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Globe-Trotting Tech Firm Manager Earns Master’s in Real Estate

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On asking for Jill Weston at the reception desk at the New York headquarters for Indeed, the job search tech giant, the receptionist barely gets a chance to pick up the phone before Weston appears. Weston had snagged a desk nearby so she could greet the visitor at their moment of arrival.

It’s not just her visitor’s time that she values, but hers as well. Weston only had a half-hour to spare before she was due in another meeting. The following day she was flying off to India to oversee an office build-out, part of her role as senior manager of global real estate tech and program management. While on the flight she had to squeeze in homework for her Master’s in Real Estate from the Fordham Real Estate Institute at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS).

“It is certainly a balance, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I try my hardest,” Weston said in a phone interview when she returned to New York. “My professors are, for the most part, really understanding. I’ll go to Singapore, take a red-eye back the following week, and then go to class that afternoon.”

Presenting from an Airport Via Videoconference

Weston recently had a final project due just after a trip to India. “But I just couldn’t physically be back, so after 35 hours of traveling, my professor and I arranged for me give to my final presentation in an airport connected to ZOOM (video conference)—he was just so great about it,” she said. “It’s about balance, it’s about prioritization, but I think it’s easier for me because I don’t see school as a chore.”

Like many PCS students, Weston is a military veteran. She served five years active duty as a surface warfare officer in the Navy and for the last six years, she has been a reservist. She was recently promoted to lieutenant commander.

At Indeed, she is a key leader in the company’s real estate projects, site selection, negotiations, strategic planning, program management, and tech infrastructure. With more than 10,000 employees, the firm has leased and built more than three million square feet of office space at 136 locations in 16 countries. And these aren’t typical office spaces with cubicles and copy machines. Indeed is, indeed, a tech company with offices that have the modern look and feel expected in the tech sector. In the New York office, the designs riff on themes of various industries, from tunnel-like hallways for the transportation sector to the bright lights and theatricality of the entertainment industry.

Despite a busy schedule, she’s taken on leadership roles at Fordham. She’s the only student serving on the Real Estate Institute’s executive board. She also serves as the co-president of the Fordham Real Estate Student Association.

Understanding the ‘Why’ of Real Estate Deals

She said she sees her role at Indeed as a way to grow “into deeper, more hands-on real estate” and views corporate real estate as a good introduction to entering real estate full time. That’s where the Real Estate Institute comes into play.

“I’m learning how the money works and why, like why do we rent versus buy? I learn about taxes, I learn about accounting, I learn about legal matters,” she said.

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship, there’s a lot of overlap, these are all things that corporate companies are trying to grapple with: Do we go invest and buy a 300,000-square-foot building from a developer? Do we let the developer build it first?” she said. “I’m learning what the developer is doing and why they’re doing it and that helps me understand from a negotiation standpoint when we’re leasing something at Indeed.”

Jill Weston presents her proposals in class.

Weston also hopes to do some good with her newfound knowledge. Last semester, she took a class that collaborated with the Urban Land Institute. In the class, each student had to choose a site that was actually on the market in Manhattan to be sold for development. The students had to propose a development plan for commercial space with flexible office space and/or retail.

A Plan to Help Refugees

She chose a space currently available near Penn Station. She said her first priority was to generate revenue, but she would also like to create a space that helps immigrants and refugees navigate a complex system. She envisioned designated floors for medical rentals, legal rentals, and classroom rentals for ESL classes. She said that her ground floor could be a food hall where refugees might be employed.

“There would be a discount on the rent for those who provide fee-capped or free services and there would have to be at least five of those medical or legal appointments a day,” she said.

She said the Urban Land Institute program gave her insight on how to defend her choices.

“I wanted to create a program that gives asylum seekers a place to transition into our culture after a traumatic experience,” she said. “I believe that immigrants bring so much to the table. I think they’ll work so hard and can be so loyal. Help them and they help us. It’s a two-way street.”

It’s the sort of development that she would like to see more of, and while it differs from her day job, the class gave her an opportunity to see similarities.

“I think what Fordham does really well is it teaches you the foundation and structure of how these things work and points out to you that while the content might differ, at the end of the day, the processes are still the same.”

Weston at Indeed

Taking a break at Indeed’s cafe

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