By Eric Ruble
A USC Sol Price School of Public Policy alumna is building the foundations of her career at one of California’s most eminent real estate development firms: Irvine Company. Ally Sanchez’s (BRED ’21) journey to the firm was winding and challenging at times. However, the transfer student and first-generation scholar says the Price community kept her motivated as she worked to find her place in the development world.
Drawn to outstanding faculty and a campus that ‘felt like home’
Sanchez grew up in Southern California and attended Ventura College for her freshman year. When looking at programs to transfer into, USC Price and its Bachelor of Real Estate Development stood apart.
“I knew immediately that this was the school I needed to go to,” she said. “I stepped on campus and it felt like home.”
Sanchez has been interested in economics since she was a child, and real estate development presented a unique way to apply those principles in the real world. Sanchez was especially drawn to the Price program’s small class sizes and wide breadth of expertise among its faculty.
“Most of [the professors] are industry professionals,” she said. “I took a lot of evening classes because my professors had jobs during the day, so it was actually really cool being taught by someone that is currently in that specific area of work.”
Sights set on a career in real estate
Like many graduating seniors, Sanchez faced a stressful job hunt in the spring semester, which was compounded by the pandemic. She interviewed for a position at Irvine Company in February, but because of her graduation timing, she did not receive an offer.
“Being part of such a well-respected and established company is something I was looking for,” she said.
With a role at Irvine Company looking unlikely, Sanchez planned to accept a full-time offer from an infrastructure company. However, in May, Irvine Company contacted her about a new opening. She had to give the infrastructure company an answer quickly, so Irvine Company expedited her interview process.
“They ended up putting four of their executives on a Zoom call with me, which is really intimidating!” Sanchez recalled.
By the end of the day, she had an offer for a construction coordinator position in Irvine Company’s Office Properties division. Her role largely involves the construction of interiors for the firm’s massive portfolio of commercial properties in California, New York City and Chicago. She began working shortly after graduating from Price in May 2021.
“I couldn’t even believe it was real,” she said. “I love the environment that I’m in.”
Finding an ally in the Academic Programs Office
Throughout her time at USC, Sanchez turned to Price School staff for guidance. She regularly found herself in Russ Sommer’s office. Sommer is the BRED program administrator and career advisor in Price’s Academic Programs Office.
“He guided me from the beginning all the way to the very end, whether it was Greek life or classes,” Sanchez said. “Russ was always keeping me on track.”
As a first-generation student and the oldest child in her family, Sanchez said she was unfamiliar with the job-search process and did not have connections in the real estate development industry. “You don’t really know what you’re doing,” she said.
Sommer stepped in to help. Because he exclusively works with BRED students, he is intimately familiar with their coursework and has contacts he utilizes for students and alumni.
“I don’t think I could have [gone] through the process without his guidance,” Sanchez said. “Russ was always very supporting, and I know many of my other classmates can attest to that.”
Sanchez’s search for a fulfilling career while completing a rigorous academic workload tested her resolve. However, she says she was surrounded by a community that was eager for her to thrive, and did all they could to ensure her success.
“You don’t really fall through the cracks,” she said. “Advisors and professors really cared.” Sanchez’s future is bright. She is well on her way down the path toward a successful career, and USC Price is a remarkable step in that journey.