In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we invited Douglas Elliman agents to share their experiences and talk about the role their heritage has played in their real estate career.
Ivan Estrada, California Real Estate Agent
How do you prefer to identify yourself within the umbrella of “Hispanic Heritage”?
I identify myself as Mexican American.
What aspects of your identity are most meaningful for you? Are there cultural traditions or historic moments or other elements that are a particular source of pride?
Cultural aspects of my identity are most meaningful to me. Even though I was born and raised in Los Angeles, my mom and dad are natives of Mexico who made it very important that we didn’t forget where we came from, including being able to speak Spanish fluently and really understanding our roots.
One thing that I love about our culture is the togetherness—how family always comes first, how food brings people together and also how we celebrate our ancestors with days like Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Remembering where I came from gives me humility, drive and passion for who I am and what I do.
How did you find your path to success in real estate?
For me, it was about becoming aware of what I was good at naturally and figuring out what I needed to get better at to be a successful real estate agent.
As a child, I worked in the entertainment industry as a singer, so I learned early on how important it was to have a brand and how important marketing was in any type of product, including when you are the product.
As a student at USC Marshall School of Business, I learned the importance of putting together a plan, sales, finances and building a network. Combining both of those experiences is what allowed me to see the field of real estate not just as an agent but as a business owner. Seeing myself as a real estate entrepreneur drives me to improve, grow and reinvent myself year after year by adding more skills to my tool belt and continuing to learn.
The most important mindset in this business is that of a student, and so I will forever be a student.
What values or elements of your heritage do you draw strength from in your work as an agent?
Growing up, both my mom and dad worked. My dad had two jobs: he was a house painter in the morning and a janitor at night. My mom was a seamstress at a factory in downtown Los Angeles and also sold clothing door to door to put food on the table. They never complained about the amount of work they had to do in order to get to where they wanted to go. Watching them, I learned the importance of hard work, dedication and never giving up. Thanks to them we were able to achieve the American Dream of buying the first home, which was the biggest accomplishment of their lives. Hard work, dedication, passion and never taking no for an answer are the strengths I’ve drawn from my heritage.
What impact, if any, has your identity had on your experience in the real estate industry? Are there specific moments or episodes from over the years that illustrate that experience?
When first starting my career in Beverly Hills, I felt like I had to pretend to be someone else. Coming from very limited means, from the eastern part of Los Angeles with no connection to Beverly Hills or the country clubs, schools and people, I actually denied my own heritage for a long time. It was something I felt I had to do in order to become successful. I didn’t see a lot of faces that looked like mine in Beverly Hills so I felt that if I could fit in and make up a story that made me feel like I was part of the community, it would make me successful.
It wasn’t until I did a lot of personal development work on myself and really figure out who I was as a Mexican American that I realized how wrong I was. Slowly, I became proud of my roots and who I was. It was then that I really started showing up authentically with all of my clients, and my career really blew up.
What would you like your industry colleagues to understand about your experience and what can they do to be better allies of your community?
It’s important for people to really ask questions and not make assumptions based on what others look like and what accent they have. Unfortunately, society as a whole always tries to put people in certain boxes based on the color of their skin, first language or their origins. In order for us to really work as a team, it’s important for people to be open and to understand others before rushing to conclusions about them.
How do you think brokerages like Douglas Elliman can help foster greater diversity in the industry?
The thing that I love about Elliman is its diversity and continued fight for inclusivity, not just for all cultures but also sexual orientations and genders. And it’s not just the diversity in their marketing—it’s part of the culture among staff and management, how they celebrate holidays from all different origins around the world and encourage togetherness through the events that they hold. From my perspective, Elliman has been a trailblazing company that invested in this long before others started.