Two years of formal real estate instruction is best complemented by real world application. By putting into practice the principles taught in the classroom, we as students truly internalize the concepts. The summer internship experience is one of the reasons I chose to attend the Baker Program in Real Estate at Cornell, and my internship experience did not disappoint. I was fortunate to spend the summer at USAA Real Estate Company (RealCo), and the experience was highly rewarding. Allow me to share several examples of what made my time there so worthwhile.
The nature of the people at USAA Real Estate Company goes beyond typical Texas hospitality. Upon arriving at RealCo, I was immediately struck by how downright friendly everyone was. People went out of their way to make me feel welcome, introducing themselves to me, inviting me to lunch, offering to help with varying tasks, and showing a genuine interest in my background. Not once did I see someone outwardly angry, berate, or unkind to another coworker. While many interns at other companies are made to feel like less important outsiders, at RealCo I was immediately made to feel like a valuable member of the team.
I arrived at USAA Real Estate Company expecting a highly hierarchical, cold, overly corporate structure. I was surprised to find a flat, entrepreneurial, collegial environment where even the most entry-level employee (see: intern) has the ear of senior management, and everyone is exceptionally open and willing to mentor, teach, and share. For example, each week, the five interns were invited to have lunch with a member of the senior team. We ate with, chatted with, and sought advice from people like the CEO, the company’s General Counsel, the managing director of investments, the managing director of asset management, and others. Also, we were regularly invited to interview and/or work with senior leaders within the organization.
I learned far more than I ever imagined I would have. I analyzed/modeled 38 institutional assets in 13 different states for potential acquisition; everything from grocery-anchored retail centers, to bulk industrial portfolios, to CBD office buildings. I built a financial model and created a presentation for senior management approval for development of an 1800+ master planned community. I worked with the Asset Management team in transitioning from ARGUS DCF 15 to ARGUS Enterprise and as part of that process, converted 55 industrial properties from the old software to the new. And I worked with the Capital Markets team to underwrite two cross-collateralized/cross-defaulted senior debt instruments for two separate commercial real estate portfolios.
Finally, I was pleasantly surprised by how many out of office activities I was able to be involved in. I was given the opportunity to tour several USAA owned assets in and around San Antonio with the properties’ respective asset and portfolio managers. I joined the company at its quarterly breakfast, and at a community awards banquet. I sat in on market updates from HFF, CBRE, and Costar. I participated in numerous non-work related activities organized by the company including trips to the Alamo Bat Cave, the Riverwalk, the Pearl, and 10 different San Antonio restaurants. Beyond the company sponsored events, I visited most of the hot tourist spots in San Antonio, went to the best waterpark in the country three times, and watched my good friend and fellow intern win an eating contest. My internship experience was second to none, thanks to the amazing people, culture, and expertise at USAA Real Estate Company.
To learn more about Spencer, visit his personal website at: www.spencerburton.org.