This summer I spent six weeks at each of two organizations: Jubilee Enterprise of Greater Washington, a non-profit affordable housing developer, and the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund at the US Department of the Treasury which provides equity investments, low interest loans, and grants to financial institutions that serve under-resourced communities and agree to use the capital they receive to fund job-creation and affordable housing development in the communities they serve. For the CDFI Fund, I analyzed and valued the equity investments they hold in various banks, credit unions, and venture capital funds to identify whether any investments should be marked down in value. For Jubilee I spent about half of my time managing the renovation of a 44-unit apartment complex, spending most days on the construction site coordinating the various contractors and sub-contractors, ensuring that each apartment was completed as specified in the design, and coordinating the lease-up of finished units with the property management company. This experience was extremely valuable and taught me a great deal about construction and working with contractors, but also made me realize how many parties are involved in a development project and the great time and effort that is required to coordinate even a small project such as the one I was working on. For the other half of my time, I analyzed the profitability of the properties owned by Jubilee and identified areas where costs could be reduced.
Since I am a career switcher and explored jobs in a field that does not recruit heavily on campus, I started my job search in late October and did about forty informational interviews before I contacted both of these organizations in February and later received offers from both over Spring Break. Neither organization has a formal internship programs nor can they pay an MBA wage so I used the Corps Fellowship to supplement my income this summer. I learned a great deal about the real estate and community development, specifically that affordable housing development is more than just building affordable units. It is not enough to solve poverty-related issues unless accompanied with life skills workshops, job training, drug/alcohol programs, day care, summer camps, community development, and crime prevention. I also had several unpleasant situations, including witnessing drug deals, seeing cops rushing to the property with guns drawn, busting a squatter in a vacant apartment. All of these situations are normal to this business unless the systemic problems are addressed in addition to building affordable housing.
At the CDFI Fund, I realized that although government work is slow, it can have very tangible and lasting effects on the community in terms of providing capital to businesses and individuals that normally would not have access to capital.
I am not sure that either of these jobs are exactly what I want to do full-time, but both opened my eyes to many new and interesting possibilities and helped me get much closer to figuring out exactly what and where I want to work upon graduation.