For Huong Van, a Vice President at First Virginia Community Bank, her real estate graduate study has opened doors to new knowledge, new clients and expanding opportunities. Here are some excerpts from a recent interview with Huong, who will graduate from the Mason MRED program this Spring.
What were you hoping to gain when you came into the Mason MRED program?
Van: I joined the MRED program because I wanted to view the world the same way my developer clients did. I wanted to speak their language. My hope was that this program would help me become be a better banker and maybe one day even become a developer myself. I wanted to learn what motivated developers to pick a site and the process it took to actually acquire it. I wanted to understand how they were able to secure their tenants and understand the importance in the nuances in the varying terms and conditions on their leases. I also wanted to learn how the developers were able to mitigate risk along the way while making an economically viable project.
Have those expectations been met?
Van: Yes, definitely! The industry-experienced professors are very engaging and focus on teaching things that matter in the real world. This productive and meaningful approach has enhanced the way I perform at work and how I think about my clients’ projects. My clients have said that they are impressed with the questions I ask and my attention to detail. There is definitely a correlation between my performance as a producer for my company (I was the top producer last year) and my exposure to this program.
Could you speak to the networking opportunities you’ve gained—as part of the Northern Virginia real estate community?
Van: The MRED program has served as an invaluable nexus to genuine relationships with leaders and future leaders in the industry. These relationships have turned casual acquaintances into mentors, clients, and friends.
I am proud to say that my clientele includes classmates, a guest speaker, and the company of a Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship board member. This symbiotic relationship highlights the real-world mentality of the program and the willingness of the community to support one another. There’s a sense of pride we all get from being a part of this special MRED community.
What surprises—unexpected gains, challenges—have there been along the way?
Van: A great but unexpected gain was the program’s relationship with NAIOP. In conjunction with the MRED program, NAIOP has provided me with an opportunity to be mentored by one of the most admired and respected professionals in the industry. It’s also given me direct access to people throughout the local commercial real estate arena. There has not been one team assignment where I haven’t reached out to a subject matter expert and gotten the market intelligence I needed.