CCIM Q&A

Career Changer

Peter Stergos, CCIM, made the leap from working with the client at Cushman & Wakefield to becoming the client at United Technologies Corp. Four years after he made the career switch, Stergos is heading up Real Estate Transactions and Strategy for the $57.9 billion company.

“Not many commercial real estate brokers move from the service side to become a company employee,” Stergos says. “Looking back, I made the right decision.”

UTC has two major businesses: aerospace and commercial and industrial products, which it sells primarily in the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. For UTC, Stergos has traveled worldwide, gained management experience, and completed global commercial real estate transactions. He discusses his experiences with Commercial Investment Real Estate.

Stergos

CIRE: Why did you decide to move from working on the UTC account as a C&W employee to working directly for UTC?

Stergos: When the UTC director of global real estate asked me to join the company as the real estate manager for UTC's operations in Europe, it seemed like a great fit. I knew how to navigate through the UTC corporate structure successfully, which would make the transition smoother. I'd be working with the same players, although my viewpoint - and the actual deliverables -would change. Europe was attractive, since I enjoy traveling and exploring new cultures.

My first job involved managing the European portfolio of commercial real estate properties for five UTC business units. During the past four years, my scope of transaction responsibility expanded globally. My position has morphed into the global real estate transaction lead, in which I manage a team of regional managers handling hundreds of transactions annually. Although UTC is headquartered in Farmington, Conn., it operates in 140 countries, so over the years I have traveled extensively to meet with suppliers and internal clients in different locations. The move has been a career changer.

CIRE: How did your experience at C&W prepare you for your current position at UTC?

Stergos: C&W is a true commercial real estate company with the resources necessary for its employees to succeed. Through the transaction manager position, I gained a 360-degree view of the corporate commercial real estate transaction, furthering my appreciation of what it takes to close a deal. At UTC, I often have to set the expectation with business units that commercial real estate is not a commodity, which can be liquidated instantly. Also I have to manage relationships internally. My experience with the C&W team prepared me well for both these areas of responsibility.

CIRE: How do your responsibilities at UTC compare to those at C&W?

Stergos: At C&W, my focus was primarily on transactions within a specific region and dealing with a few business units at UTC. The job was well-defined, and I understood the scope of getting the job done and when the points of escalation would occur.

As a UTC employee, I have increased responsibility and a big-picture perspective of the global real estate business. The position is more about governance and developing strategic alliances between business units. I work with general managers at local UTC locations who do not make real estate decisions every day. I function as a liaison between the business units and internal functions, which includes managing employees.

CIRE: What is advantageous about these changes for your commercial real estate career?

Stergos: Being involved in commercial real estate outside the U.S., I've gained the experience and understanding of how the industry operates internationally. The differences are immense, from commissions to different cultures and laws to client negotiations.

For example, in the U.S., the laws for commercial real estate are the similar in 50 states. Internationally, the laws and regulations are drastically different. France is tenant friendly, while countries in Middle East are oriented toward the landlord. In Asia, the governments are often involved in commercial real estate transactions, especially in China.

CIRE: How has working for a large U.S. manufacturing company changed your perspective of the global economy?

Stergos: Global real estate transactions opened my eyes to the interconnected economy. Also, I get to see UTC's cutting edge manufacturing on new products, such as the new geared turbo fan engine. Use of this engine can actually change real estate uses and values for properties near airports. Its quieter operation makes more efficient glide paths possible.

UTC is also the world's largest supplier of equipment to the international building industry, where mass globalization is ongoing. This means a significantly increased long-term demand for elevators and air conditioners in developing countries, especially in Asia.

CIRE: How has the CCIM designation improved your ability to advance and adapt to changes in the industry?

Stergos: CCIM Institute education has provided me the foundation to understand and implement my commercial real estate career. The training allowed me to understand commercial real estate and transfer practical applications to my day-to-day work.

Internationally, I can use what I learned through CCIM about vacancy rates, comparative lease analysis, and whether to lease or buy properties. CCIM brokers are not just based in United States. When I work with another CCIM on a global transaction, I have the added comfort of knowing the CCIM broker understands the transaction and markets.

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Sara S. Patterson

Sara S. Patterson is former executive editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

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