We asked this month's spotlight a few questions. Below are his answers.
AR: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
MS: I'm a first generation Washingtonian, who was born to Nicaraguan immigrants. I
graduated from Gonzaga College High School and stayed local for college, graduating from Catholic University in 1987 and receiving my M.B.A. in real estate and urban
development from American University in 1992. I married fellow CUA alumna Jennifer
Ritter, B.A. 1990, in 1995 and have two daughters, Marina (15), and Mary Beth (12). We
reside in Kensington, Md., and enjoy ski trips during the winter and beach vacations during
the summer. My free time is spent trying to stay in shape for competitive baseball, which I
still play with a couple of other CUA alumni.
AR: Can you tell us about your career path? How did you get started? What were some of your positions along the way?
MS: Having graduated from CUA with a B.A. in financial management, I accepted a
job offer from Sovran Bank as part of their management training class of 1988. After six
months of training and exposure to various banking environments, including the
commercial real estate lending department, I started my career as an assistant branch manager. It was during these
early days that I discovered the importance of customer service and the challenges of managing a staff, which we often
discussed in my management classes at CUA. Although I was enjoying my time in retail banking, my heart wanted to further explore the commercial real estate industry. To that end, I submitted my resignation and enrolled full-time at American
University to obtain my M.B.A. with a concentration in real estate and urban development. At the time, AU was one of only
two schools that offered a concentration in real estate.
Upon graduation and armed with an M.B.A., I was prepared to begin my career in commercial real estate. However, the U.S. economy was not cooperating as it was still working itself out of the early '90s recession. The job market was difficult and
after many failures, I took a job with Delta Associates, a well known and reputable commercial real estate appraisal and consulting firm. It was here that I learned commercial real estate from the ground up and became intimately familiar with
real estate terminology and the invaluable skill of valuation.
I was able to parlay my valuation skills into becoming an asset manager with Archon Group, a national asset management company and subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. I went on to further develop my asset management skills and get more deeply involved with acquisitions/dispositions as assistant vice president of asset management at Quadrangle Development
After eight years in asset management, I was offered the opportunity to strengthen my understanding of property operations by becoming a general manager at Trizec supervising their Northern Virginia office portfolio. A few years later, Trizec was
purchased by Brookfield Office Properties, where I was most recently the director of property management for the region's downtown D.C. office portfolio.
More recently, I was offered the opportunity to get back into asset management and lead the portfolio management group of
First Potomac Realty Trust. First Potomac is transitioning from an industrial/office/flex portfolio to majority office, and my experience will lend itself to this new direction.
AR: Tell us about your position as director of portfolio management? What are your responsibilities?
MS: At my current position as director of portfolio management for First Potomac Realty Trust, I oversee a small group of
portfolio managers and analysts who are instrumental in establishing the strategic direction for each of our properties. We are tasked with making sure each of our business units (i.e., leasing, property management, or construction) are operating
according to each property's strategic plan. To a large extent, we represent the shareholders and are constantly asking
ourselves: "If this was your money, what would you do?"
AR: What are some challenges you face daily in real estate? What do you enjoy the most?
MS: One of the most appealing facets of commercial real estate is that you face unanticipated challenges on a daily basis.
On any given day, you have to make decisions on property acquisitions/dispositions, approval of capital improvement projects, leasing, and tenant workouts. You do your best to thoroughly analyze each decision, but oftentimes you don't have the luxury
of time and need to make a decision based on the best information you have. Seeing the positive results of our difficult
decisions and achieving our strategic goals provides great satisfaction.
AR: What is a typical day of work like for you?
MS: My typical day starts off with coffee and a review of the morning business news. Thereafter, I am typically in and out of internal meetings, with interaction with my staff in between. I often have business lunches scheduled with colleagues in the industry, or vendors looking for our business. This allows me to stay in touch with what others in the industry are doing.
AR: What is the most interesting event or person that you have come across in your line of work?
MS: One of the most impactful events I've been a part of is the D.C. Special Olympics, which is held each year at CUA's
DuFour Center. My former employer, Brookfield Office Properties, is the main sponsor of this event and for six years, I
volunteered to help run the games. It is an amazing and rewarding experience.
AR: When you are not working at First Potomac Realty Trust, what do you like to do?
MS: When I'm not working at First Potomac Realty Trust, I enjoy spending time attending my daughters' sporting events,
and like to stay in shape by working out and playing competitive baseball.
AR: How did Catholic University prepare you for your current career? Any specific courses that you took or experiences you had while a student?
MS: Overall, Catholic University provided at a good foundation for my career path, which I further honed by going to graduate school. The fundamentals from my micro- and macro-economics, accounting, statistics, and financial management classes
are referred to on a daily basis.
AR: Were there any specific faculty members who mentored you?
MS: I have fond memories of Dr. Said Hassanien, who was an extremely fair business professor, whose mission was to make
sure you left his class with a good understanding of the subject matter. If not, he took it personally that he had failed in some
way. I would also mention Bob Talbot, who was dean of admissions during my time at CUA. Mr. Talbot coached, played, and
was once the athletic director at CUA. He was an avid supporter of the baseball team and was always willing to listen and
help you in any way.
AR: What clubs and organizations were you a part of, if any? How did they prepare you?
MS: I did not participate in any clubs or organizations during my time at CUA. At the time, I was spending most of my time studying or playing baseball.
AR: Do you keep in touch with other friends or classmates from CUA? If so, how? Who in particular?
MS: I stay in touch with the large CUA community that graduated in the '85 to '90 time period and have stayed local. Too
many to mention, but in between our children's activities, we make every effort to get together a couple times each year. We especially look forward to Memorial Day, where a few CUA families get together at Mike, B.M.E. 1988, and Stacy Gormley's house in Annapolis. It's been fun to see how all the kids have grown.
AR: What is one of your favorite memories of your time at Catholic University?
MS: One of my favorite memories of my time at CUA was congregating at the "Rat" for a few beers and enjoying ourselves off campus at Kitty's and Colonel Brooks. Keep in mind the drinking age was 18 back then.
Mario Silva played collegiate baseball at Catholic University while studying for his undergraduate degree in financial