On March 11, 2015, a group of students gathered at the Ivey School’s Tangerine Leadership Centre in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District to learn from a panel of industry experts on how to advance in a career in development. The event was moderated by Jeanhy Shim, President of Housing Lab, and brought together an impressive panel of experts, which included: Sean Fleming, Vice President of Metropia; Isabel Henkelman, an Associate at McCarthy Tetrault LLP; Matt Paziuk, an Associate Consultant at urbanMetrics inc.; Salima Rawji, Director of Development at Build Toronto; and Glen Rosic, Director of Development at Cadillac Fairview.
The panelists had an opportunity to discuss their career paths as well as answer questions from the moderator and audience. Here are five takeaways that all panelists agreed were important for anyone embarking on a career in development
1. Career Paths Are Not Linear
While all of the panelists had careers connected to the development industry, none of them went directly into development out of school. Their educations and background ranged from professional athlete to MBA graduate, yet they all agreed that their broad range of roles and exposure to different areas in the development industry presented them with opportunities to move more formally into the development field.
2. Work Hard / Set Boundaries
The time driven pressures of the development industry often drive individuals starting out in their career to work hard and put in long hours. Ambition is important but it can also lead to burnout early on in your career. While many panelists believed “work life blend” was more achievable than “work life balance,” they all stressed the importance of setting clear boundaries to ensure your personal priorities are met.
3. Be Open To Learning
The learning curve in the development industry is quite steep, but no one expects you to know everything right away. Rather, the panelists agreed that it is okay to admit what you don’t know and they respected individuals with an ambition to learn. It is important to continue to improve your skills by taking on responsibilities in areas you are not comfortable with to work in, this is how many of the panelists saw growth in their professional lives. All of the panelists highlighted the value of mentors, both for relationship building and direct learning (check out ULI’s mentorship program).
4. Follow Your Passion
All of the panelists agreed that you can teach someone new technical skills, but you can’t teach attitude. People who were passionate about the industry were more likely to resonate with the panelists and often advanced further in interviews.
5. Know Your Numbers!!!
Even though all of the panelists had varied educations, they all stressed the importance of understanding the financial side of learning to acquire land and pay for development. Numbers drive everything in the development business, so find opportunities (both formally and informally) to build on this skillset.