Panelists from “COVID’s Business Impact” virtual event discuss changes within industries
By Tatyanna Carman
Panelists from various industries discussed how the pandemic has impacted their own industries, how the pandemic has impacted them generally and some of the positive changes as a result of the pandemic, at a virtual event presented by the Norm Brodsky College of Business on Oct. 27.
At the event, titled “COVID’s Business Impact,” there were a total of six panelists and one moderator, Jim Drake ‘93, who chairs the Norm Brodsky College of Business Executive Advisory Council and the global co-head of banking risk and controls at Barclays Investment Bank. A healthy mix of students, alumni, faculty and staff made up the 109 attendants, according to the Dean for the Norm Brodsky College of Business Eugene Kutcher III.
Panelist Barry Rabner, who is an adjunct faculty member, on Rider’s Board of Trustees and President and CEO of Penn Medicine Princeton Health, discussed how the pandemic has accelerated pre-existing trends in healthcare and brought up the use of telemedicine visits as an example.
“You know, we’ve been doing some research and I read an article written by folks at Mass General that almost 80% of the people who use these virtual contacts, whether it’s with a doctor or just scheduling, like it more than the way they did it before,” Rabner said. “So it’s here to stay.”
He said that part of the reason for this increase is because people “don’t want to go to the hospital” and “they still don’t feel that it’s safe.”
Panelist, adjunct professor and Independent Consultant with BBC Sergei Kuharsky explained that the pandemic has accelerated the shift from a “ linear, ad-supported television world, from a theatrical world to a streaming world,” exemplified by Netflix and Amazon Prime. He also described the disruption of the supply chain in the TV industry because nothing new is being made.
“And it probably won’t be until 2023, where we’ll catch up to back to what you would feel is normal and private, and your algorithm will probably have a hard time recommending things to you, that you find really fit your tastes. But that’s where we’re going to be — we’re going to be on-demand, subscription-driven,” Kuharsky said.
Christina Maria ‘97 ‘05, panelist and Soros Fund Management human resources employee described how the transition between in-person working and the remote working environment was difficult. Two of the points she focused on were connectivity and Zoom fatigue. The other panelists added to the discussion of Zoom fatigue.
Panelist, member of the Executive Advisory Council and Technology Council and Global Vice President of Solution Consulting at Medidata Solutions, Jon Mills ‘85 said that his company established breaks to slow things down because, “everybody had Zoom fatigue.” He also explained what has changed in his company from the start of the pandemic to now, one of which was travel.
“So I don’t see myself getting on a plane for another six months, at least for business anyway, and I don’t see, you know, the kind of calls that we have with customers and the demos we do every week, it’s interesting, our software’s doing a lot to help with the COVID situation right now,” Mills said. “Forty-six percent of the trials are going through our software.”
Karen West, panelist and chief of staff at Herspiegel Consulting said that her routine is completely “turned on its head,” as sharing and collaboration has “completely stopped.”
“Not only aren’t people going out to clients, they’re not coming to the office,” she said. “And clients aren’t getting information because all the sales reps like Jim [Drake] had mentioned, the sales reps aren’t out talking with doctors at hospitals, they’re not out so the clients aren’t getting intelligence from the marketplace.”
Despite some of the stark transitions and difficulties within each industry, the panelists also focused on what lessons they learned from the changes done to their companies as a result of the pandemic. Rabner said that he learned that “all of the solutions to the problems we were facing came from the people on the front line.”
“You know, this wasn’t just an inconvenience, where they really were afraid for their lives, and they were afraid for their families when they went home,” Rabner said. “So, I don’t know if anybody remembers the TV show MacGyver. But I refer to these folks as MacGyvering. Because every day, all day, every shift, they were getting together solving problems as quickly as it would have taken me to schedule a meeting to discuss the problem that had to be solved.”
Some other lessons learned from the panelists were to be more decisive, having a work/life balance, more flexibility and the importance of getting people to have fun.
“You know, people need to be happy and engaged with where they are. So we actually implemented COVID bingo,” Rayot said. “So you know, if someone’s on mute, and they’re talking, someone could say bingo, and then you have to figure out who it is.”
The panelists also explained some of the positives that have come from the pandemic both personally and professionally such as an increased closeness between neighbors and connecting outside of coworker cliques.
Tax partner at CohnReznick LLP and panelist Neil Gerard said, “There’s a connection there now that I think they look forward to speaking with me, I look forward to speaking with them I know them, deeper than I would have probably, I hate to say this, then if we were in the office every day. So it’s just forced me to think about how I interact with people at all levels.”
The event ended with a question and answer session where the panelists discussed what will and will not stay within each industry post-pandemic, how culture is being managed at the firms and advice for students to put their best application forward for jobs in a post-COVID world, as well as general pieces of advice.
Rayot said, “My best idea, and tip would be to look at your classmates, your teachers, your parents, your siblings, people you don’t know on the street with kind eyes. We have no idea what people are going through, the stresses that they’re under. We’re in a very unique environment.”
Kutcher shared his thoughts on the success of the event.
“It exemplified our principle of engaged learning: drawing connections between what we’re learning in the classroom and what’s happening in the world,” he said. “We did poll participants about what they took away from the panel. Many of them remarked about how open and honest the panelists were, and how evident it was that all of us —students, faculty, staff, business leaders, employees at all levels of their firms —are doing our best.”