Inspiring current Viking business majors, six Elizabeth City State University alums made virtual appearances during several panel sessions over two days, offering their experience as graduates navigating the business world.
The annual event, organized by business administration professor Dr. Debjani Kanjilal, was held via Zoom this year.
Moderated by Chanae LaGrier, a 2014 graduate, the sessions featured a selection of different alums on Monday, Oct. 16 and Tuesday, Oct. 27, and culminated in one, final session Tuesday afternoon featuring all six, answering questions and sharing their experience and strategies for professional life.
Ms. LaGrier, Taylor Robinson, Netasha Jones, Brian Fernandez, JayCee Ruffin, and Ariana Lugo talked about navigating their education, negotiating salaries, and dealing with day-to-day mental health, especially in the age of COVID when working from home is more common than not.
For most of the panelists, an average day starts early, typically around 5:30 a.m.
“To pay attention to what is going on in the world,” said Mr. Fernandez, a 2014 graduate and account manager for Merrill Lynch, of his habit of waking early. “I want to see if news transpired overnight and have nuggets of knowledge when I am on the phone or Zoom with my clients.”
Ms. Robinson, a 2014 graduate, manages digital ads for clients marketing on Google and YouTube. Her day starts when she wakes up between 5:30 and 6 a.m., checking email and preparing to report to clients about their accounts.
“To let them know what they did on their accounts,” she said.
Like Mr. Fernandez and the other alums, Ms. Robinson has a full day ahead of her, working from home.
“I work on random tasks, create new ads, have strategy calls,” she said. “It’s holiday time so things are really getting busy.”
Being busy at home means these young professionals must balance their time. When you work where you live, they suggest that students consider finding a routine that not only allows them to be productive, but also maintain good mental health.
“Working from home can be overwhelming and you have to learn how to disconnect,” said Ms. Jones.
“Take care of yourself, your mind and body,” said Mr. Fernandez. “Find things to keep active.”
Ms. LaGrier warned students not to get burned out on their work and to take time to relax.
“Pay attention to yourself,” she said.
While many of the alums have similar experiences in the professional world, one ECSU graduate stands out. JayCee – professionally, she goes solely by her first name – is also a 2014 graduate and her professional career as an entertainer, motivational speaker, author, and Radio 1 on-air host not only provides her with a varied schedule, but also a different approach to work and life.
While she was still a student, JayCee began working as a comedian. She said she learned early on that her time is money and in the entertainment industry, everything you do is billable.
“The tactics I learned as an entrepreneur, I have learned to negotiate for my time,” she said. “Everything in the entertainment industry has money attached to it.”
Many of the panelists said their time as students at ECSU played a large role in their professional life. Life on campus may have been different than life in the professional world, but there were valuable lessons to be learned as students.
“While in school, your relationship with professors is very important,” said Ms. Lugo, a 2014 graduate and teacher in the Wake County School District. “They know things we are going to experience. They are a resource and a key to our future.”