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Real Conversations features current MBA students discussing their experiences in the Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School and beyond…in their own words.
The Paul Milstein Center recently sat down with Gillian Dudeck ’19 to discuss what drew her to Columbia Business School, the highlights of her first year in the program, and how she defines success.
What led you to the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School?
Prior to business school, I worked in the commercial real estate services side of the industry. I knew that I wanted to transition to the investment side of equity real estate. With a liberal arts background, I needed to develop my financial and analytical skillset to make this move and felt the best way to do so was to get an MBA.
I was drawn to the MBA Real Estate Program at Columbia Business School for a myriad of reasons. Academically, I valued the number and wide array of real estate classes offered at CBS and the mix of theory and practice emphasized in the curriculum. I also was excited about the opportunities that are inherent in studying real estate in New York City. We have some of the most iconic real estate in the world in our backyard and are proximate to a significant number of real estate firms in the city. Whether going on site tours organized through the REA (I toured Hudson Yards and the World Trade Center developments last year), having leaders in the industry speak on panels or to classes on campus, or heading to midtown for coffee chats in between classes, I have had access to unique experiences that have helped to shape my perspectives on real estate. Finally, the CBS real estate alumni network is very strong. Real estate is a very people-oriented industry, and having the shared experience of being a part of such an established real estate network was something of which I was eager to be a part.
Tell us more about your role and position in the Real Estate Association.
I serve as a Vice President of Careers within the Real Estate Association. I work as a liaison between the Real Estate Association membership and real estate community and aim to facilitate opportunities for our membership to learn more about the various career paths in the real estate industry. One of the main events that I am responsible for coordinating is the Career Forum in February. This event brings together real estate companies interested in recruiting at CBS and provides students and firms the opportunity to interact in a condensed time period. My other responsibilities include organizing career panels, coordinating coffee chats with companies on campus, and helping conduct mock interviews.
Are you a member of other student organizations? If so, which? Do you hold any other officer positions?
I am arguably a member of too many student organizations on campus, so I will highlight the ones in which I am most actively involved! I am a co-President of the Golf Club at CBS. I was the Captain of my golf team in college and am passionate about the sport. We coordinate events for golfers of all skill levels and host events such as friendly matches between other business schools in the area, nights at the Chelsea Piers driving range, and golf tournaments for members of the club. I am active in the Hospitality and Travel Association (HTA). Last year I was one of the leaders on an Airbnb consulting project through the HTA and attended site tours to unique hotels such as the Baccarat Hotel. I also am involved in Microbrew Society; I homebrewed a vanilla porter with friends last spring that came out surprisingly well. I also try to attend restaurant outings with the Gourmet Club and wine tasting through the Wine Society when I have time!
What events or speakers have been most meaningful or impactful to you while in business school?
This past March, I participated in the real estate Chazen trip to Hong Kong and Shanghai. We had an incredible lineup of speakers and company presentations. Our company visit to MTR Corporation Limited in Hong Kong was one of the most thought-provoking presentations. MTR Corporation Limited (Mass Transit Railway Corporation) operates Hong Kong’s subway and also is a major real estate owner/manager in the region. The train network is extensive in terms of ridership and coverage, runs on schedule 99.9% of the time, and is profitable. The success of MTR is attributed in large part to the “Rail plus Property” business model that allows the firm to profit from developable land near stations. I was blown away at the contrast between Hong Kong’s public transportation and the public transportation I have experienced in the US, and it prompted me to think about how expanding public/private partnerships with focused real estate development at transit locations could positively impact the quality of transportation in the US.
Describe your summer internship. Role, responsibilities, highlights.
This summer I interned at Invesco Real Estate in San Francisco as their Underwriting Intern. In my role, I underwrote equity acquisitions in the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. I interacted with brokers in these markets, analyzed research, and leveraged the expertise of our Asset Management group to develop assumptions for the properties that we were underwriting. I used Argus and Excel to model returns and valuations. I also prepared Investment Committee packages for the deals we were pursuing. This required me to synthesize research, competitive property sets, and the market to develop a holistic view of the investment opportunity at hand. I loved being able to work on both the quantitative and qualitative analysis of an investment. I left my summer with a more robust underwriting skillset, intimate knowledge of the markets that I covered, and a more refined framework for evaluating real estate investment opportunities.
One of my favorite things about the summer was participating in all of the firm’s Investment Committee meetings. I was exposed to a wide variety of investment transactions across the US and had the opportunity to hear how senior professionals within the firm approached the risk/return analysis of potential investments. I also valued touring assets in the firm’s portfolio and learning more about the original investment thesis behind an acquisition and how that strategy was being executed against original underwriting.
How did your first year at CBS help prepare you for your internship experience?
CBS and the Real Estate Program’s resources helped me tremendously in my preparation for my internship. Academically, I felt I had a solid conceptual foundation from the Core Curriculum, Real Estate Finance, and Capital Markets.
Through the REA, I participated in Argus trainings and real estate-specific Excel model training. These were tools I used daily at my internship, so having solid familiarity with them before I started was extremely helpful. I was actively engaged in much of the programming offered through the REA and Paul Milstein Center.
What inspires you?
People who are authentically themselves and are passionate about their chosen career and how they pursue life. I think this creates an environment that brings out the best in yourself and the people around you, both professionally and personally.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why?
The power to teleport myself and bring along friends and family. Imagine recapturing all the time spent in transit? Right now, I would love to teleport myself to the beach and avoid the traffic. Also, the prospect of never having to wait for the subway on a hot summer’s day sounds pretty good to me!
How do you define and measure success?
I define success, both personally and professionally, as enjoying what you do each day, whether that is being passionately engaged with the project you are working on at work, feeling rewarded for your effort, or enjoying the people with whom you surround yourself. I measure this by assessing whether you wake up each day excited to tackle what is ahead of you.
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to be a leader in a private equity real estate investment firm. In my role, I aim to positively impact the built environment around me, manage capital, and develop client relationships. I hope to use my role to encourage more women to pursue careers in the commercial real estate investment industry and serve as a mentor to women in the industry.