I interviewed with Steve Hallmark at Cousins Properties last fall and was hired for this operations-focused real estate internship through UNC Kenan-Flagler's REDI (Real Estate Diversity Initiative) program. The internship is for eight weeks and involves rotating amongst four buildings in the Charlotte market, learning from onsite management and engineering.
I learned that different buildings have different engineering needs, such as HVAC cooling towers versus chillers. Additionally, I learned the mechanics of SWUDs, heat exchangers, air units, PIU, wet and dry pipe fire systems, etc. One might believe that they can learn about these things online but learning them from an engineer who is intimately familiar with their building is an entirely different experience. Another aspect of the internship involved working with the Property Management team and learning how accounting and customer relations are integrated into their day-to-day operations. Specifically, budgeting, coding, POs, accruals, and vendor management. I was able to see firsthand how the budgets are constructed for the upcoming year and help analyze the variances. I also had the opportunity to walk with parking, security, and janitorial leadership to learn more about their roles and tasks in the building to ensure that the building runs smoothly. Last but not least, I went to Cousins' headquarters in Atlanta for a week. I enjoyed learning most about the development, acquisitions, and corporate model. One of the key takeaways from this experience was to always ask questions and be curious about what you're doing.
The most intriguing aspect of my internship was discovering the significance of the day-to-day operations. It was fascinating to learn and observe from the team collaborations how to manage daily objectives such as vendor access, work orders, customer requests, etc. All aspects of the building tie back to ensuring all customer needs are met.
This experience will be beneficial to me in my future endeavors because I want to work in development/acquisition, and I think it's important to have real estate operations experience because it will help me to understand and visualize how an onsite management team will function in potential development.
Cousins began partnering with UNC Kenan-Flagler's REDI Program in 2019. Raghvendra is the third summer intern to work in the Cousins' Charlotte office and he has shown high levels of engagement, curiosity, and drive. Knowing it would take the entire Cousins' Charlotte market team to make this a successful internship, Amy Albright and Jennifer Hoffman began planning early for Raghvendra's arrival and involved the entire team in the process. The property management teams met to brainstorm and create a list of projects and subject matter for Raghvendra. Recurring meeting invitations were extended to Raghvendra so he could be exposed to an array of common property management aspects and affairs. Providing a well-rounded CRE experience for our interns is vital since, for many it forms the foundation of their practical understanding of this sector and serves as the jumping off point for future career refinement within our industry. For any companies interested in learning more about this internship opportunity, please visit UNC or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.