By: Maxmillian Robinson
A tech-savvy meeting took place the afternoon of February 23, where five essential workers came together to discuss the future of the workforce post-pandemic. They were invited by Adelphi’s Robert B. Willumstad School of Business to speak about the daily operations of their jobs and how the pandemic has affected their businesses. The goal was to provide students with information on how to navigate corporate America after graduation, with the hope of adapting to the post-pandemic job field. In addition to the business school, the virtual event was presented by Adelphi’s Elizabeth and Allen Don Center for Innovative Technologies and Decision Sciences and Ridgewood Savings Bank.
The moderator was management professor Gita Surie, who is also director of the Elizabeth and Allen Don Center, which provides funding and encouragement for knowledge and scholarship in technology, innovation and decision sciences. Panelists included Jessica Kowalski of Amazon Web Services, Alexandru Oanca of Salesforce Services, Karam Kapur of Colgate-Palmolive, Gaia Dempsey of Metaculus and Mark Schlesinger of Broadridge Financial Solutions.
Their initial discussion made it clear that the Covid pandemic had had an impact on each of the panelists’ businesses.
“Amazon was pretty well conditioned for Covid,” Kowalski said. “I say a lot to our customers. Covid accelerated our plans, not the other way around. We had a plan in play years ago, but now we used this time to speed up the process.”
“We had an increase in demand for products,” said Oanca of Salesforce Services, a software company headquartered in San Francisco. “We provided a platform for communication as a team. We also realized when the pandemic took place, we had to pivot our strategy for the next season for online learning instead of enhancing books and services for a classroom.”
For the most part, all panelists stated that Covid increased their revenue, given that this problem spans worldwide. However, certain companies needed a different plan of approach.
“We are people focused,” said Kapur of Colgate-Palmolive, a household consumer products company. “We needed to find out how people were changing for the long term or the short term. From innovation, how are our values shifting? How do I reduce our plastic waste for the future? How do we engage in our customers differently?”
Other panelists dove right into their concerns.
“The first thing was that do we think it will be an anemic year?” said Schlesinger of Broadridge Financial Solutions, a financial services company. “We needed to think financially. We budgeted for a tough year, but market volumes were thankfully in our favor.”
Broadridge was among many firms that went virtual this past year, and the panelists said the virtual workspace has opened a new way of expansion, even when seeking new talent for their firms. Due to Covid, recruiters have more time to search the talent pool, increasing competition for a job. Before the pandemic, Schlesinger said, many jobs wouldn't even give you a chance if you weren't referred to them or had a connection to the company.
“The talent market has changed,” Kowalski said. “Now we're at a place where you can look for talent for any role over a wide range of participants over the Internet.”
Schlesinger added that another benefit of virtual meetings is that “we see everyone now and we all have an equal voice.”
The adjustment to working online had one panelist revamp their entire schedule. “Our approach is that we're on site with clients Monday through Thursday, but now we have to do it online,” Oanca said. “We had to change our gatherings. We used to brainstorm meetings and talk aloud but now it's very quiet, but easier to engage.”
Another thing that has changed—possibly for the long term—is the idea of travel plans when it comes to regional meetings. “Business travel is basically dead at this point,” Schlesinger said. “We’d be wasting our time traveling to London or India. Knowing the risks, it’s better to solve our issues in the company virtually.”
When the questions turned to this year’s graduates, many of whom are proficient in STEM skills, students asked the panelists about some of the game-changing skills they need to master to be hired.
Kowalski said, “When it comes to data sciences you need to understand problems and listen and devise ways to create solutions. AI [artificial intelligence] and tech are important as well. A higher level of reasoning is important.”
Dempsey said many companies have downsized due to the pandemic, which can make the job search more challenging. But Oanca provided a helpful solution: “Opportunities are available, using YouTube and looking up how to do certain things can actually help you get a job and I believe we need to promote it more.”
Oanca advised students to plan ahead now. “Develop new skills in the tech field, communicate through different mediums and expand on what is already established. In a diverse field, it would make the most sense to step outside the box in thinking,” she added.
Dempsey said that regardless of how businesses have run in the past, Covid has taught everyone that embedded assumptions about how things have to be can change, so students should be hopeful.