On Thursday, November 16, Hostos Community College held its third Industry Summit, a bi-annual series designed to provide real-world insights on the expectations, challenges and opportunities in specific industries, as well as identifying ways to optimize the College’s degree programs and prepare students to compete successfully in the job market.

The Business Management Industry Summit, which focused on “Careers, Curriculum, Achievements and Opportunities,” brought together Hostos Business faculty, business leaders and members of the Hostos Foundation, as well as deans from Lehman and Baruch, to share their insights and recommendations on how to prepare for and enjoy successful careers in business management in any industry. The packed room buzzed with energy as the scores of Hostos students in attendance leaned in to make the most of the event, taking notes, networking, and asking questions of the expert panelists.

Elías Alcántara, Chair of the Hostos Community Advisory Council, who served as the Master of Ceremonies, welcomed everyone to the summit, promising a fruitful day in which hard-won wisdom would be shared, and remarking how working in business was a surprising change for him, since most of his career had been in government.

Then Hostos President, Dr. Daisy Cocco De Filippis, graciously welcomed all the participants and attendees, stressing how important forums like this one are to the exchange of ideas and perspectives that could have meaningful impacts on the lives of students. 

The proceedings then kicked off in earnest when Provost Shiang-Kwei Wang introduced the Hostos Business faculty members to talk about how an associate degree in Business can set students on a path to lucrative careers. Eddy Garcia, Accounting and Business Management Unit Coordinator and Business lecturer, began by asking all students in the room to stand up and thanking them for coming, saying that “Hostos will always be your house!” He then stressed that an AS in Business Management, though it sounds modest, provides the solid foundation for an entry-level leadership position in any industry, and recommended that students go on to get their Bachelor’s degrees “because that could make the difference between you and the person next to you.” Then, Ruth Lewis, Office Technology Lecturer, recounted how her own AS in Office Technology allowed her to enjoy a broad variety of good jobs in business, law enforcement and academia, adding that students need office tech skills, and soft skills such as non-verbal communication and collaboration to be employable.

Soft skills were then the focus of a panel discussion, led by Andrea Fabrizio, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, which was titled “The Demand for Soft Skills: Aligning Education with Industry Expectations.” The panel of business leaders featured members of the Hostos Foundation: José Dios, Managing Director of Melting Point Solutions, LLC; Amarilis Jacobo, DDS; Julio E. Reyes, Jr. of Citizens Bank; Stephanie Santiago Tkach, of Rivian; and Esther Rodriguez-Chardavoyne, Hostos Senior Vice President of Administration and Finance. Hostos alum Ifeanyi Obinali ‘15, CEO of LEAD Security Group; and Meisha Porter, President and CEO of the Bronx Community Foundation also participated in the panel discussion.

Each member of the panel had the opportunity to expound on the importance of soft skills and proffer advice to the students. For her part, Ms. Rodríguez-Chardavoyne stressed the importance of taking not just business and accounting courses, but also philosophy, art, psychology, history, etc., in order to be a well-rounded individual and better equipped to understand how the world works and who you are dealing with. In addition, reading up on current events, researching the company you’re applying to, and communicating effectively are key to demonstrating that you are well-educated and will fit in at an organization.

Mr. Reyes highlighted the importance of recognizing your natural abilities and choosing a career that allows you to do what you love, so that it never feels like work. He added that it’s vital to keep learning and not stagnate because what you learned 10 years ago could well be obsolete today. And, no matter what, Crocs are not appropriate to wear at any job interview!

Ms. Santiago Tkach echoed the idea of staying curious and open to new knowledge and urged students to always do everything to the best of their abilities. She also added that while a resume will communicate your hard skills, the key is being able to effectively tell your story and show how your unique experiences set you apart from the competition.

Mr. Obinali also said self-awareness was vital to being successful in business: knowing your interests, values, and principles and finding a field that suits you. Study the company and position you’re applying for to better understand how you can fit in and be more confident in your presentation. He added that you always have to look ahead and think about where you want to be in 5 to 10 years, and be willing to keep learning.

Dr. Jacobo stressed how important it is just to “be there, be present.” Being fully engaged, courteous, friendly and properly dressed seems obvious, but is too often forgotten by job applicants. They can, however, be the deciding factor in who gets the job and who doesn't.

Ms. Porter emphasized that it’s okay not to know what you want to do as a career, but that you have to know what you like and are good at. Soft skills such as making eye contact, a firm handshake, dressing appropriately, knowing your audience, and especially knowing how to talk about yourself are key to advancement, she said.

Mr. Dios added that discipline is also vital to success, saying that he overcame his own shortcomings in the world of finance by reading the financial press religiously every morning until he eventually mastered the concepts. But, he said, there is no such thing as a dumb question and interviewers appreciate a curious candidate that is open to learning. He added that it’s important to be yourself, and that people like to do business with interesting people. 

After the panel, Jorge Silva Puras, Interim Provost at Lehman College, encouraged students to continue their studies at Lehman, assuring them that each and every Hostos credit would also transfer. There was then a break during which students mingled with the speakers, networking and exchanging contact info, leveraging the opportunity that had been presented to get their feet in the doors of the businesses represented at the event.

The room then broke up into round table and discussions between the presenters, guests, Hostos faculty and staff and students focused on various aspects of aligning the educational processes with industry expectations, transfer opportunities, and improving students’ employability after they graduate.

Finally, the event closed with a group discussion that mostly featured students expressing their appreciation for all the wisdom and insights shared during the summit, and thanking all the presenters for their generous and inspiring contributions to the day’s proceedings.