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 with Dien Nguyen, leasing representative at Brixmor (NYSE: BRX).
How did you find your job at Brixmor?
A year and half ago, I was attending Georgia State University and going through the master's program for real estate. The GSU real estate department is really nice, and they've got a lot of great connections, including with Brixmor. I started out in the leasing development program, which was a newer position at the time, and it prepped me for a promotion to a leasing representative where I am now.
What do you do at Brixmor?
As a leasing representative, I'm primarily responsible for connecting with new tenants, conducting new leases, lease maintenance--which involves amendments and possibly sales of businesses that could happen--as well as lease renewals or terminations towards the end of the leases.
The role primarily circles around canvassing, understanding your market thoroughly, and taking a holistic view of the shopping center or centers that you own. Translating that - one of our models here at the company is that you act like an owner for the properties you look after.
Did you have much exposure to commercial real estate before you started working at Brixmor?
I always knew that I liked real estate. I did a big leap from the military to the civilian world. I honestly thought that I was going to be doing residential real estate for a bit before doing commercial. I did not have a lot of exposure to real estate and that's why I wanted to do the master's program at Georgia State. That gave me the exposure that I really needed, and luckily through that I also landed a job, which was amazing.
What would you tell someone who is considering a role in commercial real estate or specifically a REIT?
A REIT provides a good basis for knowledge and growth. You could go to a smaller boutique institution and do things the way they do it, but REITs are usually established. They're more structured and they also provide assistance to their newer employees. I love the fact that I was onboarded with everything that I needed to know.
For me, it was an easy choice [to work at a REIT]. I came from a very structured environment - the military - so, for me, when I transitioned from the military to a REIT, it felt less structured to me compared with my previous experience. If you want to know how things are done and done, right, I think that's a key reason to be working at a REIT.
Do you have any advice for people looking to make that leap? To make a complete career switch into the commercial real estate world when they don't really have much of a background?
For someone who's looking to make a career change without any specific experience, I think you can still do it. Commercial real estate in general encompasses many sectors and job types - financing, acquisition, disposition, leasing, property management construction or even administration - so it's a wide field, with an array of jobs that you can do in commercial real estate.
Whatever field that you're in now, I think there is likely some relation to commercial real estate and possibly a space for you, you just need to go out and find it. It may not be a perfect or smooth transition - I made a complete change in career and went back to school - but as long as you think real estate is a passion and it's for you, I think you'll find that there is a right spot for you in this industry.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who is looking for a job like yours right now?
I know that it's a tough market. Jobs are in and out and people are moving all over the place. But I think for those that are looking, you want to stay optimistic and flexible and recognize that you may not land at your dream job right away. I think that as long as you start somewhere near the field that you're interested in, put in your time, and work really hard the right position will come to you slowly, but surely.
What's a challenging situation that you faced during your time at Brixmor, and how did you overcome it?
I started at Brixmor in September of 2019, and about six months later, COVID hit, which was a tough time for everybody. For me, the toughest thing was listening to our struggling business owners and tenants who had no sales or had to close down, for weeks on end, due to safety concerns. Luckily, as a REIT, we had plans in place. We had deferment plans, and we had forbearance options to offer our tenants. It was still a tough time for everybody--from collections, to property management, to leasing.
Fortunately, things started to get a little better, because some of our tenants like grocery stores, the pizza delivery or the fast takeout, did better than before. But again, the hardest thing was working with our struggling tenants.
The bottom line is that COVID really taught me how to become a better listener and a better problem solver. I'm starting to see positive activity and momentum pickup as we speak, which is great.