For the second year running, BOMA International asked its members to nominate the "rising stars" of commercial real estate. Despite only working in the industry for a few years, the four emerging professionals recognized here all demonstrate exceptional drive, dedication and the potential to shape the future of commercial real estate.
When Shell Kirk entered the job market in 2016, she originally wanted to pursue a career in science. She had pictured herself in a laboratory doing testing, but, instead, she happened upon an opportunity as a tenant service coordinator for Transwestern. In this role, Kirk works closely with the rest of the property team at One Century Place in Nashville, Tennessee, to keep the tenants of the suburban office building happy. She loves working closely with people, something she likely would not have had the opportunity to do as a researcher.
In fact, her research skills and her love of science have often proven useful in her position. In particular, Kirk finds the inner workings of the building fascinating. "Buildings are almost like organisms," she says. "They live, they breathe and learning how every part works together is fascinating."
Her ambition and eagerness to take on new projects have been quickly recognized, which has led to her proudest accomplishment in her career: overseeing an upgrade of the building security system during a recent building renovation, from research to contract negotiation to hardware installation.
Transwestern has supported Kirk’s BOMA/Nashville membership, which has offered a wealth of networking and learning experiences. "Being a BOMA member has allowed me to experience so many different parts of this industry," she notes. It’s been a perfect fit for her endless curiosity and willingness to learn.
Kirk’s near-term goal is to grow her property management skill set. Longer term, she is thinking globally: "Before I retire, I want to manage at least two separate buildings in separate countries. I think, with more collaboration across cultures, we can all improve our strategies. We just have to open ourselves up to those experiences."
Before breaking into the commercial real estate industry, Jennifer Bartolomei worked with construction and electrical contractors in residential real estate. But, it was the energy of the commercial real estate market in the Bay Area of California that drew her in. "This market has such a wide variety of properties and clients, which makes for an atmosphere that I find really energizing," says Bartolomei, assistant property experience (PX) manager with Next Play Consulting. "The more you put into this job, the more you’ll get out of it."
Her job title is almost as new to the industry as Bartolomei is; a hyperfocus on the tenant "experience" is a hot trend within commercial real estate. In her position, she pays careful attention to everything that impacts the occupants of the BOMA 360-designated Stoneridge Corporate Plaza and ensures nothing has been overlooked. While some might find the hectic nature of the day-to-day of the job overwhelming, Bartolomei finds it exhilarating: "I love that I’m not behind a desk doing the same thing day in and day out."
Bartolomei joined BOMA/Oakland-East Bay, her BOMA local association, a little over a year ago, which has helped her broaden her understanding of how the industry works. She served on its events committee in 2018, and now serves on the local association’s education work group.
She hopes to apply her unique focus and background to a future position as a general property manager. A natural generalist, her broad background has helped evolve her approach to her work—allowing her to find new, creative solutions and make tough decisions. "One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in property management is to accept the fact that things are not always black and white," Bartolomei says. "In order to be successful, you have to accept the gray."
Tyler Kethcart began his career with JLL in accounting, but it didn’t feel like quite the right fit. As he learned more about the property management side of the company from his colleagues, he decided to make a switch. Since then, he’s been promoted to general manager of 303 East Wacker, a nearly one million-square-foot office building in Chicago, and he’s never looked back.
He particularly loves the fast-paced, collaborative nature of his new career path. "As property managers, we are constantly facing new challenges and meeting new people. That’s what keeps the job exciting," he says. "When people ask me what I do at my job, I ask them, ‘How much time do you have?’"
Though he’s much happier in his new position, Kethcart finds that he often relies on his accounting background to drive value at his building. For example, his work on a recent retrofit lighting project for 303 East Wacker resulted in annual savings of $177,000.
Kethcart believes it’s important to be able to share what he’s learned from his time in the industry with others, especially his fellow emerging professionals. In fact, he has been instrumental in creating professional development programs for JLL property administrators and tenant service coordinators.
He joined BOMA/Chicago in 2017 and quickly took a particular interest in the local association’s education committee. From brown-bag lunch events to large social functions, he found BOMA to be the ideal atmosphere for learning from his peers. "Commercial real estate is a people business. What BOMA does is bring people together," he notes. "Too often, we become bogged down in the details of the job, and BOMA gives us the chance to get out of our bubbles and meet each other and share our experiences." Kethcart’s involvement with his BOMA local association has not gone unnoticed: Earlier this year, he also was named BOMA/Chicago’s 2019 Emerging Leader of the Year.
Amanda Davis has worn many hats in her relatively short career. She cut her teeth working with a real estate investment trust (REIT) on a wide variety of property types all over Florida before making the switch to CBRE and commercial property management. Davis now manages office and industrial properties in the Jacksonville, Florida, area.
Davis cites managing the Jessie Ball duPont Center, a $25 million project funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Foundation, as one of her favorite parts of her job. Originally a library built in the 1960s, the building opened in 2015 and underwent a sweeping renovation. She has watched it flourish as a premier office space that houses nearly 20 nonprofits at reduced rental rates. Davis and her team have implemented a suite of state-of-the-art amenities in the building, including a robust Wi-Fi network and conference space with built-in video conferencing capabilities. "This project has been a real crash course in construction and renovation," explains Davis. "Seeing this highly complex building run like a well-oiled machine is incredibly gratifying."
Her love of new challenges is clear in her BOMA involvement as well. Davis credits her management at CBRE for encouraging her to join BOMA/Jacksonville, where she quickly took on a leadership role. She initially volunteered for the social committee, and just one year after joining, she was asked to join the board of directors. She now is serving her second year as president of BOMA/Jacksonville: "It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been a great learning experience, too," she says.
When asked what advice she would give to other emerging professionals considering a career in the industry, she replies, "If you like to be challenged, if you like variety in your work, if you like seeing direct results from your efforts, commercial real estate is for you."
This article was originally published in the March/April 2019 issue of BOMA Magazine.