A typical day for a developer? As George Jacobs explains, it can be anything but typical.
Take this example from a recent Wednesday.
“Today, I was tracking down an FAA permit because I’m building a shopping center in Elizabeth,” said Jacobs, president of Clifton-based Jacobs Enterprises Inc. “We’re under construction … for a Foodtown-anchored strip center, and we have to use a crane because we’re hanging some prefab walls.
“We’re in the flight path of Newark airport.”
Jacobs recounted the story last month before more than a 100 MBA candidates and prospective students who are considering careers in commercial real estate. It was the first-ever career seminar hosted by the quickly growing Rutgers Center for Real Estate, drawing a packed crowd to a classroom at the Rutgers Business School’s main building in downtown Newark.
For his part, Jacobs was one of 11 New Jersey real estate industry leaders who were on hand to share their experiences and answer questions, representing a cross-section of different practices and asset classes that operate within the sector.
“Students just don’t get much exposure to real practitioners,” Paul Profeta, owner and president of Paul V. Profeta Associates in West Orange, told attendees at the March 23 event. “Today, you’ve got some real practitioners — these are people who put bread and butter on the table.”
The speakers offered candid insights during the two-hour program, detailing their projects while answering questions on how they make money, how many hours a week they work and how stressful their jobs are. There were pearls of wisdom, practical tips and blunt warnings about the nature of the industry, mixed in with bits of humor and light-heartedness:
- “This isn’t really a job. It really is an adventure.”
- “This is a tough business. If you’re not tough, don’t go into it — I mean that very sincerely.”
- “In some sense, you have to be a bit of a gambler to be in this business.”
- “The business has very little to do with buildings. The business has everything to do with personal relationships.”
- “The beauty of the day is that when I wake up in the morning and I think I know what’s going to happen that day, it never works out that way.”
- “Essentially, what I am is a dating service for developers and lenders.”
- “When we built the business, we went wide, instead of narrow.”
- “How stressful is your job? You probably should ask me after my next physical.”
For some attendees, the event was both eye-opening and informative.
“What I got out of the program was a practical understanding from practitioners who do it every day, who live it every day and who have seen real estate through multiple cycles — and what the requirements are to be successful and how to bounce back when you’re not successful,” said Igwe Harvey, 40, who is studying for a Rutgers MBA while working full-time as a property manager. “I think the other thing that I got from the course today is that you have to persevere.”
The event also put students in front of potential mentors and employers.
“This is advice from, obviously, the best out there,” said Asad Mian, 24, an Old Bridge resident who holds a civil engineering degree from Rutgers. “So for me — somebody who just graduated college about two years ago and is looking to get into the industry, these are the people I want to network with.”
The seminar was also the latest in a series of firsts for the Rutgers Center for Real Estate, which oversees an MBA concentration in real estate and recently started offering courses at the business school. The program was born less than three years ago, when Profeta donated $1.5 million to help Rutgers establish a chair in real estate, leading to the creation of an advisory board and the hiring of Morris Davis as its academic director.
In the process, the program also has attracted a deep roster of industry leaders for the advisory board and an executive committee. And stakeholders say it has helped bring the industry together in a new way, a thought that was echoed by Jacobs at last month’s seminar.
“It’s a very, very small community,” he said. “So the people you’re meeting today may be with you for the rest of your career, so you should really make that effort to meet not only students, but all of us because we’re all making time.”