The Baker Program in Real Estate has a well-established track record of attracting the most talented and brilliant real estate minds from around the world. An example of the quality of students that have come to Cornell for real estate is Daniel Kianmahd, a 2010 graduate of the Baker Program. Kianmahd currently serves as the director of acquisitions at MBK Senior Living where he focuses on sourcing acquisitions for the firm and reports directly to the firm’s CEO. Prior to joining MBK Senior Living, Kianmahd was an acquisitions and development associate with Combined Properties where he spent much of his time underwriting potential sites for acquisition and assisting with managing development projects. Before joining Combined Properties, Kianmahd was an investment banking analyst with Eastdil Secured/Wells Fargo Securities.
Kianmahd recently sat down with the Baker Program and offered some reflections on his time at Cornell, including what brought him to Cornell, how the Baker Program and Cornell helped define his career path, and what it’s like to be a part of one of the largest real estate alumni networks in the world.
Daniel, can you explain why you decided to attend Cornell’s Baker Program in Real Estate?
I chose the Baker Program in Real Estate mostly because of the program’s two-year structure which allowed me to enroll in classes from a variety of fields, all from schools that are ranked among the best in the country. The wide variety of classes that were available enabled me to explore specific interests within real estate and entrepreneurship.
So, how did the Baker Program help to create opportunities for you in pursuing your career path?
Cornell gave me the foundation to understand real estate from a variety of different angles. This strong foundation was instrumental in helping me understand how everything comes together — finance, economics, land-use, law, accounting, interest rates, etc. and therefore, allowed me to speak intelligently to practitioners of all kinds. The weekly Distinguished Speaker Series added a layer of practicality to my studies — the stories fused classroom theory to real world experience. The Baker Program was also very instrumental in helping to build my network and develop new relationships that will last my entire career.
What have you found to be the most valuable part of your Cornell experience?
The professors that I had in my classes were extremely well-versed on the subject matter and were very passionate. The interactions and critical thinking skills that I have taken away from my professors have proven to be extremely valuable in my career.
You’re now an alumnus of Cornell and the Baker Program, giving you a spot in one of the largest alumni networks in the world. What do you find to be the best things about being an alumnus of the Baker Program and Cornell?
The best benefit of being an alumni of the Baker Program is the strong network that you always have the potential to tap into. Cornell’s expansive real estate network is second to none and provides many opportunities for alumni. The Cornell Real Estate Council has over 1,000 members world-wide.
What was the best, most valuable, or enjoyable class that you took at Cornell and why?
If I had to pick one, it would be Real Estate Hospitality Finance, which has been extremely valuable to my career. Professor Quan imparted raw knowledge as well as analytical skills that I use almost every day. I highly recommend that current and future students take this course.
Now that you have been out in the industry for a while, would you recommend that students focus on a specific real estate discipline or product type?
I would say that this depends on the long-term goals of the student. Some people prefer to specialize in a specific discipline of the industry or a specific product type, while others try to be a jack-of-all-trades. Students should know themselves well, especially where their passion lies and the environments in which they are most successful (corporate, entrepreneurial, etc.).
What are a few last pieces of advice that you have for current and future students in the Baker Program?
I recommend that students read as much as they can about the real estate industry outside of class. It is important to be aware of the latest trends in the industry and to think about how to adapt to the times. I also recommend that students make a concerted effort to constantly develop new friendships within the industry as deep-rooted relationships are essential to a successful and enjoyable career. My last piece of advice for students is to continuously connect the dots between what you are learning in the classroom and from your peers to what is happening out in the real world. Real estate is a constantly evolving industry and the only way to stay ahead of the curve is constantly learn from your past experiences and those of your peers.