SAI Alumni Spotlight: Patricia McTiernan
At the age of 13, Patricia McTiernan (BS ’14), had a paint brush and sponge placed in her hand by her aunt who was the Property Manager at Student Rentals in Ithaca. As she grew accustomed to getting her hands dirty with apartment upkeep, her aunt gradually gave her more maintenance responsibility. Patricia’s experience in the Ithaca property business at a young age sparked the beginning of a lifelong passion for the real estate industry.
An Ithaca native, Patricia wanted to get out and try something different by attending school at Niagara University. However, after one year she transferred back to Cornell with the conviction that the education and experience offered by the university of her hometown was unbeatable. During her time at Cornell, Patricia studied Communications. Her sophomore year, the HR Director at the time, Annelise Shuepbach (BS '15), mentioned that Patricia should come to a Student Agencies information session. After Patricia’s inquiry about whether SAI contained a real estate business was confirmed, she was sold.
Patricia supported herself through college, so she was used to both autonomy and responsibility upon entering her job at SAI. Her determined attitude translated over to her hands-on approach with her job -- Patricia was not afraid to do the manual labor necessary for her role as SAI Property Manager, and she overhauled the SAI buildings herself. She recalls, “What I remember most from my year was really digging into the apartments and going around the norm of what the board requires.”
Gaining approval for the work, and subsequently finding more issues with the apartments was a challenge. “After peeling back paint, and then seeing a leak we would end up going over budget with our fixes. Standing in front of the board and justifying costs that were substantially over budget while proving that it is necessary for the buildings and SAI Properties, caused me to think outside of the box.”
Looking back on Student Agencies, there were key players who influenced Patricia’s growth. She recalls “I worked very closely with Kyle Karnes (BS ’91), he was a great mentor. I also learned a lot from many board members, specifically Julie Delay (M. ILR ’99) and Matt Wagner (MBA ’09). I would not have survived without Bonnie Enzian during my time at SAI, and we are still super close. Also, Lisa Moran was helpful in sharpening my accounting skills on the job. Finally, my coworkers Robbie Ainsley (BA ’13) and Laura Furman (BS ’15) were huge influencers.”
After graduating from Cornell in 2014, Patricia took a much-needed summer in Hawaii. Then, she took her first job in Buffalo, NY working for a commercial real estate company. She credits Matt Wagner (MBA ’09) with being helpful in her transition to Buffalo, and telling her “If you want to do something, you better do it.”
Two years ago, Patricia moved to Seattle to work at CBRE. In her current job, she manages around 750,000 square feet. Like her time at Student Agencies, Patricia “works in a team setting, but it is very hands on.” Her very fast paced job forces her always to be extremely sharp and focused.
To current and incoming managers at SAI, Patricia advises utilizing your time working for such a special organization. “Use your time to make mistakes and then learn how to correct and grow from them because this is the perfect opportunity to get coaching and learn how to be vulnerable in a business sense. That way, when you do get to the real world, you are prepared.”
Once students move into the real world, Patricia believes that “you need to show up to work and mean what you are doing. People will be able to tell the difference between someone showing up for a paycheck and someone who cares about excelling at the work they are producing.”