06/24/2021 | by

Nareit’s REITalent series shines a spotlight on talent in the REIT industry, highlighting various roles within Nareit member companies and the unique career paths individuals have taken.  

Nareit recently spoke Avani Katta, senior financial analyst at JBG SMITH (NYSE: JBGS). Find current job opportunities available with JBG SMITH . 

How did you find your job at JBG SMITH?

A friend sent me a couple of job postings for JBG SMITH's analyst positions. Through the Real Estate Club at the University of Maryland, I had been fortunate enough to go on a site tour with JBG SMITH so I sent an email to an analyst I met there asking if he could connect me to anyone on those teams for me to learn more. Fortunately, he was willing to help out and ended connecting me with my current boss. Eventually, we interviewed and it was a good fit and I’ve been here since.

What does a Senior Financial Analyst do at JBG SMITH? 

Avani Katta senior financial analyst at JBG SMITH
Avani Katta, senior financial analyst at  JBG SMITH

On a high level, a Senior Financial Analyst will prepare financial forecasts and perform cashflow analyses. A lot of this is to help with the Senior Management's decisions on our capital allocation strategy and to help push the company in the right trajectory as it relates to strategy.

Day-to-day, I'm responsible for our land and vertical development portfolio. I also assist on assessing our company's internal evaluation and I'm now helping out on our multi-family portfolio While it’s a very quantitative job, , our company also has a very flat organization so I'm also able to present a lot of my work and sit in meetings with the senior executives.

What advice would you give to someone who's looking for a job like yours right now?

Definitely make sure that the company is a good fit for you as much as they're looking to see if you're a good fit for them. You want to make sure that the role fits your professional goals, your preferred style of management, and the work-life balance that you desire.

I would also advise anyone to ask the people that they're interviewing with how their company has treated their employees throughout the pandemic. I think that really says a lot about a company's culture.

Why do you think someone should look for a role in commercial real estate, or more specifically, a REIT?

There are a lot of paths you can take within commercial real estate, and there’s such a wide array of asset classes. Whether you want a qualitative or quantitative role, you can find it. Real estate is a little more creative than a typical finance role. When you're looking at investing in something, you can picture it, you can visit it, and I think that's really interesting.

REITs especially are a good place to work because you get the benefit of understanding how both the public and private markets intersect with real estate, and I think that's really valuable.

What would you say to someone who's looking to make a career change into commercial real estate, but maybe doesn't have experience in it?

Reach out to different professionals within the industry and ask them to grab coffee or just chat for a few minutes. Since there are a lot of different paths you can take, talking to people can help you narrow it down.

I would also say, as it relates to technical skills, it can all be self-taught. So, for example, if you're interested in doing investing, you could try building an Excel model of where you live from an investor's perspective. If you're looking at development, you could read up on the development and construction management process and see what the process would be to build where you live. I think those are all good ways to build the technical skills.

Excel, YouTube and real estate blogs were all very helpful to me, and I think anyone would benefit from them.

What is a challenging situation that you've faced during your time at JBG SMITH, and how did you overcome it?

For me, starting a job within the real estate industry—coming from a state school and also being a woman of color—I definitely struggled with imposter syndrome. It was really hard for me to adapt to working full-time in a fast-paced environment and develop a whole new range of skills while also feeling like I didn't fit in.

COVID also made it tough because as soon as I felt like I was getting my two feet on the ground with understanding my normal responsibilities, I was thrown for a loop—as was everyone—having to pivot to different work as we reacted to the pandemic.

I’m not completely over that, but I think shifting my mindset has helped a lot and helped build my confidence. I'm also really grateful to have good bosses who empower me to ask questions and provide the support that I need.

What do you see as your greatest accomplishment to date?

I wouldn't say that there's a particular thing that I've done that comes to mind, but I'm really proud to have a job that I like and that challenges me to grow every day. I feel like, since my childhood, there was always a lot of pressure and stress to study hard, to get into college, and then, once you get into the college, to find a prestigious job and figure out exactly what you want to do with your life Now I'm in a place where I'm content with the work and the hours that I've put into getting where I am today, and that's something that makes me feel really happy.

What do you think senior executives could learn from people who are starting out in their careers?

I would say remembering that a lot of young professionals have a strong willingness to learn and can probably adapt to a lot more than they would expect or think. Additionally, as the world becomes more globalized, I would challenge senior executives to seek out diversity in thought and perspective. It's definitely easy to get comfortable and cling to similar beliefs and thoughts that are like yours, but I think there's a lot of added value in different perspectives.

Please note: this interview has been edited for clarity.

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