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'Don’t Wait For Them To Talk To You': Boston’s Rising CRE Leaders On What It Takes To Go Major

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Boston’s commercial real estate industry is a tough nut to crack. But those who have succeeded say persistence and an open mind are key to advancing.

Bisnow awarded 40 rising leaders in Boston commercial real estate Thursday morning at Fenway Park. The event, titled the Bisnow Boston Awards: The Next Generation of CRE Leaders, honored rising talent across a wide spectrum of sectors in the industry. But before awards were handed out, a small panel of the honorees reflected on their careers and offered advice on how success comes from surprising places. 

'Don’t Wait For Them To Talk To You': Boston’s Rising CRE Leaders On What It Takes To Go Major
Anchor Line Partners Managing Partner Andrew Maher, MITIMCo Director Amanda Strong and Sasaki principal Liz von Goeler

“Sometimes your best mentors are not the ones who were put on Earth to mentor,” Alexandria Real Estate Equities Senior Vice President Adam Brinch said. “Go talk to them. Don’t wait for them to talk to you.”

Brinch began his CRE career at CBRE’s Boston office on Vice Chairman Greg Lucas’ team. While Brinch said Lucas eventually became an instrumental voice in his career and helped him navigate through his time at CBRE, it wasn’t a mentor-at-first-sight scenario.

Lucas didn’t exactly warm up to his new teammate at first, Brinch said. It took some advice from CBRE President and co-Managing Partner Andrew Hoar for Brinch to get the ball rolling and finally go talk one-on-one with his mentor-to-be. 

“Andy told me, ‘Adam, if you want to get wet, go stand next to the sprinkler,’” Brinch said. 

'Don’t Wait For Them To Talk To You': Boston’s Rising CRE Leaders On What It Takes To Go Major
Alexandria Real Estate Equities Senior Vice President Adam Brinch and Gilbane Building Co. Senior Business Development Manager Raj Bhangoo

Others found unexpected success because the market dictated it. 

“Real estate kind of found me,” Berkadia Senior Director Gemma Geldmacher said. “I feel like my career has been this series of happy accidents.”

Geldmacher graduated college in 2001 at the height of the dot-com-bubble recession, putting a hold on her early ambition of going into marketing or advertising. She got a job through a temp agency answering phones at a property company before moving to San Francisco to work at a consulting firm focused on real estate. When she explored coming back to Boston, Geldmacher wanted to pursue lending jobs but initially thought her English degree with a minor in theater wouldn’t be as appealing as one in finance. 

“During my interview, I told them you could teach an English major an Excel spreadsheet but could never teach a finance major how to string a few sentences together eloquently,” she said with a laugh. 

She got the job and continues to work in finance, recently transitioning from underwriting to sales.

'Don’t Wait For Them To Talk To You': Boston’s Rising CRE Leaders On What It Takes To Go Major
Sasaki principal Liz von Goeler and Berkadia Senior Director Gemma Geldmacher

MIT Investment Management Co. Director Amanda Strong attributes her own career agility to strong mentorship. 

She started her career at Marshall’s, hoping to eventually become a buyer. While she initially spent more time shipping and tracking fashion deliveries, Strong said she learned a lot about demographics — useful for a career in real estate. When she began looking for other jobs, mentors in the real estate industry happily guided her through her job search and on how to make the most of her résumé. 

“What your mentors will do is give you the confidence to proceed to the next level,” she said. “Women, we tend to probably be less progressive in our careers than men in believing in what we can do. I’ve had a couple of people be really important in my career.”

'Don’t Wait For Them To Talk To You': Boston’s Rising CRE Leaders On What It Takes To Go Major
The Bisnow Boston Awards recipients

Before the panel concluded to make way for the awards ceremony, the honorees all agreed that, beyond strong mentorship and patience, career advancement can also hinge on the basics. 

“Do a good job. Show up on time. Be professional,” Brinch said. “Do your best to package yourself to be the best because you never know how it will evolve for you over time.”