Are you goal-oriented? Are you sure you’re in the right place right now professionally? Develop the entrepreneurial mindset you need that can drive you to reach more success. Tune into this episode as Principal Broker Sarita Dua discusses her unique journey at Keller Williams Realty Professionals. She loves engineering and getting specific answers, but she realizes she wants something more as time goes by. She shares what triggered her to start a career in the real estate industry and the factors that contributed to her decision.
Welcome to episode 323. Thank you so much for reading. We get to talk to an agent who has done something I’ve never heard of for a realtor yet in over 300 interviews. I won’t tell you what it is. You have to read to find that out but we’re going to be talking to Sarita Dua. She’s in the Portland area with Keller Williams. She has Ask Sarita, which is her website AskSarita.com. That’s been her branding for years. She created that prior to even getting her license. That gives you a hint about some of the things that Sarita does. Let’s get this thing started. Sarita, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me, Bill. It’s great to be here.
I can’t wait to chat with you. You have a very interesting story. You know that. It’s unique for a realtor to have the background you have. Would you agree with that?
Yes and no. We all have crazy unique stories but I’ve never stopped and thought about them. I do probably have a little bit of a unique path.
There are only a 320 plus interviews. There might be 6 people who knew they were going to be a realtor when they were 12. It’s always that second path. It seems like it’s such a heavy influence there. You’re in Portland doing some great stuff. We’ll chat about that but you’re not a native Oregonian. Let’s start at the beginning. What was home for you? Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. My parents are immigrants. They got married in India and settled in Michigan in 1964. I was born and raised there.
I’ve had some people from Michigan but maybe not Detroit. I love the way these answers can go and never know. First of all, I want to hear a little bit about growing up there. Give me the biggest misconception about that area.
Detroit is not as crazy, rough or violent as some people assume that Downtown Detroit is scary. I had a great Midwestern upbringing. We did grow up in the suburbs and Detroit, the city, Downtown has changed a lot. There was a time when we didn’t hang out there and the biggest surprise in Detroit is Downtown Detroit itself. It is the place. We call it the D. It’s where all the sports teams play. It’s got a burgeoning food scene, great rooftop bars and craft breweries. It’s a fun place. Most people would not know or even assume that. They would avoid downtown because of some preconceptions from way back when.
Keller Williams: The cool thing with sports management is you can work with the team. You can do the ticket size and sales and sponsorships. There’s so many elements of it. And the idea is to kind of try different things out, to figure out what you like and what you don’t.
What part of the suburbs did you go to?
I grew up in this place, Shelby Township, Michigan. I was born and raised in Warren. My dad was 30 years in Chrysler. Back then, especially if you were from a different country like India, it was the Silicon Valley before Silicon Valley. A lot of young engineers from countries like India were able to get to Detroit, Michigan because companies like GM, Ford and Chrysler needed engineers. That was a way for my dad to get there, get citizenship, add value and provide a contribution to the companies. That’s how that started. We were always tied to automotive to the point where I couldn’t wait to get out.
We’re going to talk about real estate cycles. There were automotive recessionary cycles where my dad, uncles, other family members and cousins were always nervous if they were going to get laid off or not. I didn’t want my livelihood to be tied to an industry that was up and down. I went to a small college that was tied to automotive. It was called at the time General Motors Institute, GMI. It’s rebranded as Kettering University.
Although I didn’t work for automotive, I worked for a hospital and Intel. All of the students did a 5-year program for a bachelor’s instead of 4 but you did 3 months of school and work all 5 years and graduated with 2.5 years of work experience. Ninety-five percent of us graduated with good job offers.
I have to bring this up. I grew up in San Diego. I’m a huge fan of the San Diego Padres. I worked for them for twelve years later on but in 1984 and I don’t know if you remember this or not, the Padres played the Tigers in the World Series. There was this guy named Kirk Gibson who was a real pain for the Padres. We ended up winning one game. That was a year the Tiger started 35 and 5. They were an amazing team. Do you remember that at all?
I don’t mind outing my age. I graduated high school in ’87. We used to listen to a garage sale stereo component set. It was an AM/FM radio with two speakers. We still listen to baseball and games either on TV. We didn’t have cable back then. If someone else was watching anything else, we couldn’t watch the game. It was Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon, Lance Parrish and Alan Trammell. I remember all of them.
Detroiters love their sports. Sometimes it’s tough to be a Detroit fan like the Lions. It is a curse to be a Detroit Lions fan. We had the Pistons, the Bad Boys regime of the Pistons as well. We’ll talk about my journey to Portland but I do miss having 4 to 5 major teams in your market. We only have one in Portland. We have MLS Soccer but we have mainly NBA basketball. Not to be a football fan and not having an NFL team is rough.
I discovered you posted on social about your son getting an internship with the Lions, which is fantastic. I had one year with the Chargers there. It was nice. My question is, first of all, did you and your husband, I don’t want to say, curse him with the Detroit Lions fandom but is that the case?
We all have crazy unique stories. We take that unique path to success.
We became less Lions fans when we moved from Boston and we were Patriots fans. I was less of a Lions fan in my adult years. I was a Lions fan growing up. I love the Vikings too. I was weird but my brother was a diehard Lions fan. All of my cousins are Lions fans. My son is at the Lions. I’m proud of him for getting an internship in the NFL. He’ll be a senior in the fall of 2022 at Syracuse Sports Management.
What was fun about this kid is he had sports in his blood. I pick him up from daycare at age 6 or 7. He would be like, “Mama, LaMarcus Aldridge got traded.” I’m like, “How do you know this? You barely can go to the bathroom by yourself. You are a questionable reader.” He didn’t have a phone but he knew who had a phone and who would know. Even when he was 10 or 11, he would work his way onto his cousin’s fantasy football team. My brother would text me. He’s like, “I don’t know if we should let him in. He’s persistent. It’s $100 entry and we do this thing.” I’m like, “Let him learn. Just do it.” The kid won in the first 2 or 3 years every year because not only is he a big fan but he will not let up. He would say to my brother, “Uncle, you got to do this.”
He would beat him down by battering him with trades until my brother would probably be like, “Go ahead and take them.” It’s fun to see this. It happened to be the Lions but he would’ve worked honestly anywhere in the sports team. The cool thing with sports management is you can work with the team. You can be in game-day operations. You can do the ticket size, sales and sponsorships. There are many elements of it. The idea is to try different things out and figure out what you like and what you don’t. He does love working for a team. He’s worked running the summer football camps and liaison between the team and the different high school organizations. He’s loving it.
Let’s talk about how do you get to Portland? You wanted to get out of the area because it was all automotive all the time for you. What led you to move?
A couple of the best things of my life are happy accidents but if you believe, there are no accidents. Maybe it was all by design. I went to college as a Management Major for the first three semesters. GMI was known for having Engineering and Management. Three semesters in, I switched to Electrical Engineering. You’re talking about a rare path in real estate. I bucked the trend.
A lot of people, not to say that there was anything easy or negative about management but some people switched from Engineering to Management and I went upstream the other way. I have always been strong in math and science. I love the exactness of engineering. If there’s a problem, you get an answer and put a box around it. It’s right or wrong.
I felt like even if I didn’t do Engineering, an Electrical Engineering degree would let me do probably anything related to computers or information systems versus MIS or Management Information Systems degree might limit me. I went and did Electrical Engineering. I ended up working for Intel. That was the company that I was working with at college.
It’s funny that I always called it the Top Gun program, even before this movie was back out as the redo. I joined what I would call the Top Gun program at Intel, which was about twenty of us that had to be double E or Computer Science majors. We did a two-year rotation program in different marketing and engineering functions to go into sales. I realized in my career that maybe I’m a BSer and that’s why but you can have that exactness of engineering of getting things right with the math, the answer and the problem that I described.
Keller Williams: If you could have an engineering mindset, but be able to articulate how a client would solve a problem either by saving time or saving money with your solutions, it’s a very consultative approach.
You could also be good at communication but there was a rare Venn Diagram’s liver if you could do both. Be engineering-minded but be able to articulate how a client would solve a problem either by saving time or saving money with your solutions. It’s a very consultative approach. When I call it the Top Gun program, we got into this program, did these rotations and got into at age 23, a company car and a bag-carrying salesperson for Intel.
My rotations were in Princeton, New Jersey, Chandler, Arizona, the Phoenix Area and the Bay Area. My final placement was in Boston. I was single, loving my life, working hard and selling for Intel, calling on accounts in Boston. I never thought I’d leave tech. The lightning struck and I met my husband there in Boston. I got engaged, got married and had my 1st baby and 1st house. That was our life then.
An interesting twist, my husband, is the reason we’re in Portland. Although, I’ll take some credit for it. Portland was a big campus for Intel, as was the Bay Area, Arizona and a few other places. I was traveling to Portland a lot with my client. My husband is a textile engineer. He does R&D for fabrics or materials R&D. He had an opportunity to interview with Nike. I told him, “We have this new baby. She’s eight weeks old. We haven’t slept for eight weeks since we had her. Go for the interview but don’t like the job.”
I wanted to be near Michigan. We had picked Chicago or I wanted to be near his parents who are in Raleigh. We had picked DC. The big city is near our hometowns but not in our hometowns because his family was based in Raleigh. I’m like, “Go for the interview. It’s a great city. I want grandma and grandpa to come to the soccer games, the plays or spelling bees.” You know how the story is going to end.
He goes to the interview and calls me from the interview. I’m dating myself. We had bad phones with StarTAC flip phones and a minute of batteries. He calls me and I’m like, “Why are you spending your minutes calling me?” He says, “I love it.” I made a joke, “I hope your new family loves it too. Send me Christmas cards because I’m not moving to Portland.” These are those accidents. Two weeks later, we were on our house hunting trip to Portland. It’s where we settled in 1999. We’ve been here for many years.
Our daughter was born in Boston and never took a step in Boston. We moved when she was two months old and my son was born in Portland. Interestingly, my husband is still at Nike. Years later, he’s in Art Materials Research for footwear. He has patents for some of the coolest technology that they have like Flyknit if you’ve heard of it as a type of fabric in the shoes. It’s all a team sport at Nike but he’s on the team that has come up with many of those technologies. I’m proud of him.
Somehow you decide it’s time for you to enter the world of real estate. This is a fun part of this interview every time. What was that trigger and thing that you said, “This is it. This is the time?”
I’ll tell you what it wasn’t. It wasn’t that I loved houses. It wasn’t like I was an architecture fiend, watched HGTV or any of that. It was having a 2 and a 4-year-old loving tech but being client-facing. My large accounts were in Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago. We have these large named accounts after Intel. I was at several startups but gravitated that 100-person type companies where it’s like, “We have a great idea. Do it. It was your idea. Go do that in addition to all the other jobs you have.”
The best things in life are happy accidents, but then if you believe there's no accidents, maybe it was all by design.
I loved the energy, how hard we worked and sales in that. You could see your impact if you’re working on sales, marketing, biz dev and product marketing. Those were the things that I was doing and I loved it but we have a 2 and a 4-year-old and no family in Portland. My husband and I would play rock paper scissors because he was traveling to Vietnam and Germany. He’s on a seventeen-day trip to Europe.
Between the trade shows, the vendor visits and everything else, he was in Europe and Asia a lot. It wasn’t every day but every month and a half, you’d have a ten-day trip. Meanwhile, I would have quarterly business reviews. We’d look at each other like, “The kids were at daycare. If there was an ear infection, who’s going to change their schedule?” There were times when I was landing at 5:43 and daycare pickup was at 6:00. I had no room for error.
We looked at each other and said, “Something has to get.” We were both on these hamster wheels. We both loved our careers. This is going to sound like the most humble brag. I’m not trying to say this humbly but the reality is in my early 30s, I had no problem helping people but I had a problem asking for help. When you care about people and you think of your friends as family, asking them for help is a way of showing that you love and need them.
At the time, I was that person who would do anything for anyone. “6:00 AM, we’re going to the airport, let’s go. I got your Starbucks order.” At 4:40, I’m in the car. If you’re in my row on the plane and you live in my neighborhood, I wouldn’t ask you for a ride. It was weird. I don’t know if it was cultural. I don’t know what it was but I had a hard time.
My husband looked at me and he’s like, “We got to do something. This is not working.” I pushed hard. I’m like, “If you want me to put my job and make dinner and stuff, I’m nothing against anyone who does that but that isn’t me. You’re going to starve because I don’t know how to cook.” He’s the chef of our family. I need to do a lot of things. That’s how I’m wired. Daycare was great for my kids because they would have butter week. We’re going to make butter. I would never think of doing that.
I love that there were people that knew how to do this thing better than me but I knew that something had to give. I looked at different careers. I had done my MBA in Entrepreneurial Management. I love the startup scene. How could I have my business and not have to go as Mark Cuban or Barbara Corcoran on Shark Tank for money? I didn’t invent the newest draw and needed money but it had to be service-based. I looked at mortgages, financial planning, insurance and real estate.
I was pretty methodical about it. I interviewed brokers and wrote a business plan. I asked them all, “What would it take to succeed?” I was making good money in tech even back then. They would say to me, “You’d be lucky if you make $40,000 in your 1st year. As a family, you had a ramen noodle only in number and it was higher than $40,000.” I’m like, “How is this going to work?”
I did my homework and chose real estate. The irony of the whole thing is real estate. I do love houses and architecture. I lived in a beautiful 1910 foursquare that we remodeled and fixed up but real estate is people in the project management. That is the common theme that I had throughout my whole career. Even large-scale account management, product management and product marketing, it is people and project management.
Keller Williams: Real estate is for people in project management. It’s figuring out what’s going to happen next and solving problems before they become problems.
Telling people what’s going to happen. What happened? What’s happening now? What’s going to happen next? Solving problems before they become problems,