Lyra Hou

This interview is an excerpt of a longer conversation with alumni.

Please share a little about your background and how you got to where you are.

I graduated in 2014 with a double major in Math and Economics. While in college, I knew I didn’t want to go the banking or finance route; I thought real-estate would be a good alternative while still having a strong emphasis on analytics. I first heard about AvalonBay through an Econ department lunch chat; they are a real-estate investment trust which specializes in multifamily rentals. After graduating, I started working for their financial planning and analysis (FP&A) department. I worked there for five years before moving to American Real Estate Partners, which specializes in commercial real estate.

Could you talk about what it was like for you working in real estate and some technical skills you needed?

My team at AvalonBay has a very collaborative and nurturing environment, which I did not quite expect from an industry like real estate. It also thinks very highly of Uva graduates. On the technical side, I never used Excel before arriving at the job. The FP&A department mostly recruits new graduates. They were looking for someone who was ready to learn, not necessarily someone who already knew Excel. The real estate industry is rather slow in adopting technology, so “hip” coding languages like Python aren’t really used that much; most work is still done in Excel. At American Real Estate Partners, it’s a bit more “sink or swim” than the hand-holding that my team at AvalonBay does, but this was expected because I came to them with some experience already.

What experiences did you have that you believe were helpful in finding your first

Honestly, it’s less about the actual experience than your ability to talk about how it helped you develop; the ability to market yourself is just as important as any technical skills you’ve learned. If an opportunity seems interesting, just pursue it; don’t put too much attention on how applicable it is to a certain desired position. As long as you can tell a story, it’s valuable. How can you convey grit and curiosity through your resume/interview? Treat interviews more like a conversation and less like a Q&A session; it’s much more natural and much more enjoyable. People who are interviewing would naturally gravitate towards candidates they have an easy rapport with.