When Was The Last Time You Reskilled?
Commercial real estate is changing in real time. While no one can say for certain how new technology, evolving business structures, climate change and other factors will impact CRE 10 years from now, companies across all industries are struggling with strategies to reskill workers to be future-ready.
On top of whatever reskilling support, education or training a company might offer, responsibility also lies with employees to look ahead in order to stay ahead, especially in rapidly transforming industries like brokerage.
Ed Nwokedi, a tech entrepreneur who spent 19 years in the brokerage capital markets industry — with 16 of those years as a division leader at Cushman & Wakefield — said he had an opportunity during his brokerage career to step back and take the long view. What he saw was increased consolidation, less demand for active thinking and more demand for paperwork and data entry; combined with new fee structures and team-based sales models that led to a decline in compensation. He didn’t like it.
He decided it was time to reskill on his own. He started examining industry trends and strategizing next steps, and explored ideas inside his company for introducing new auction platform technology. Then, a fellow broker and his now business partner introduced him to blockchain, which the real estate industry is watching closely for its ability to bring liquidity to transactions while removing third parties, making transactions more secure.
After a couple of years with a foot in both worlds, Nwokedi transitioned entirely to working in blockchain for real estate. Now, his startup Redswan, based in Houston, is registered with the Federal Communications Commission, manages a growing number of assets and actively sells tokens. Being at the forefront of the industry is exciting, he said, and it means he can do more, with less competition. Three of the eight people on his immediate team pivoted from careers in real estate.
SelectLeaders sat down with Nwokedi to talk about staying in front of the pack, whether that means striking out on your own or reskilling within your current company.
Technology Is Your Friend — Get To Know It
Nwokedi worries that increased competition and changes in fee structure are already beginning to have an impact on brokers' jobs.
“Better than sitting there watching your income wither away as things slow down around you, people can start reading about tech,” he said.
The curious could start by digging into artificial intelligence, blockchain, and PropTech platforms and tools that are gradually becoming integrated into everyday processes across commercial real estate.
"People who look at how we can leverage tech in real estate are going to be more valuable down the road," Nwokedi said. “Start looking at technology as a friend and start reading up on it."
Look Ahead To Find Your Niche
Not everyone is ready to jump into robots and cryptocurrency, but technology isn’t the only way to reskill. Brokers can also examine what industries or asset classes are projected to have the most viability over the next 10 years, Nwokedi said, and start becoming a specialist in a new niche.
For example, Nwokedi points to the market of senior housing and independent living facilities as a niche worthy of a closer look. Baby boomers are currently the wealthiest generation and as they age, their housing needs are a growing market in flux, creating new opportunities for brokers looking to specialize or pivot.
Similarly, student housing is another promising niche with a lot of momentum that may be worth considering for brokers who want to specialize, he said. "Looking at markets with a longer shelf life is a way you can elongate your career."
If You Don’t Love Your Job, It’s Time To Change It Up
Some people are born entrepreneurs, some aren’t, Nwokedi said, but if more people moved in the direction of doing what they love doing, and put more time into becoming an expert because it’s something they really enjoy, their careers would become more sustainable as a result.
"Those who are doing it for the paycheck are always going to be eliminated faster, because if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’re not happy, and if you’re not happy, you won’t be doing your best work," Nwokedi said. "What drives me is my happiness and my excitement for what I’m doing."
CORRECTION, MAR. 4, 1.30 P.M. ET. A previous version of the story stated Redswan was registered with the Federal Communications Commission, rather than the Securities and Exchange Commission.