In "Qualia Spotlight" we illuminate life at Qualia and the people & perspectives that are shaping the future of real estate closings.
Nzau Mutisya has lived many lives since graduating from Penn in 2013. First, as an analyst on Wall Street. Next, as a founding team member of Qualia’s Sales Operations and Customer Success teams. And today, as Qualia’s Director of Finance.
Nzau’s unconventional career path — guided by his innate curiosity and insatiable drive — is a perfect representation of what it means to work at Qualia. We sat down with him to hear more about his path and what he hopes to gain down the road at Qualia.
What led you to the real estate industry?
Similarly to what initially drew me to trading, real estate is interesting because there are a lot of moving parts. With each real estate transaction involving 5-20 different stakeholders, there are a lot of unique opportunities for us to improve how any of these stakeholders manage their responsibilities.
How has working for Qualia shaped your professional development?
Big banks and more established corporations have rigidly defined roles and tend to offer less opportunity for one to explore and learn things outside the scope of their position. Joining Qualia in 2016 — as is likely the case with most early-stage startups — required me to be comfortable with less guidance and ever-changing goals. Fortunately, I’ve always been an intellectually curious person, wanting to understand topics inside and out. That career approach has really allowed me to thrive here at Qualia. Throughout the past three years, I’ve helped build out our Sales Operations, Onboarding and Customer Success divisions, worked on all things numbers and metrics and built new revenue channels. In my current role as Director of Finance, I have a strong pulse on the business as a whole and a deep understanding of how each of the moving parts come together.
If you could, who at Qualia would you switch roles with?
I was torn between business and computer science when starting college, so it would be interesting to take a stab at building something as an engineer, but since that doesn’t fit my skill-set as much, it would be cool to do Business Development like Max Lamb. He’s often wheeling and dealing with the various partners we work with and similarly, his role spans multiple parts of our business model.
What is your proudest Qualia moment?
Most recently, I built our Bank Partnership channel to supplement our Reconciliation offering. Starting with just an idea, I was able to structure mutually beneficial agreements, get contracts and redlines across the line, and develop a program that is helping to both grow our bank partners’ deposits by millions of dollars and save Qualia customers thousands. It’s extra rewarding to see that this is pacing to be one of Qualia’s fastest-growing new lines of revenue!
Pivoting away from Qualia, tell us more about the “dogma of Nzau”. How do you define success?
As cheesy as it sounds, if I’m able to look back at anything I did and know I put my all into it, I’d call that a success. Winning is obviously ideal, but in a world where there can only be one winner, I can find comfort in being at peace with my performance.
What about failure?
I think it’s important to always put my best foot forward in anything I do. I’ve always been fond of the mindset, “if you don’t care, why should anyone else?” Failure to me is actively not taking things seriously, and just going through the motions. This is especially relevant in one's career where others are often counting on you to deliver...My little sister would say my favorite word is “lazy”.
what would you say to someone who was interested in pursuing a similar career path as you?
Be your own number one fan. Be willing to tackle projects you’re not an expert in. While experience and book smarts are important, you can also demand respect and a voice at the table if you’re able to prove value as a strategic thinker. Especially in a career where you’re juggling a lot of different topics, knowledge is power, so, as best possible, always plan to walk into any meeting or conversation as the most researched attendee. You’ll be surprised how difficult it is to refute a data-driven argument and how much you can learn from a few minutes of Googling.
We’ve heard your colleagues describe you as an “opportunist”, there may have also been some mention of a mattress scheme...
That's true. When moving out of New York City, my building made me pay $100 to throw away my mattress because it fell under their “large item” category. Annoyed by the egregious cost and not knowing exactly where I’d be living given all the time I was about to spend on the road, I decided I didn’t want to own any serious furniture, especially a large item that would need to be hauled around like a mattress. After some Googling, I realized that the rise of mattress startups, all offering anywhere from a 100-365 day free trial, left me with about a 5-year runway to have, but not own, a mattress. Ultimately this strategy paid off when I was asked to relocate to Austin for a few months to help launch our Customer Success team, and I could easily make the move with little furniture holding me back.
Opportunist aside, what three personal characteristics are you most mindful of?
If you were to summarize your life so far, what would the highlight reel look like?
- Born (almost) a Gerber baby in New Jersey.
- Grew up in Orlando (what up, Mickey), enjoyed coasting through public school life and a full schedule of sports year-round.
- Headed to college in Philly, where classes were hard, but got some business chops and found a way to make it to the Big Apple.
- Lived the Wall Street life where I ate a lot of pizza, learned a lot of intangibles, and embraced a specific view of work ethic.
- Wanted to try something more creative and watch a business grow from the inside out, so I took a leap and joined Qualia, leaving my NYC high rise to move into a basement and couch surf.
Life is a wild ride, but along the way I’ve made a lot of great friends, had a lot of belly laughs, and I'm looking forward to whatever this journey has planned for me next (I’m no longer surfing couches or living in a basement for the record!)
Words about Nzau from Team Qualia