At the Europe ULI Hines Student Competition final, the team from the University of Manchester in England sized up their fellow competitors. They were impressed by the other presentations, but they felt confident that their own had a slight edge because of its core strength: its diversity.

All four teammates—Aakash Mathur, Hiba Jabbour, Nimrah Maryam, and Max Medina—are pursuing master’s degrees in real estate development. But they have different skills, backgrounds, and levels of experience, and they are all originally from different countries. After their class completed a group project that had not gone well, the four of them felt that they could work together successfully. They decided to enter the Europe ULI Hines Competition as a team.

“We thought we [could] come together and participate in this one and test how we work together, because we are very diverse,” Mathur says. Two of the four are architects; the other two have backgrounds in business and finance.

They took the approach that diversity was their key asset, and that each of them had something valuable to contribute. “We just contributed our ideas throughout, and however anybody [could] contribute, we did,” says Mathur, who worked for several years as an architect in India and the United States before pursuing his graduate education.

Final Round

Six teams were chosen to compete in the final, which took place on a single day. On May 10, the teams gathered virtually, received a briefing on the case study based on a social housing project in Berlin, and got to work on their development proposals. At the end of the day, each team presented their solution to a jury of industry professionals.

“Since we were under a time crunch, we really played to our strengths and assets,” Jabbour says. “Aakash and I, since we did architecture, focused on the design concept of it, whereas Max is an economist, so therefore he worked on the financial feasibility of the project along with Nimrah, who has a business background.”

“This gave us four perspectives and ideas,” Mathur says. “In a team setting, it is very difficult for everybody to be on one line—everybody will have their own ideas, and then it is important to generalize it in one direction.”

The team members believe that their ability to work together and synthesize these interrelated elements of a comprehensive development proposal set them apart from the other competitors.

Complete Knowledge

“Our different views increased the complete knowledge of all of us, so it was like we complemented our view of those things,” Medina says. “We were not only thinking about the architectural part, we were also thinking about the economic and finance part.”

The team’s confidence in their advantage was correct: at the competition’s end, the jury selected theirs as the winning proposal.

They were pleased with their victory, which earned each of them a one-year ULI membership and a fast track to the Hines internship program. For Jabbour, however, the new perspective she gained on her future in the real estate industry while participating in this competition was even more important.

“I didn’t have a lot of practical experience prior to going [into] the competition, so hearing critiques from respected professionals in their respective industries was really eye-opening for me,” she says. “It was really validating to know that some of the ideas I had are something that I can work on in the future in my career.”

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