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Women in Real Estate visit Milwaukee for their Fall 2019 Trip

Posted By Paige Riemann, Thursday, November 21, 2019


Women in Real Estate (WIRE), a student organization established at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018, traveled to Milwaukee last week to meet with real estate professionals, including UW-Madison Real Estate Alumni. “The trip was such a great experience for our group!” said Annie Trucco, senior at UW-Madison and President of Women in Real Estate. “Our hosts were so generous with their time and expertise. It was especially interesting to hear from professionals from many different sectors of the real estate industry and to see how they all work together on projects. The highlight of the trip was our visit to two of the newest additions in Milwaukee’s skyline, the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Irgens’ office at 833 E Michigan Street."


The group began the day at the recently completed Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. On the top floor, they met with the Director of Northwestern Mutual Real Estate, Danny Flesch, and the Managing Director of Northwestern Mutual Investment Management Company, Christina Misiti-Eskritt. They gave the group an overview of the real estate department, where approximately 100 people work across production, asset management and real estate and portfolio services. Half of the department is in Milwaukee and half are in field offices. Danny and Christina highlighted the importance of having staff in the real estate department in the field offices to develop relationships with real estate professionals in each market area.


One fascinating aspect of the discussion focused on the evolution of different asset types throughout their 20+ year careers with Northwestern Mutual. Danny and Christina explained that now every asset type (except industrial) has more of an operating component due to the demand for amenities. One example of this is the new luxury high rise apartment building that WIRE toured after their discussion with Northwestern Mutual, 7Seventy7. Completed in 2018, the apartment building offers top amenities including indoor and outdoor common areas, a bar area, a fitness center with a yoga room, a dog run, and an outdoor pool. The apartment building demonstrates the cross-over in asset types, as the luxury apartment building feels more like a hotel with the amenities and friendly concierge service that greets residents the minute they enter the door.


Following the morning with Northwestern Mutual, Irgens hosted a luncheon with presentations organized by Jackie Walsh, President and Chief Operating Officer of Irgens. The group had lunch with Irgens executives; Development Director Andrea Mullins, and founder, president and chief executive officer Mark Irgens. Mr. Irgens is a board member of the James A. Graaskamp Center for Real Estate and a strong believer in Graaskamp’s teaching. In fact, the Graaskamp quote “The successful real estate deal is nothing more than a series of crises tied together by a critical path.” is front and center in the Irgens lobby. The presentations were an incredible opportunity for students to see many different areas of the real estate business and how they all fit together.


During the luncheon presentations, Tammy Babisch, Senior Vice President of Management Services for Colliers International, spoke to WIRE about her career path, the property management division at Colliers and offered career advice to the group. She encouraged students to not be afraid if their career path changes. Ms. Babisch, who was a biology major, is now working in property management. She manages the Irgens office building, 833 East Michigan. When discussing property management, she stressed the importance of being flexible, analytical, and a strong problem solver. She advised the students to ask questions early on in their career, to have fun along the way and foster relationships. She highlighted the value of finding a mentor and encouraged the group to be sure to pay it forward by mentoring others.  


The group then heard from women with First American Title Insurance Company. Emily Ramacciotti, Vice President and Counsel-Division Area Manager and Colleen Boyle, Underwriting Counsel, spoke to the group. This was an excellent opportunity for WIRE to hear from a top title insurance company, an industry that the group has not had a lot of exposure to so far. Ms. Ramacciotti and Ms. Boyle discussed why First American Title was rated as one of the “Best Workplaces for Women” in 2018. 


Next Walker & Dunlop executives Deborah Storts, Vice President, and Lynn Pearson, Assistant Vice President of Capital Markets, spoke to WIRE about mortgage brokerage and women’s initiatives at Walker & Dunlop. Ms. Pearson is a double badger, earning a BBA in 2002 and her MBA in 2006. She mentioned that she came to her current position through a connection she met at a WREAA Biennial reunion. Lynn is on the board of Walker & Dunlop’s Women’s Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to empower women and the 2019 theme is confidence. Debra and Lynn, who both work in production, were inspired to create a subgroup of the Women’s Initiative, called Women in Production.


To end the day, Andrea Mullins (BBA 2004), Development Director from Irgens, spoke about the company and her own career path. Andrea started in debt lending in Chicago, Illinois and recently switched to the development side, moving to Milwaukee in the spring of 2019. The Irgens team also discussed their most recent Milwaukee development, the BMO Tower which is to be opened in 2020. The goal of the project is to create a landmark property which will shape Milwaukee’s skyline. The team from Irgens also conducted an Intriguing discussion of the role of technology in real estate and how it is now linking tenants and building operating staff. In the BMO project, guest will use a QR code to access the parking garage. The concierge will be notified when the QR code is used and by the time the guest arrives in the lobby, the concierge will be able to address the guest by name. While technology can be an incredible asset to new office buildings, the Irgens team cautioned that its use must make sense financially for the project.


Thank you to all who made the WIRE Fall 2019 Trip to Milwaukee possible, including trip organizer Sophie Stricker, a senior at UW-Madison and WIRE’s Vice President of Professional Events, “I’m happy to put together a trip that encompassed companies working in all aspects of the real estate industry and across many property types as well," said Sophie. "I am very appreciative of everyone’s excitement to participate in the event and host us in their workplaces.”


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