Commercial Market Trendsetter

COLLEEN PENTLAND LALLY, BBA ’01
NATIONAL DIRECTOR, CAPITAL MARKETS OPERATIONS, CBRE MULTIFAMILY, BOSTON

BY DOREEN HEMLOCK

Colleen Pentland lally (BBA ’01) expected to work in international trade after she earned her degree at the School. Instead, she has carved a path in the real estate industry, and today is national director of capital markets operations for CBRE’s National Multifamily Group – a $45 billion unit of industry giant CBRE. She and a team of four provide marketing, communications, research and other support services for hundreds of brokers who sell and finance apartment buildings across the country. She also leads business development efforts for major multifamily accounts.

A Latin American currency crisis – the collapse of the Argentine peso – initially led Pentland into real estate. As she was getting ready to graduate with a BBA in economics, the job opportunity she’d been considering with a Latin American venture dried up. She’d been interning at a fruit-juice concentrate brokerage in the Miami area and heard that the real estate firm next door wanted help in tax abatement. The job market was weak after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, so she took that opportunity – though she knew nothing about real estate.

Pentland soon learned to challenge the tax assessor’s office on the taxable value of commercial properties and save money for clients, and she enjoyed it. She also found female colleagues in the industry through the local chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW).

Later, while pursuing an MBA at Boston College’s Wallace E. Carroll Graduate School of Management, Pentland heard about an internship nearby with commercial real estate giant CBRE. She asked CREW colleagues in Miami for tips and landed an internship at CBRE in 2007. Her first assignment was coordinating a multi-market portfolio sales transaction, involving a public company being taken private, selling off some $5 billion of its multifamily assets – an area of real estate completely new to her. “It was a really interesting way to be thrown in” to the multifamily (rental apartments) sector, Pentland says. CBRE hired Pentland after her internship, and she continued advancing with that business, a specialty group within the company’s Capital Markets business line, as it grew.

Pentland, who is a mentor in the School of Business Mentor Program, figures about one in four of the threedozen people in her Boston CBRE unit are women. Among commercial real estate brokers nationwide, the ratio is probably worse: maybe one in five or fewer are women, she estimates. That’s partly because women tend to avoid risk more so than men, and commercial real estate brokerage can be a risky career: Brokers rely mainly on commissions for big sales, which can take lots of time to arrange. Plus, the market for properties is highly cyclical, Pentland says.

For Pentland, adaptability on the job has paid off. She says some MBA classmates spent years unemployed during the Great Recession because they insisted on specific work, such as managing private equity. Instead, she dives fearlessly into opportunities. “I never stopped long enough to be scared,” says Pentland, a mother of two who is married to concert promoter Peter Lally (BM ’96, MA ’98). Her career motto: “Be curious. Be open-minded.”

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