Executive Director, Make It Right
From English Major to Running One of the Most Significant Nonprofits in the World
I don’t know what it’s like to be in a comfort zone. The first job I took out of college was compiling information on property for a real estate developer in Washington, D.C. I initially thought, “There is no way I can do this; I’m in over my head.” However, I figured out how to do it by looking at examples of similar research, but I would go much further in my evaluations and included a lot more information than typical feasibility studies. I started to realize that I was adding a lot of value for the developer by doing so much work on the front end of any proposed development. For example, on one property in Maryland, the property was listed for sale at $9 million. I met with the owner’s broker who suggested we’d be crazy not to take an offer of $5 million. We sent my report to some prospective buyers and the first offer came in at $11 million. I thought, “Whoa!” I was making $30,000, and I added $6 million in value for the owner. I just thought, I could do this myself. That’s how I got into real estate development.
One day, I got a phone call from a guy in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I grew up. He was with a wireless Internet start-up. I ended up helping him get his company off the ground as one of the first five people hired, and part of my job was to figure out how to best market the start-up’s brand. That was, again, not anything I had done before. I graduated from college with a degree in English, so I’m a halfway decent writer, but that’s about as much training as I’ve had in communications, which is not much. And I had never been involved in a start-up before, so it was also a lot to bite off when I first started. That job was way outside of my comfort zone.
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