Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2007Kellogg School of Management
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  Rafael Carreira
  Rafael Carreira '94

From the ground up

A career in real estate development provides the creative structure that builds alum's lifelong passion

Rafael Carreira '94 has a passion for building.

It was evident in the Lego masterpieces he created as a boy, and it shines in the nine-block makeover along North Michigan Avenue that he helped manifest as a Chicago real estate developer in the late 1990s.

So when the Kellogg School graduate decided to pursue a career outside the tried-and-true MBA world of consulting and investment banking, he approached it the same way: He built it from the ground up.

"I wasn't in a field that was being heavily recruited, so it became clear to me that I would have to go out and find my own opportunities," says Carreira, a senior vice president at The John Buck Company, a Chicago real estate development firm.

"People going into nontraditional areas, such as entrepreneurship or real estate development, kind of have to do it the hard way," he added. "It's not realistic to expect to be recruited on campus by a company that may hire just one or two people a year."

As his classmates lined up for interviews at the school's Career Management Center, Carreira began his quest for a growth position in real estate development. He knew finding that ideal post-Kellogg job wouldn't be easy. But he also knew he had a powerful tool at his disposal: the Kellogg alumni network.

Navigating that vast resource, however, was a thornier task in those pre-Google days. Carreira combed through a thick printout of alums working in real estate development, eventually identifying about 20.

"It was old-fashioned networking — just reaching out to Kellogg alumni, hoping they'll open some doors or take your résumé to the right people," Carreira recalls. 

Many interviews and an internship later, Carreira landed his first job at John Buck. His early research has paid off in a challenging and fulfilling career at the firm ever since.

From his early days assembling pro forma project budgets to his current position as senior vice president, Carreira has played pivotal roles in some $1 billion in real estate developments. Those include the North Michigan Avenue project, which involved several hotels and a Nordstrom-anchored retail development, and most recently a 51-story office building at 111 South Wacker Drive.

It's dream work for Carreira, who earned his undergraduate degree in architecture but soon realized that designing buildings didn't satisfy his urge to create. He wanted to join the visionaries behind the buildings — the developers who could take a project from conception to completion.

"As an architecture undergrad, I had minimal exposure to business," he says. "It became evident that getting an MBA was a critical step."

Carreira emerged from Kellogg knowing how to turn a real estate project into a viable business venture. Now he's involved in managing and integrating site acquisition, financial analysis, entitlements, design, leasing, construction and project financing. "I'm responsible for a much bigger picture than I had ever understood before," he says.

For Carreira, the experience proves the value in charting his own path and seeking help from his Kellogg peers — and in giving back. Today, he serves as a mentor to Kellogg student Agustin Rizo '08, whose background and aspirations are uncannily similar to Carreira's.

"He's been very honest about the challenges I might face, where the opportunities might be and where I might want to strengthen my résumé," says Rizo, who like Carreira is a Chicago native, the son of immigrants and a former architecture student at the University of Notre Dame.

"He's a busy guy and there are plenty of things to occupy his time," Rizo adds. "But he's been very gracious in helping me. He's worked hard and done the right things, and he's a role model for me to follow."

Carreira believes in perpetuating the lessons and spirit of the Kellogg experience he enjoyed. 

"Alums who graduate from Kellogg and feel proud of the education they received are motivated to help those who attend Kellogg after them," he says. "If you feel it was a good experience for you, you certainly want it to be a good thing and valuable step for others."

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