On any given day, Jennifer Volbeda, a senior project engineer for Pence Construction, could be coordinating with architects, tenants and specially selected construction teams to execute a customized renovation of retail spaces throughout the west coast.
For Jennifer, real estate development combines three things:
- The pleasure of collaborating with people to create fresh new spaces
- The intellectual challenge of blending construction from different eras and with contemporary needs and technologies
- The responsibility of successfully managing construction across her employer’s retail portfolio.
It makes for decidedly satisfying work days for Jennifer who, five years ago, never planned to pursue a career in commercial real estate.
“I grew up in the construction world,” Jennifer said. As a child, she watched her father run his own landscaping company. She learned to read construction plans, saw portions of the construction process and felt his delight at creating new spaces.
But Jennifer had different career plans. She studied speech communication and Spanish in college, then moved to Spain to teach English as a second language. Returning home to Portland, Oregon, a few years later, she landed in an administrative job at a general contracting company.
“I fell in love with the company and the kind of projects they were doing,” she said.
She enrolled in community college classes, began shadowing a project engineer at work and soon earned a promotion.
Jennifer also cultivated a habit of regularly attending industry networking events, where she met the executive director of Portland State University’s Center for Real Estate. The Master of Real Estate Development was the opportunity for her to learn about the rich mixture of construction, development, business, finance and public policy.
“It showed me there are a lot more career opportunities than I had ever anticipated,” said Jennifer, who is a NAIOP diversity student scholarship winner and is set to graduate with her master’s in Spring 2019.