Our panel, who dialled in from various corners of the globe were invited to elaborate on their personal career journeys. With our guests, we delved into discussing the transferable skill sets, diversity, advice for those curious in making the move, and WHY to join this emerging and exciting sector in the present day has never been a better time. The opportunity for talent is huge right now to connect the traditional real estate with technology as the community is doing ground-breaking things.
There are so many different areas that make up Proptech, or the built environment innovation is perhaps the better way to describe it as it covers so many different verticals such as hospitality, commercial-tech, resi-tech, sustainability, energy, clean-tech, contech which is a hugely growing sector this year and many more.
The event was co-hosted with Rewomen, a non-profit set up in 2012 with the aim to tackle gender diversity and inclusion challenge within real estate, which is still a challenge 9 years on as the team continue to do their amazing work. The partnership between LMRE & ReWomen is an opportunity to help bridge the gap between property and Proptech which is so siloed and been highlighted more so during the pandemic where job security is changing. The partnership aims to bring opportunities for women and people who are looking to pivot or are actively looking to move into the sector.
Helen Lam joined us from Singapore. She is currently Head of innovation at Lendlease Asia. She has 19 years’ experience in property development and management across urban regeneration projects across Australia and Asia but prior to that she has worked in both law AND medicine!
Hannah Prideaux brings 13+ years of real estate advisory, transactional, start-up, operational and venture capital experience. She is a Chartered Surveyor by trade and specialised in commercial valuations at Savills, before joining PwC. In 2017, she moved into Proptech and joined a B2B2C residential platform, before joining a tenant engagement platform. There, she created the business development team, before moving to VC.
Zander Geronimos, based in the US is currently Head of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development for MetaProp which is a leading VC with 100+ Proptech investments globally. Prior to that he was a Senior Solutions Engineer for VTS. His efforts supported the growth of VTS from a startup to a market leader, as the company became the #1 technology platform in leasing and asset management.
Teresa Lee is the VP of Strategic Engagement at Round Hill Venture BC, in her role she focuses on driving innovation in LPs and connecting them with portfolio companies. Prior to joining RHV, Teresa led London operations at a unicorn hospitality Proptech. She also has prior experience as a strategy consultant at the Boston Consulting Group as well as a real estate advisory firm.
Hannah has had more of a traditional real estate background working as a chartered surveyor and also spending time at bigger, established corporate giants Savills & PWC before making the leap to a resi-tech platform. She was initially hesitant to make the jump to ultimately risk losing the brand & credibility from working at a bigger corporate but nowadays, in 2021 the market is very different and it’s a natural step to go and work for a start-up. She mentions it was the right decision to take the unknown leap!
Zander certainly took an interesting route which took a lot of different turns, but pointed out as you navigate your career, despite many people having a linear vision of what they think theirs should look like, its often just seeing where the journey takes you. He talked about picking out people who can guide you, identify those who you can listen to and speak with to help direct you when it comes to your career and making good choices. You have to weigh up your risks, don’t be scared to take them but think it through. It was in a parking lothe has his eureka moment back in 2015, he asked “what if real estate and technology existed together, what would that look like, is that a career?” He joined from finance to real estate then into technology in the hunt for something that was fostering the transformation of the industry.
Teresa had a more logical view on her career path. She mentioned she didn’t take a huge risk but took a more calculated approach. What she did think about was with every step she took “does my story make sense?”, always looking at her background and checking the arch of the story in her career to ensure her next job made sense. When you look at moving and pivoting in your career, always be looking to see ‘does the next step make sense for the step after that?’ Think 2 steps in advance, then the next step will be a steppingstone. It’s about making smart news, and taking calculated risks.
Helen has perhaps had the most unique path into Proptech from law, to medicine, then finally a more traditional real estate position at Lendlease. She talks about how over the last 20 years, she has chased her passion – which is real estate. She is interested in buildings and the built environment which she likens to the pyramids of modern future, it’s the city around us that we are building.
From starting in construction law, looking at the innovations around how to get more productive, efficient and ultimately improving safety in the way we work to then becoming an asset manager, where she had questions around the ways data is stored within the platforms that everyone had adopted, she wanted to create a better way of communication between the way they interacted. Then, in more recent years Proptech popped up, which has been innovating a technology ecosystem ever since, helping things work smarter and better which is making far more sense!
Hannah talks about constantly learning as you go, it’s about steppingstones rather than the direct route when it comes to thinking about your career. Something that she didn’t appreciate at the time was how much you learn in big corporate institutions, both hard skills and soft skills. But especially how to communicate, how to create a business plan, how to put documents together, looking at strategy. When it comes to joining an early-stage start-up company, throw yourself in the deep end and learn as quick as you can, you will make mistakes and that’s fine, that’s how you learn. She landed in an operations role, which isn’t something she had done before but picked up easily due to the skills she had gained in the past from initial start up and 10 years institutional experience.
Zander cameover from his solutions engineer position, to a business strategy role at a VC. He recommends diving deep and asking a lot of questions, spending time with different teams and finding out how products work from marketing, data, strategy, finance- the lot! Taking that wide lens view at a start up to then working at a VC has helped the communication and empathy hugely during his experiences.
Teresa mentioned that coming over from a start-up, which is very often so short for resource to then working for a VC has been great to bridge the gap in understanding where people are coming from, being able to change your hat and see both sides of the coin is truly valuable.
Helen has done a lot for the space when it comes to diversity and inclusion, she mentions there is still so much more we can do. A lot of things that still need to happen such as campaigns and quotas, training, address the pay gap, mentorships, awareness of unconscious bias to name a few. Something that is key for the developing sector is clear mentorships and leaderships in the industry, by having men and women who have pushed their own agendas in various fields will help pave the way for those that are following. The British Business Bank Council found that amongst start-ups, women founders are getting less money and less networking opportunities and the lack of women in leadership is still prevalent, there is less then 4-5%. The gap not closing fast enough.
Zander who has also been an advocate in this space for D&I says a more conscious choice needs to be made which is initiated with an open dialogue amongst all those involved. We all need to be proactive in our choices, and by having a conversation to make sure everyone has a seat at the table. The world of real estate is opening up, Proptech is that opening for people to join the sector and feel welcomed. Anyone can join a Proptech, its encouraged, its far more proactive then real estate.
Teresa talks about how she initially didn’t feel like she could succeed within real estate due to being female. Real estate and tech tends to be more male dominated and we have seen a lot of clients are now working on their company culture, with the aim on making it a balanced space. It’s about going where you see female leaders right now and questioning to break the glass ceiling or instead to follow the footsteps of those who have already pushed it a little bit already and make an impact that way. When it comes to companies thinking more diversly in the hiring stage, 6 out 10 candidates should be female to push it up, it is fair no, but we are trying to make it equal which are 2 different things. We can’t be fair if you are trying to make things equal at a larger scale.
Hannah’s top advice is to look at who is in the space at the moment, who has raised a lot, who are the younger versions, what do their teams look like, who has the better tech even though they are younger than the bigger tech companies? Approach people directly, have conversations, speak to people in the industry to understand the direction you want to take.
And for those grads studying their RICS, look at the whole PropTech arena, and then deep dive into what you are interested in. Look at which area of your grad scheme interested you, then follow it.
Helen’s top advice when it comes to getting your foot in the door is all about having passion and a plan. It’s a great time for people who want to learn and innovate and drive change. If you have talent and the passion to make a change, the world is your oyster as there are so many opportunities up for grabs at the moment.
Teresa’s advice was that there has never been a better time to join if you are interested. You can be an expert early in your career due to the sector being so young.
Zander’s advice is to follow your passion, whether that be sustainability or affordability. Look to lay out the landscape, know who the big players are when it comes to applying and learning the fundamental building blocks. The best thing you can do is know the key metrics of the industry, it’s a language skill. If you know the history, it will empower you to have a productive conversation and find your niche in a company that suits your interests.
It’s a really exciting time for Proptech and there has never been a better time to join the industry particularly if you are interested in sustainability and affordability (check out our blog on sustainability here). We have the ability to change the lives of the next generation, if we can change things like construction materials and make them more sustainable or make concrete that creates less carbon. From an environmental and social economic point of view it’s the top agenda for everyone in the space due to regulations forcing companies to check themselves so it’s a good time to ask ‘What is my impact on sustainability’ and find a role that suits you. And when it comes to affordability – if you can solve that, delivering an affordable house in a thoughtful and meaningful way, as Zander mentioned you are likely the next billionaire in the space!
To conclude, there are plenty of pathways when it comes to joining the Proptech sector. Here at LMRE, we encourage you to think in a more creative way when it comes applying for a role and finding what your passion is. Please let in touch if you have any questions!
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