From Newark with Love: Two Alums Start Postcard Company

Fanny Aizier and Rahim Stennett, two recent graduates, started a postcard company whose cards exclusively feature Newark.

Fanny Aizier, an NJIT grad who lives and works in Newark, tried recently to buy a postcard of the city she loves. She visited several shops in Newark but emerged empty handed.She found several postcards of the Manhattan skyline but none of Newark.

She was disappointed. She was dismayed. She was inspired.

So she, along with fellow NJIT grad Rahim Stennett, started a postcard company whose cards exclusively feature Newark. The company, From Newark with Love, sells its postcards in local stores as well as online.

“Rahim and I have lived in Newark for six years and we watched the city blossom,” said Fanny.  “But we still couldn’t buy a postcard of Newark in Newark.  We went around Newark with a camera to capture its beautiful sights and turned them into postcards. We're hoping the postcards help spread the word about Newark's Renaissance!”

Aizier moved to Newark from France, her homeland, in 2006 when she enrolled at NJIT, where she studied computer science and played Division 1 Tennis. After she graduated in 2010, she was offered job as a Systems Analyst at Prudential in Newark. She took an apartment on the 22nd floor of an art deco building on Raymond Blvd., a short walk from her job. She loves her job and loves living downtown. 

Rahim moved to America from Kingston, Jamaica, in 2007.  A top soccer player, he attended the University of Maryland and Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.  But for his sophomore year he transferred to NJIT.  He majored in Electrical Engineering and joined the Men’s Soccer Team, where he excelled.

He was a first-team all-Atlantic Soccer Conference honoree and during his sophomore year won a top scorer award. He graduated in 2012 and is now running From Newark with Love while interviewing for full-time jobs. He has an apartment in Newark’s Ironbound section and loves the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood as well as its restaurants, nightlife and its proximity to Manhattan.

In this interview, Fanny and Rahim talk about their new company, their careers and  why they live in and love Newark.

______________________________________________________________

Fanny Aizier:

What did you like most about NJIT?

Coming from a small, provincial city in France, I loved the diversity at NJIT. I was introduced to so many different people, cultures, as well as different music and even cooking.  It definitely broadened my horizons. I also really enjoyed that NJIT is in Newark, a city which I now call home!

While students you made a video about Newark. Why?

Every time Rahim and I would walk downtown I would see something worth filming. We thought to ourselves ‘These Newarkers are so interesting; we have to film them!’ So we tried to capture their vibrancy in a video we made for our video editing class. We still see the same people we filmed when we walk on Broad Street and some of them still recognize us!

You played Division 1 Tennis and excelled in school.  How’d you balance the two? 

Though certainly a challenge, being an athlete and a student was a great opportunity. The scholarship enabled me to travel from France and study in America.  Despite all the obligations: training, classes, practice, and then class again -- not to mention exams, projects, due dates and, of course, endless studying -- the investment of time and effort was justified by the reward and the connections I made with my teammates. Online classes were also a great way to keep up with the schoolwork while traveling to matches around the country; I could be in class, anytime, anywhere with my iTouch!

So it’s an advantage to be an athlete?

My experiences in athletics definitely helped sharpen my interpersonal skills and taught me how to be on time! The athletes' commitment to effort and the spirit of competition does give me an advantage in the workplace and playing tennis is also great to meet coworkers.

Did the Career Center at NJIT help you get the Prudential internship?

My first internship was at McGraw-Hill, which I learned out about during an information session held by the Career Services Center. I was later offered my second internship at Prudential thanks to my adviser, who told me about the Prudential Scholarship. I applied for that scholarship and got an internship instead (I didn’t get the scholarship). That summer job went well and it turned into a co-op job during that year’s fall semester. And that turned into a full time job, which I began as soon as I graduated.

Are there other NJIT graduates working at Prudential?

Yes, four of my classmates are working at Prudential, and one of my managers is also an alumnus of NJIT. Note that two of those colleagues are also pursuing their masters at NJIT part-time. Prudential has a great tuition reimbursement program.

Which division at Prudential do you work in?

I work in the Architecture and Technology Group. We are responsible for all the emerging technologies.

Do you work on different aspects of technology?

My job is diversified. I do some web development; IT project management; IT Procurement; and I work with other technology teams around the company as a learning experience.

What projects have you worked on recently?

I updated the Prudential BlackBerry AppCenter, iPhone app center and iPad app center. We are now testing some software, and I’m the coordinator between the vendors, the procurement team and the pilot users. We want to make sure the software meets the business needs before we purchase it.  I'm also working on different software upgrade project. In a big corporation like Prudential, it’s important that all employees work with the same software.

Are you part of the leadership training program?

I'm also participating in a rotation program where I visit other departments. It gives me a broader knowledge of the different technology services at Prudential. It's an excellent training for my eventual growth in the company. I will work one week a month for six months in each of those departments: Desktop support for executives, Emails, Project management and Prudential.com.

And you are returning soon to NJIT to recruit students.

Yes, I’m now glad to be on the other side: I’ll attend the upcoming Spring Career Fair as a recruiter for Prudential. I hope to interview and hire bright NJIT students.   It’s a great school and some of our best employees at Prudential are alums.

*********

Interview with Rahim Stennett:

Why did you transfer to NJIT?

NJIT had Division 1 soccer and a strong engineering program so it was perfect for me. I also love Newark and wanted to be close to NYC. I arrived from Jamaica and attended two schools before transferring to NJIT. I am so glad I ended up at NJIT; I could not have imagined myself anywhere else. My mentors and professors who encouraged me throughout my tenure at NJIT are second to none. The then soccer coach, Pedro Lopes, recruited me for the soccer team. And he was more than just a coach for me. He was always honest with me on and off the field, and always reminded me that I was a student first and an athlete second.

How do your engineering and problem-solving skills help you run a start-up company?

My experiences as a prospective engineer has trained me in my communication, presentation and organization skills, important factors in running any business, especially when it entails presenting the idea of Newark Postcards to prospective retailors. I am happy to announce that we currently have 14 retailers of From Newark with Love postcards.

You are interviewing for jobs now, right?

I have had a few interviews, mostly with engineering firms. I had one interview with T3 trading group, in the financial district in Manhattan.  In my interview, they expressed to me that engineers usually make better traders because of their analytical and data interpretation skills and also because engineers have a knack for observing and predicting trends. I am currently scheduled for a second interview; I guess we will see how it goes.

Why do you like living in Newark’s Ironbound section?

The Ironbound section of Newark is a melting pot of cultures primarily from Portugal, Brazil, Spain and South America -- I probably being the only Jamaican living there has the advantage of allowing me to experience the best of all these cultures.

Why did you two start the postcard company?

This was just another one of the ideas between Fanny and I that we have committed to executing in its entirety.  When we were students, we worked together on the Newark documentary. We both share a love for Newark and photography and with her graphic designing, and programming skills coupled with my marketing and business skills, we were confident that we could fill the void we noticed in the market.  It just made sense to pursue this 100%. Furthermore Newark deserves to have its urban beauty celebrated on postcards.

By Robert Florida