Millennials in the workplace: what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you read this? That they won’t stay there for too long? It’s only natural: young people tend to be bolder, more adventurous. But young people are ambitious, too. Their focus on “going from zero to hero” and building up their careers is perhaps stronger than anyone else’s. There are many ways in which they can develop professionally, and many choose to do so by sticking to one of their first – if not actually their first – employers.
At Colliers, we’ve witnessed such accomplishments over the years. Most of our seniors joined the team when the real estate market was only budding, and our professionals grew together with it. Young professionals in a young market, it seemed only fitting. Today, however, is not about them. Even after the Romanian real estate market matured, we continued to attract young talents and established a tradition of nurturing their potential and guide it on the road from good to great.
Today, we take pride in our new generation of Young People in Real Estate.
Meet Gabriel – better known to his Colliers friends by his far more friendly last name – Associate Director in the Valuation and Advisory Services team.
He wasn’t really sure if he still fits the “young people” tag, but we like to differ; 31 is still young and he deserves an honorable mention as a young professional in real estate because his career started at Colliers and developed beautifully in the course of 10 – almost 11 – years in the same team.
The story begins in 2010, in my second year as a Finance student at Bucharest University of Economic Studies. After it became increasingly clear that college provides great theoretical knowledge but tends to lack on the practical side, I decided to look for a part time job to balance my skills with some real-world experience, while earning my own money in the process.I used an online job platform to look for internships and part-time jobs for a couple of weeks and finally narrowed it down to three job offers. Funnily enough, Colliers’ internship was not the highest paying, nor did it have the most glamorous job description. However, it offered other opportunities.
Ok, so we admit we weren’t that cool back then, but we’ve improved over the years. Gabriel must have sensed our potential and decided to give us a try. Seeing that he’s been with us to this day makes us think that he doesn’t regret this and we have a feeling that the workplace experience we did our best to provide might have had a powerful impact on his decision.
I remember little of the Colliers office from my first time there, except it was pretty colorful. The only grey spots were the fixed phones on each desk – yes, back in 2010 that was still a thing. The one thing I clearly remember is the vibe – it felt like I walked in on an afternoon tea party, everybody chatting to each other, sharing snacks, very friendly and relaxed. It did not feel like a job.
From what he recalls, the job interview was one of a kind, for both parties involved:
I am not someone to easily remember dates, but the first interview was as memorable as it was ridiculous. It was the day after my favorite band’s concert – May 17th, 2010. After more than 2 hours of singing, I was about to find out that the rock and roll life was not for me. I responded to the greeting before the interview, but no sound came out – my voice was gone. For the next thirty minutes I gestured like an angry Italian about overcooked pasta – so you could call that meeting anything but a classical interview.
It wasn’t only him who sensed our potential in the beginning; we saw great potential in Gabriel, too. He came to us as an AC/DC fan – a little digging was done here about the date of that concert and we know for a fact that he really enjoys this song –, with a great sense of humor and awesome cooking skills – as per his angry Italian and pasta reference. But Gabriel was also driven, determined. In a very short span, he went from Intern to Junior to Associate to Senior Associate and currently to Associate Director in the valuation team. He also got his master’s degree in Bank Management while obtaining his local valuer qualification (ANEVAR) in the same year, 2013.
In a rather flat hierarchical structure, there was little focus on my part for job titles. Most of my energy went into learning, gaining experience and market knowledge, trying to understand how the real estate market works and how we can make it work better. Nonetheless, the first promotion came a few months into the internship, when I was offered a full-time job. The next promotion came with a little more money and benefits, but looking back on it now, the greatest benefit was the sense of self-accomplishment. The personal evolution journey never stops, and 10 years is a long time by any standards. My proudest achievements so far have been the relationships I built with great people along the way and the experiences we shared. Being able to recognize the true value of connection is something the 21-year-old me did not have on the radar.
A job is more than just its title: it is a challenge, an experience, an opportunity to learn, a chance to grow, both personally and professionally, a possibility to explore, the freedom to improve. As a bonus, you get to do this with others. The ultimate perk? Office treats on Fridays, birthdays, closed deals celebrations and so on. All of these made Gabriel stick around and, judging by his words, it seems like not much has changed: good things are here to stay.
The things I appreciated from the very beginning up to today are the freedom and flexibility of the schedule and the work. In the first few years, this enabled me to continue my studies up to a master’s degree. Later on, this environment was a great backdrop to try new things, to develop new software and applications and to see the business steadily grow. Over the last ten years, we witnessed a ten-fold increase in our division, which I am now proud to say has become one of the backbones of the company. If I were to pinpoint a single ingredient for this success, I would pin it on an innovation-friendly workspace, which attracts like-minded people. The freedom to pursuit my interests and the people I work with are the things I value most in Colliers. The occasional free food definitely helps.
Gabriel spent most of this time being involved in the appraisal of different large mortgage portfolios before specializing in residential property. However, his interests go beyond and, at the same time, complementary to his day to day job. Remember the Colliers Hackathon back in 2019? He was one of the main organizers.
My favorite part of the job is bringing my passion for technology and product development in my day to day work. Being able to imagine something, build it and see it work brings great satisfaction and motivation for the next thing. Machine learning, robotic process automation and neural networks are some of the technologies we use today to enhance our know-how and expertise and the potential to change the whole real estate business is palpable. I think the last 10 years have been great as I have learned a lot along the way. Also, being able to grow as a person is really what matters the most. Regardless of the industry, my goal is to maximize every opportunity and at the end of the day do things a little bit better than the day before.
Gabriel’s story gets even more fascinating considering he started his career in the industry soon after some troubling times. He’s witnessed some radical changes happening in the Romanian real estate market and now, after a decade of such experiences, another cycle awaits.
In 2010, when I joined Colliers, I was able to see firsthand the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2008 that I studied in university. Reading about it was one thing, but working in that business environment added a whole new level of perspective. Up to 2013 when the economy started picking back up, there was a lot of grief on the real estate market. But every crisis is an opportunity to change, adapt and grow in the new environment. I remember the feeling most people in the industry had, that things will never be the same and that the good days are well behind us. In 2020, that feeling was becoming déjà -vu, as another period of boom and bust was coming to an end. The “New Normal”, as we call it today, is nothing more than a new economic environment that requires adaptation and I am already excited about the new opportunities.
Having spent a decade in the same company, now that sounds like a marathon. It’s only fitting since Gabriel himself is a marathon enthusiast: he has been running in every edition of the Bucharest Marathon for the past few years. He’s also made a great coach to the Colliers team participating in this competition, so he holds every right to share his advice to young people looking to start a career in real estate:
Always be curious and willing to put in the hard work is generally good advice for any career. Keep in mind that real estate is a legacy industry and propensity for change is low, so being curios and questioning the status-quo every step of the way are key. The real estate landscape in Romania has changed tremendously over the past 10 years and I believe the next 10 years will bring even more change. Whatever career you choose, always seek the company of great people, and remember to have some fun along the way.
Gabriel’s Colliers marathon continues and we’re curious to follow his journey.
In the meantime, we’ll be waiting for Smaranda’s story. Stay tuned for next week!