As part of our series, CRE Future Leaders, we caught up with Ashley Szatkowski, director of finance and acquisitions at Syndicated Equities. Szatkowski joined the firm in August 2015 and focuses on developing strategic relationships with lenders and acquiring strong, cash-flowing properties for the firm’s investors. She works with new and existing lender relationships to structure financing as well as coordinate due diligence and negotiate PSA’s during the acquisition process.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in Woodstock, Illinois (far northwest suburbs) a small farm community with my parents and three siblings. My father was a union finish carpenter and my mom stayed at home with us. We lived outside of town, so we needed to be creative to keep entertained. We often took family vacations to various camping destinations in Wisconsin. After high school, I attended the local community college, McHenry County College, obtaining my associate degree and a management certificate. I then continued my education at University of Illinois at Chicago, where I earned a dual bachelor degree in finance and management.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
I always wanted to be a teacher. As a child, my little brother, sister and I would pretend we were going to school and I would always be the teacher. Math was my favorite subject and so as I grew up, I always told myself, “I’m going to teach math when I grow up.” Fortunately for me, throughout my career, I’ve been able to apply this trait to help some of my younger colleagues grow in their careers, which helped fulfill this dream.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I fell into this industry. I say this because it’s true and because I learned very early in my career that the choices you make and the people you meet provide you with endless opportunities. Sometimes these are great opportunities and sometimes not so great, but each one provides a step in the right direction. I was given the opportunity to move from business lending to commercial real estate lending during the Great Recession. While this doesn’t seem like a big leap, I knew very little about CRE and real estate was on life support (or so it seemed to me as an outsider). I was young at the time and talked with many people about this leap before I accepted the position. Ultimately, I decided it was a great opportunity to learn something new and if I didn’t like it, I could always turn back! So I jumped on board and have never looked back since.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I have several mentors who I now consider friends. They have been wonderful resources and I’m glad they’ve pushed me to make tough decisions throughout my career. I have been fortunate to meet many of these friends through networking, especially through CREW Chicago! A big shout out to the women of CREW Chicago, thank you for everything!
What does a day in the life of Ashley Szatkowski look like?
I’m pretty boring, although it’s busy when you have a family and a full-time job.
What do you like most about your job?
I love learning. While my job is sometimes mundane, there are days when you are forced to step back, at what seems like a simple transaction, and look at it from a different perspective. These opportunities come in various sizes.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
Continuing to grow in relationships and knowledge. I find that when you open yourself to learning, even if you may not agree with the teaching, you have a chance to understand something from a different perspective.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I spend much of my time with my husband, Jason, and our two children, Jaxon (4) and Adelynn (1). Family time is so important to me. It’s something I cherish and want my children to experience, even if it is playing with toys in the living room or traveling to far away destinations.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do hope to go next?
I haven’t traveled to many places, but my favorite so far was Barcelona, Spain. There is something about Barcelona that captured my heart, I can’t wait to go back! I’m not sure where to next, maybe you have some suggestions.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?