October 17, 2019

2017 Schack Flag Bearer Shawn Dacey on Building a Career in Real Estate Finance as a First-Generation College Student and Beyond

"I liked the idea of working with something large. I love cities, I studied urban geography, and I like how things are built," says Shawn Dacey, asset management analyst at L&L Holdings and 2017 Schack graduate. "The planning and effort attracted me [to commercial real estate]."

Since joining L&L in 2018, Dacey has had the opportunity to work on the financing for significant New York City real estate assets including 200 Fifth Avenue in the Flatiron neighborhood, which houses the Italian food and restaurant marketplace, Eataly. In the summer of 2018 Dacey worked on L&L’s $600 million refinancing of that building with JP Morgan. Other L&L assets that Dacey has been involved with include 222 Broadway, which houses WeWork and Bank of America, and 195 Broadway in Lower Manhattan. With asset management, "you get to be with the building from cradle to grave—and be creative in thinking about how to extract more value out of the building," Dacey says.

Growing up in upstate New York, Dacey pursued his undergraduate studies as a first-generation college student SUNY Oneonta, and worked as a residential broker out of school. Dacey was driven to excel during his years in higher education, and his early real estate experience propelled his interest in studying for a graduate degree in the field. "I found my way to the program through a recommendation from an alumnus," he explains.

Having avoided taking on significant debt while an undergraduate at a state school, Dacey paid particular attention to the finance options for his graduate education. He was encouraged by the possibilities for scholarships at Schack, including those available for first-generation college students. He decided to enroll in the development track, and later realizing that he loved working with the numbers behind real estate, shifted to finance. He ultimately become a Flag Bearer—a designation for the student with the top grades in their speciality. "I liked dealing with hard assets. [Real estate] is something tangible, something you could actually see the results of—buildings are actually going up into the sky."

"Being a first-generation college student in my family, [I] work hard and try my best," Dacey says of work ethic. "When I’m interested in something, I take to it." That commitment included getting involved with REISA and interning for several companies during his tenure. Companies included a small developer, retail owner-operator, and a large firm where he focused on capital markets. Dacey was drawn to Schack’s model: Its professors who work in the field provided real-world connections; its location enables students to see New York; its conferences and groups like REISA provide opportunities to get involved.

"It is a relationships industry, but I was able to make those relationships in the classroom," Dacey emphasizes, saying that the network he built inside and outside the classroom was among the most important aspects of his Schack experience. "[I could] break into an industry by meeting people and gaining friendships and at the same time, knowledge. I was able to extract a lot of value."

Through those connections, Dacey got a foothold in the New York City real estate industry and  began his work in asset management. "I really do enjoy [asset management]," he says, underscoring the importance of real-world work experience in that field. "It’s is such a day-to-day job. It’s kind of the spoke in the wheel." 

To excel coming into that field, and real estate in general, Dacey says it’s crucial to get the hard skills including Excel and, ideally, Argus. "The conceptual stuff will come. Just generally be a person who can work with others. In structuring a deal, there’s a lot of different people [involved]," he explains. That teamwork requires being both an outgoing and easygoing person in the context of building the transaction—something he was exposed to both in the classroom at Schack, and in his work in the field. "It’s what you make of it. You have to build your network, and this is the place to do it."

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