Miami Herbert alumnus on the importance of networking

Jakub Hejl B.B.A. ’12 attributes his success to relentless ambition and focus, and, most importantly, to the connections and relationships he made as an undergraduate student.
Miami Herbert alumnus on the importance of networking

“In my 20 years in higher education, I’ve never met anyone quite like Jakub,” said George Corton, a former senior director of development for Miami Herbert, who works as a managing principal at Westside Capital, Hejl’s company.

Hejl was the first student I ever met who thought of the Development Office as a portal to gain access to prominent business executives and not the traditional route of career services, Corton recounts.

“First thing Jakub told me was: ‘I’m not looking for a job. I’m looking for mentors,’” said Corton. “That’s the type of person he is, a go-getter.”

For Hejl, the education he received at Miami Herbert was just as important as the connections he made. In 2009, when Hejl was a sophomore, Corton introduced him to a few members of the newly established Real Estate Advisory Council and met David Luski, president, CEO, and co-founder of DRA Advisors, a New York City real estate private equity firm. That connection led to Hejl’s first internship and his first full-time job at DRA Advisors. He went on to meet Carlos Guitierrez, former CEO of Kellogg Company, a former secretary of commerce, and the former vice chairman of Citigroup's Institutional Clients Group. The introduction led Hejl to secure a coveted internship and full-time position with a real estate investment banking group at Citigroup in New York.

“The school provided a tremendous number of opportunities and tools that enabled me to launch a successful career. However, I cannot stress this enough, the faculty were instrumental in facilitating those tools, teaching me how to use them in the real world,” said Hejl.

Although there were various professors that had a lasting impact on his professional and personal growth, it was Barbara Kahn, the dean of Miami Herbert from 2007-2011, who laid the groundwork for the School’s robust advisory councils which helped expand Hejl’s network. He also credits the Bermont/Carlin Scholars Program, established 14 years ago to prepare top students for roles within Wall Street, for the strong network in New York City he was able to establish early in his career.

Knowing the importance of a strong network and the influence of mentors, Kahn, now a professor of marketing at Wharton School of Business, made it a priority to connect business students with as many business leaders as possible to expand their networks.

“We established several advisory councils and arranged for trips to NYC to connect current students with successful alumni,” she said. “Jakub stands out as a student who was particularly entrepreneurial, ambitious, and determined to make the most of his time at the University of Miami. It is such a delight to see him succeed and still maintain tight relationships with Miami Herbert and the University.”

Hejl chose the University of Miami because of the teacher-to-student ratio, and its location. He said the University and especially the business school exceeded his expectations with the resources available and the education offered. Unlike bigger schools, where it may be more difficult to have relationships with the faculty, students at Miami Herbert are fortunate to have working relationships in order to gain advice for resumes, letters of recommendation, and networking opportunities.

His advice to current and future students is “get involved.”

“In addition to buying the books, going to class, and understanding the basic concepts of whatever major a student decides to pursue, which is important, you’ve got to make the right connections to elevate your education and your career, and you have to believe in yourself,” he said.

In 2016, at the age of 26, Hejl launched Westside Capital Group, a real estate investment holding firm based in Miami. Hejl’s real estate investment experience includes transactions in land, multifamily, leisure, office, retail, and industrial real estate in various domestic markets and in major European gateway city markets. The total volume of all investment transactions Hejl has been involved in amounts to $4 billion.

Westside’s new office building, located in Coral Gables, was strategically chosen not only because of the businesses in the area but because of its proximity to the University and access to its business school talent. Westside has hired several University of Miami alumni including Jeff Levin, a former Citigroup investment banking professional who graduated in 2017, and Lucas Iacovelli a 2022 business graduate who is currently pursuing an M.B.A. in real estate.

Hejl also pays it forward to his alma mater by being philanthropically involved in supporting the Real Estate Impact Conference in years past and other initiatives.

Westside owns approximately $1.2 billion of multifamily and mixed-use assets and land in Southeastern United States in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. Westside also has a construction development pipeline of approximately $3 billion of multifamily and mixed-use assets on developable land it owns mostly in Florida. The company is actively pursuing investments in existing assets, real estate companies as well as land throughout the Southeastern U.S.