Written by Lilian Chen
When I told my friends and family that I was interning at a startup focused on the real estate industry for my summer between the first and second year of my MBA program, I received a lot of surprised reactions. “Are you interested in real estate?” These reactions were not unexpected, given this was the first time in my life that I ever indicated any interest in the real estate market (beyond browsing on Zillow and Streeteasy, dreaming of the home I hope to own one day). However, what excited me about joining Properly was the early phase of growth it was in and the promise of working closely with what I thought was a superb founding team — and I was not disappointed.
When I joined in June 2018, Properly was just beginning to ramp up its operations and my summer consisted of a combination of operations work as well as customer discovery in Properly’s next markets. My fellow MBA intern Vivian and I sat next to the CEO, Anshul Ruparell, and the COO, Sheldon McCormick. This proved useful for many reasons — not only did we have quick and direct access to both of them as we encountered many questions while helping with the operations, but we also got to see firsthand what it meant to be the CEO and COO of a young start up going through tremendous growth and the various tasks they focused their attention on. Vivian and I are both aspiring entrepreneurs ourselves and watching the founders Anshul, Sheldon and Craig (the CTO) work together was invaluable. We learned an enormous amount — everything from how they set company-wide and individual goals to help focus the team while growing (a la John Doerr’s OKRs), to how they thought about fostering culture at the company (I love this post that Anshul wrote on culture, and the LEGO building form of acknowledgement that Craig brought in).
Beyond gaining useful insights for when I build my future company, one of the most surprising things I found was how deeply connected I felt to the homeowners I worked with. There is truly a human element to the work that is done at Properly and I grew tremendously invested in each individual’s story. When someone is sharing his or her situation for needing to sell a home, they open up with a certain vulnerability. The situations ranged everywhere from needing to move for a new job (great news!) to having to sell a house for a certain amount to cover an underwater mortgage (really sad news). I felt elated when we were able to help someone sell their home. Selling a home is a huge decision in someone’s life and the work at Properly gave me an intimate view into it. In fact, this was present in the culture at Properly and the full team was focused on making sure we did what was best for each homeowner, even when it meant recommending to the homeowner that Properly may not be the best for their situation.
All in all, I feel incredibly lucky for the summer I spent with Properly. The team was phenomenal. We got to spend a lot of time together both in and outside of the office through many summer barbecues and other fun bonding activities. The work was tremendously satisfying. I woke up each day looking forward to what I hoped to accomplish that day, and we accomplished a lot (building new product, scaling local operations, interacting with hundreds of homeowners, and more)! And lastly, but most importantly, the experience was pivotal for making me feel more certain than ever before that I want to become a founder. Seeing Anshul, Sheldon and Craig work together to achieve their vision makes me extremely excited to start down on a similar path of my own.