Student Spotlight: Chris Raboy, Chief Executive Officer for Penn Student Agencies

During the Fall ’22 semester, I met up with Chris Raboy, formerly the Marketing Director for Penn Student Agencies (PSA) and now currently serving as the  Chief Executive Officer. Apart from the funny bits about juicy tomato costumes and the debate over which cafe is best, our conversation was enlightening. I’m glad I was able to talk to him about, among other things, his time at PSA, a very interesting organization here at Penn that allows students to create and run their own businesses.  

As a nursing student, Chris has no background in marketing, networking, or website building. So how did he become the Marketing Director for PSA and eventually, the Chief Executive Officer? Chris applied for the Executive Director position of First Services, sadly he did not get the job. But luckily his supervisors saw something in him. They saw that he was passionate about the job and offered him the Marketing Director position for Penn Student Agencies during. This meant he had to learn how to market these businesses, how to build websites, and how to network. How did he manage this? Email. Chris asked for help, he emailed everyone he could, asked 100 questions, he experimented, and saw first-hand what worked and what didn’t. By persevering Chris was not only able to do his job efficiently, he also learned a lot of skills he uses for his personal and professional goals. Additionally he was able to find mentors that would be instrumental in not only guiding him but PSA as a whole. Similarly, that perseverance allowed Chris to promote his own passions. Currently he has his own website and social media platforms in which he promotes fitness and wellness. As for PSA, he is currently working along with the team to establish continuity within the organization and develop new businesses.  

Chris is one of those people who you look up to, partly because he actually goes to the gym and can maintain that routine, but also because he is proof that one can achieve anything. The only condition is that one must not be afraid to try, to fail and to ask for help. As I’m writing this I am reminded of this popular phrase that says “El que tenga miedo a morir que no nazca”. It translates to “whoever is afraid of dying, don’t start living”. It’s mostly satirical, but there is a message behind it, if you’re afraid of failure you will never succeed. That’s why I implore anyone to take a page from Chris’ book. Try, send a thousand emails, and ask a million questions. Learn from your failures instead of letting them define you, and most importantly never give in to self-doubt.  

Introduce yourself:

My name is Chris Raboy. I’m a sophomore in the School of Nursing studying nursing and nutrition. I am currently working at Penn Student Agencies as the Chief Executive Officer, previously the Marketing Director, and I recently began working as a fellow at Venture Labs at a startup.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy working out, and I am very interested in preventative medicine through nutrition and exercise. Additionally, I enjoy movies, specifically psychological thrillers, as well as dancing, going out with friends, and having a good time.

What’s your favorite psychological thriller?

My favorites are usually those movies with a crazy last-minute twist like Shutter Island. Anything IMDB 7 or higher is usually pretty good.

I saw that you have a website, why did you choose to make one and what would you want other people to know about it?

Making a website actually came from my experience at PSA. PSA’s department recently transitioned everything to WordPress which meant that everything in regards to the websites had to be redesigned. My administrator at the time Kelly Hartman asked me to take a look and see what I could do with it. I started looking at it and realized that I was unfamiliar with a lot of things so I decided to educate myself. I watched a lot of YouTube videos and asked a lot of questions. I would try, mess up, and ask questions. It’s funny because I’m known as the guy who sends a lot of emails and asks 100 questions, but I think that’s the best way to learn. That process of trial and error taught me that website building is not as hard as I thought it would be. From that experience, I thought why don’t I build my own website. I used everything I learned from PSA, kept asking questions, and over the summer I created my own website. That helped me build a skill set  that I could use not only for my website but for other things that could contribute to PSA.

What’s your favorite video you’ve made on your social media?

My favorite video was when I challenged myself to do a 1,000 squats. Sometimes I feel like things get too monotonous so I try to switch it up. The challenges seem like a good idea at first but very quickly you realize that it’s not as easy as you thought. However, no matter how hard it is, I always force myself to see it through.

What’s your favorite workout? Any tips?

My favorite exercise is squats. It’s such a functional exercise, a lot of people run and do a lot of leg exercises, but simple squats can make you very strong.

Finally, what was your Halloween costume this year?

This year I dressed as a juicy tomato. I ordered it on Amazon and it was great.

Penn Student Agencies

What are Penn Student Agencies? What do they do? What is their mission

Penn Student Agencies is a collection of student-run businesses on campus at the University of Pennsylvania. There were originally 10 businesses. Due to the pandemic we had to shut down, not entirely in terms of the businesses, but the university as a whole. As of recently, we have been absorbing some businesses together to centralize some processes and help establish continuity between each of the businesses. We are focusing on establishing continuity because some of the processes have been lost since a lot of people graduated and we want the processes to stay in place even if people graduate. Our mission is to teach transferable skills and business management to Penn students by providing hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities to make them competitive in the workplace environment. People who graduate from Penn that have worked in PSA get a jump start into business in the US or internationally. PSA is also good because we have a wide range of opportunities from retail, hospitality, and creative design.

Outside of on campus, we are also part of the Student Run Business Association which is an intercollegiate organization that hosts conferences to discuss different operations and provide networking opportunities for students.

Very recently you were promoted to Chief Executive Officer of PSA. Congratulations! Can you share what this promotion means to you and what your vision for PSA is headed into the Spring ’23?

As a Nursing and Nutrition student, PSA has proved to be a vital resource not only for my continued professional development but for my academic studies as well. I have not had any exposure to business prior to working as the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). My time spent working over the summer and into the school year as CMO made me increasingly passionate about the program and providing students with entrepreneurial opportunities outside the classroom. I wanted to be an integral part of PSA’s future growth and development.

The promotion to Chief Executive Officer (CEO) allows me to be at the forefront of furthering PSA’s mission, vision, and growth while also increasing my knowledge to gain a comprehensive view of business and employee management skills.

As PSA heads into Spring 23’ I envision the expansion of our organization’s presence on/off campus for students, the local community, and alumni; the development of a community with on and off-campus networks ranging from clubs, departments, local businesses, and Student-Run Business Organizations; and a restoration of continuity that PSA has had in the past through an all-new management board training program.

Tell us about your role as Marketing Director before being promoted to Chief Executive Officer.

I served as the Marketing Director prior to starting my new role. I actually applied for the Executive Director of First Services position but I did not get the job. Instead, they offered me the Marketing Director position in the Spring ’22 position since they liked some of my ideas and saw that I was passionate about the job.

As the Marketing Director, I was responsible for the entire marketing portfolio for PSA businesses. This means that I work in the marketing of each individual business, whether that means recruiting, inter-departmental relations, newsletters, events, list serves, I try to get PSA involved.

How would you describe your experience running the marketing for these businesses?

Very exciting. Over the summer with everything, with learning how to build the website, branding, meeting with people to talk about future plans for PSA, I learned a lot. I learned the psychology behind marketing, how to catch people’s attention, and also how to market yourself. By doing this I’ve been able to get PSA out there.

What is your favorite part of working at PSA?

The people and the experience. My administrators and my program manager are amazing. I’m very grateful that they took a chance on me and for their unbelievable support. They helped me navigate this job and stay motivated to keep making PSA better. As for the experience, it’s unmatched. I’ve learnt so much, marketing, communication skills, website building and so many other things. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Time management. I’m taking 5.5 credits so scheduling is very important in order to keep up with classes and my job. I feel like it makes me more efficient because if I know that’s the only time I have available to get a particular thing done, I can focus solely on that task. Additionally, scheduling blocks of time for certain things helps me get organized and find more time to work, find fellowships and in general pursue more things.

Do you have a favorite business? If so, let’s put your marketing to the test! In one minute, promote your favorite business. Tell Penn students why they should go to that business.

Williams Cafe: coffee, bagels, pastries. Best prices on campus, located in the language building 2nd floor. At Williams Cafe you may hear Penn Records who occasionally play on Fridays, and you can get a nice warm espresso.