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Origin Stories: How RiseBoro CEO Scott Short's Passion To Reduce Inequality Led Him To Real Estate

This series delves into the myriad ways people enter the commercial real estate industry and what contributes to their success.

When RiseBoro CEO Scott Short first got out of college, he wanted to be a food writer. But his passion for equality and perpetual optimism guided his journey from his first job at media giant Condé Nast to the one he has today as the leader of a community partnership nonprofit that owns and builds thousands of units of affordable housing in New York City. 

RiseBoro CEO Scott Short, his children and nephew

Bisnow: How did you get introduced to CRE?

Short: Through working on affordable housing projects for RiseBoro. I was attracted to the organization as an entity that really understood building community from the ground up, and using real estate as a means to improving people’s lives and reversing inequities.

Bisnow: What was your first job in CRE? 

Short: I was hired by RiseBoro as a project manager for affordable housing rehabilitation projects in 2002. NYC was undertaking a complete transfer of its “in rem” housing stock to private ownership and providing funds for rehabilitation through various programs. Many of these buildings were located in Bushwick, and RiseBoro was the local nonprofit that was leading the transfer and rehab efforts. 

Bisnow: What kind of education, certification or official training do you have in CRE? How critical was it to landing your first big role? 

Short: Most of my education has been on-the-job learning. Over the years I have taken various certification courses in affordable housing finance, property management and underwriting principles, but my most important education has been working the deals and learning through experience.

Bisnow: What is one skill you wish you had coming into CRE? 

Short: I had a pretty basic understanding of Excel when I first started, and I quickly learned that a more advanced understanding would be critical to my success. I was able to build those skills on the job, but were I to do it again I would have developed those skills even further.

Riseboro CEO Scott Short handing out food at RiseBoro's food pantry in Brooklyn

Bisnow: What were you doing before you got into CRE? 

Short: Coming out of college I had dreams of being a food writer. I was able to get a position at Condé Nast publications, but I quickly learned that most of the real writing gets done by freelancers. I didn’t have the financial wherewithal to pursue a freelance career, so that led me down the path that ultimately landed me with RiseBoro and affordable housing.

Bisnow: Did you bring anything with you from your past career that has helped you thrive in CRE, or, on the flip side, anything you had to unlearn in order to succeed here? 

Short: Being a persuasive writer is an important skill at almost any job, and I was able to hone my writing skills during my time at Condé Nast. 

Bisnow: Can you remember a moment where you felt in over your head or you worried this industry wasn't for you? Did you ever think of quitting? What changed? 

Short: I certainly felt overwhelmed at times, but I never considered quitting. I have a developer's natural propensity for optimism, believing that the next project will make the world a better place, and that gives me an ability to persevere when things get hairy. 

Bisnow: What were your early impressions of the industry, good and bad? How has your impression changed? 

Short: I have always been excited by the affordable housing industry. It brings together such a diverse mix of players, from government to nonprofits to banks to institutional investors to developers. Every day brings a new challenge and no two deals are the same. On top of the excitement of the work, we're meeting a critical public need through these projects and that's what has kept me in it so long.

Riseboro CEO Scott Short with his two children

Bisnow: Have you had a mentor or sponsor? How did that person shape your future in CRE? 

Short: Angela Battaglia was my boss for my first 15 years at RiseBoro, and now she’s on my board. She taught me so much, not only about affordable housing, but also about leadership, organizing and relationship-building. She helped me achieve a long-term perspective that was lacking in my younger self.

Bisnow: What is a key lesson someone taught you, either kindly or the hard way?

Short: It’s a cliché, but relationships are paramount. Trust is the most important element to getting anything done collaboratively, and you have to be focused on building and cultivating trust with every interaction.

Bisnow: What do you warn people about when they join the industry?

Short: Even in New York City, real estate is a small world and your reputation will follow you. Act with integrity. 

Bisnow: If you could do your career all over again, what would you change?

Short: I’d love to be able to find time to do more writing. Hopefully that time will come.

Related Topics: Scott Short, Origin Stories, RiseBoro