Ruby Pittman (TANDON ’20)

Ruby Pittman (TANDON ‘20) has many interests. She came to New York with a love for the arts and desire to work in the nonprofit arts field and learn about business practices of the future. Her studies at Tandon got her to think critically and systematically and led to a new pursuit of a career in sustainability and clean energy. The more you talk to Ruby, the more you see that these two passions, arts and energy, are interrelated. Her studies at Tandon School of Engineering showed how true innovation in either nonprofit arts management or the energy sector requires an understanding of systems and how policy, funding, and representation affect each industry. Read more about her time at NYU below.

Why did you choose to enroll in Tandon?

With family support, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend summers in New York for dance intensives while I was in high school. During that time, I fell in love with the city and made it my mission to go to college in New York. I thought that after college I wanted to work within the arts, either in the nonprofit or funding spaces.

I didn’t anticipate that I would be in an engineering school to further my goal of supporting the arts, but Tandon made sense. The school offers a concentration in Technology and Innovation Strategy in Finance, and electives like Innovation Management and Cities in Developing Countries, all of which would give me a solid background to work within the nonprofit sector or start my own business. My curriculum in the Business and Technology Management major had a strong basis in emerging technologies and engineering concepts, which made me think about the systems in place that affect artists and performing spaces, and how to responsibly innovate and problem solve.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your final year at NYU? What did you learn from this experience?

The COVID-19 epidemic and the disproportionate effects it has had on people of color as well as the unhoused, underbanked, and underemployed, has had me thinking a lot about the systemic causes of inequality and ways to promote sustainable actions. My senior capstone was in the form of a business plan outlining a technical solution that promotes resource distribution, philanthropy, and impact tracking on the individual level.

It was important to me that commitment to inclusion in physical spaces translated into action in the virtual realm. With the transition to virtual, I practiced giving undivided attention and feedback to all of my classmates presentations even if our cameras were off.

As an African-American, Caucasian, and queer woman, I have prioritized building partnerships, cross-cultural understanding, and speaking up for myself and fellow black and queer people offline and through sharing opportunities. I think this approach of intrinsic relationship building will be key to building sustainable equity-promoting practices with each other in mind.

What kinds of activities did you participate in as a student?

I was involved with a lot of different organizations and groups pertaining to my interest in arts, engineering, and the promotion of inclusive leadership practices. I worked to revive the chapter of American Association of Blacks in Energy at NYU, which is really relevant now that I’m beginning a career in energy. This organization was an excellent space to connect with my peers in energy and promote thoughtful allyship.

My work with The Joyce Theater as a marketing intern and front of house staff member and my archives and audience engagement work at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival kept me connected to the performing arts, and dance in particular, which is an important part of my life.

Another highlight of my extracurricular experience was participating in Brooklyn Tech Week’s Blockchain Hackathon. My team explored the possibility of incentives for environmentally conscious behaviors: rebates for saving energy and other ideas. It was fascinating to explore the implications of blockchain and the digital currency Ethereum in introducing a platform that allowed people to both benefit financially and engage with peers in their energy savings.

What are your plans now that you’ve graduated?

After a year-long internship with Con Edison, New York’s utility company, I will be transitioning into a full-time position with the company. I must give kudos to the AABE NYMAC professional chapter, fellow Tandon alumnus Kevin Bishop, Professor Michael Driscoll, and the Strategic Partnerships team at the company for their immense support in this journey. My new role as a GOLD Management Associate will involve rotating in different parts of the company and learning more about the operations of a leading utility company, which will be instructive for understanding how to innovate within the sustainability field. Con Edison has clean energy future goals for NYC and I hope to have a part in seeing those goals come to fruition and be understood and met across socioeconomic levels.

What advice would you give an incoming student to maximize their time at NYU?

I would recommend that all incoming students make sure to take a serious look at the people around you: students, staff, faculty, and others. Reflect on the diversity of these people and your own life experiences and do what you can to enhance conversations. Question your preconceptions, seek out new ideas, add to the discussion by reflecting on what you have experienced, read about, or seen. Don’t be afraid to participate, find your voice, and meet new people and uphold professionalism. It does not take a position of leadership or a social media post to bring your life experiences and refutations to the table at NYU and in this grand city.

I wish you all the best and I send well wishes for your continued safety and upcoming journey at NYU. The expression in my blurbs above are one means of connection with me. Please reach out through LinkedIn if you ever want to talk, share experiences, or need career advice or an introduction.