Tell us about yourself. (Your background and what led you to your current role)
Rada: I think like most people in this niche industry, the world of low-income housing tax credits kind of fell into my lap. I grew up around real estate with my dad being a broker, as well as flipping and developing housing. After spending time at open houses and construction sites as a child, I came to enjoy the architecture, in addition to the numbers behind the walls that bring profit to the involved parties (sellers/buyers, builders, and financial institutions). I studied finance and entrepreneurship at Drexel University, which has three co-ops, where you work for six months each. I did two of my three internships in real estate and it solidified my interest in the field. My last co-op was at Wells Fargo in the commercial real estate group, where I helped structure market rate, office, and industrial transactions. I graduated college in 2009 and reached out to Wells Fargo for a job hoping to land in commercial real estate but was only offered a community lending position because of the downturn in the economy. I recall not knowing what it even was but thinking, “it’s close enough to commercial real estate so let’s give it a try!” I spent three years as an analyst, underwriting construction loans, permanent loans, and land acquisition loans, in addition to analyzing developer’s credit strength and ability to repay. From 2012 until now, I have been on the equity side of transactions, where I source, underwrite, and close tax credit equity investments. These include 9% LIHTC, historic and state tax credits, tax-exempt bond, and mixed-income transactions throughout the Mid Atlantic region. I enjoy all aspects of my role from number crunching to meeting and servicing smart, savvy, and caring clients/developers, to analyzing credit and IRS risks, to providing much needed affordable housing to those in need, and I feel lucky that I landed here.
You are a founding member of WHF-PA and are stepping down from the Executive Committee this year. How has your involvement in the organization helped shaped your career?
Rada: The idea of WHF-PA came about from a few of us who saw this hole in our industry, especially since WHF already existed in nearby New York and Washington DC. Those same people and many more became friends and this supportive network has been there for me since 2013. It provided me an additional resource of diverse women with shared experiences whom I could lean on for industry insight, make a connection, get a pep talk or various tips like communicating with senior management. Having WHF-PA ladies in my corner has given me the edge in my organization by leveraging their knowledge and has given me courage within my career, despite being traditionally under represented in financial institutions and real estate. Although I do note this is slowly shifting for the better and I am proud to say that a woman is now the head of community lending and commercial real estate at Wells Fargo.
What are some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations?
Rada: This is a tough question for me as I am still learning myself. I used to have the mentality that hard work will be seen and acknowledged but, unfortunately, sometimes the loudest people in the room win (who usually end up being men). I am working on highlighting my achievements, having an honest and open dialogue with managers, and reaching for stretch projects and/or jobs and I encourage you all to do the same. No one is going to fight for yourself better than you! Don’t be afraid and make sure to believe in yourself!
What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Rada: Reputation is key, both internal and external to your organization. Even if it’s a tough message, be honest in your delivery. Colleagues appreciate your words and your actions.