Edward L. Meder

Age: 30

Degree: Master of Business Administration

College: Northwestern University

Long-term career goal: Real estate finance and development

Most admired professional: Joseph Pagliari, assistant professor of real estate, Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management

As a boy, Eddie Meder watched his father, a painter, buy, renovate and sell apartment buildings in his spare time. Beginning with four units, Meder's parents sold the last and largest project, a 16-unit building in Daytona Beach, Fla., when he was 12.

“It always made me think I would do real estate on a personal level; I'd have a career and do real estate on the side.”

But while working for the management consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide Inc., after graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, Meder decided to devote his efforts full time to real estate finance and development. A light bulb went off, he says, after meeting executives who made deals to develop hotels and other properties.

“When I walk downtown in a city like Chicago or San Francisco or New York, my eyes are up in the sky, looking at the buildings. I'm always curious: What's the next new development?” He realized that he found skyscrapers and shopping centers more intriguing than human resources consulting. “Maybe the tangibility of real estate made me think this is what I should be doing for the rest of my life.”

At 30, Meder is preparing to graduate in June from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management with an MBA. In August, he will start work with M3 Capital Partners, a Chicago-based real estate investment banking and consulting firm that specializes in private equity.

Typically, M3 buys a stake in a company that invests in real estate, rather than invest directly in property, Meder says. “They'd buy a controlling interest in a company that invests in shopping centers.”

A global company, M3 raises private equity for public and private real estate operating companies. It offers financial advice, and through an affiliate manages real estate private equity investments. Strategies may vary from leveraging a company's balance sheet to arranging corporate debt or private equity funds.

Not every client wants to invest in properties in China, but a firm may decide to invest in an office building in Washington or New York, Meder says.

The transition from human resources consulting was not easy, but Meder took every available real estate course at Kellogg and joined the Real Estate Club, co-chairing its 2006 conference.

Eventually, he wants to follow in his father's footsteps with his wife, Jennifer, and buy a Chicago apartment building with three or four units, and live in one while fixing up the others. But that goal must wait while he masters the M3 job, he says. “You've got to pay your dues first.”

Meder, who won a Toigo Foundation fellowship, awarded primarily to minority students in financial services, says he feels fortunate. He grew up in Florida, but his mother was born in Cuba. When he visited the island, he saw that some family members lacked his opportunities.

“I have the chance to do anything I want, and my family members don't have those types of freedoms,” he reflects. “It makes me want to take advantage of what I have to the fullest.”