The first 10 years of my career were both blessing and curse. A blessing because I had the opportunity to work with truly talented people around me in just about every position. Even those that were complete PIAs had skills that are top 2%. A curse because for a long time I thought that I was in a common organization. When all of your experiences involve talented people, it’s easy to believe talented people are everywhere.
Slowly I came to realize that talent is a rare and difficult thing to find. The group that had been gathered slowly began to disband and change. New people came in that couldn’t live up to the history. I had more experiences with other companies that didn’t have the same talent. I came to reposition the talent that I had seen around me as a truly special occurrence.
Data analytics is a particular skill that was all around me. I was surrounded by many that could look at numbers and instinctively see patterns and know if there were issues. Excel ability was table stakes, most could go several tools deeper as needed. I remember one fun week several of us spent debating the validity of introducing simulations into our standard analytics packages.
Over the past years, I have come to understand how hard data analytics is to most people. Looking at numbers and seeing anything but a wall of numbers is a skill that few have. Even those that can look at numbers and see an opportunity for analysis struggle to come up with the right framework for presenting those results. Knowing how to craft numbers into a story is real trouble.
This all may seem obvious and intuitive to you but my point is that this was a blindspot to me because my experience was skewed in a certain direction. What are your blindspots because of your background? We all have them.
I’ve been managing for a couple, three years now. It always surprises me to find myself in this position. But it is fascinating to watch myself in it.
My biggest question in one-on-ones is always “where do you see yourself in 2 years.” I’m sure people get sick of hearing me ask it but I cannot stress to them how important I think this question is. Two years is always right around the corner. It’s far enough in the future that you have to plan for it but not so far that it cannot still sneak up on you.
I believe in working with A+ performers. I want everyone to be at the top of their particular game. The stronger my colleagues, the stronger the business. Strong teams raise all ships. The single biggest difference between a B performer and an A performer is that the A is working toward something that forces them to grow. B’s are usually really good at the job in front of them but not striving for something bigger.
Businesses and groups built around A performers are constantly changing and growing. They challenge themselves and others and compete by not racing to the bottom. Businesses built around B’s are really good today but their long term prospects will mainly be about simply doing what they do today a little bit better – aka racing to the bottom.
So where do you want to be in 2 years? What new experiences do you need to get there? What kind of people do you need to know to get there? What new skills do you need to acquire? Do you have weaknesses that you need to work on to get there? If you don’t know, stop and think about it. Take a walk while contemplating it. Then think about it again tomorrow….and the next day….and the day after that.
As you may have noticed I haven’t been very good with getting posts out this year yet. It’s been weird because it hasn’t been writer’s block that has kept me from it, it’s been in part that my current perspective doesn’t match what I’ve written about for years. I’ve been focused on things outside of my normal.
Here’s what’s fascinating to me – the more I’ve focused on other things and gotten to understand them deeply, the more those things suddenly fit in with everything else I knew. It is like taking different pre-req classes in college that have nothing to do with each other and then 3 semesters later the topics magically merge and what you thought was disparate knowledge suddenly lines up perfectly.
It’s not that my perspective on things has actually changed it’s that I’m becoming better at new skills that I once thought were independent. As I learn to manage I figure out new aspects of UI/UX for software. As I learn to navigate corporate politics (or as I am more likely to do – understand but avoid corporate politics) I discover new reasoning behind how clients view our services. As I discover more management types above me I better understand the fragmented nature of some of what we do.
I’m not going to fall back on the cliche that life is a giant puzzle with the pieces waiting to come together. But I am rediscovering that the way we individually experience the world builds upon past experience and knowledge. There is no such thing as independent experiences because the past always influences the future. There is no way of compartmentalizing what’s going on in life.
This is the primary reason why business and personal are the same and why work/life balance is important. Without one you can’t have the other and the fact that both exist impacts behavior within each. Perspectives never really change, just the eyes that are experiencing.
Most CRE technology that I encounter is awful: It is used wrong, the UI/UX doesn’t match what the user wants, the data is right. None of this means that the technology itself is bad. I have dealt with AMAZING tools that simply don’t work because they don’t understand the customer they are trying to reach. Brokers, VP of real estate, Transaction Managers, Lease Administrators, CFOs, consultants and entrepreneurs all want something different and unique which changes still again depending on if they are working for a small/medium/large/Fortune 500 business.
The tools that work most often are either one-off fit-for-purpose applications or home-grown Excel spreadsheets. Think about that – there are no truly successful CRE Enterprise applications. Sure, some will point to Tririga or Manhattan or Archibus or Accruent or FM Systems but I have yet to encounter a complete and fully operational implementation. Often I see Tririga paired with two or three one-off applications. Or teams using Excel instead because it is easier. Or data in Archibus that no one is actually accountable for keeping accurate. Or Workplace systems that track heads/seats that aren’t actually connected to the hiring process.
Typically this is caused by the fact that the CRE industry as a whole is fairly isolated from the rest of the business world. What we do is very different than what others do. The people that get into CRE follow very different paths than those in other functions. This difference is surprisingly large if you haven’t experienced it directly. You can’t take prior experience outside of CRE and expect it to be applicable here.
Think back to how software was built in the 90s – this is how you need to be building software for CRE today. You cannot treat it like an advanced application where there is background and shared knowledge and a shared mentality. No company handles real estate the same as another. No CRE lead approaches it the same as another. The budgets you are dealing with are miniscule. It’s a different world.
Don’t treat it like anything else you’ve dealt with.
Writing some last week caused me to realize that I’ve been out of school for a decade. I now have 10 years of post-graduation experience. This doesn’t seem right. Inside I still feel like its only been 5 years.
This isn’t some magical milestone though. Experience starts before graduation and sometimes as far back as high school but a decade since receiving a diploma feels like a good way of at least marking time.
My career to date owes a lot to a lot of people. Hopefully you all know who you are and what you’ve done for me. Whether you were around for a month or a year or longer. Just like everyone I’m a product of those that I have worked with – whether I adopted your processes or learned from watching your experiences. Thanks.
I will also say I’ve had the very good fortune of being part of the Mentor Jackets program at Georgia Tech and have been able to pay back some of the good fortune I’ve received. What I’ve been able to give back is also thanks to all of that experience.
This is a small world and karma is real. I’ll definitely be holding this in mind as I jump into today and tomorrow. Hopefully everyone else does as well!
I was walking through a vendor’s site today when it suddenly hit me that I have been doing consulting and technology for far longer than I ever did facility design and construction. It was a bit odd because for so long I defined myself as an Industrial Engineer who could walk into a facility and know how the building itself worked. I could understand intuitively all the aspects of how building and workers met.
But now I’m far more focused on technology development and data analysis. I still have that original background but I have moved so far afield from my original focus as to be slightly comical. I still chuckle in my head every time I’m with our head of Project Management because that’s where I started before having a personal realization that it just wasn’t for me.
The moral of this thought is that we all change over time – often without even realizing it. Change happens whether we seek it out or not and 8 years down the road something will alert you to the fact that what you do now is not anything like what you thought you’d be doing.
Just something to reflect on.
Today I hit 8 years with NGKF. As a member of Gen Y this fact shocks many that I come across (and often myself). They either think I’m older than I am or they don’t believe that I’ve been here as long as I have.
I’ve had many hats and imagine that I’ll wear many more which has certainly made being at one company easier to handle. It’s also been easier due to the culture and people that are here. Staying around is not hard when you have challenging, useful, important work that you do with talented, amazing people.
12, 18 or 25 years at the same company doesn’t concern me for some reason. Longevity is a side effect – not a goal. Longevity is surprisingly easy for people when their company gives them fulfilling work and a culture that gives them more than just a job to work on. Everyone has different reasons to stay but everyone has reasons. Rarely does anyone leave just because a clock runs out.
Here’s to the future. Longevity is the same as it’s always been. Loyalty is the same as it’s always been. Both are earned by all parties with nothing simply given. I’m thankful to have been given both and that I’ve in turn been able to give both.