Eric Chen didn't know the language when he came to the U.S. at just 14 years old. And, he came alone to live with a relative he'd never met. Now, one of the most successful brokers in one of our most competitive markets, Eric works to help others overcome challenges through his work as co-chair of one of CBRE's seven network groups, Asia Pacific Network. We spoke to Eric, Senior Vice President Multifamily Investment Sales in Ontario, Cali., about his life and career.
How did you come to CBRE?
I was recruited to CBRE back in 2013 to grow the multifamily investment sales for Southern California in the private capital space, after 10 years of experience at one of our competitor's firm.
What is one or a few of the challenges you've had to overcome during your career?
I started my career during the Great Recession, so it was very difficult to get any deals done. Also, there were very few Asian commercial real estate professionals in the business. One of the challenges I faced was differentiating myself within the regions where I focused to become the top performer in one of the most competitive market in the United States.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Taipei, Taiwan.
What challenges did you face when you moved to the U.S. when you were 14?
I did not speak English when I first came to the United States and I came without any family. I lived with a relative I'd never met and I didn't have any friends. This was a very challenging time to overcome emotionally, as well as financially, because I didn't have financial support from my family. I was on my own since age 17 and I lived by myself with just international student status. I did not see my family for the first 10 years while I was in the U.S. I finally received my green card and saved enough money to buy a plane ticket back to Taiwan to see my parents, after 10 years. And then started working in commercial real estate as an assistant at the same time while going to school to obtain my college degree.
How did you overcome them?
I overcame them with an attitude of never giving up, having faith and believing in God. I got involved at church, made a lot of friends and helped people out whenever I could.
What you would you to say to others to help them overcome these challenges now?
Set goals and do not rest until you get there. When you have goals, you tend to focus on the important things versus other challenges that may bring you down.
What or who inspires you?
Examples of people who gone through a great deal of difficulties and overcome them to be very successful inspires me the most such as athletes like Michael Jordan and political leaders like Winston Churchill.
Why did you join the APN?
I was asked to be involved to assist growing APN nationally when it first started by the first national chair. He thought I could contribute in many ways to make this network group a meaningful one at CBRE. As an investment sales broker, I did not think I had the bandwidth to take on this task. However, after two years working with APN nationally, it has proven to be a great learning experience giving back and helping others in the company.
What has your experience been like working with the group?
It has been eye-opening and very rewarding. Because of the network, I've made friends and connected with so many others who shared similar background coming to U.S. Also, without being involved with APN, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to work with others who are extremely talented individuals in our company. To see others be involved and make working at CBRE adding another layer of excitement was also fun.
Do you have any interesting hobbies?
Traveling is a big part of my personal interest – I want to see the world. I also enjoy reading, listening to music, doing outdoor activity with friends and spending time with my 6-year-old daughter.
What advice to you have for others?
Never give up no matter how hard it is at times and always try to be the best in everything you do. You'll be surprised where life can take you. And, remember to always help others.
Learn more about CBRE's network groups and our commitment to Diversity & Inclusion.