydney. She enjoyed the asset management role and looks forward to meshing her passion with the HR career.
The alumni talked further about their careers and future goals. Ian praised the culture and team members at Clarion partners and is inclined to grow within the organization. Khari talked about the various paths people could take to build on a corporate real estate career. Rob talked about the phenomenal growth Hubb NYC has had over the last few years which has also helped him grow quickly in his career. Sarah mentioned that she has the opportunity to work closely with senior people with TIAA on complex engagements and succession planning. Jonathan mentioned the level of responsibility that comes with running his company is high. Most of his development projects are speculative, equity is tied up for a long period. One has to continuously execute and know the facts for the market forward and backward.
Comparing the size of organizations, the panelists agreed that in smaller companies, personalities run through. In a smaller shop, it is great to get perspective from other departments. Culture is incredibly important. One performs better when you like the people you work with irrespective of the size of the organization.