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CRE Insights & Advice from Three Emerging Leaders

BOMA/Chicago’s Emerging Leaders Network provides career development, education and networking opportunities for BOMA/Chicago Building and Affiliate members with a recommended seven years or less of experience in the commercial real estate industry.

We asked three emerging leaders to describe their professional backgrounds and to give us their insights on CRE. Read the responses below from Angela Oh, JLL; RJ Parrilli, Midway Building Services, and Ebony Andry, Sterling Bay.

As an emerging leader in commercial real estate, what are some of the top industry issues you believe your peers should be aware of/focus on?

Angela Oh: The need for permanent office space is diminishing due to flexible work environments. The modern workforce is doing business off-site, from a remote location and working hours are not the typical 9 to 5.

RJ Parrilli: We have an aging work force in the field and there could potentially be a labor shortage with the amount of people in our generation entering into the trades. There may be a shortage of skilled tradesmen as you look at the current demographics.

Ebony Andry: Tenants are now using space differently and looking for more amenities and common space in buildings. We should be aware of these increasing demands, and in some instances requirements for things such as tenant lounges, fitness centers, creative spaces and bike rooms.

What is your vision for the future of CRE? How do you expect the industry will change in 5/10/20 years?

Angela Oh: The CRE industry will likely evolve to cater to the demographics of the younger workforce.  Many of the traditional offices and spaces will be redesigned for more collaborative settings.

RJ Parrilli: With the baby boomers exiting the commercial real estate industry, there could be a pivotal change with gen x,y, and millennials leading the ever changing industry. With more of a focus on a work- life balance, it could change the landscape of the suburbs to become more of an urban center focused on a better quality lifestyle.

Ebony Andry:  Technological advances will improve the way we do business and make us more efficient. I envision programs that can merge the various needs of owners, leasing agents and property managers, thus improving overall communication and productivity.

What unique ideas/perspectives can younger CRE professionals bring to the table?

Angela Oh: As the large number of workforce are now the millennials, the younger CRE professionals can relate and contribute to what the tenants needs will be. Having a collaborative and relaxed tenant spaces/lounges equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity will become a necessity and we will need to build out spaces that cater to younger generation (ex. open spaces vs. offices).

RJ Parrilli: We can provide what the younger generation looks for when occupying and using CRE space.  Younger professionals are replacing the baby boomers and will be one of the largest consumers in history. For example, businesses today consider location even more important than compensation. Baby boomers want to live to work, Gen X wants to work to live and the millennials are looking for a work to play lifestyle.

Ebony Andry: Younger professionals bring a unique perspective to the industry, including more efficient ways of accomplishing objectives with the use of technology and innovative ideas regarding tenant amenities.

What do you consider to be your greatest career accomplishment thus far? What are your goals moving forward?

Angela Oh: My greatest achievement was earning the 2014 Reginald L. Ollie Inclusion and Outreach Scholarship and then the RPA designation in 2016. Through this scholarship, I was able to complete my requirements in two years and studied all aspects of property management.  I also had the opportunity to network and expand relationships with my fellow industry professionals.

RJ Parrilli: My biggest career accomplishment is heading up the start of Midway Staffing and expanding Midway into the market of temporary labor services. My goal is to continue the success with this expansion and new ways to add revenue and solutions to the real estate community.

Ebony Andry: In April of 2016, I was awarded the Reginald L. Ollie Inclusion and Outreach Scholarship and this was my greatest accomplishment to date. My goals include completing my RPA, becoming the General Manager of  a 500,000+ square foot building, earning LEED certification and becoming  a great resource and mentor for other professionals in the industry.

What first made you want to get involved in CRE?

Angela Oh: Working as a CRE professional involves a variety of skills and almost forces you to be well-rounded and a good multitasker.  I enjoy the spontaneous events that arise and the impromptu actions you have to take in order for your building to run smoothly.  The unpredictable side of working in this industry may be scary at times, but I welcome the challenges and hope to enhance my skills through these events.

RJ Parrilli: As I found myself working in the insurance field, I was presented an opportunity to help Midway expand their vertical market by putting a focus on multi-tiered relationships. BOMA/Chicago, City of Hope and many other organizations greatly helped me develop relationships which have turned into clients and personal friends which will last a lifetime.

Ebony Andry: What first attracted me to the CRE industry was the great variety in tasks that each day brings. There is nothing mundane about property management. Tasks vary from working on tenant space improvements and building capital projects to creating budgets and conducting fire drills.

Do you have a mentor (within or outside of your company)? How has he/she helped guide you?

Angela Oh:  My General Manager at 71 South Wacker, David Hopwood, has been an integral part of my professional experience.  He has supported me throughout all my endeavors and enriched my knowledge how to make my building the best of the best.  Second, as part of receiving the Ollie Scholarship, I was able to choose Rebecca Miles, Piedmont Office Realty Trust, as my mentor. Becky has been an amazing partner; she made herself available to discuss my progress, assisted me in decision making and provided a different perspective on managing commercial real estate.

RJ Parrilli: Joe Sergi with Clear Height (formerly REX Electric). When I first was thinking of joining Midway, I sat with Joe multiple times and he discussed all the pros and cons of this industry and the potential opportunities of what can lie ahead. He has assisted me in developing my customer base and guiding me in to the right organizations.

Ebony Andry: My General Manager, Bonnie Boden, has been a great guide and advisor. She motivated me to earn my Broker’s License and RPA. She inspired me to set high goals and achieve them. My second mentor, Max Andrews, Matting by Design, is one I gained as part of the Ollie Scholarship. Max has encouraged me to be a resource to others around me and to have courage to ask for help when I need it.

What would be the one piece of advice/guidance you’d pass along to someone considering a career in the CRE industry?

Angela Oh: Be open-minded!  CRE is not just about managing buildings. It incorporates so many aspects of business practices and you are sure to find an area of passion. The network of professionals in Chicago’s CRE market is extensive and a beneficial resource. Also, being part of a great organization like BOMA/Chicago, you are able to network and build great relationships to help you do your job well.

RJ Parrilli: Younger professionals tend to look for a quick advancement. There is a lot of opportunity in CRE to be successful – but it takes time and patience. It is rewarding to see people who you started with working up the corporate ladder and capitalizing on their own opportunities.

Ebony Andry: The CRE industry is both challenging and compelling and the people in it are like a small community, kind and willing to help. Once someone has decided to be a part of the industry, I would further advise them to get involved, increase their knowledge and find someone who will be a helpful and enthusiastic mentor.

For additional information about BOMA/Chicago Emerging Leaders or to be added to the Emerging Leaders email list, contact Beth Halat, Director of Member Services at