#OliverSpotlight: Raqiba Lela Bourne ’90

Who do you want to inspire? Why?

I want to inspire young people (25 and under) to be and do their personal best; to consider the impact of their choices personally, locally, and globally. How are they utilizing their time? Resources? Young people are my focus because they are making decisions now that will help determine the course of our future as a nation and the course of global progress or regression.

What experiences have shaped your life the most?

That would have to be studying abroad. I studied in China when I was eight years old through a CCNY student exchange program, and in the West African country of Ghana at 20 years old during the summer after my junior year at the University of Pennsylvania. Both experiences immersed me in a different cultural context and I had to find ways to connect despite barriers in both language and cultural nuance. It taught me that humans have a natural, organic way of connecting that transcends language and cultural difference, as long as there is a willingness to learn. I witnessed the incredibly strong work ethic of people in both cultures, which really inspired me to improve my own approach to work and responsibility and to explore culture's influence on the ways in which people interact, learn, work, worship, and grow.

How did you get involved in real estate? Is there anything in your Oliver experience that pointed you in that direction?

I was asked to work on a rehab project on a multi-family building in Brooklyn about 20 years ago. My project-management skills and ability to assemble a strong team made me an appealing choice for the project. At the time, I was not thinking about real estate as a career. In fact, I was thinking about pursuing a doctorate in psychology. However, I enjoyed working on the project so much that I began to consider rehabbing. In no time, I was hooked. I enjoyed rehabbing property, managing property, advising owners on their rental and sales values and being able to accurately read the pace and trends in the real estate marketplace, and eventually I secured my real estate sales license. I met with success early on as a sales agent and quickly accumulated enough credits to take the test for my real estate broker’s license.

While my Oliver experience did not point me specifically in the direction of real estate, being a Scholar altered my trajectory and put me in the position to consider viable career options that would work well for me.

What advice would you give a Scholar interested in pursuing a career in real estate?

Real estate is a broad field, so I encourage Scholars to consider which areas they would like to explore. You can work as an analyst, agent, broker, investor, in development, construction, etc. Once you narrow your area of interest, seek out professionals in the field and ask them for informational interviews. Show up on time. Be prepared with a range of questions. Listen carefully. Find out whether there is an opportunity to shadow a professional for an afternoon or a day, and take advantage if there is. Seek out internships. Exposure to different areas in real estate and professionals in those areas will give Scholars a more in-depth perspective on whether real estate is a good fit as a career. And, always follow-up any correspondence with a thank you.

Tell us about your role as a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker and your company Bourne Properties, LLC?

As a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, I am an independent contractor under another broker, Halstead, which holds my license. I assist clients and customers to sell or buy real estate for the best price within the most reasonable amount of time. I also assist owners in renting their properties for the best price within the most reasonable amount of time. Through the property management and investment advisory firm I run called Bourne Properties, I assist my clients with property management and in making real estate investment decisions. I also teach classes on a range of real estate topics for investors, first-time home buyers, and parents purchasing property for their adult children. In both roles, my top priority is servicing the real estate needs for my customers and clients.

What do you want to accomplish by collaborating with Oliver Scholars on this Alumni Realty series?

With this series, which is called Let's Talk Property, I hope to provide clarity about how real estate brokers work and the approach that sellers and purchasers need to take to get to successful closings. I wanted to collaborate with Oliver for three reasons. First, I am a proud Alumna of the program and I am happy to bring attention to the organization because it continues to do great work. I also love discussing real estate and helping people make viable decisions regarding property purchases and sales. And, finally, a big part of the work I do involves teaching. This series provides an opportunity for me to both teach people about an organization I love, as well as, an industry and work that I love.

What inspires you to give back to your community?

I grew up within a family that encouraged contributing to your community, especially my parents and grandparents, who modeled giving back and advocating for others. Throughout my nursery, elementary, and middle school education, I was fortunate to meet incredibly dedicated educators who went the extra mile for their students and very effectively modeled giving back to the community. Through my participation in Oliver Scholars, I attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in high school. Fieldston required community service credits to graduate, and I completed my hours by working in two organizations: Harlem Hospital's nursery wing where I helped babies who were born addicted to crack cocaine, and at Hospital Audiences, where I served developmentally disabled populations. Community service has always been and continues to be one of my core values, and I am always looking for opportunities to serve.