Leveraging a Powerful Network

Andres Andrade knew he had only one year to learn as much as possible and build necessary connections in the Master of Science in Real Estate program. That meant showing up at every possible career event to network, meet recruiters and build relationships in the real estate industry.

It also meant giving up spring break. Andrade (MSRE ’08) convinced Program Director David Ling that it would be worthwhile for him to miss a mandatory week of coursework so he could travel to Las Vegas for the ULI Conference, a national real estate conference with key stakeholders from some of the industry’s most impactful companies.

Going to the conference would mean that Andrade would have to spend his spring break in Miami learning about ARGUS, a real estate software that evaluates cash flow, and the MSRE program requires students to be proficient in it. While in Las Vegas, Andrade mostly ran into dead ends. He targeted some of the industry heavyweights in attendance, hoping for an interview with just one of them. None happened.

It’s when he got to Miami for his spring break learning session that things started to turn. That’s where Andrade met Josh Friedman. Andrade admired him for afar since the program began, and the two built a close relationship during their week in Miami.

Friedman worked for Gazit Group, a company that owns, develops and runs supermarket-anchored shopping centers in urban markets globally. Friedman worked to get Andrade in front of Gazit’s chairman for an interview, and within a month, Andrade accepted a job offer with the company.

“They say the harder you work, the luckier you get,” Andrade said. “That was definitely the case for me. It was so key for me to put myself in front of as many people as possible. The University of Florida name carries a big weight, and I used that as much as I could.”

Andrade finished the MSRE program and started with Gazit in its Miami office while the company was also opening offices in Brazil. His first two years were spent learning about the business and gauging how leadership thought. Andrade was involved in important deals in eastern Europe and played a key role in analytic work and surface analysis.

Soon after, opportunities in Brazil started to increase. Management in the area didn’t have a secure strategy, and by 2013, Andrade convinced a key stakeholder in the company to move with him to São Paulo, Brazil, to jumpstart the operation. In three years since the move, Gazit has gone from a $100 million company to now close to a $700 million company.

Andrade arrived in São Paulo at 27 years old and didn’t know a single person in the city. There were plenty of challenges in the way, but Andrade leaned on his time in the MSRE program to grow the company.

“We didn’t know anybody when we got here,” Andrade said. “It was all about building a network and relationships. Those are important skills that I learned when I was in the MSRE program. It gets you in front of people, and that’s what got me the job.

“The most valuable thing was networking and putting yourself in front of people to get confidence. I was young and had to get my networking skills built up. The program gave me confidence to talk to key stakeholders about my ideas. It helped me grow, and I’m collecting the fruit of it.”

Andrade was named to the Forbes Brasil 30 under 30 list this year. Gazit continues to grow across the world, and Andrade currently oversees a team of 120 people in Brazil.