An Executive Summary with Carl Shannon

ULIsf's first video profile series is called the Executive Summary. The Executive Summary is a brief video series in which Bay Area real estate and land use professionals discuss the arc of their careers, personal interests, and the impact of ULI on their careers.

An Executive Summary with Carl Shannon

Mr. Shannon is responsible for Tishman Speyer’s portfolio in the San Francisco Bay Area, which includes San Francisco, the Peninsula, Silicon Valley and the East Bay. He has overseen the development of signature projects such as The Infinity, a 650-unit condominium project adjacent to San Francisco’s waterfront, and 555 Mission, a 555,000-square-foot office building in the heart of the central business district. Before joining Tishman Speyer in 1998, Mr. Shannon worked for both GE Capital and The Prudential Insurance Company of America. Mr. Shannon received an AB and an MBA from Harvard University.

Carl has been a member of ULI and an active participant with the local San Francisco District Council since 2008.  Carl serves on the ULIsf Advisory Board, participates in many Young Leaders Group events including Learn From the Best and Fireside Chat, and is the Chair of the Local Commercial Product Council.

Full-Length Interview

I’m Carl Shannon, and I’m the managing director with Tishman Speyer here in San Francisco.

First Job in Real Estate / Land Use Field:

I studied architecture in college; and I worked for an architecture firm in Boston when I was in college and summers.  I always knew that I wanted to be involved in the built environment, but learned pretty quickly that I was in the right meeting, just on the wrong side of the table. I went from that to working for Prudential; and that’s really where I had my first real job, working in their development group back in the late 1980s.

Mentors in Your Career:

Well clearly, working with Jerry Speyer has had a huge influence on my life. He’s a great mentor, both in terms of the kind of businessman he is and his care for the quality of the buildings we’re building and the quality of the public spaces that we’re building. He runs a large organization that takes the time and effort to be involved in the design of all of our projects; and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him about how to build great quality projects, how to build great teams, and how to run an organization.

There are other people who have been important to me. One of my first bosses at Prudential was a guy named Mark Couchman. Mark really taught me to treat people in the way that you want to be treated, and treat them with respect no matter what’s going on in a transaction. I learned a lot about how to put deals together and how to work with people from Mark.

Greatest Career Satisfaction:

Being able to pull a team together and build a large urban project that is both successful in its contribution to the city and the built environment, and financially successful, is both the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in what we do. The ability to be involved in projects like The Infinity and 555 Mission here in San Francisco, which on a residential and office standpoint, I think made significant contributions to the fabric of San Francisco and the environments that they’ve created around them, are projects that I’m just thrilled to have been part of.

Toughest Challenges Faced in Your Career:

I think the toughest thing about what we do, is the cyclical nature of what we do. And when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, it’s tough; and you need to run your career, run your personal life, and run your organization in a way that’s able to ramp up and ramp down. In some ways, the personal challenges of dealing with that ramp down period are some of the hardest things for me. And how you work that through with people who have worked shoulder to shoulder with you.

Lessons Learned from Past Real Estate Cycles:

I think it’s important to diversify your business and have some resiliency built into your business.  And to have a development organization that also does property management and leasing, creates stability in the organization to help weather bad times. I think you need to take the same approach in your personal life—you can’t spend like you want to in 2007, and expect that to continue. You need to manage through that.

Favorite Places in the Bay Area / World:

San Francisco is a really rich environment, and it has great neighborhoods and great pockets. I wouldn’t point to any one particular space. I’m proud of what we’ve contributed at The Infinity and 555 Mission, but I think what makes San Francisco unique, is not any one individual building or one space, but the way the spaces come together and the collection of neighborhoods and buildings in a varied topography, that creates an incredibly rich and wonderful place to live and work. I’m always interested in how the built environment comes together and the urban design issues, and particularly how public spaces interact with the built environment. One of my favorite places in San Francisco is the Presidio because you have this great open space, yet in the context of a dense urban fabric. I do think that Golden Gate Park and the Waterfront are missed opportunities in San Francisco, where we could do a better job.

For me, it’s about creating that urban environment and where you get that chemistry that comes together in a 24/7 city. I love places like the Left Bank in Paris and the Luxemburg Gardens, and the interaction between the green spaces and the urban fabric; and what’s going on in London, bringing in large scale buildings into a dense medieval street framework.

Favorite Ways to Unwind:

We talked a little bit about being in the Presidio. Just to take the dog and be in the Presidio, particularly in the morning, is a great de-stresser for me, and a great way to unwind. Or to be in a neighborhood restaurant with family and friends, is a great place to be.

ULI’s Impact on Your Career:

ULI is a very special organization from my perspective, in that it has a very open-door, open-kimono philosophy and approach. It’s about sharing ideas, it’s not just networking. It’s about coming together and sharing ideas and perspectives and helping each other in our careers and in how to build and contribute well to the built landscape. It’s not just about cocktail parties and networking, it’s really about sharing ideas and helping build a better environment.

The Executive Summary, developed by Rob DeWaters and Miles Garber, aims to foster wider professional and personal connections across the ULI San Francisco membership.