Community within the Tech MBA

Alina is a current Tech MBA student at Stern. Within Stern, she is part of the Stern Women in Business Club‘s board. Before starting her MBA, Alina gained professional experience in Digital Strategy Consulting at McKinsey in Europe and in multiple roles at Hewlett Packard Enterprise in Germany and Singapore. She holds a BSc in Business Informatics and a MSc in Management. 

 

How quickly can you bond with 54 other Tech MBAs? Well, apparently it only takes days after meeting them. The first time I got in touch with my classmates was even before the official start of the program. One bold classmate decided to invite all of us over to her building for a party which turned out to be one of the first nights we bonded as a class (see picture below).

Now, the community within our Tech MBA can be described as especially close. Our class profile is made up of 55 individuals with different backgrounds, from over 15 different countries, with between 1-15 years of work experience, different personality types from very introverted to especially extroverted, and with an age difference of more than 12 years between our youngest and oldest class members. Still, we have similar values – we truly embrace Stern’s emphasis on community which is one of the essential reasons why our class climate is especially welcoming and friendly. 

To me, the community within the MBA class was an important factor in deciding on a grad school. I came to New York as an international student from Germany with only a very small network in the city. Especially when leaving family and friends behind on a different continent, the strong bond within a class was particularly critical for me. The Tech MBA at NYU Stern was the perfect choice as the MBA community was there for me from Day One. A few highlights have been finding roommates on our class Slack channel, apartment search hacks and personally curated restaurant / bar lists shared with the class from our NYC-based classmates (New Yorker’s equivalent to gold), and finally, that we got to know each other through our Slack channel even before the start of the program. 

As we are a small cohort of 55 students, it is possible to get to know your classmates quickly. Additionally, as classes start in the summer semester, it is incredibly effortless to connect within the Stern buildings as it’s only Focused MBAs on campus. During the summer months, we had an intense syllabus with 19.5 credits – but this also allowed us to get to know each other through numerous group projects and more intimate MBA events. Of course, we also got to explore New York City after class and on the weekends.

Besides classes, the community within the Tech MBA offers tremendous support to help prepare  for recruiting. As all of us already have strong backgrounds in different industries and roles, we regularly take the time to share our experiences within our classes, and there are even several interview practice groups where classmates help each other with interview prep. 

The summer months created a strong bond within the Tech MBA. Besides connecting in class and during group projects, our incredible social committee organizes regular class events as well as a class trip to the Finger Lakes during the summer months. 

In the fall, club activities pick up again which will allow us to connect with 2-year MBA students. We get to choose a range of electives and have more space in our syllabus, so this time can be used to connect within the wider Stern network. 

For the spring semester, we already have the next class trip planned – this time we will explore the home country of one of our classmates, Colombia!

All those small but valuable things make up the strong community within the Tech MBA as part of the bigger, incredible NYU Stern network. This community made the first months of the program especially fun and helped me to create a home in the city.

How to Pick an Apartment in NYC

Moving to New York City for the first time is not easy, it is a whole adventure. It is even harder when the decision of coming to the city has been made quickly. Through this brief post, I want to give some advice on how to do it, so the experience can be smooth and efficient.

There are three things that you should consider before moving: budget, area and building requirements.

The first thing that must be decided is the budget. Once you have a clear range defined, you can look which areas of the city have places in which you are comfortable with the prices. To do this, use apps like StreetEasy and Naked Apartments. Both apps will show you basic information about each building and prices. Beyond this, I recommend looking for ratings of the buildings for previous experiences, which is a good way to know if the buildings are in good shape or if the landlords & property managers behave in a professional manner when faced with difficult situations. This will save you many problems.

Most upcoming Stern students try to look at areas close to the NYU, often in West Village or East Village. Nevertheless, the school has a bus that can take you all around the city, so it is good to map out your location against that route and the subways.

After knowing budget and area, it is important to analyze building requirements. There are buildings that ask for proof of income for one year, or a guarantor. These requirements could be difficult to meet as you are going to be studying for at least a year, and even harder if you are an international student. Therefore, it will be more efficient to know which buildings can adjust to your situation.

This city moves very fast, so if you see an available apartment one day, it could be gone as quickly as the next day. I recommend you have four or five buildings/ units in mind. I also recommend visiting the city for four or five days and conducting apartment visits. Once you see any apartment that you like, ask for an application and move forward (if possible, on the spot). You don’t want to lose your chance!

With this approach you will have an apartment in your budget, in an area that you like, avoiding stress in the process. It is a whirlwind of an experience, but it’s all worth it to live in such an amazing city!

Advice on Moving to NYC from the Perspective of an International Student

Ok, so you’ve got your Stern admission letter and your F1 visa and you’re finally ready to move to New York City! Since you’ve never met anyone from New York who didn’t think this was the best city on earth, you’re feeling pretty good about the move. But if you are still wondering what to expect, this post is for you. It covers what I’ve learned in my first 3 months here as a Frenchman, tips on how to successfully transition as a non-American, and odd things I’ve noticed.

A bit about me-

My name is Luc, I grew up near Paris, lived for a year in Houston before college, studied for 3 years in Montreal for my bachelor’s, and I had been working in Shanghai for 9 years prior to coming to Stern. My background is entrepreneurship: 8 years of early stage tech startups, 5 as founder/ceo, followed by some consulting. My experience with NYC was close to none before I moved here 4 months ago.

Apartment hunting-

Units are usually available right away so you can find an apartment in the 2 weeks leading up to your move-in date (it took me 5 days). There are a few online platforms recommended by NYU when it comes to looking for an apartment. If you’re going to use Facebook housing groups, I recommend doing background checks before you sign anything (I dodged a scammer on a Facebook group by doing a reverse Google image search of the photos on the listing). It showed me that the NYC apartment I had selected was also listed in Paris … no wonder the “landlord” didn’t want to turn on her video when we talked!

In my case, StreetEasy got me there and I recommend using this instead. Word of caution if, like me, you are booking your apartment after a virtual visit: video tours are not the same as in person. You cannot control what is shown or get an accurate sense of the size, the view, the noise, etc. So ask if you can commit for only 3 months with the option to extend at the same rate for the rest of the year. The market has gone way down since COVID, so the landlord might agree. My apartment ended up having zero natural light and I was glad to have the option to move out after 3 months. Note that most listed apartments are not furnished, but if you message the agents on the website they might have other unlisted apartments available that are furnished, or have available furniture in storage to give you. In my case, the agent provided me with a bed and a sofa free of charge and I bought the other cheaper furniture on my own. Another option is to rent furniture: you can get a good bed and sofa for as low as $100/month if signing for 12 months (e.g. livefeather.com, cort.com, casaone.com and others).

Where to live-

There are a lot of differing opinions on the topic. A lot of my classmates live in the West Village and everyone loves it. It feels a bit more European and there are a lot of good spots, but it’s a bit pricey. The East Village and Lower East Side are great options as well (I live on the border of the two). The area is a bit more grungy in my opinion, but has lots of great bars and restaurants. If you don’t mind the commute I’m a big fan of Brooklyn (Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Prospect Heights, Greenpoint, Williamsburg): I like the smaller buildings, the sense of community I get walking its streets, and the welcoming and unpretentious vibe. I also have a classmate who lives in Jersey City right across the river with a beautiful view of the Hudson River, and it takes him just 20 minutes to get to campus.

Hudson & Perry St – West Village

Services-

Once you have your place you’re going to have to figure out a data plan, internet, utilities, and a bank.

Phone plan: Assuming you already have a phone, the best value I found is AT&T’s 12-month prepaid plan, at $25/month + tax for 8GB of data. There’s a catch though: it’s available only online and you need to already have a US phone number to order… your US number…. I was tricked into paying for a 1 month plan at a physical store just so I could order the prepaid 12-month plan online. If I were to do it again, I would get a temporary Skype US number and use that to order instead.

Internet: In theory there are two options, Verizon FiOS and Spectrum. But they cover different areas of NYC so you end up being forced to subscribe to the available supplier for your apartment. You can use your NYU email to get 2 months free with Spectrum, but then it’s $55/month for wifi for the first year and $70 after that. Although I’m told you can call back at the end of the year to get the ‘new customer’ discount again.

Utilities: Another monopoly. I hope your activation on ConEdison’s website goes smoothly as they’re difficult to reach via phone. Your landlord or agent should tell you what you need to do for utilities.

Bank: I pre-opened an HSBC account from abroad (not available in some countries like China so you’ll have to check) and then applied in-person for their credit card when I arrived. You’ll want to get a credit card because it allows you to build your credit history (without which it’ll be hard to finance anything in the US), and because it’s the only type of card that works in all situations, 100% of the time (for some reason my debit cards are a hit or miss). Until I had my credit card, I used Revolut, which offers free payments and free currency conversions. Note that if you’re using an international card and the POS machine or ATM asks for a zip code, enter 00000.

Transportation-

Most people I’ve met like to walk. If that‘s the case for you, you’ll have a great time here. I don’t like walking much, so I’ve explored different options:

Options:

  1. Metro & buses: $2.75 a ride, but you can transfer for free (e.g. metro to bus). There’s no need to buy MetroCards as you can tap your credit card to enter the station. Public transportation will take you anywhere, but it will take time: I find that I tend to have to wait for the next train or bus, and there’s still walking to be done when you arrive at your destination. 
  2. Revel: $1 unlock fee + $0.49 per minute. I love Revel as I used to ride an electric moped every day in Shanghai. These are particularly fast and good. The downside is that it’s relatively expensive (my rides have been $8-10) and you might spend a few minutes looking for a legal spot to park. They accept international driving licenses. The mopeds have a phone holder built-in which is super convenient for using google map. I heard that Revel is starting to rent out electric bicycles for $100 a month as well.
  3. Citi Bike: $3.50 a ride. Good if you can find an electric one, bad if you can’t: the bikes are super heavy and slow. You can book those directly from the Lyft app, too. I’m told that there are subscription plans available if you like City Bike.
  4. Uber/Lyft: More comfortable and expensive. Good to get back home after a night out.

My personal recommendation:
Buy an electric scooter or electric longboard for as low as $350 (or a bicycle). My longboard takes me to most places in 10 minutes. I can take it on the metro or on top of a Revel if I’m going far so it combines well with other forms of transportation. You can even ride across the bridges to Brooklyn. Getting a scooter is both safer and more comfortable than skateboarding because the roads in NYC are quite bad (rough pavement with bumps, iron railings, and holes), especially the bike lanes! Then use Revel when it’s nice out!

A girl on a Revel enjoying the breeze. She’s probably thinking something along the lines of “four wheels move the body, two wheels move the soul.”

Odd things I’ve noticed-
Dogs: (NYC) Americans love dogs. I mean LOVE dogs. I mean you’ll go to some dinners where people will spend a full hour talking about their dogs. If you’re taking a class on Zoom and someone’s dog enters the field of view, the class will stop until classmates and instructors are done commenting on how cute that dog is (and yes, all of the dogs are cute).

Prices: Don’t trust them. All the prices you’re given here are deflated. You’ll need to add taxes, and tips if it’s food or drinks. A typical restaurant bill is 30% higher than previously stated. You might need a calculator to figure out the tip, usually 18-20% of the pre-tax amount given.

Messaging apps: Not everyone uses the same messaging app. Most people have iPhones and use iMessage so they may not use WhatsApp. Regular SMS, Facebook messenger, Signal, and Discord might also be used to communicate with different people. This was odd to me given how everyone uses WeChat in China no matter what phone they have.

Cash: It’s still a thing here. Even coins. Actually, your laundry might not be inside your apartment, so you’ll need to go to your bank to get lots and lots of quarters to operate the machines in your building or at your nearest laundromat. Many smaller businesses refuse credit cards until you reach a certain $ minimum, and I haven’t seen mobile payments being used here yet.

Note that as a result, it takes a lot of time to pay at a restaurant. So instead everyone paying, what happens is 1) only 1 person at the table pays for everyone (yay, credit card points!). 2) Another person usually volunteers to divide up the amounts, goes back home and uses a spreadsheet to proportionally divide the tax and tip, and texts everyone how much they owe. Then 3) you’ll have to download Venmo and link it to your US bank account to pay that first person back. Teamwork.

actual split bill I’ve gotten

 

I hope this was helpful to get you situated in NYC and that you’re excited; this is going to be a fun ride. Please reach out to me with any questions at mbaga@stern.nyu.edu.

Days 1-90

The summer at Stern as a Tech MBA was one of the most action-packed, wonderfully hectic, and fulfilling three months I’ve ever had. The Focused MBA experience includes an intense first semester academically, professionally, and socially. I thought I might share some insights on what my first 90 days were like both as a Sternie and as a New Yorker!

A quick snippet on my background for context…

I came to NYU by way of California – having spent the majority of my professional life working in strategy and general management for tech-centric companies in San Francisco (Silicon Valley) and Los Angeles (Silicon Beach). When it came time for me to research MBA options to further my career as a tech leader, it was clear that NYU was the perfect match. For me, part of what made Stern Tech MBA program so special was getting the chance to receive a world-class education in the heart of Manhattan with some of the most brilliant classmates I have ever met.

As you may imagine, starting a new chapter as an MBA Candidate — coupled with a cross-country move — comes with a lot of first-time experiences and learning moments. To that degree, here are a few things I learned during my summer semester that I hope helps others!

Finalize your living situation ASAP
As someone coming from out of state, I simply underestimated how wild the apartment and roommate search process was moving out to New York. I did not begin my apartment search until a month before the summer term was set to begin, and it was trial-by-fire for me when it came to securing a place to call home before the summer semester began. It all worked out well in the end, as I settled in Brooklyn and have fallen in love with the borough, but I could have saved lots of time and energy by using the resources at my disposal. NYU has a multitude of great resources to help connect you with housing options and roommates, and they were crucial in helping get settled. I also have a brand new network of Tech MBAs who are all moving to the city with me, so coordinating with them was critical.

Get to know your professors!
The Stern experience means being surrounded by high IQ/EQ individuals, and the professors are no different. I quickly realized that I was learning from world-class individuals both as professors and as professionals. I remember how surreal it felt taking a class with a professor in the morning, then seeing him that same day on MSNBC as a subject-matter expert on the future of ride-sharing services.

For me, Professor Pettit’s class on Leadership in Organizations and Professor Marciano’s class on Strategy were the highest-impact sessions, but the point is every professor is not only extremely accomplished, but ready/willing/excited to meet with you further to help you advance your career goals. Take them up on their offer to meet during office hours, it’s one of the best things I did.

Be proactive in your time management
A Tech MBA in the class before mine said about her Stern experience, “it’s the hardest you’re going to work, but the most fun you’re ever going to have.” I can officially say that her perspective and insight is valid. Moving from the working world to an MBA program means getting involved with academics, leadership opportunities, professional development, recruiting, and your new Stern family simultaneously. Every activity in and of itself is amazing, and I learned quickly that I needed to be thoughtful about mapping out my days and weeks so that I could make room for all of it.

It was also VERY helpful to, essentially, have the entire Stern campus to ourselves as the two-year MBA students were out for the summer. That time not only allowed me to get my bearings with all the various MBA activities, but also gave our Tech MBA cohort the time and space to get to know each other extremely well. I’ve met a whole new set of lifelong friends, and proactive time management really helped me make the most of the summer with my new family.