A foundation for a strong professional network takes creativity, expertise, and guidance — and now, global reach. For those involved in the state’s corporate real estate industry, rest assured that you have such resources in your corner.
#b#Karen Pellegrini#/b#, an account development manager for Atlanta-based Geiger International, is an ardent proponent of networking and making professional connections. She comes from a supplier background and has more than 27 years of experience in the office furniture industry. Now she is putting her networking know-how to work for the future workforce.
The New Jersey Chapter of CoreNet Global, an association with 45 chapters worldwide serving the corporate real estate community and its allied industries, will initiate a group of young leaders into its functions and activities on Thursday, March 10, at 5:30 p.m. at Johnson & Johnson on Route 202 in Raritan. The initial event is for CoreNet members, but subsequent events could be opened to the public.
Membership rates for Young Leaders, which are handled by CoreNet Global, range between $595 and $725 a year. However, membership is not required to initially join the group. For more information, visit www.corenetnj.org, or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The informal affair planned for March 10 sets up a chance for CoreNet New Jersey’s senior executive board to meet the 11 young professionals (younger than 35) tabbed to form the new Young Leaders’ Board. Chapter president #b#Tim Bender#/b#, a former Merck executive and current senior vice president and head of corporate real estate at TD Bank, will be in attendance.
Commercial real estate can be a fulfilling field, says Pellegrini. For professionals she sees New Jersey as a strategic, fertile ground for those wishing to enter corporate real estate. “Once you start researching the Fortune 500 and Fortune 100, there are more companies headquartered here in New Jersey than in any other part of the country,” she says.
#b#Tradition to tech#/b#. The traditional skills of aspiring real estate professionals encompass acumen in finance, taxation, zoning, and knowledge of a local market. Negotiating skills are critical, as is the ability to take a bird’s eye view of trends.
Young professionals add technical knowledge to companies off the bat, but in fact this may initially hinder workplace relationships as corporations mesh employees of different generations together, by choice and by necessity.
“If a baby boomer walks by a millennial working the millennial will have earplugs on, with their computer going, talking on the phone — three things at once,” Pellegrini says. “The baby boomer will think ‘what the heck are they doing,’ but for the millennial it’s how they were raised; always involved in some form of technology.”
#b#News Flash: Networking#/b#. In a turn for the best, industry research concludes that in many companies baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and millennials all mentor each other. The business world becomes a paradigm of integration and collaboration. Problems are solved through networking and interdependence.
The root of collaboration is creating an environment conducive to networking. While the younger generation is inclined to using social media such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook as methods to connect, Pellegrini hopes they develop a colloquial skill set that originally helped her.
“Because they are so technology-driven there’s not a lot of interfacing with people,” Pellegrini says of younger professionals. “You cannot network enough. Get involved in as many associations as possible, find other industries and go to their events, get as much exposure as you possibly can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or introductions.”
Twenty years ago Pellegrini started her own small networking group consisting of a commercial real estate broker, a project representative, and a telecommunications rep — a prelude to the four main components of CoreNet Global’s membership: commercial real estate brokers; service providers such as Geiger; local, state, or regional economic development corporations; and corporate end users (clients and tenants).
Prior to her position at Geiger International, in which she works from home and checks in with the company’s showroom at Carnegie Hall Tower in New York, Pellegrini worked as account development manager for Herman Miller and a senior market manager at Haworth between 1994 and 2005. Within the supplier/corporate buyer relationship she enjoys working with educated consumers and global corporations in particular, as she describes her job duties as partnership and more similar to a consultant than a salesperson.
#b#Where the future lies#/b#. Pellegrini is excited about forming the Young Leaders’ program and watching a new crop grow in the area’s corporate real estate industry. It was originally her idea and CoreNetNJ’s board first lobbied for the formation of the Young Leaders two years ago. In addition, she would “absolutely love” to initiate a CoreNet program involving colleges. At previous meetings the CoreNet New Jersey Board has even discussed a potential grant for someone to attend a university in pursuit of a real estate degree.
She believes initiatives such as CoreNet’s will become common at the statewide association level and as she plans for New Jersey’s version, she keeps a pulse on the other chapters around the country. In locations such as Dallas, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., CoreNet’s local memberships tailor events to meet the demographics.
“We’re really looking at the younger people who are joining the workforce and seeing them as future leaders — these are people who are coming into the workforce scratching and clawing their way to the top,” Pellegrini said.
Young corporate professionals and brokers were directed to CoreNet New Jersey through their companies’ senior management, which recognized an opportunity for the ambitious next generation to grow and learn. As evidenced by their facility tours, CoreNet aims to give its Young Leaders exposure to different types of industries, not just commercial real estate brokers or buyers from major corporations. Prudential, Ernst & Young, Johnson & Johnson, Wyndham Worldwide, and other large corporations are on board to participate.
“We’re going to provide them with the avenue that will help them in their climb,” she says. “We will have mentoring and introductions to people who they would normally not have the ability to get to — senior executive level real estate people, brokers, architects, those type of people in the industry who are known to clients. To grow it’s all about who you know.”
#b#A Young Leader must embrace change#/b#. A native of New Britain, Connecticut, Pellegrini attended college in her hometown, earning a bachelor’s in accounting from Central Connecticut State University. Her mother worked for the Department of Motor Vehicles while her father was a quality control manager for a factory that built fuses and HVAC equipment. Paying attention to office settings and work environments started with her uncle’s moving and storage company in Connecticut where she witnessed how a company was run.
Making a bold career decision was the first step out of the box for Pellegrini.
Accounting wasn’t her calling and in hindsight her college major, save for figuring out discounts and gross profits for clients, did not lay a foundation for her career. Proving her belief in networking above all, it was a contact who pointed her in the right direction early on. At the time she never imagined that sales were for her.
“A furniture manufacturer approached me about becoming a representative,” she says. “It was a great fit because I have an outgoing personality; I don’t mind approaching people and participating in conversations.”
#b#Trends facing the Young Professional#/b#. Pellegrini feels that competition in office furniture today is driven by mass downsizing. People are considering smaller work spaces because technology has progressed so fast that it’s feasible to fit in smaller square footage.
Studies are conducted on company’s space needs, and in some cases show that only 50 percent of a given facility is being used 50 percent of the time.
Young professionals not only have new trends of electronic networking with each friend or follower they add daily. They’ve also changed the physical structure of workplaces and the accommodations that offices will require.
In response to market needs Geiger introduced a product called Levels, a product line integrating technology and the desire for a smaller eco-footprint that can also adapt to a large office environment.
A smaller scale is used, adequate for high-channeling and electric capacities. Docks for iPods or Blackberrys come ready and it’s contoured for a laptop. Storage will not be essential over the next 15 or 20 years as millennials file everything on their computers.
“Hoteling” is a current trend in which a small company will rent office spaces and share a receptionist and conference room, best suited for people who work remotely — or, as Pellegrini notes, may not be disciplined enough to work from home.
Also important is the goal for corporations to go green. Being a good corporate citizen is in the business plan, and environmentalism also motivates Pellegrini. She is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council and says she is proud to be a part of Geiger International’s tradition of eco-foresightedness.
When the company started in 1964 John Geiger purchased wood only from sustained forests and in the 1980s Geiger began using only water-based finishes. Pellegrini says the company is close to having zero VOC (volatile organic compounds) and zero landfill use because it recycles.
In the future Pellegrini can see herself working in a role focused on environmentalism. “Maybe when I grow up and decide to go into another industry it may very well be an environmental, eco-conscientious industry — something working towards a sustainable environment,” she says.