Courtesy of Elizabeth Olshanetsky
Elizabeth Olshanetsky ’24 is no stranger to profiles — but she’s usually the one writing them.
This June, Olshanetsky launched her personal blog, Techs and the City, where she has since profiled 15 New York City startups in industries including food, fashion, finance and education. The blog arose out of Olshanetsky’s passions for entrepreneurship and meeting new people.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit three months earlier, Olshanetsky found herself separated from her suite in Pierson College and forced to finish her first year within the confines of her childhood home in New Jersey. After two months of Zoom classes and a summer spent blogging, tutoring and doing research with the School of Management, Olshanetsky was faced with a difficult decision: With sophomores not invited back to campus for the fall semester, should she choose to enroll? Although her first instinct was to do so to avoid graduating late, she ultimately decided to take a leave of absence after discussing options with her friends.
“I’m very much so a people person, and so for me, college is also about the [social] interactions,” Olshanetsky said. “We would be paying the same amount to just sit at home and stare at a laptop all day. And honestly, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to not go back because we would be paying an absurd amount of money for a fraction of the experience.”
Instead of taking classes from home, Olshanetsky landed an internship at Republic Labs, the venture capital arm of a startup called Republic — an equity crowdfunding platform that seeks to democratize investments for highly vetted startups. She found the opportunity through connections she obtained from posting her blog articles on LinkedIn.
Olshanetsky began working full time as an associate at Republic Labs in November. In addition to her work in operations — which involves communicating with investors and keeping track of investments — Olshanetsky also helps with content and public relations for the group. She expressed her excitement at being one of the youngest associates in venture capital, and in particular, one of the youngest female associates in the field.
“It’s never boring because there’s always a bunch of different things going on,” Olshanetsky said. “It’s been really great because my team is only like six people, so we’re all really tight-knit. … It was a really, really lucky fit.”
In comparing her 9-to-5 remote workday to taking online classes, Olshanetsky said that in addition to getting paid, a big perk to her schedule was having time to relax in the evenings. She also said that the hands-on nature of her job diminished some of the screen-induced fatigue that came with working virtually.
Besides her work at Republic Labs, Olshanetsky also spent time traveling around the country. Her journey began in Alaska, where she, along with four friends from school, explored the outdoors and quarantined together in the home of one of the Yalies, Avram Salzmann ’24.
In an email to the News, Salzmann wrote that Olshanetsky’s “positive attitude and excitement seemed never fazed.” He also recalled Olshanetsky’s enthusiasm for trying new food.
“I remember Elizabeth requesting that we eat as much seafood as possible, and it was exciting to share some of Alaska’s bountiful ocean delights with her,” Salzmann wrote. “From smoked salmon sushi to fresh oysters, halibut, rockfish and more, Elizabeth was thrilled to try as many varieties as possible.”
Salzmann added that Olshanetsky continued to work on Eastern time while in Alaska, waking up at 5 a.m. Alaska Standard Time each morning and concluding her work day at 1 or 2 p.m. AKST. Salzmann noted that although Republic Labs had offered Olshanetsky time off due to the time difference, she was “determined to show up every morning.”
On the way back from Alaska, Olshanetsky visited her cousin in Colorado. Together, they embarked on a day trip to Utah.
“It’s really interesting for me because I’ve never been like a nature travel person, previously always been traveling to big cities and places in Europe,” Olshanetsky said. “And so these trips were really like nature oriented, which was a nice change of pace.”
For Olshanetsky, this change of pace extended beyond her excursions in the great outdoors.
During her time off from school, she was able to take a step back, reflect and engage in personal growth.
“I feel like when you’re in college, you’re kind of just like, go, go, go, go, go all the time and you don’t really stop to kind of figure out who you are as a person,” Olshanetsky said. “And also just getting practical knowledge and realizing that a lot of the skills that I need and the industries that I’m interested in, you actually can’t really get at Yale, because we don’t even have, you know, finance and accounting classes outside of the SOM.”
Olshanetsky said that her experiences over the past semester have reinforced her enthusiasm for business and “people-facing roles.” She has also enjoyed learning from and being around the founders of the various startups she has worked with.
Then, in late October, Olshanetsky traveled out West once more, this time to California for a job interview. There, she stayed with Wendy Goodman Thum ’75, one of the first women to graduate from Yale College.
“Recently, she was flown out to LA for a job interview (that she aced) which gave me a chance to feel like the West Coast Mom,” Thum wrote in an email to the News. “I may be as proud of her as her actual mom, so impressed that she has taken control of her own destiny.”
In praising Olshanetsky’s initiative, Thum remarked that Olshanetsky had taken advantage of this “historic time” to reach out for guidance, seek internship and job opportunities and find sports programs open during the pandemic. She added that Olshanetsky had even joined an online writing class that Thum offered.
Later this month, Olshanetsky plans to launch a new blog focusing on food and beverage startups. She will also be taking a business law course at Cornell, which she anticipates will align well with her work.
“I’m super glad I made this decision [to take a leave of absence], I would not have done it differently,” Olshanetsky said. “If you were to ask me what my dream job is right now, like I’m doing what I want to be doing.”
Olshanetsky plans to take another leave of absence during the spring semester.
Zhemin Shao | firstname.lastname@example.org