Brian Santana De La Rosa (MBA’19) graduated from Princeton University with a degree in Political Science and worked internationally with J.P. Morgan before making the switch to real estate. While at Harvard Business School, Brian Santana De La Rosa serves as Co-President of the Real Estate Club, member of the Hospitality & Tourism Club, and CFO of the Latino Student Organization.

Real estate is a rewarding career for those who have a multidisciplinary perspective.

In my previous role with J.P. Morgan, I was constantly traveling throughout Europe, Russia, and Israel. The rapid and frequent exposure to the different urban environments sparked a genuine interest in how cities’ real estate infrastructure develops to meet changing demands in the economy. At the same time, my time living abroad in London coincided with the completion of ambitious real estate projects such as The Shard, the redevelopment of Kings Cross, and the Olympic Village. All of these factors triggered an “a-ha” moment that this was the field for me. I absolutely loved the entrepreneurial nature of the industry and the fact that it rewards individuals who have a multidisciplinary perspective.  

The real estate industry can often have high-barriers to entry for career-switchers. 

I find that real estate can be difficult to penetrate because of the strong relationships and networks that characterize each local market, the scarcity of roles available, and the abounding skepticism about switching careers from professionals within the industry. Consequently, it is important to take extra steps to show commitment and enthusiasm. This may include, for example, participating in case competitions, attending trade events and workshops, or formulating actionable views on property trends in a certain market.  Relationships take time to build, but the barriers are not insurmountable when matched with tenacity, commitment, enthusiasm, and a dose of “hustle.” 

HBS has fantastic resources available via the Student Association, Career & Professional Development Office, and the vibrant alumni community that is willing to help.

The HBS Real Estate Club was my first opportunity to experience the Harvard real estate ecosystem. The summer prior to my Required Curriculum year (RC) I joined a club-organized trek in London, which was planned by students at HBS and the Graduate School of Design. These trips provide the opportunity to meet the locale’s leading investors, developers, and architects. The London trek also enabled me to meet other students who had prior experiences and perspectives to share as well as those also seeking to make a career transition. 

The Career & Professional Development Office (CPD) was also tremendous for me. In the fall of my RC year, I met with one of the industry-focused coaches who was able to guide me through the networked search process and timeline with almost surgical precision. Working with my coach, I refined my resume, distilled my transferrable skills, and refined my personal pitch to prospective employers. This preparation positioned me for the realities of the networked search, which involves cold-emailing, LinkedIn introductions, and heavy leverage of personal contacts. The upfront efforts, however, yield long-term benefits as you are able to rapidly establish a network in a short period of time.

Many of my most productive meetings came through the alumni network. Very early on, a professor was able to connect me with an HBS graduate who occupies a senior role within the global real estate industry. That alum has served as an invaluable mentor and sounding board throughout the process of interviewing and career planning. Likewise, young alumni have also been helpful in answering the “nuts and bolts” questions, explaining the timing of recruitment, and introducing me to their organizations. I even had the pleasure of working for an HBS alum this summer at Greystar in London. 

Summer internships paired with the Elective Curriculum (EC) will help develop the confidence and fluency to take the first steps into a career in real estate. 

My summer role at Greystar in London emerged through CPD’s on-campus interview process and the internship provided me with a nuanced perspective of multi-family residential real estate. In the US, Greystar is one of the largest owners of rental apartments and in the UK, the company has established one of the premier student housing portfolios. My internship helped me develop fluency as an investor and confirmed my enthusiasm for the industry. I am looking forward to taking that experience, adding further knowledge through the EC course offerings in real estate, and solidifying my career in the industry.