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Building the Future–Phillip Quinones

People who need to be where the action is might envy Phillip Quinones, CPM®. The 29-year-old graduate of the University of Virginia works in one of the hottest areas of commercial real estate–data centers–in one of the world’s hottest data center markets: Northern Virginia.

In fact, Cushman & Wakefield, in its 2022 Global Data Center Market Comparison, calls Northern Virginia “the largest data center market in the world, featuring a strong construction pipeline,” as well as excellent connectivity, alluring incentives and low-cost power. It also boasts proximity to what might be the nation’s largest potential user of data center services: the U.S government, putting the area on track to becoming “the world’s first two-gigawatt market over the next two years.”

Digital Realty is in the thick of it all, with some 280 data centers globally. And, as real estate manager, Quinones currently oversees some 45 MW of the firm’s data center space (some 657,000 square feet in five buildings).

His location and employer are clearly ideal, especially because they align with his fields of interest. Quinones graduated from UVA with “a concentration in IT and a commercial real estate track.” One of IREM’s 2021 30 Under 30, Quinones started at Digital in 2015 and essentially did double duty, earning his master’s degree in real estate finance from Georgetown University three years later.

And here lies the importance of industry outreach to students. At UVA’s McIntire School of commerce, Quinones was exposed to various disciplines within commercial real estate, from “operations and development to finance,” he says.

From his first exposure, the tangible aspects of commercial real estate appealed to him, and it became clear that among the specialties contained therein, “property management was the most solid and stable.”

He admits that a real estate finance career was his first inclination, “but who was going to trust their money to someone with no experience?” he asks. And here property management served another goal, to help Quinones build his resume, and his connections.

Another talent that Quinones has honed over the past few years is a softer skill–and one that’s a frequent issue for young CPMs managing a more seasoned staff: “Data centers are still an evolving industry, but it’s dominated by folks who are veterans. I’m working with people who are really knowledgeable about this very complex field.”

He has two full-time contractors who manage their own teams, as well as a facilities assistant and three administrators. “I try to create a circle of respect,” he says. “There can never be emotion involved in solving a problem. Managing people who are older than me is a matter of focusing on the problem, not the person, and working to put a resolution together. It’s very much centered around mutual respect.”

IREM’s influence is evident in that answer, in both its coursework in the nuts-and-bolts of property management as well as its emphasis on the softer side of management and ethical behaviors. A fellow manager who had gained his CPM before Quinones also modeled what success and upward mobility looks like at Digital. He served as an early mentor for Quinones as he shaped his career.

For other young adults looking to build a career in property management, Quinones advises them to “learn as much as you can as quickly as possible,” including the above-mentioned IREM courses. “They really teach you property management.” He adds that involvement in IREM is a signal to prospective and current managers “that you’re taking your career seriously.”

What does the future hold for Quinones? He sees his current position as providing access to a range of disciplines–much like his early exposure to CRE in college. “I can take a higher position in my firm, with a focus on property management, or switch gears to another department,” he says, “such as asset management or corporate finance.”

In preparing himself for either of those eventualities, he takes his own advice: “I’m working as hard as I can to learn as much as I can about my own industry. But at the same time, I’m always working on growth and self-improvement.”

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