In this ‘Day in the Life of a Commercial Real Estate Professional’ post, we hear from Jesal Acharya, a Director of Corporate Real Estate working at a Fortune 500 company in North Carolina. Jesal has been kind enough to share his typical daily routine and discuss what it takes to land a successful career in corporate real estate.
Note: This Day in the Life profile was made possible thanks to the help of Emily White, a Class of 2022 MBA Candidate at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Prior to pursuing her MBA, Emily was a Development Manager for the Alpha Gamma Delta Fraternity Housing Corporation. Emily holds a BA in History from the University of South Carolina. A huge thank you to Emily for her contribution!
Day in the Life of a Director of Corporate Real Estate
Lenovo is a multinational corporation with over 52,000 employees serving customers across the world. They are the world’s largest PC vendor, with a global headquarters in Beijing, China, an operational headquarters in Morrisville, NC, and 160 additional facilities across 59 countries. These facilities are part of the 5M SF global portfolio which includes office, industrial, manufacturing, warehousing and lab space.
Early Career Path
Jesal studied finance during his undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina but knew he did not want a career in investment banking or corporate finance. Interested in a career that would allow him to utilize his quantitative skills and learn and use new soft skills, Jesal pursued a consulting path with the intention to return to school later for an MBA.
Starting at Accenture, he worked on business and technology strategy for the financial services industry. Driven by the desire to translate business strategy and goals into tangible metrics, Jesal returned to get his MBA at Wharton after 5 years in the workforce.
Using connections from his years in consulting, Jesal landed a corporate finance position after business school at Bank of America where he supported technology operations of different business units. He landed there just as the Check 21 Act was going into effect, a federal law that gave banks the ability to create electronic images of consumers checks to process them. This change greatly reduced the need for check processing centers banks had across the country and one of Jesal’s main task was answering important questions like how many processing centers do we really need? Where should they be located? How does is impact costs?
Managing this transition and reduction in real estate was Jesal’s first exposure to corporate real estate. Jesal joined the bank’s Corporate Real Estate group and led various strategic initiatives to optimize the footprint. Having spent over 15 year in financial services industry, Jesal was looking for a new challenge, which he found in the Technology industry as he joined Lenovo.
Jesal’s main responsibilities fall into two categories. The first is serving as a strategic advisor to senior leadership. This means developing and strengthening relationships with internal teams, understanding their business challenges quickly, and being able to clearly communicate what is relevant to them since they are not real estate experts. It is also important to understand each leader’s goals, which vary by function, from company growth and cost containment to energizing employees, developing new products, and improving the supply chain.
Jesal uses this information to inform his second major responsibility, to develop a holistic real estate portfolio strategy. Lenovo has 160 facilities throughout the world, so the strategy needs to consider how to optimize the footprint to support the needs of the enterprise and be agile enough to adapt as internal business transform to achieve corporate goals. Unlike traditional real estate companies, buildings for corporations do not make money, they are exclusively a cost center, meaning the corporate real estate team is constantly refining their strategy to have the perfect balance of space that allows for business flexibility at rational cost.
Similar to commercial real estate, every day is different. There are no standard hours because Lenovo is a global company and Jesal frequently meets with leadership based out of different countries. In addition to interacting with leaders from various business units, Jesal partners with Lenovo’s service provider JLL who manages Lenovo’s facilities. When not in a pandemic, he travels about 10-20 percent of the time to different facilities to meet with local executives and ensure the real estate continues to support their business priorities.
About the Professional
Name: Jesal Acharya
Location: Raleigh, NC (Research Triangle Park)
Years in Real Estate: 14 years
Years in Current Position: 6 years
Undergraduate Education: B.S in Business Administration, University of North Carolina
Graduate Education: MBA, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
About the Position
Job Title: Director of Corporate Real Estate
Job Type: Asset Management, Strategy
Company Name: Lenovo
Company Type: Fortune 500 Computer Manufacturing
Property Type: Industrial, Office
Min. Education Recommended: Masters’ Degree
Min. Education Required: Bachelors’ Degree
Min. Experience Recommended: 10+ years
Min. Experience Required: 8 years
Advanced Technical Skills Required: MS Excel
Advice for those interested in this position
When asked to describe the traits needed to be successful in corporate real estate, Jesal said individuals who have strong quantitative skills, the ability to understand the big picture quickly, actively listen, build relationships and trust, and seek a diversity of opinions. These skills are critical in order to serve as a strategic advisor to leadership teams.
“You don’t need to be a real estate expert to be in corporate real estate.” To be successful in corporate real estate, Jesal recommends understanding the enterprise from end to end. What is the company’s vision? How does each business unit connect to that vision? What products do they have and how does each impact the company? This knowledge is critical to forming relevant strategy and to communicating effectively to key stakeholders.
Jesal also recommends being comfortable with ambiguity. Even though real estate is tangible, Jesal and his team work with lots of variables and work in uncharted territory frequently. Part of their role entails creating road maps to navigate thru uncertainty and serving as positive change leaders.
For anyone interested in learning more about corporate real estate check out CoreNetGlobal.org. CoreNet Global is a non-profit association with the mission of advancing the practice of corporate real estate through professional development opportunities, publications, research, conferences, designations, and networking.