Finding Your Passion with Real Estate Agent Jenny Rutherford ‘00

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This is the 40th article in Bears Doing Big Things, a weekly column celebrating the stories of notable M-A alumni.

Jenny Rutherford, a real estate agent for Compass, described her path to her current career as “the long way through.” She traveled from Arizona to India to Spain to Maryland before graduating college with a degree in international relations and a real estate license.

Rutherford transferred from Leigh High School in San Jose to M-A before her junior year of high school. “My parents got divorced when I was really young so I was kind of all over the place. I would spend one year with one and then the next year with the other. I went to 10 different schools before I graduated from high school. I was everywhere from Los Angeles to Texas,” she said.

“I loved high school in general. I was a cheerleader, I played softball, and I was on the Student Body Government. I had friends involved in lots of other things, too, so I was kind of all over the place,” she added.

After two and a half years at the University of Arizona, Rutherford took a job as an Assistant Producer for MTV India where she worked for three years. She said, “I thought that was what I wanted to do, be in film and television; as it turns out, that was not the case. Being an assistant producer means you’re a gofer: you have to do all the boring tasks that everyone tells you to do. I liked the idea of it but I quickly learned that I was not passionate about it, I was not good at it, and it made me miserable. That was a huge learning experience for me.”

After her contract ended, Rutherford went back to school at Nebrija University, in Madrid, Spain for two years. “Being in a foreign country and having to speak a totally different language all the time was such a great experience,” she said.

Rutherford then returned to the US and attended Goucher College—a small liberal arts school in Maryland—where she completed her international relations degree. She said, “The student population of the undergraduate program was smaller than M-A. Going from the University of Arizona to a 1,400-person school helped me stay focused.”

After college, Rutherford went on to work in sales. However, she said, “Since I was working at a pharmaceutical startup, I was working for the investors and not the patients. It wasn’t for me because I don’t care about investors, I care about people.”

Rutherford then decided to try real estate. She was able to jump in because she had already gotten her real estate license years before. She said, “I was helping my friend study for the real estate exam, and by the time the test came around, I thought, ‘I studied, I might as well just take it.’ I took it and passed, but I didn’t do anything with it for a while.”

Rutherford (left) with family

Rutherford’s interest in real estate sprouted from a love of houses and her experience with living in the Bay Area. She said, “I always loved going to open houses, so it started kind of superficially. At the same time though, coming back to the Bay Area I was thinking, ‘I don’t know how single people do it.’ I started looking for apartments and it felt like I couldn’t get a shack in someone’s yard for the same price as a penthouse in downtown Dallas. That inspired me to want to help people, especially single, minority women, find homes they love. It always makes me happy to find ways for people to get into the housing market when they may not have thought they could have.”

When she first started actually working in real estate, Rutherford joined a team. She said, “When realtors are so busy and can’t even handle all their own business, they bring other agents to work for them on their team. For someone starting out, it’s a good way to get leads, introduce yourself to people, and learn more about real estate.”

“I met Chris Alston [team leader for Live Play Real Estate] at a charity softball tournament. He said, ‘You know, I think you should work for me,’ and I said, ‘I think I should.’ I worked on his team for four years and he taught me everything I know. I was really fortunate because most people struggle their first few years with selling houses, but, being on a team, I could pick up other people’s excess business. This helped me sell 17 houses my first year.”

Years later, Rutherford remains passionate about the effect of good real estate on people’s lives. She said, “I love having an impact and I love it when my clients feel like they can call me for help with anything. I have a client who called me once telling me she couldn’t close a drawer in her closet and her son was visiting soon so she wanted everything perfect. I went over and pulled the socks out from behind the drawer.”

Rutherford stays involved at M-A through the Computer Academy. She said, “I didn’t even know it existed until about eight years ago when I saw a friend’s post about them wanting mentors on Facebook. I started volunteering as a mentor and it’s been absolutely amazing.”

Rutherford’s advice to M-A’s current students: “Say ‘yes.’ Take opportunities. Even though it’s scary, the more things you say yes to, the more chances you get to figure out what you like and what you don’t.”

Rutherford’s advice to M-A’s future real estate agents: “It’s simple, not easy. Stick it out, you have to just go in there and grind. Be ready to do a lot of work and build your brand on integrity.”

Celeste is a junior in her second year of journalism. She is the co-writer of the weekly column Bears Doing Big Things, featuring alumni. She also is a copy-editor and manages the publication's Spanish translations and social media. She enjoys covering issues affecting the M-A community through features and writing Bear Bites about local restaurants. Her story on La Biscotteria was recognized as a top-10 NSPA Blog Post of 2023.

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