I was very happy the day I learned I had won the AADF MIP fellowship. My dream was coming true! I was and still am so thankful to the Albanian American Development Foundation for providing me with such an opportunity. It felt so rewarding, having worked so hard to get to this point.
However, the next day a million questions and scenarios were flooding my mind: Would I be placed in a good company? In a safe city? Would I hold my head high at work? Surely, I had always worked hard and with passion in any of the previous jobs I had. Would I be able to transfer these skills to my new position in the US? Would I face difficulties in understanding the language and culture? How would I live alone, so far away from my family and friends? Would I make new friends? Wouldn’t I feel scared?
Although I was feeling insecure, I already knew the answer to these questions. I was very enthusiastic to try and build my life and career from the start, even though for a few months, in a new country and language. This was my mountain to climb. Fast forward to June 2020 (one year later), I’d describe my experience in the US as a journey of professional victories and beautiful friendships during unusual times.
How did my story go? I got to work for a company that really appreciates employees, the skills they bring in, and the values they stand for. I got to live in the City, New York City, which is one of the top 5 metropolises in the world. I got to meet and share joyful moments with wonderful people who I am proud to call friends. I got to live through and see from up close historic moments that are shaping world history. It has been unresting, yet challenging and enriching.
I started my professional journey in the US in early January 2020, when I joined Elegran, a Manhattan-based Luxury Real Estate brokerage to work in Digital Marketing. My host company was founded in 2008, on the entrepreneurial idea that cutting edge technology and marketing can redefine the real estate experience. To the marketing nerd in me, this sounded so exciting!
There are many things I appreciate about my host company. One is the care and dedication they provide to employees. I strongly believe that offering a good onboarding experience plays a great role in setting new employees up for success. Not only does Elegran take induction training very seriously, but it continues to offer such training sessions and dedication to employees throughout their journey with the company. Another fun fact: since its foundation, Elegran has continuously opened doors for tens of interns and employees from Europe and other parts of the world. I love being a daily part of this international environment and exploring all the diverse cultures each of my colleagues represents. Although the pandemic set us physically apart, the company managed to find new ways to make the team feel connected, positive, and motivated.
Being a tech-oriented company, Elegran was well-positioned to pivot its business model when we started working from home in mid-March. Most of Elegran’s operations were already done online, which made it easy for employees and agents to conduct business (almost) as usual. Of course, there were a few changes. When a company goes through a crisis, marketing budgets are the first to get cut. In this case, this meant that some of my responsibilities had to temporarily change. Some of my tasks shifted to training agents on digital marketing, supporting the switch to a new marketing CRM and setting up online events. Perhaps it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to do at the beginning of my program, but it actually turned up to be a very good opportunity for me. For instance, having to deliver training sessions to 20-30 agents at a time, I managed to overcome my insecurities about talking in public about topics I have at heart.
Working from home was a challenge not only for employees but also for employers. I’ve heard of managers going into WFH (working from home mode) and coming out the same person, if not worse. I’ve also seen others coming out as great leaders. I’m lucky to have been closer to the latter ones, either working by their side or exchanging with them enough to get inspired and nurtured by their meaningful thoughts and actions.
I really appreciate having had the opportunity to be part of Elegran and of this professional experience provided by the AADF. During the past six months, I have seen the change and I have made change happen. My experience showed me that you can still be valuable, appreciated, get spotted out and embark on great opportunities despite being a new employee, and working remotely through a lockdown. If you work hard and are persistent in achieving your goal, you can make your way everywhere in the world.
I just started the last month of my professional experience. I am sad because this journey is coming to an end, but I am happy about what I have learned on the way. Looking back on the recent happenings, I’m glad that I got to properly live and enjoy living in the City for at least 2.5 months out of my 6 months here. My first months in NYC were very eventful: exploring neighborhoods, visiting museums, enjoying opera performances, picking up new sports and hobbies (oh, that water kickboxing class!). I was frequently in touch with the other AADF fellows in my cohort who now are dear friends of mine and was lucky to live in the same city with four of them. We were in this together from day one.
No one could have anticipated these events. It was hard and it still is. We are living through unusual times. Despite everything, we must keep our eyes on the positive. The past months have pressured us into evolving at a faster pace. I’ve seen people growing stronger. I have seen businesses pivot their model within a matter of days. I have contributed to that transformation. I have felt that transformation in me. This is not something you get to experience every day.
Going back to the very first night I visited the City, it was glowing. I remember getting out of the subway station and seeing the word “Believe” on the facade of a large building in front of me. It felt so inspiring. There I was, standing in a central square of the Capital of the World, all alone, pursuing my dreams and ambitions. Yes, I believed. And I still do.
I want to remember NYC as glowing as it was on that very first night – big, bold, beautiful. The City of Blinding Lights grew deep roots in my heart. The thought of experiencing a similar moment to that December night right before Christmas in a city bustling with joy and such diversity feels almost like a dream now.
I want to stay positive. I still believe. This enlightening journey is not over yet.
Ines Poshnjari, MIP Fellow Cohort Spring 2019