Informational Interview Essay

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Tori Weiner

Thursday Survey 3:00

12 Nov 2015

Informational Interview Essay

Since I was a little girl, real estate has been in my blood. My grandfather started a booming real estate company in Monroeville, PA, which my dad has since taken over and expanded into a household name in Pittsburgh realty. Growing up, I have only been exposed to residential real estate and the management aspects of flipping and owning properties. Large, commercial real estate firms, developers, and investors are fairly foreign to me, which makes me even more eager to delve into this field. With such a distinct interest in marketing, I would be able to combine both of my interests into one dream job in a commercial real estate firm.

Grant Mason is the Vice President of Real Estate at Oxford Development, the second largest commercial property manager in the Pittsburgh region, owning 4 million square feet spread over 75 properties and managing 7 million square feet. Having personal and professional ties to Mr. Mason and Oxford Development, I was quite intimidated to conduct the interview but knew it would prove to be extremely beneficial. Similar to myself, Mr. Mason grew up in the real estate business. Exceling in construction litigation in Florida, Mr. Mason had always felt a draw to real estate, enjoyed development, and thought the family business would act as a perfect entry into the heart of the real estate world.

As Vice President of Real Estate, Mr. Mason is responsible for overseeing the operations of a variety of businesses: an athletic club, convention center, hotel portfolio, apartment division, and other small businesses. Within the scope of Oxford as a whole, Mr. Mason’s responsibilities fall into a large line of command encompassing property management, marketing, property acquisition, finance, human resources, operations, leasing and brokerage, business development, a legal team, construction, and interactions with 3rd party managers and politicians. So yes, Mr. Mason’s responsibilities are vital to the overall operations of Oxford Development, but the team of people working together is what makes Oxford as successful it is on a regional, national, and international scale. His responsibilities encompass more than the daily sifting through emails, reporting to investors, managers, and banks, and touching base with various subsets of Oxford’s real estate holdings. Mr. Mason is the Chair of Pittsburgh’s Downtown Partnership Impact on the Community, responsible for bridging the gap between the private and public sectors of capital and land. His work phone number is 412-261-1500, extension 3425. His email address is His office address is One Oxford Center on 301 Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh.

Having lived in Pittsburgh my entire life, One Oxford Centre is just another skyscraper towering over the bustling streets of the downtown area. The building has 45 stories that house a multitude of businesses. Oxford Development’s offices are on the top floors of the building and Mr. Mason’s is on the 45th floor. A secretary greeted me as I walked through the doors and I was directed to Mr. Mason’s corner office. The executives have their own offices and cubicles occupy some empty space on the floor. All employees were dressed business professionally in suits. Although the atmosphere is a typical business firm, I could sense that all of the employees were happy to show up to work everyday and would converse with each other. As I begin looking for internships and potential jobs, the sense of collaboration, happiness, and comradery are key in my journey to find the right job for me.

Mr. Mason’s education background consisted of his undergraduate degree at the University of Miami and law school at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. To work in real estate, no specific degree is required, but all agents must have his/her real estate license through the specific state he/she is selling. Any classification that sets a college graduate apart from everyone else is important, so obtaining the Real Estate and Urban Analysis degree offered through the Fisher College of Business will allow me to market myself in a unique way to potential employers showing a mastery in the field. Having a solid background in general accounting and math will aid in succeeding in the real estate field because negotiating and brokering deals are heavily based in numbers.

To be successful in real estate, I must further develop my skills in communicating and networking. Networking and building relationships with fellow agents, brokers, developers, and investors will be key in my success as a real estate agent. Mr. Mason’s top recommendation for success in the real estate industry is to become an excellent communicator to aid in leading a group of people in development, decision making, or marketing in the future. Real estate is heavily rooted in numbers and finance, so acquiring a solid math background will help me excel in the industry. Finding a balance between “book smarts and street smarts”, between crunching numbers and hustling amongst top agents and brokers, will be critical in my success.

The history of real estate stems back to the BCE era with the exploration and acquisition of lands. The 1800s rung in the era of suburban living and the necessity to spread out the population. The history of the real estate field goes hand in hand with the social and political turmoil the world has faced, combatting racism and the red tape lines among other issues. In the early 1900s, the term “realtor” was established, but the industry took a hit with the stock market crash of 1929. Once it recovered, national associations were formed and eventually internet websites and tools were created to help agents, developers, and those looking to buy real estate navigate the process. Mr. Mason believes the future of real estate is “always very bright.” Because the industry is so diverse, from high rise office buildings, to old architectural renovations, and to buying and selling residential homes, real estate will never fade. Its success and profit revenue will fluctuate because it is tightly connected to the stock market and investments, but it will never go out of style. He believes real estate has a tremendous impact on the growth of the economy in the private and public sectors. Real estate is one of the most secure retirement plans one can invest in, so Mr. Mason believes the need for real estate agents, developers, and investors will stand the test of the transition into a solely technological world.

Working with the government in urban redevelopment is an up-and-coming sect of real estate. Municipalities and city governments are offering incentives such as tax cuts and subsidies for big development companies to come in, renovate, and re-energize areas of cities. Mr. Mason has partnered with the city of Pittsburgh with incorporating real estate into such urban redevelopment efforts focusing on sustainability and environmental issues in the process. With this aspect of the industry, the list of opportunities in real estate grows even larger. Mr. Mason informed me that I could take one of the following avenues in the future: go for a small company and sell residential homes, shoot for a large firm where I could specialize in any aspect of running the business, or work for the government in the public sector. Depending on which direction I choose, there are opportunities to climb the ranks in a large firm or choose to open my own agency.

Oxford Development offers a few internship positions, more on the marketing side of their business. They are more open to shadowing opportunities. Mr. Mason suggests pursuing any opportunity that will give me a competitive edge, but honing in on the specific direction of real estate that most interests me, whether that’s urban, residential, or commercial. Overall, interviewing Mr. Mason was extremely beneficial in helping me envision myself in the real estate industry.
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