Reflections from Rocky Hill Country Day’s ’20 – ’21 Hires
By Biannette Pichardo | May 19, 2021
Navigating through a new occupation, or shift in a professional career can be nerve-wracking or overwhelming, even more so during trying times such as these. It may be dismaying for either seasoned professionals or newly hired individuals who in one way or another, felt a major shift in their work practices. The change in professional life was not as challenging for me as it was for others. I was accustomed to working remotely, since my previous internship at a Public Relations firm was completely virtual. However, I was not sure what to expect heading into an educational institution with an office-like atmosphere in the course of a global pandemic.
I first heard about Rocky Hill Country Day in 2009 when applying to highschools as a student, I had no idea how inviting the people were on this campus. A sense of belonging is one of the most important elements of joining any company or institution, and not only have I felt included, I often am given the creative space to excel. The direction I receive from the Communications Team, Susan Fonseca Lanham (Global Impact Advisor & Director of Communications) and Amadeus Finlay (Communications & Media Editor) is unmatched. Our ability to coalesce during our ‘tag ups’ to create new and innovative ideas for social media is what I look forward to each week.
January 5th, my first day on campus, as I walked over a red brick path to Hopelands I caught a first glimpse at how breathtaking the vivid blue Potowomut River truly is. I received a campus tour from Kristin Mitchell, Director of Alternative Revenue, who showed me the in’s and out’s of campus on a breezy-windy day. Even on a chilly day, I felt the warmth from the Upper, Middle, and Lower School division heads who I had an opportunity to meet in the midst of the tour. Noticing how eager the community was to get to know me was refreshing, even coming from the top. Picture having lunch on your first day at a company with the CEO? Fortunately, I was able to sit and have an hour long socially distanced lunch with our Head of School, Diane Rich. From Flynn Hall to Gibson, then to Perkins I was pleasantly reassured to be met with students who not only practiced social distancing, but securely wore their masks.
Shortly after, I dove into work with colleagues from my office, but remained virtual. Our Communications team is internationally unique, with colleagues based in Atlanta, Argentina and scattered across Rhode Island. We found that fully optimizing technology works in our favor, oftentimes we hop from emails, to shared spreadsheets, texts, calls (we call it tag-ups), to then a Zoom or Google meet. During these meetings, what’s key is to share your progress or area of
“Our ability to coalesce during our ‘tag ups’ to create new and innovative ideas for social media is what I look forward to each week.”
— Biannette Pichardo
work with the team; that is how we are able to unite and offer feedback, as well as praise for outstanding work that is being done. What makes our team special to me – is that we enjoy taking our time in discussing social media posts, whether it’s the design of graphics, videos, or nailing the messaging and tones that are being set.
In my three months at Rocky Hill Country Day, I have become a firm believer that the beautiful country setting does create an environment that encourages not only students, but the staff/faculty to think expansively, try new things, and achieve wider possibilities. As the School’s Social Media Specialist, I am able to utilize the ‘think outside’ approach by exploring the latest media techniques and tools and employing them on all our communications channels.
I had the pleasure of reflecting with 4 fellow colleagues who also had their start within the last year.
Firstly, I spoke with Sarah Flynn (She/Her/Hers), who began as an Admissions Associate in December of 2020. Over the summer, Flynn was working remotely, making her time at Rocky Hill Country Day in person a refreshing experience. Initially, there was a slight uncertainty about going to a school full of students, but was quickly impressed by the way safety is prioritized here. From Jan Cooney (Director of Admission and Financial Assistance) to Kristin Mitchell (Director of Alternative Revenue), Flynn acknowledged how they have guided her through the transition process, with the Franklin Pierce University graduate commenting “I am looking forward to finishing the school year off strong!”
Ariana Viola (She/Her/Hers), Middle and Upper School Math Teacher revealed how, “transitioning into Rocky Hill Country Day took a few weeks, as all jobs do, but everyone was very kind in the process!” Viola went into detail on how fortunate she is to be surrounded by colleagues who made her feel welcome. To her surprise, parents of students even emailed Viola personally to welcome her to the RHCD community, which was pleasant indeed! Looking ahead to this spring, Viola is excited to teach a collection of topics she favors, and increase even more teaching outdoors.
I spoke with our Advancement Services Specialist, Jared Ross (He/Him/His), who began his role at Rocky Hill Country Day in mid-October of 2020. He expressed how his transition has gone well, commenting that, “I’ve learned a lot about the school, its history, and the school’s goals for the future.” Being involved in the Advancement team means it is especially essential to understand what makes Rocky Hill Country Day unique, and stand out. For Ross, knowing that helps him acknowledge and implement appropriate messaging when structuring fundraising appeals. Ross was most looking forward to the Giving Day event, and now looking back is proud of the grand success!
Lastly, I spoke with our Assistant Head of School for Advancement, Patricia McLaughlin (She/Her/Hers). McLaughlin confidently remarked on what drew her to RHCD, voicing that, “It is so interesting that you ask what drew me to RHCD and what stands out now. When you see the magnificent campus and grow up knowing so many talented, caring people who attended Rocky Hill you think the answer lies in the place and the people.” She and I agree that an opportunity to work and be a part of this community is rare. This year has been very upside down, however McLaughlin recognizes the positives in seeing how everyone puts the students first every day and in every way. Now looking forward, she is eager to witness the Class of 2021 proudly walk across the porch of Hopelands. “Even more, I look forward to the impact these students will have on the world,” McLaughlin concluded with.
As I ponder on all of our journeys thus far, one common thread is for sure – we were all drawn to RHCD by the welcoming atmosphere. Whilst each individual has their own particular work style, I am hopeful that our experiences resonate within the community. To that end, I am grateful that RHCD has used these unprecedented times as moments to bring on new employees, and to demonstrate how, despite external crises within the world as a whole, the School continues to evolve and support its students with industry-experienced leaders.
Quick tips for steering through a new job:
- Nail virtual onboarding – Test your technology, and be aware of your surroundings to ease through distractions.
- Learn the culture – Research before applying for a desired job. I took my post-graduate experiences the past two years to figure out what my work style is, and which atmosphere I can see myself thriving in. Know yourself, and your work ethic before stepping into a new position.
- Connect with co-workers – Connecting with co-workers especially during these trying times is important. A form of connection has diverse meanings for all. I enjoy at the minimum asking colleagues how their weekend was spent, or asking questions to get to know them better!
- Get up to speed – Up to speed to me means having a checklist, and checking it twice!
- Keep track of your progress – Why does it matter to keep track of your progress? I always say work as diligently as possible, and keep notes as if you were going to be audited.
- Check your growth opportunities – Are you going to be able to accomplish your professional goals? Luckily, our Communications team not only welcomes new ideas, they let you lead and try them out.
For more tips on steering through a new job, here are additional resources: How to Start a New Job During a Pandemic: Connect, connect, connect by Allie Volpe of The NY Times, Five Strategies for Navigating a New Job in a Crisis by Michelle Moyna of the Insider Higher Ed., Tips for starting a new job during the coronavirus pandemic by R. Dallon Adams of TechRepublic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Social Media Specialist, Rocky Hill Country Day
Biannette Pichardo is a Social Media Specialist at Rocky Hill Country Day who holds a degree from Rhode Island College (BA, Communications). She is also a graduate of La Salle Academy 13’ and a 09’ graduate of Sophia Academy. Pichardo has joined Rocky Hill after successful stints at The Jan Companies working in Digital Marketing and WPRI Eyewitness News as a Digital Content Producer.