Molly GoodmanThis issue’s student spotlight is Burns graduate student Molly Goodman. Molly’s ambition for advancing her career in real estate and capital markets parallels her love of the Colorado mountains and adventure. As a former semi-professional snowboard cross racer, she was a hopeful for the 2018 Olympic Games. When that ended, she had to pivot and redefine her goals. She still finds ways to compete—only now, it’s in the real estate business world and, oh yes, she still rips it on the slopes!

Can you share your journey to grad school? 

As a self-proclaimed “nerd at heart,” a graduate degree was always on my radar, but my path here was by no means direct. I started my career in investment consulting, performing investment due diligence and advising university endowments, hospital systems, public pensions, and other institutions on how to build hedge fund programs to achieve their objectives.

My cubicle at the consulting firm was situated beneath the TV bank that regularly displayed CNBC and Bloomberg, with the exception of major sporting events. February 2014 was the Sochi Olympics. One morning, as I stood there with term sheets and correlation tables in hand, I looked up to find the financial news of the day had been replaced by shockingly familiar faces. Many of the girls I grew up competing against at USASA snowboard contests, showcasing their skills on the world stage—and naturally, that gave me pause. At the time, I was lucky enough to have a wonderfully eccentric managing director who happened to have attempted Everest early in his career. He put it simply: “If you don’t try, you’ll always wonder.” That wisdom served as a massive green light. One year later, I was literally off to the races.

Fast forward to the winter of 2015-16. I was training in Colorado and getting ready to attempt my own Olympic bid in snowboard cross. From the back of the pack, my strategy revolved around getting to the races that wouldn’t offer the top contenders enough points to prove it was worth their while. As a result, that season took me everywhere from Cerro Cathedral in Argentina to Niseko United in Japan. Unfortunately, it was a bluebird race in the French Alps that landed me in a ski-patrol toboggan rather than at the opening ceremonies. Over the course of a week, that toboggan turned into an operating room table at Steadman Hawkins. While surgical screws (and the new ligaments they held in place) were certainly not the outcome I’d hoped for, they did turn out to be a gift.

In 2018, I rejoined the arena of institutional investing to find my career alive and well. In fact, pursuing a dimension of myself outside of the office ended up enhancing my professional identity. I first saw that play out as a liquid strategies investment officer at a public pension fund here in Denver. From there, I was poached by a hedge fund in New York where I served as a product specialist and, subsequently, as a freelance client advisory consultant. In each of these roles, my willingness to take on untested challenges was predicated on the confidence to do so, which I gained on the mountain. I was able to apply the growth mindset and humility engendered at the “back of the pack” to the technical acumen I’d developed professionally as a “consumer” of hedge funds as I spent the next four years embedded in the shops I used to cover, helping their principals recalibrate and position their core competencies in the post-pandemic marketplace.

What brought you to Daniels and the Burns School?

In a nutshell, my professional and personal stars aligned. On a personal level, I knew that I wanted the arc of my career to bring me back to Colorado. After spending the better part of a decade cutting my teeth in Boston and New York, I wanted to bring that hard-earned experience to bear in my home state. Professionally, however, I wasn’t sure what that next arc looked like—until last summer, that is. As part of my consulting work for an investment manager dedicated to Asian equities, I was analyzing the managers’ portfolio holdings and the return streams they produced relative to their competitors and to broad market indices. Exposure to the real estate sector, particularly in China, was a significant differentiator. I quickly devoured everything I could read around the China Evergrande saga, and I found my mind gravitating toward the consideration of capital structures of different types of development projects for weeks, even after I finalized that portfolio analysis. Given the inflationary dynamics brought on with the COVID pandemic, supply-chain issues related to geopolitical tensions and the languishing of office spaces globally, my nascent interest ballooned. In attempting to take stock of the structural shift that the real estate sector was primed for (as the multifaceted intersection between top-down policy/theory and bottom-up efficiency/utility, between public and private partnerships, public and private markets, as well as the intersection between built environment and natural environment), I had a parallel realization: that my career, too, seemed to be primed for a similar structural shift.

By early summer, I had a good sense of the foundational gaps I needed to fill and where I wanted to launch that shift. Burns is in a league of its own: The flexibility to study top-down finance, bottom-up construction management and development, and the middle ground where they meet, attracted me immediately. To get do so from professors who practice in the industry and from within a business school that has a deep network in my home state were additional bonuses, yet all elements of the perfect storm that landed me in the REBE program at Daniels and Burns.

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

In the pursuit of fresh tracks in the winter or sunrise vistas at 13,000 feet in the summer, I’ve been known to do a bit of camping in less-than-desirable conditions. I’m always ready to go—my car is essentially an REI on wheels—so it generally surprises people that I’m obsessively clean and tidy at home. I like to think I give the Navy SEALs a run for their money!

What has been your greatest challenge and lessons learned?

Defining what it means to “run my own race” and understanding how to reframe adversity in order to adapt accordingly have been my greatest challenges, which I’ve by no means mastered. They remain a continual opportunity to practice developing that muscle memory. I’m still learning not to bite off more than I can chew, but with every new iteration of the same lesson, course corrections become more reflexive, and the self-knowledge gained is just another arrow in my quiver for whatever I encounter down the road.

How does a REBE degree fit into your life’s plans? 

I’d like to pivot into a capital markets role here in Colorado. My eventual hope is to be able to both source potential commercial real estate investments and structure creative financing to support them as the regulatory environment constrains new projects and challenges traditional lenders in construction and real property.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I tend to spend my free time on a trail or skin track; I love adventure travel, backcountry snowboarding and cycling. I love meeting new people, connecting like minds, community engagement and self-growth in whatever form that may take. Since I’ve relocated to Denver, that has come in the form of joining my younger brother in his advocacy work with Colorado Drug Policy Coalition.