Summer Internship at DDR Corp. in Cleveland

Tori Weiner

Over the summer, I interned with DDR Corp, a retail real estate investment trust, in Cleveland, Ohio. DDR owns and manages just under 300 shopping centers across the country.  As the property management intern, I audited our signage program and found $1 million of unknown revenue, analyzed the landlord utility expenses at each of our shopping centers and discovered ways to save money, and conducted site tours and inspections at our local assets in the Cleveland and Erie area.This is a picture on the roof of a vacancy at DDR's center Peach Street in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Living on my own in Cleveland this summer was life-changing. There is a stark difference between “living on your own” in college and truly being the only person in your apartment.  DDR was generous enough to pay for my housing expense, which added another level of freedom to my summer.  From cooking and cleaning, to commuting, to truly being on my own to make friends, I learned what my imminent future in the corporate world will look like.  I always classified myself as an extrovert until I was forced to be on my own.  I found a lot of peace in my independence and could feel myself maturing every time I was faced with a challenge.  Cleveland was the perfect backdrop for this transformational experience to take place.  Its affordable living prices, young professional atmosphere, and proximity to my hometown, Pittsburgh, made Cleveland the best way to begin my career in the commercial real estate industry.

It was an interesting time to be an intern at DDR this summer.  In April of 2017, a new C-Suite joined the company and made huge changes to the company’s human capital, financial benchmarks, and operational strategies.  Being able to witness the employee’s adjustment to new executives was eye-opening.  Coupled with this being my first exposure to corporate America, I have a new view on the business world.  Publicly traded companies on the New York Stock Exchange are a microcosm of the world around us.  Filled with cliques, culture, change, successes, and failures, my internship offered me a fresh perspective and changed my perception of the business world for the better.  I have the advantage of knowing the truth of what the corporate world is and I am thankful for the experience I had this summer.

I was living at the ClevelandState University dorms in downtown Cleveland this summer. The first time I had to get gas by myself I drove a little over a mile down the road.  I did not know what the surrounding areas were like outside of the university district and unknowingly put myself in an unsafe environment.  Luckily, I was able to remove myself from the situation, but this was the first moment I was truly on my own.  I returned to my apartment and had no one to talk to about the situation and had to wrestle with my emotions on my own.  This experience led to my transformation as an independent woman and made me thankful for my family, friends, and childhood.

Because this was my first internship, I had no expectations.  I was surprised to be assigned two valuable projects during such a transformative time for the company.  My boss and the rest of the property management department had faith I would be able to deliver on these projects and allowed a lot of room for independent work and growth.  Looking back, I would have liked to have bi-weekly check-in meetings with my boss and would have appreciated slightly more communication, but now I know specific aspects of a company culture to look for.  By the end of the internship, I found $1 million to add to DDR’s revenue stream and a couple of different ways to save money through recoding and shutting off utilities in vacant units at DDR’s shopping centers.  To be able to produce these impactful deliverables as an intern, despite the management switch and adjustment to that, boosted my confidence in myself and in the company.

The Human Resources Department at DDR encouraged personal growth and cross-departmental exploration throughout the internship.  I was able to set up lunches and meetings with top executives to pick their brains on the industry, their journey in real estate, and any suggestions for success as a woman in the real estate.  This professional growth supplemented the independent maturation I was experiencing on a more personal level this summer.  Being able to go on multiple property tours and interact with our tenants and vendors allowed me to see the other side of the real estate industry.  Gaining a dual perspective into commercial real estate truly allowed me to see myself in all aspects of the profession and be confident in my chosen major and interests.

My experience at DDR this summer led to transformations on a personal and professional level. As graduation looms in the imminent future, I now have a taste of what the world has to offer, both in the corporate and social worlds.   This internship allowed me to be confident and excited about my major choice and professional interests.  I’m happy to say that commercial real estate is where I see myself in the future – the specific capacity I am not sure, but I have 2 years at Ohio State to leverage connections and resources to explore that further. Personally, I was able to learn about myself, my needs, and my tendencies as a young woman.  Seeing a glimpse of what life will be like in the coming years is allowing me to prepare and know exactly what I’m looking for in a city, culture, and young professional atmosphere.