Author: Sarah Podolsky

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About Sarah Podolsky

Born and raised in New York City, I am a student at Olin Business School. I'm majoring in marketing and entrepreneurship and minoring in computer science! I also write for Her Campus, am an Olin Peer Ambassador, and am in Pi Beta Phi.


“Data can be used for great good to make a significant positive difference in our communities and our lives… but not without some problems.”

– Naveen Pinjani, Sr. Director Big Data Analytics at Daugherty Business Solutions

At the Data for Good conference on October 5, speaker Naveen Pinjani, along with consultant Jonathan Leek, dynamically kicked off a panel on the Vacancy Collaborative. The Vacancy Collaborative’s mission is to address St. Louis’s vacant property issue and perfectly reflects the conference’s core goal: to celebrate the combination of values-based-leadership and analytics.

Leek knew two things before the creation of the Vacancy Collaborative: He was a skilled data analyst and he wanted to help the community. Knowing this and the brutal fact that about 15 percent of all land in St. Louis is vacant, he put his skills to use.

Addressing this issue has been complicated. Leek asked, “How do we address what we can’t understand?” The data problem presented was that there are city employees who are doing the best they can, but aren’t trained in using and analyzing data. Leek recognized that systems are often put in place by those unfamiliar with data best practices. Along with volunteers, Leek set out to use his data skills to tackle the basics—how many vacant properties/lots exist, where they’re located, and what to prioritize.

Over the past year, the Vacancy Collaborative has combined four data sets, cleaned them up, and defined what each set means. They are on their way to incredible impact. The volunteer aspect of the project comes with its pros and cons; Leek explained its lack of bureaucracy is great, along with the autocratic decision-making process, but there’s a lack of input from domain experts and limited tools, resources and time.

Even with the negatives, the Vacancy Collaborative was able to convince Cindy Riordan, CIO of the city of St. Louis. Riodan said, “The vacancy data lit a spark with our [the City of St. Louis] staff.”

The vacancy issue affects the entire city from crime rates, to public health, to the city budget. The Vacancy Collaborative is now working on refining its web portal and even expanding to new data sets unrelated to vacancy. If you’re interested in reading more, check out STLVacancy.com.

Sarah Podolsky, BSBA ’19, wrote this on behalf of the Bauer Leadership Center. Pictured above: Jonathan Leek, a consultant with Daugherty Business Solutions and volunteer with the Vacancy Project, presents to the Data for Good audience.




The Center for Experiential Learning fellows program works to shape great business students into great business leaders. The CEL fellows, an impressive group of MBAs, just met for their second Captain’s Table, where they discussed the challenges and setbacks that come with leading a team.

The group split up to discuss a case that depicts a team leader dealing with a team member who is smart, but unmotivated and disrespectful. Looking to open up the fictional teammate’s untapped potential, the fellows debriefed with Kurt Dirks, vice chancellor of international affairs and Bank of America Professor of Leadership, and drew out the following lessons that focus on values-based leadership.

Communicate expectations early

CEL Director Daniel Bentle quoted George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

It’s important to set expectations and set a tone from the beginning. The team leader in the case did set expectations from the start, but she made the grave mistake of not including the team. If you build expectations with your team instead of alone, the expectations will feel more like an agreed-upon team contract than a set of rules to break.

In addition to setting expectations, the team leader should facilitate an understanding of each teammate’s motivation in the project. For example, the disrespectful team member was mainly focused on job searching. If the team lead had capitalized on this information early on, she could have worked to use this information to motivate him. Explaining how the project could be a great conversation topic in interviews or good content for his resume would be a great way to get this team member on board.

Build trust with your team

Building trust with each individual teammate is an essential step toward team success. Conn Davis, MBA ’17, said, “The key to business is personal relationships.”

Following Davis’s advice, the fellows agreed it was important to set up one-on-one meetings with each teammate to get to know them. Showing interest in your team on a personal level helps to build trust and works to reinforce the expectations you’ve previously set.

Listen and adapt

Even if you follow the above lessons, road bumps are bound to happen. For example, the teammate focused on recruiting may come in late to every meeting. Using lines of communication, you might find out that it’s because he has a meeting right before that he’s running from.

Listening to his reasoning and adapting to shift the meeting 15 minutes later will increase team efficiency. As a successful team leader, you have to be ready to adapt to produce the greatest results.




This past summer, I became an intern at an amazing nonprofit called Variety the Children’s Charity of New York, whose mission is to transform the lives of children through the arts. The office was just me and three other co-workers, so I had the opportunity to jump into whatever area I felt could best benefit from my skill set. From that, I chose social media, and took on the title of social media manager.

That being said, before this internship, I had never managed a company’s social media nor had I even thought much about doing so.  I saw an opportunity to step in and help grow this company’s online presence, so I took a shot at it and learned a ton. Through my experience and hours of research, I’m here to pass on everything I’ve learned during my summer in social media marketing.

Give the company a voice on social media

I quickly realized the importance of using social media as a tool to give your company a personalized voice. I was at a children’s charity, so it was easy to find a bubbly and friendly persona to match the charity’s mission. Giving the company a voice also allowed us to keep up with all of our grantees and sponsors on a day-to-day basis, which created a closer, more personal relationship with each of them. I was able to respond to every small event that each grantee had and support them all daily. It was also a great way to show our following the great work that we do and the amazing grantees that we fund.

Creating content that both reaffirms your company’s mission statement and includes the company name, strengthens the brand’s image.

Creating content that both reaffirms your company’s mission statement and includes the company name, strengthens the brand’s image.

Content is key!

When I told my friends that I was managing the social media for a small company, they were confused how this would be a nearly full-time job. However, what they didn’t know was how important it was to find the perfect content. From my research, I learned of the “5-3-2 Ratio” of social media posting; that is, sharing five posts of content from others, three posts of relevant content from us, and two “personal” status updates to humanize the company.  This last step is important because it creates more personal relationships with the company’s following which adds a level of loyalty that is extremely important. Although the 5-3-2 ratio is more of a guideline than a hard-and-fast rule for all social media, it was helpful in reminding me of the importance of balancing self-promotion with supporting the non-profit community.

Leave your mark (and brand) on social media

For all companies, especially smaller ones, it is important to brand all your original content. Anything that you can put your brand on, you should. I saw this to be really helpful in getting our name out there and growing the company’s following. It increases legitimacy for the company and also just strengthens the overall visibility.

Don’t overdo hashtags on Twitter or Facebook

It’s important to remember hashtags are only so helpful. They are amazing tools for growing your followership, especially when you’re tweeting about specific subjects that relate to your company—but you don’t want to overdo it.  Using one or even two hashtags per tweet is more than sufficient. If you add too many, your message becomes less clear and it looks less professional. Another great hashtag tip is to create your own hashtags for upcoming events. This will help brand the event or campaign and encourage followers to engage more!

Stay consistent in your social media voice and posting frequency

As you grow your followership, you have to think of each follower as an individual relationship. So remaining consistent on content and timing is extremely important for nurturing these relationships. You don’t want to change your topic from the arts one day to car racing the next. It’s also good to remember to tweet or post a consistent amount each day (this means weekends too!). To do this, you can plan ahead using HootSuite, which organizes your Twitter and Facebook content into categories and lets you schedule posts ahead of time.




Hello from the other side of freshman year! I’ve made it a full year and have learned so much. Olin’s core values—excellence, leadership, integrity, collaboration, and diversity—are a lot to strive for. I started off freshman year far from reaching these values, but knew I wanted to reach the level of professionalism that was expected of me. I had to make huge lifestyle changes if I wanted to achieve this. I was procrastinating my work, staying up until 4 a.m., sleeping past my alarms, and having trouble focusing in class.

The author, Sarah Podolsky, poses in front of WashU's iconic Brookings Hall.

The author, Sarah Podolsky, poses in front of WashU’s iconic Brookings Hall.

The first value I strived to fully achieve was collaboration. In my first semester classes, Management 100 and Management 150, I was assigned to a business team. I was so lucky to have such an inspirational team. We were all from different states, had very different skills and personalities, but we worked together so well. For them, I decided I had to get my act together. So two full months into freshman year I began to make some serious changes and began to focus on fixing my lifestyle. I started going to sleep before midnight, doing work as quickly as it was assigned, and waking up early to do extra work before class started.

The level of professionalism that was expected of me is not something that came to me naturally, but was something I learned by observing the incredible students and faculty around me. The drive of the community at Olin is truly inspirational and forced me to make these changes. It has given me the opportunity to be a productive and contributing member of this driven community. I am looking forward to starting my sophomore year with these lessons I’ve gained.