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The path to a successful real estate career is not always a smooth or straight one.

But several individuals who are successful luxury agents today started out in a variety of different careers: consultant, waiter, NFL player, lawyer — the list goes on.

Those experiences weren’t for nothing, these real estate big shots told Inman. They helped them gain valuable skills that went with them into their real estate careers and have helped launch them to the top of the industry.

See how, as Inman spotlights the winding paths the industry’s top luxury agents followed to success.

Santiago Arana, The Agency

Santiago Arana | Credit: The Agency

A native of Bolivia, Arana worked as a consultant for Bolivia’s government as a young man out of college armed with a degree in business administration and marketing. Shortly thereafter he was awarded a scholarship to get a Master of Finance in the U.S. — the only problem was that the program was entirely in English, a language unknown to Arana.

Not letting that small detail discourage him he deferred entering the master’s program and moved to Santa Barbara to live with some relatives and learn English through immersion. He jumped right in getting a job as a busser at Cava Restaurant in Montecito, which regularly hosted celebrities like Kevin Costner and Oprah when it was in business. Improving his language skills with free night classes, he got up the courage to ask for a promotion to waiter. After about eight months of waiting tables, he gave selling houses a try at the suggestion of his cousin who worked as a mortgage broker.

“It was a little bit of a different path,” Arana said. “One of the reasons I’m very successful at what I do is because…

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