As part of our series, CRE Future Leaders, we caught up with Brooke Jackson, multifamily originations vice president at Pillar Financial. Jackson is responsible for production across all Pillar product lines, specializing in conventional multifamily financing with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac throughout the U.S. with a focus on the Midwest. She joined Pillar in May 2014 and has nearly a decade of commercial real estate experience.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in Lisle, a western suburb of Chicago. I come from a family of six, so we were always busy with school and sports. I studied finance, international business and political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I worked two to three jobs at any one time to help pay for my education. I also spent a year studying abroad in Milan, Italy. It was truly the most amazing experience, and I encourage every college student to do so if they have the opportunity!
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
When I was young, I always wanted to be a lawyer. My mother told me there was never an argument I couldn’t win. When I grew up and realized how much I disliked reading case law, I decided to focus on my strengths in finance instead.
How did you get your start in the industry?
In my last year of college I took a Commercial Real Estate Finance class and fell in love with the industry. Soon after that, I landed a job in a commercial real estate group at a mid-size tristate bank before I even graduated. From there, I was referred into a position in agency lending, the segment I still focus on today.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I have been lucky enough to have multiple people in the industry who I consider to be a mentor. My longtime advocate is my former manager, Adam Klingher. I remember my first week working with him nearly a decade ago, when we were at Centerline (now HUNT). He came into my office and gave me the name of a woman in the industry who I should connect with to get involved and start to build my network. (I still am in touch with her today!) That one small push has grown into a large network of peers, mentors and connections that I rely on heavily today.
What does a day in the life of Brooke Jackson look like?
I usually get an early wakeup call from my daughter, who thinks it’s time to play before the sun comes up. I am very fortunate that most days I have a playdate before work. After a quick 20-minute walk to the office, my day usually consists of cold calling, following up with existing contacts and clients, checking on current deals in the pipeline, quoting new deals and hopefully remembering to eat if I don’t already have a lunch on the calendar. In the evenings, I will occasionally attend various networking events throughout the city.
What do you like most about your job?
I love that I am constantly on the go and connecting with new people. Whether it is for a potential deal or to further my knowledge of the industry on a macro level, I embrace facing new challenges and opportunities. One of my favorite aspects of those challenges is that I can help my clients by problem solving and finding creative financing solutions for their multifamily properties.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I hope to further build my career through my reputation in the industry. I pride myself in every aspect of my work, from providing clients with a unique and personalized experience to volunteering with different organizations in the industry, like CREW Chicago, where I am the Chair of the Membership Committee.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
I try to spend as much time as I can with my family and friends. My daughter loves to be outside. On a nice day, my husband and I try to take her for a walk to the park to swing on the swings, which is her favorite. We also love to brunch with friends trying new restaurants throughout the city. Every Sunday morning I take a Pilates reformer class, which is taught by another woman in the commercial real estate industry.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
Milan, Italy is by far my favorite place that I have ever traveled to, but I’m biased, because I lived there. If I had to pick a close second, I would say Siena, Italy. It is a beautiful city that has an incredible history preserved inside the city walls. There are so many places I still want to see, most notable though, Germany. Since half of my heritage is German, it is definitely on the bucket list!
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
I would love to see Ashley Szatkowski from Syndicated Equities answer them, because she has unique perspective of investing in the commercial real estate industry.