I first met 26-year-old real estate manager and creative professional Icely Franco about four years ago, back when I was still deeply entrenched in the NYC fashion scene. We were both working shifts at a fancy (and possibly haunted) shop in Soho and bonded over our mutual love of books, brunch, and the many, many commonalities between her Dominican heritage and my own Filipino origins—Island nation? Check. Empanadas? Check. The lingering shadow of mid-20th century populist dictatorships? Check and check.

Since our time schlepping hundred-dollar garments from stockroom to shop floor, I’ve moved to the West Coast and worked for half a dozen other places. Icely, on the other hand, has planted her roots more firmly in her native New York—finishing her degree, raising a lovely young daughter, and expanding her reach in the fashion world. Read on for more about this determined millennial’s big-city hustle.

Could you describe your job(s)? I manage a real estate office Mondays through Fridays, and on weekends, I creative direct and style photo shoots!

Did you go to college, and if so, what is your degree in? Graduated with a communications in speech pathology degree from LaGuardia Community College.

What is your favorite part of your job? The flexibility and learning about great properties and places to invest in! I also love my creative “side job” because it allows me to create something that brings me great satisfaction, which is making people look at themselves through different lenses and perspectives!

What is the weirdest task you’ve ever had to do for your job? The weirdest task happened at my side gig after a shoot I did for a boutique uptown in Washington Heights. A pigeon flew into the store and wouldn’t leave, so I helped staff chase it around and out with brooms before it made a mess all over the inventory! That would’ve sucked because the store had a lot of expensive thangsss!

What was your first real job? It was working the box office and as an usher at the AMC movie theater on 42nd Street-Times Square—help me Lord! I was 18, and it was my first “on the books” job. It’s actually where I met my current boyfriend and child’s daddy! It was hell because people were hella rude—but free movies?! Heck yass!

I got my first actual job was when I was 15, right after my dad passed away. I was helping at my aunt’s hair salon in Harlem: washing hair, doing rolos/pin curls and cleaning up shop! This job was the beginning for me getting to explore with my own monies!

Got any hot tips for folks wanting to do what you do? Real estate is where the real wealth is at! Learn about the market in your areas and other areas as well that you aren’t familiar with, just to compare the markets.

As far as styling and creative direction goes, it may suck, but working retail clothing jobs taught me so much about garments and fabrics. Clothing should be performative. It should make you not only look good but feel good! Don’t be shy to venture out. Take a stroll, and you may find your next place to have a photoshoot or run into a super cool thrift store—happens so much to me because ya girl is always wandering…