Real estate in London became REAL
I was born and grew up in Bulgaria’s second largest city Plovdiv, which is considered to be the oldest continually-inhabited city in Europe and one of the oldest in the world. This year Plovdiv is also the European Capital of Culture. I embarked on my international experience by enrolling at the American University in Bulgaria, which is a typical American-style liberal arts college. The school created well-rounded individuals, who had a wide range of courses. Afterwards students focused on a specific major. While studying there, I had my first international exposure, as not only the professors, but also many of the students were foreigners, including American exchange students. I already knew that I wanted to do and MBA, but I needed some experience beforehand.
Hence, after graduation, my intention was to spend a few years in the corporate world and gain some business experience. I started my first job as an investment consultant in the local Sofia office of Cushman & Wakefield (one of the global commercial real estate advisory companies). At that time (2008), Bulgaria had just joined the European Union and the economy was booming alongside expectations for convergence with Western Europe. Real estate and commercial real estate in particular was one of the main beneficiaries of the economic boom with lots of foreign investors. Commercial real estate was particularly attractive to me as this sector was just emerging in Bulgaria. I had the chance to have a real impact early in my career as the company and sector were new at the time and the environment was more entrepreneurial. I spent almost six years working there advising shopping mall, office, logistics and hospitality projects, preparing valuations and feasibility studies. I saw how this sector emerged in Bulgaria and coped with the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
Time flew by fast as I was also studying for the CFA exams and after completing the three levels I realised that it was about time to think about finally applying for an MBA. An MBA that would grow my experience and exposure to students from many different countries, jobs and cultures. I did a pretty comprehensive research of the top business schools and the more I was researching, the more I was realising that INSEAD was my dream school and top choice. It is Europe’s first business school with an established global network, prestigious reputation, but at the same time with friendlier and more collaborative culture than many of its top business schools peers. Needless to say, its unique double campus structure in Fontainebleau near Paris and Singapore was a huge plus for me combining the classic European experience, the exotic and at the same time futuristic Singaporean experience and a lot more. As it was my dream school, I applied only to INSEAD and was fortunate enough to be accepted. I started my INSEAD year in Singapore and then moved to Fontainebleau. Overall, it was definitely the best year of my life so far where I met new friends from all over the world, took interesting classes with some of the best professors and had the chance to explore Southeast Asia. It’s not without a reason that INSEAD is famous for being the “party business school”. I have fond memories of the welcome week, the first party on Sentosa Island, the parties in Heritage and Dover, drinks at Ku De Ta (Marina Bay Sands) and One Altitude bars and the numerous house parties in Fonty. I definitely enjoyed the most when I travelled to Langkawi Island (Malaysia), Angkor Wat temples (Cambodia) and Halong Bay (Vietnam). I also really enjoyed my elective course in Russia, where we visited both Moscow and Saint Petersburg. There we even had the luck of having a tour guide, who showed us the incredibly beautiful palaces of Peterhof, Catherine Palace and the Winter Palace.
My post-INSEAD goal was to move to London and transition from the advisory to the investment side of real estate. Apart from the job opportunities which London offers, it’s definitely the most international city in the world with amazing variety of things to do. I already had friends and classmates from INSEAD, university and high school based in London and this was one of the main reasons which attracted me to the city. I achieved this objective by joining the real estate investment team at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at its headquarters in London. The EBRD is a development bank which was established after the fall of communism to help Central and Eastern Europe transition to a well-functioning private market economy and invests in both debt and equity instruments. Since joining the EBRD, I have participated in a number of very interesting real estate investment deals and I am currently leading a few challenging and innovative transactions. Outside work, I try to get the most London has to offer in terms of going out to bars and restaurants, attending events and exhibitions as well as visiting London’s great parks. Since graduation, I was invited to join the leadership committee of INSEAD Alumni Association UK’s Real Estate Group managed to organise and participate in several events already.
The year spent at INSEAD really transformed my life as it helped me build new friendships, expand my network, move to London and find an interesting and challenging job.
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