SAI Alumni Spotlight: Jay Shah
Jay Shah (’91) served as General Manager of Campus Promotions during his
senior year at Cornell. Since graduating, Jay has gone on to work on Capitol Hill, receive his JDMBA from Temple University, and become the CEO of Hersha Hospitality Trust.
While an undergrad at Cornell, Jay saw Student Agencies as a great entrepreneurial experience when such opportunities were not as widely available. At the time, he found Student Agencies very scrappy, which taught him the value of thinking quick and having some grit.
During his tenure at Campus Promotions, the main form of advertising for businesses and events was poster distribution. As manager, he worked with a broad spectrum of clients, from academic departments to national corporations like AT&T. Typically, Jay hired students to distribute the advertisements; sometimes they did not show up, and Jay would have to quickly pivot and step in. Moments like this taught Jay the value of infrastructure and the importance of staying nimble.
Today, Jay is the CEO of Hersha Hospitality Group, which is comprised of two parts: a publicly listed investment trust and a private equity-backed management and investment company, both of which own and operate upscale hotels in urban and vacation markets. Since joining Hersha Hospitality, he has been able to help the company grow significantly. At first, however, Jay had to recognize that you can’t always afford a big company infrastructure right away, a concept he was first exposed to at SAI. At both SAI and Hersha, Jay had to balance and manage the inner workings of a company.
Jay enjoyed the accountability surrounding his role at SAI and the value of learning to be responsible for your actions at such a young age. He was given the broad latitude to make decisions for the business and had to own the results regardless of the outcome. In addition, he also learned various elements of strategy and tactics and developed time management skills. He had to deal with the schedules of real people that have nothing to do with school schedules: “the world keeps marching along whether its Slope Day or not."
Jay advises students not to worry about what they'll end their careers doing. It’s common to wonder while in college what will become of you; Jay suggests focusing on what’s in front of you and doing the best that you can. Get the most value possible out of every experience, and you’ll maximize your potential for personal and professional growth.