Mark Capanda, senior associate director at BNP Paribas Real Estate shares his cultural recommendations.

Mark_Capanda - BNP Paribas Real Estate

Mark Capanda - BNP Paribas Real Estate

How did you join the property industry?

I had always been fascinated by the built environment and decided to do a real estate degree, but getting industry experience proved difficult as I was studying during the great recession and graduated in 2011. I wrote endless letters to local companies asking for an internship. One took a chance on me in 2012 and then took me on full-time as a graduate to become a chartered surveyor. The experience has made me a big believer in making your own luck and creating your own opportunities.

What does your job entail?

I am a senior associate director in lease advisory for BNP Paribas Real Estate, specialising in the retail market. This includes leasing, renewals, reviews and restructuring.

What do you like most about the property industry?

The growing momentum to become a more inclusive sector, which aims to make meaningful changes to support sustainability. We have some way to go on both, but we have also come a long way in recent years. When I started out 10 years ago, there were few openly LQBTQ+ people in the sector, a fraction of the number of women in senior roles and ‘sustainability’ was very much in the background.

And what do you dislike most about it?

While the sector has made a lot of progress in diversity, we must make better strides at attracting young talent from economically and ethnically diverse backgrounds. Diverse teams are better positioned to unlock innovation that drives market growth and it is something I am incredibly passionate about.

What barriers or challenges have you overcome?

I made the decision to come out at work in 2014 after qualifying as a chartered surveyor and was nervous for how people in the property industry would react. Luckily, I had a very supportive manager who had a smile on his face when I told him – a smile of acknowledgement that gave me comfort. On the whole, my experience has been positive, but it is never as simple as coming out once and that’s that. You come out again and again, to those who assume you are a cis heterosexual male.

What would you change about the property industry?

A stronger commitment to building a more inclusive workplace by attracting school/college students to real estate regardless of gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic background. Together with Lendlease, we recently partnered with SEO London – a charity that represents talented students from underrepresented backgrounds – to host a networking session for 19 students at the Stratford Olympic Park. They lacked awareness of real estate, but after just one afternoon discussing some of the potential careers in the sector, many left feeling pretty inspired by a career in the built environment. If we do not proactively showcase the opportunity to a wider pool of young adults and encourage them in to the sector, when it comes to the point of recruitment, the demographic of candidates will remain unchanged.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Being an advocate for change. I am a founding member of the Next Generation Board at BNP Paribas Real Estate, a Pride Ambassador, APC Counsellor and Mental Health Ambassador.

What do you value in people?

Those who are tenacious, authentic and don’t accept the status quo.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?

Sponge it: be a sponge, learn as much as you can and it will take you far.