Devon Elovitz is a current Fashion & Luxury MBA, specializing in luxury marketing and business analytics. Prior to Stern, she worked at Christie’s Auction House in New York where she was a Business Manager for the Wine & Spirits, Watches, and Handbags teams. In 2020, her team launched the Streetwear collecting category. This role inspired a love of craftsmanship, storytelling, and innovative business models.
I’ll be honest, I am not the most outgoing person and multiple personality tests have told me I’m an introvert. So when I found out that I would begin my MBA program during the pandemic, I was nervous that I would have a difficult time finding my space and my people. Especially considering the condensed nature of the program, I wanted to be sure I got the most out of the twelve months and a big part of that was networking, making friends and feeling connected to NYU.
It’s never easy adjusting to a new place or routine but somehow because that “new place” was just a click away, I found that with the right tools and outlook I was settling in and finding my way in no time. I firmly believe that experiences are what you make them and this rule applies to virtual business school as well. For me, I’ve found that being engaged, actively reaching out to others and creating a dynamic experience that combines work and play has allowed me to find my footing and engage with the broader NYU community. Here are some key tips and takeaways from my experience thus far:
- Don’t get lost in the zoom grid
Unlike being the new girl in school (I’ve been there, it’s hard), the great thing about business school is that everyone is new and on the same page. Everyone is eager to make new friends and interact so there is no reason to be intimidated. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you’re present and engaging with others. It’s too easy to hide behind a screen and get lost in the zoom grid. Raise your hand, participate in class and turn on your camera, even if it is an 8am accounting class. I promise everyone else will have a messy bed in their background and be wearing their pjs bottoms too. Being present will not only help you absorb the information better but it is a way of putting yourself out there so that others get to know you.
- Engage on Social Media
Outside of class you’ll want to get to know your peers on a more personal level. Again, don’t be afraid to friend someone on LinkedIn or Instagram. It isn’t creepy, I promise. One great thing our cohort leaders did was to create a google doc where people could post their handles to different platforms. Once your friend request is accepted, you’ll begin to learn a lot more about your classmates and when you see something fun or interesting, send them a message! I discovered one of my classmates loves to cook and I followed her cooking account. When she posts something that looks especially delicious I let her know with a hand clap or fire emoji. I think it makes her feel good and it helps develop the beginnings of a friendship that will hopefully lead to many invitations to taste her homemade treats…
- Online Yogaahhh
I am a group fitness junkie and exercise classes have always been a way for me to feel connected to a community. One of the last things I did pre-quarantine last March was go to a final yoga class and I’ve really missed the vibe that comes with group exercise. With campus gyms closed, NYU has done a great job of organizing regular fitness programs that are accessible to the entire NYU community. My favorite is MindfulNYU which offers free yoga and meditation classes. The teachers are really engaging and I’ve found that there is still a great connection made over zoom. For me, this has been a great way to engage with the wider university community.
- Google Sheets and Slack are your friends
Tools like Slack and Google Sheets that I took for granted before are now necessities and, when used correctly, can facilitate meaningful conversations and connections. Business school is heavy on group projects and I have a tough time imagining how group assignments happened before Google Sheets existed. This is the key to successful group work and provides a perfect collaborative space in which to share knowledge and have all voices heard. Likewise our cohort’s Slack channel has been a lifeline for our group. We have channels about everything, from sharing academic resources, to podcasts and news articles. #random was blowing up on April Fools with jokes only a FLUX student would understand. Slack is also a way to vent about tough assignments, celebrate birthdays, and share much needed GIFs after particularly stressful classes. Think about it as a communication tool for all the things you would normally talk about in the hallway while walking to your next class.
- Coffee Chats
There has never been an easier time to schedule a coffee chat. In fact it’s so easy, you don’t even need the coffee. Zoom has opened up a whole new level of networking where asking for 30 minutes of someone’s time really means just 30 minutes and not a 20 minute subway ride to a busy cafe where you can’t find a spot to sit and talk quietly. Now, just a click away, you can dive into a rich and informative conversation with the person across from you. NYU Alumni are known to be generous with their time and are eager to engage with students and taking advantage of Zoom means you can have efficient conversations and make meaningful connections.
While the pandemic has been rough, it has also taught us how to utilize new tools in ways that I believe are able to enrich community building, especially within the context of graduate school. Very soon there will be a day when in-person lectures and happy hours return, in the meantime I’m happy to report that I already feel part of the NYU community and feel I have found my people and my (virtual) space. This foundation built virtually will make that first real world experience that much sweeter.