Head of U.S. Engineering for a worldwide real estate owner and developer

A Helbling client retained our firm to help conclude a search conducted by their internal representatives for a "newly imagined" role.
A worldwide owner, developer, operator, and investor of first-class commercial, residential, hospitality, research, and mixed-use real estate approached Helbling to help conclude a search conducted by their internal representatives.

In a unique situation, a managing director from Helbling & Associates was retained as a consultant by the real estate firm. He was hired to provide candidates to compare against a frontrunner who had been introduced to the group by Helbling several years prior. When that candidate accepted a counteroffer from his current organization, it prompted a pivot in direction, leading to a full search assignment by Helbling.

While our client had retained Helbling previously for other successful executive searches, recruiting candidates for a new role presented specific obstacles.

The role of Head of U.S. Engineering was “newly imagined,” bringing with it the exciting possibility of making an impact within a prominent organization; however, the role was vacant within the organization for years. It prompted a recalibration of the position’s goals, priorities, structure, and expectations. They needed to find an executive capable of conducting a full organizational assessment, who could implement change management initiatives and update operating standards. The right person would possess an equal balance of leadership and technical skills as the person would collaborate with a variety of individuals on a regional, national, and sometimes global stage.

Additionally, there was a high level of urgency regarding timing of the search due to the organization not securing their initial target candidate. Executing a search during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic posed an added challenge.


Helbling search consultants have a strong knowledge of the relevant talent market and an understanding of how the organization functions, which were instrumental factors in developing an executive search strategy. They researched and sourced candidates, targeting executives who were trained engineers and also had comprehensive national or global commercial and residential operations, maintenance, and/or utilities/energy management experience. Some other organizations had similar roles held by non-engineers but the client preferred someone with technical credentials.

Due the complexity of the role and the need for candidates to oversee a 43 million square-foot portfolio, the hiring manager (the Managing Director of Global Property Management & Operations) teamed with the Director of Talent Acquisition as well as representatives from engineering, design & construction, and property management on the search.

The search focused heavily on the New York City metro area given the makeup of the portfolio and the physical location of the executive team. In addition to contacting other developers, Helbling representatives looked for candidates at property management firms, engineering firms, specialty contractors, third-party facilities managers, and Fortune 500 corporations with significant real estate assets. These individuals often managed large teams and national or international portfolios.

Instead of relying on video interviews, the hiring team elected to invite finalist candidates to interview in person, utilizing personal protective equipment and physical distancing. This removed the virtual barrier from the interview process. It allowed finalist candidates to interact with more members of the executive leadership team, and it offered more one-on-one interactions in formal and informal settings.

The standout candidate was an engineer by training who had held comparable positions for two of the client’s major competitors in the real estate development industry. He had experience working on both a national and global scale throughout his career, building strong relationships at all levels of an organization. The depth and breadth of his expertise also stood out. With knowledge of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) systems, utilities, operations, maintenance, capital projects, and sustainability, his background fit the position profile perfectly.

The primary goal during the first six months in the position was to complete a full organizational assessment. This involved evaluating engineering and operations structure and staff within each region but it also required significant outreach and engagement with internal customers, partner departments, major tenants, and executive leadership to understand areas for ongoing assessment, updates, and improvement. 

Tactically, this individual has been on the frontlines of ensuring that the real estate firm’s large portfolio of commercial office space is equipped for the return of workers in person throughout 2021 and beyond. He and his team are leading ongoing efforts to renovate and update existing buildings, systems, and infrastructure to meet emerging demands in critical focus areas that will allow workers to get back to the office safely and comfortably.

Learn about Helbling’s search process