Northwestern Mutual
  |  Northwestern Mutual Real Estate

Amber House

Amber House

Market Associate - Southern California
University of Wisconsin

What's your background?
I studied economics and urban studies at the University of California San Diego. After graduation, I worked as an Associate Project Manager for a developer that built affordable housing throughout San Diego County. I did that for five years, then went to Business school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and got my MBA with a specialization in real estate. Our Real Estate MBA class was 12 students so it was very small, personalized and very targeted. It was a great way to understand the industry. I felt very well prepared transitioning back into the workplace with this experience.

How is it that you came to Northwestern Mutual?
My manager here is a UW alum and she was my mock interviewer when I initially visited the business school. So I met her early on. I also made a connection with someone from Northwestern Mutual at the National Black MBA Association MBA career fair. And finally, they came to recruit MBAs prior to my graduation, and that's really when the relationship was solidified.

As an Associate in Underwriting, what do you do?
Northwestern Mutual Real Estate invests in a number of different types of commercial real estate such as apartments, industrial, office and retail. The deals are initiated in one of our eight field offices around the country, and once they're vetted in the field, the deals come to us in the Milwaukee home office, where we lead them through the final approval process. We do an analysis of the opportunity to make sure that, from the company's point of view, we're objectively looking at the deal pricing and taking into account the market conditions. Once we identify the strengths and weaknesses of the deal, we present our findings to our internal approval board and if it's approved, we work with our legal team to draft the approval letter.

How many deals to you have going at any given time?
In four months, I've underwritten 15 deals. So, maybe one deal a week, sometimes two. It's a lot of work, but it's really fun because you're constantly busy and challenged. There's very little down time. 

What do you like best about what you do?
I like how I'm always looking at new markets and deal types. I'm challenged to quickly get an understanding of the market and see the big picture. It's almost like an adrenaline rush. I enjoy the workflow and variety of work.

How would you describe the culture at Northwestern Mutual?
It's very collegial, open door and collaborative. We're all on the same team. At the end of the day, we all want to get to a place where we're looking at a deal that everyone is comfortable with.  And since that's the undertone of the work we do, everyone is open about sharing their experience and their expertise.

What's next for you here?
One of the other things that drew me to this position is the opportunity. People here typically spend around three years in underwriting. After that, I'd love to have a region that I'm responsible for and where I can establish roots. As a market associate in the region, I'd work alongside the producers, asset managers or the regional director in that office to help with identifying and cultivating client relationships.

Anything else about your experience so far that you'd like to share?
My experience at Northwestern Mutual hasn't just been in real estate. I like to network and learn from other groups and individuals within the company. We have great employee resource groups and I've met a lot of people I can relate to. I've been involved in the women's employee resource group, the African American employee resource group and the Hispanic employee resource group. That's been really fun to enrich my experience here.