Origin Stories: Bedrock Real Estate Investors Founder Sonya Rocvil's Pivot From Finance To CRE
This series delves into the myriad ways people enter the commercial real estate industry and what contributes to their success.
With a background in finance and real estate all around her, Bedrock Real Estate Investors founder Sonya Rocvil was curious about what a career in commercial real estate would look like.
She joined the Real Estate Associate Program, also called Project REAP, and dove into multifamily investment sales. Now, she owns her own investment company and only wishes she had gotten into real estate sooner.
Bisnow: How did you get introduced to CRE?
Rocvil: Living in a dense city like New York, you are constantly surrounded by real estate. I started to have a fascination with real estate and began reading books on commercial real estate. I had an opportunity to pivot from my day job in finance. I joined REIA NYC, was accepted into Project REAP (a commercial real estate program) and joined a multifamily investment group. I started passively investing at first and then joint ventured to syndicate multifamily apartment deals.
Bisnow: What was your first job in CRE?
Rocvil: I decided to start my own company and joint venture with others to invest in multifamily assets. In our first deal, we purchased a 48-unit apartment building in Georgia. We brought on third-party property management and became operators and asset managers of the building.
Bisnow: What kind of education, certification or official training do you have in CRE? How critical was it to landing your first big role?
Rocvil: The training I received in commercial real estate from my multifamily investment group and Project REAP provided me with hands-on experience and mentorship.
My background in accounting has been critical in helping me understand property financial statements, analyze deals and manage the deals after acquisition.
Bisnow: What is one skill you wish you had coming into CRE?
Rocvil: Developing and cultivating a strong network is very important in commercial real estate, especially when you are a smaller firm. I continue to develop this skill every day.
Bisnow: What were you doing before you got into CRE? If you changed careers, 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?
Rocvil: CRE is a second career for me. After undergrad, I started my career in audit at a public accounting firm and then transitioned to a financial services company where I spent most of my career. When the group I was a part of was restructured, it presented a unique opportunity to change my career path and trajectory. My corporate career gave me a lot of preparation from a financial perspective. However, I have a passion for CRE. It is an industry where you can make a true impact on people and really create value for residents, communities and investors.
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 about quitting? What changed?
Rocvil: There are always challenges. A good friend of mine has always said real estate is about solving problems. It is also about building a great network of people who you can work with along the way to help think through challenges. While there can be overwhelming circumstances, you have to work through it, identify an optimal solution and execute.
Bisnow: What were your early impressions of the industry, good and bad? How has your impression changed?
Rocvil: I was surprised that many people, including myself initially, do not know much about the CRE industry, and yet it touches every aspect of people’s lives. Real estate is in everything we do and that is what makes it fascinating.
Bisnow: Have you had a mentor or sponsor? How did that person shape your future in CRE?
Rocvil: I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with many people who have been great supporters and champions along the way. I appreciate the advice and the lessons I have learned. Also being in groups like the Council of Urban Real Estate have helped me grow as a professional in this industry.
Bisnow: What is a key lesson someone taught you, either kindly or the hard way?
Rocvil: Understand the value that you bring and work with people who appreciate your value.
Bisnow: What do you warn people about when they join the industry?
Rocvil: CRE is more of a marathon [than] a sprint. It requires endurance and tenacity.
Bisnow: If you could do your career all over again, what would you change?
Rocvil: I would have started in the industry earlier!