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Young Alumni Profile

Posted By David A. Walsh, Wednesday, March 28, 2018


In the latest installment of our Young Alumni Profile Feature, WREAA Social Media Ambassador, David Walsh, spoke with Paul Laughlin, Jr.  Paul is from Glencoe, Illinois, and completed his MBA in Real Estate at UW-Madison in May of 2017. Prior to becoming a Badger, Paul received a BA in Anthropology from Notre Dame in 2008 and worked in a few capacities including insurance and investment sales at the McTigue Financial Group (Northwestern Mutual) and commercial banking at MB Financial Bank. 

Where do you work now and what is your role?

I’m at Guardian Capital in Chicago, which is a boutique alternative investment company that makes investments across numerous asset strategies. We primarily specialize in real estate development and rehab, operating turnarounds, bank debt purchases, and bankruptcy sales. Last year I took on the responsibility of building out our public REIT investment platform, specializing in a secondary market investment strategy.  I would say I have a non-traditional role compared to most of my MBA classmates. Every day is unique, entrepreneurial, and fast-paced. I was looking for a career where I could build on both my development skills and AREIT skills, and my current job does just that.

What experiences from your time at UW are particularly memorable?

Between the Real Estate club and the MBA program, we went on a lot of trips including Atlanta; Dallas; New York; North Carolina; San Diego; Germany; Hong Kong; Macau; and MIPIM (Cannes, France). My family and friends often questioned if I was really in school or just traveling the world for a few years.

I was also on the AREIT team my second year and led research and investment in the data center and retail sectors. With Mike Brennan, Tim Pire, and Tim Riddiough providing us guidance (but no safety net), our team performed very well together, and we achieved our goal of beating the RMS benchmark—which during that period, most paid “professional” portfolio managers couldn’t do. I gained a lot from the AREIT experience, and that opportunity helped me find the job that I’m in now.

Also, during my second year in the MBA Program, I participated in the UNC Real Estate Case Competition with three other classmates. We got some sneers from opposing schools as those students discounted Wisconsin as just a “party school.” Then we ended up as event finalists and took 3rd overall out of 16 teams.

How has the Wisconsin Real Estate Alumni Association (WREAA) helped advance your career?

People say the Wisconsin Real Estate program has a strong network, and that has proven true from when I started the program in August 2015 through today. The alumni are willing to help the students and show an eagerness to work together professionally. For example, I found my first job through Matt Bertram, an alumnus (and founder of Capital Slack). I had interviewed for a position at his old firm, Prudential Mortgage Capital, and although I didn’t receive an offer, Matt and I continued to talk throughout the school year. He wound up introducing me to a friend of his who I did some part time work for after graduation, and from there I was introduced to my current boss, Brian Duggan, who is also a Wisconsin alum. In Chicago there’s a strong concentration of real estate alumni. We have been involved in several deals at Guardian that involve more than one UW-Real Estate alum. I’m also excited to go back to Madison this fall for the Biennial and reconnect with former classmates and friends.

Do you have any advice for current undergrads or graduate students studying real estate at UW?

Network and meet with as many people as you can before you graduate. When I was at Wisconsin, I would sit down with Sharon McCabe at least once a week or browse the alumni directory and email people in the select cities I was interested in working in. I conducted several “informational interviews” with 75-80 alumni during my two years.  The alumni mentors with whom I was paired, helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses and match them with career opportunities that provided the best fit.
In addition, Rob Bond, a developer in Chicago who I met at a WREAA networking event, once suggested that its most important for new real estate graduates to learn to be strong underwriters. I think he said that if you’re very good at underwriting, you will be more marketable in your career search.

I would also suggest that students be open to and learn about a variety of roles. You can narrow your search as you get closer to finding a job or internship.

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