Over the past several years, the NYUSPS Schack Institute of Real Estate has continued to build on its tradition of connecting students and industry professionals. The Executive in Residence (EiR) program, started in 2017, brings senior leaders in the real estate industry together with Schack students for a networking lunch and time to meet individually. EiR participants come from across the industry and are often Schack alumni themselves. The program provides current Schack students the opportunity to get to know the trajectory of an established professional and to put their networking and job preparedness skills to use.
EiR participants have included notable professionals such as Dana Roffman, Enoch Lawrence, Joanne Mineri, Karen Ramos, Lesley Lisser, and Brian Ray. Many of the participants are on Schack’s advisory board and/or maintain additional relationships with Schack, choosing to give back and be involved with the real estate industry and the new generation of professionals coming up in the field today.
Karen Ramos, a Schack alumna and fall 2019 participant in the program, spoke with Schack about her path in the industry. Ramos works as a commercial real estate finance executive at Crédit Agricole CIB where she heads up the real estate loan syndications group for the US and Canada. She has spent her career at companies including PricewaterhouseCoopers, ING, GE Capital, and Capital One Bank.
Ramos, who grew up in the Philippines and worked in Hong Kong and Singapore before moving to the US to pursue her master’s degree at NYU, spoke with students about topics including her real estate finance work and aspects of her experience as an Asian woman in the field. “Being a foreigner adds challenges in terms of setting yourself up and securing a career,” Ramos said. She spoke to the importance of finding a good progression in one’s career and the challenge of securing visa sponsorship.
Throughout her career, Ramos has also worked hard to cultivate strong relationships and to ask for support and advice. Leaning on colleagues, mentors, and a career coach has helped Ramos negotiate, rise through the ranks, and make important decisions over her career. "I think it’s great that NYU has this program now," Ramos added. "I’m at a point now in my career where I’m in a position to give back." She enjoys helping current students and rising professionals, and finds value in giving back and mentoring students who reach out with specific questions.
Brian Ray, the co-founder, managing partner and principal of Alchemy-ABR Investment Partners echoed that sentiment and described the value of relationships and networks. Ray, a Schack alumni, said that his work on the Schack’s advisory board, "is just an honor." He got his start working at Tishman Speyer and while working there was encouraged to get his master’s as a part-time Schack student. "I was running properties during the day, and learning about buying buildings and developing buildings at night," Ray said, adding that he was very fortunate to have a strong relationship with Ken Patton, who was Schack’s dean at the time. Ray also found early career guidance from a recent graduate of Schack who served as his mentor.
In his nearly 20 years in the real estate industry, Ray has seen over and over the value of strong relationships and mentorships. "It’s important to help people up the ladder and get help up the ladder," Ray said and emphasized the value he places on giving back. "I always do my best to help young people. It’s invaluable and people never forget that." In his career today, Ray has the opportunity to work in his hometown, New York City, and thinks it’s crucial to understand physical real estate. He credits his family and his wife for being great support in his life. "Surround yourself with good people personally," Ray advised. "Get a well-rounded, well-balanced life."
For all people involved, the EiR program provides a direct link between new and veteran professionals in the industry. Ramos advised that there are three key components she sees in successful professionals: "Always do a good job and work smart," Ramos said, adding that it’s crucial to network frequently with people across your field and not "underestimate the value of face-to-face interaction." Finally, Ramos suggested that professionals should invest in themselves through higher education, continuing education courses, career coaches and mentors. They can also benefit from acquiring professional licenses and developing strong communications skills. Those investments can help individuals stand out in their field.
In 2020, the EiR program continues with participants including Brian Collins, EVP, director of development at Silverstein Properties; Mariana Circiumaru, head of US construction at Bentall Greenoak; and Kevin Smith, executive managing director of asset services at Cushman & Wakefield.