Weekday mornings you walk off a ferry ramp, escalate out of BART, step off Caltrain, SamTrans or Muni, get off your bicycle or come out of your downtown garage and enter the bustling San Francisco workplace. Within your office building, some of the world’s most talented people practice law, create marketing campaigns, design computer games, craft financial products, ply thousands of trades … and they never give a second thought to the incredible structures in which they work, or those who manage them.
The people who operate our workplace facilities where all of this economic activity takes place are all around you, but you probably don’t notice them. They ensure that your office building is safe, clean, well maintained, properly lit and adequately powered. They are responsible for designing and building your workspace, ensuring a high degree of indoor air quality, implementing the latest in recycling, energy and water conservation practices, and seeking new ways to create sustainable operating methods. Office building operators oversee the work of vendors of more than 50 types of professional and business services that keep these buildings functioning safely and comfortably so you can do your job.
When they do their jobs right, you hardly know they’re there. However, their profession constitutes a huge segment of San Francisco’s economy. Members of the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco operate more than 75 million square feet of office space locally. Our industry supports more than 14,370 jobs in San Francisco. We contribute more than $2.5 billion to the local economy, including $1.3 billion in operating outlays and earnings of more than $653 million annually for the building operations staff alone.
Why am I telling you all of this? Two reasons: We want policy makers to know that we represent a vital sector of The City’s economy. But even more important, we want people to know about the wonderful commercial real estate career opportunities that are available.
A recent report says the average technology job in Silicon Valley pays almost $100,000 a year. That’s pretty sweet. But did you know that you can do just as well, or even better, as an office building or portfolio manager, asset services director, managing director, or district manager for a real estate operating company? And this skill set is geographically transferable. If you’re good, you can operate some of the finest, most amazing structures around the globe.
In commercial real estate management, you have the chance to work in a broad range of disciplines, including tenant relations, lease interpretation, risk management, security, engineering and mechanical systems, procurement, vendor management, leadership development, finance, banking, accounting, construction and GREEN building practices. The work environment offers autonomy and a sense of entrepreneurial spirit much like running your own business.
While people with experience from related industries such as hotel management, multifamily property management, financial services, banking, or real estate leasing often make a successful transition to this profession, there are solid opportunities for young people just starting out.
Not many students aspire to operate office buildings when they graduate, but maybe they should. It’s a great field that offers the opportunity to use “people skills” and business acumen and caters to both generalists and specialists. The preferred educational background for a career in this industry spans a range of technical, managerial, business or liberal arts, but above all a desire to help solve problems with a customer-service orientation.
Our industry is so well organized that we train you for most roles. Why not consider a fulfilling career in real estate management? BOMA members have been doing that here for 100 years. See www.bomasf.org for more information.
Marc Intermaggio is executive vice president of BOMA, San Francisco’s Building Owners and Managers Association.