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Bricks, Mortar, Steel And Service: Here Are CRE's Veterans, Part 2

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Military veterans make up a large portion of the commercial real estate industry — so large, we couldn't honor everyone from this year's installment of our Veterans Day special feature in one batch. Here is Part 2 of the men and women who served our country and now work in commercial real estate. Responses are in the veterans' own words but have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Read Part 1 here.

Kristin Hagedorn, JLL Research Manager 

JLL Research Manager Kristin Hagedorn
JLL Research Manager Kristin Hagedorn, on right, with two of her fellow comrades

City: Walnut Creek, California

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Years Served: Reservist since 2008

Final Rank: Intelligence Officer

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

I come from a military family — my parents are retired Navy Chiefs, my step-dad is retired U.S. Air Force and my brother is also Navy, so I always have had the military as a part of my life. I’ve had the honor to serve and be a part of many extraordinary things, both as Active Duty and as a Reservist, with many more adventures to come!

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

My biggest advice would be take everything as it comes — you have the discipline, problem-solving skills and training to cope with anything.

Joe Albanes, Commodore Builders President/CEO

President/CEO Commodore Builders Joe Albanese
Commodore Builders President/CEO Joe Albanese

City: Boston

Branch of Service/Years Served:

Air Force National Guard Reserve 1981-1983

Navy Active Duty 1983-1988

Navy Reserve 1988-2006

Navy Active Duty 2007

Navy Reserve 2008-2009

Navy Retired

Final Rank: Captain

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My military service has taught me how important it is to find the things that motivate people. I learned how to maximize individual performance by empowering people — by giving them clear direction and by letting them do their jobs. My military career has taught me how to find and keep the long view. I have learned how to build teams by leading with purpose.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Titles and rank don’t speak for themselves in the civilian world. You have to earn credibility. You have to earn respect. The civilian world is not black and white. There’s a lot of gray. There are fewer rules, less formality and not as much hierarchy. You have to be socially nimble, able to adapt and to navigate in a constantly changing environment.

Joe Fernandez, Suffolk Chief Operating Officer Florida East Coast 

Suffolk Chief Operating Officer, Florida East Coast Joe Fernandez
Suffolk Chief Operating Officer, Florida East Coast Joe Fernandez

City: Aventura, Florida

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Years Served: 1989-1995 Active Duty. 1996-1997 in Active Reserve.

Final Rank: E-5 (Petty Officer 2nd Class)

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My military service taught me self-discipline, a skill that I’ve carried with me and applied to every facet of my life.  I learned the importance of patience, observing your environment, and listening intently.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Though it can be an overwhelming process, always remember to lean on the people around you, whether it’s family, friends, or people you served alongside.

Russell Fenton, Caprock Partners Vice President of Development & Construction 

Caprock Partners Vice President of Development & Construction Russell Fenton
411th Engineer Brigade Commander, Brigadier General David Weeks, presenting The Bronze Star Medal to First Lieutenant Russell Fenton on September 6, 2012, in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

City: Newport Beach, California

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Years Served: Army National Guard, Active Duty: 2008-2016

Final Rank: Captain

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My experience truly defines who I am as a professional and as a human being.

For me being in the military, a lot of people talk about leadership, I think that’s a given but I would say when I break it down the military showed me how to deal with adversity. How to deal with changes and obstacles and as you are dealing with obstacles how you treat other people. The military is truly a team sport. There is hardly ever a time in a mission where you are by yourself.  

It’s not about you. It’s about the team. It’s about what’s best for the mission.

In terms of professional development, it taught me how to have goals, set goals and how to develop my own career.  

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life? 

Be open to new experiences. Being a military personnel is good for any industry, any job. We have great work ethic and are team players and that is important anywhere you are working. If you are trainable, you can fit any career and any jobs.

One thing I do want to mention for those transitioning is to work on your story. Everyone has a different story. Everyone is unique. It’s important when you are transitioning to civilian life to communicate your background, experiences and how companies can relate with you to filling a certain role.

Don’t expect them to know your military background. You have to work on your story and bridge that gap to a hiring manager or a CEO who may not relate to your background or experiences. You may not get the job but you will get their respect.

Also, take advantage of veterans programs out there. And feel free to reach out to other veterans to help guide, mentor and give you advice. Every one of us has gone through this transition before. Keep a close network of veterans because a lot of us go through the same issues and challenges in the workforce.

Sarah Phillips, PCL Construction Services Inc. Field Engineer 

PCL Construction Services Inc. Field Engineer Sarah Phillips
PCL Construction Services Inc. Field Engineer Sarah Phillips

City: Denver

Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps

Years Served: 2008-2012 Active Duty

Final Rank: Corporal

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

The Marine Corps helped teach me discipline in a way that I could not have experienced in the civilian world, as well as how to function as part of a team. The skills have helped me to work with others in both my work and personal life.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

The transition is difficult for everyone, but staying in touch with those you served with helps make it easier.

Mike Muldowney, CBRE Executive Vice President 

CBRE Executive Vice President Mike Muldowney
CBRE Executive Vice President Mike Muldowney (center) in his U.S. Air Force uniform in 1989

City: Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland

Branch of Service: U.S. Air Force

Years Served: 1985-1989 Active Duty

Final Rank: Captain

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

It gave me structure, organization, management experience and perspective.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Be patient with people.  You’ve learned skills unique to the military (leading and following). Don’t assert them on the civilians all at once. Be an example to all around you.


Eryn Mack Legette, TruAmerica Multifamily Culture and Organization Effectiveness Director 

TruAmerica Multifamily Culture & Organization Effectiveness Director Eryn Mack Legette
TruAmerica Multifamily Culture & Organization Effectiveness Director Eryn Mack Legette

City: Los Angeles

Branch of Service: U.S. Army 

Years Served: 2005-2013

Final Rank: Staff Sergeant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

As a former noncommissioned officer in the military, I was truly honored to be the backbone of the Army. I am most proud of two major roles that defined my career. In Baghdad, Iraq, I served at the company level in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit and supported the intake of intelligence to support the offensive, defensive and stability of our operations. In Kuwait City, Kuwait, I served as an adviser in the Brigades Equal Opportunity program by acting as the command team’s right hand, an assessor of climate and an agent of change.

I have chosen a civilian profession that allows me to continue a similar level of contribution at TruAmerica Multifamily. As the director of Culture and Organizational Effectiveness, I continuously lean on my military training to be an effective problem solver.

Problem solving is an important tool in leading transformational change in the workplace, and align business and people strategy through organizational development. Leadership has proven to be the most fundamental element of learned behavior in the military. It has provided me the ability to demonstrate a presence that evokes creativity through diverse approaches, motivation and sincere purpose. There is truly no problem that cannot be solved with leadership.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life? 

My advice to transitioning service members is to approach the new phase of your life with humble beginnings. Everything will not be lockstep, and it is OK to find your own rhythm that enables you to walk towards a new experience and feel equally as proud. Because motivation and camaraderie were the baseline approach to battle fatigue and mental toughness, it is important to connect with new friends who share your values and are interested in your positive contributions.

If you are returning to work, focus on what exactly you would like to do and spend time translating your efforts into a business language that communicates your skill, interest and anticipated contributions to your potential employer. Research organizations that you feel connected to, and make a concentrated effort to understand their business. Most importantly, connect with individuals who are in your field and build a reliable team to help you.  

Darin Bierbaum, Skanska Construction Superintendent

Skanska Construction Superintendent Darin Bierbaum
Skanska Construction Superintendent Darin Bierbaum

City: Rockville, Maryland (D.C. region)

Branch of Service: U.S. Army Reserve

Years Served: 1995-2012 (17 years)

Final Rank: Sergeant First Class

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

Military service creates a strong work ethic. Because of our service, training, and lifestyle, we have the drive and motivation to accomplish tasks and take ownership of our actions. Along with that are the core values gained from military experience: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. All desirable traits in any employee.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Start early in creating your résumé. There are numerous ebooks and websites specifically dedicated to helping you translate your military experience into relevant traits employers look for on résumés. Also take advantage of job search engines that specifically target military veterans like RecruitMilitary.com or HelmetstoHardhats.com.

Max Brandt, The Neenan Co. Project Manager 

The Neenan Co. Project Manager Max Brandt
The Neenan Co. Project Manager Max Brandt

City: San Luis Obispo, California

Branch of Service: 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, U.S. Army

Years Served: 2012-2015 Active Duty

Final Rank: Sergeant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

The path that I took in the Army propelled me into leadership positions and forced me to find my professional voice. Part of this process included building confidence in my decision-making abilities through various leadership positions during boot camp, Advanced Individual Training, Ranger Assessment and Selection Process and eventually Ranger School. The experiences I acquired throughout my various military training programs provided an opportunity to learn about myself through interaction with others. In turn, I was able to apply this invaluable insight to become a better leader, husband and father.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

I think it is important not to be intimidated by life outside of the military. I was nervous when leaving behind my friends and the distinct military lifestyle, and I still miss the camaraderie, but you can find these same qualities in civilian life through work, athletic endeavors and new friends. I also encourage all veterans to use the educational benefits earned from service and pursue a degree, certificate or other training. The knowledge and network gained during that process will build upon the skills one learned while serving in the military and open doors for future opportunities.

Evan Altemus, Weitzman Investment Sales Associate 

Weitzman Investment Sales Associate Evan Altemus
Weitzman Investment Sales Associate Evan Altemus (right) beside fellow officer Corey Brooks

City: Dallas

Branch of Service: U.S. Navy

Years Served: 2006-2012

Final Rank: Lieutenant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My military service taught me to overcome adversity, work hard, learn how to be a leader and a follower, and the importance of mentoring and developing people.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Talk to as many different people in the civilian world as you can, be it veterans and non-veterans, and in a variety of different industries. Learn how to network properly and use any and all connections that you have to people as a way to get a first meeting or a phone call, be it alumni from your school, connections with relatives, similar backgrounds, etc.

Jermaine Smith, JLL Geospatial Strategist 

JLL Geospatial Strategist Jermaine Smith
JLL Geospatial Strategist Jermaine Smith

City: Atlanta

Branch of Service: Air Force

Years Served: 1996–2004 Active Duty

Final Rank: Staff Sergeant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?  

My years in the U. S. Air Force gave me the discipline and resilience to accomplish tough tasks while remaining calm in stressful situations.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

It’s important to keep those core values that were learned while serving and bring them with you to civilian employment. One of the best mottos we lived by during my military time was “Duty first, but people always.” Every work environment functions best with this mindset.

Alec Munoz, Suffolk Business Development Manager 

Suffolk Business Development Manager Alec Munoz
Suffolk Business Development Manager Alec Munoz

City: Boca Raton, Florida

Branch of Service: Marine Corps

Years Served: 2005-2009 Active Duty, 2009-2013 in the Active Reserves

Final Rank: Sergeant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

My time in the military instilled in me many life lessons — self-discipline, perseverance, motivation. And seeing so much of the destruction in Iraq is what motivated me to pursue my career in the construction industry. It’s given me the opportunity to take the skills I’ve learned and apply them to make a positive impact in the community.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?

Educate yourself about the resources that exist for veterans and have a plan ready to go before you transition back into civilian life. For me, it was important to get an education and find a company who appreciated the same values that I learned in the military.

Furman Wood, SK Commercial Realty Principal

SK Commercial Realty Principal Furman Wood
SK Commercial Realty principal Furman Wood

City: Atlanta

Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps Reserves

Years Served: 1986-1992

Final Rank: Sergeant

How has your military service shaped your life and career?

Pretty much every aspect of my life.

Do you have any advice for people transitioning from military to civilian life?  

If the transition is into the [commercial real estate] industry as an agent, then your threshold for pain is already high, your threshold for low wages has also been high. Those pains will likely continue for your first year or two in [commercial real estate], but with the work ethic many of our men and women in the military have developed both should be short-lived and your rise to the top will be greatly aided as a result of your military service.