A Day in the Life with Galina Ozgur, GM at Grand Central Tech
For anyone willing to explore the booming East Coast startup scene (and there are quite a few takers!), New York’s Grand Central Tech is one of the first and most coveted stops.
Co-founded in 2014 by Matt Harrigan and Michael Milstein in Facebook’s former NY headquarters and overlooking the busy iconic terminal, Grand Central Tech is the embodiment of a bustling startup campus. It currently holds four distinct but interconnected programs under its roof: GCT Accelerator, GCT growth, Urban Tech Hub and New York Venture Fellows.
With no equity and no rent requirement and an astonishingly high caliber of startup founders and participating companies, its core program – GCT Accelerator – maintains an exclusive 2% acceptance rate.
Running it is a woman, self-proclaimed cultural mutt, and curious personality – Galina Ozgur.
When she joined Grand Central Tech two years ago (following four years with Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator and a year of consulting programs and mentoring entrepreneurs) she bought into the vision of rethinking curricula for experienced startup founders poised for scale. After all, GCT’s startup founders have been known to include one of the co-founders @GeneralAssembly, the founding team @Trulia, founders @VirginMobile, co-founder @Gilt, co-founder @Shapeways...the list goes on.
So, what does it really take to run this powerhouse of a program? Take a look at Galina’s day below to find out.
I have to say, I feel extremely lucky to not have days that resemble one another. This is one of the reasons I am in love with the startup industry. If I had to sum it up, one of my days in the course of the week would look like this:
7.00 a.m. Wake up to cat jumping on top of me from the dresser/pushing me off my pillow or making noises in the kitchen. It is always a rude awakening, but a welcome one, since I am not a morning person. Get to the kitchen, which should have really been named a coffee station as that is all I make. Take 30 minutes to check any email that’s come in overnight, swipe through social media and 2 weather apps, and power up Amazon Fire TV to get the latest scoop on the news. Work on the beauty regimen in between news segments.
9.00 a.m. Walk out of my building. While the Hudson Yards station is 2 minutes away, I almost always choose to walk to work. It’s a healthy brisk 25 min walk from door to door, and despite the fact that I have to take on Times Square to get to 335 Madison, I very much prefer it. Take all 30 minutes to catch up with my Mom over Skype and/or my Dad over WhatsApp. Laugh loudly while walking, bump into tourists, and envy their feeling of novelty admiring New York’s skyline.
9.30 a.m. Walk into the office and take a mental picture of the space. Everyone is booting up. Get a full mug of coffee (one of many that day!) from the kitchen, say my hellos to the founders that have already made it in. Get a few asks or questions from them to work on in the course of the day. This is my time to set the intentions and immediate tasks for the remainder of my day..
10.00 a.m. Catch up with our team at the Monday meeting. We are still a lean enough team not to hold an excessive number of meetings, yet our Monday morning meeting is an absolute staple. We go over what’s at hand for us that week and get everyone’s buy-in for the major decisions. We are a closely-knit team and even if our official meeting is over, conversations do go on.
11 a.m. This is often a great time to receive information, right before my meetings start trickling in or the mentors start showing up for office hours with the teams. Today I have time to catch up with Tina Hedges, who has created organic personal care – custom-blended – and called it LOLI Beauty (Living Organic Loving Ingredients). We go over new samples of her food grade skincare and some cool mockups for the website. I am excited because I am witnessing a revolutionary approach to skincare that my generation of women will love.
1.30 p.m. Lunchtime. Always a quick one. My favorite place in all of Grand Central Terminal is the Northern Food Hall. I have not yet mastered the power lunch at the Four Seasons, but if I have lunch on the books, my go-to is the Maison Kayser by Bryant Park. In the winter, it’s a busy (yet cozy) spot to grab a late lunch. In the summer, I prefer to buy a sandwich at their bakery and fight my way New-York-style to a small table at the park.
2.00 p.m. Mentor meetings, workshops or sessions on any given topic. Our curriculum follows tracks that have proven to set the right tone for scaling a business, such as product, sales & marketing, fundraising, hiring & culture, etc. The second half of the day is dedicated to managing the schedule and making sure everything runs smoothly. Our mentors’ success is our success: when they feel their advice is making an impact, we feel like we’ve secured a long-term relationship.
4.00 p.m. Coffee time and cracking jokes with our team. We are all dramatically different personalities that just work well together - this isn’t just limited to 4 p.m.!
5.00 p.m. While the terminal right underneath us is filling with crowds of people rushing to their train, this is my most productive time. It’s amazing how much I can do between 5 and 7 p.m. on any given day, given my energy is at its highest. This is the time to write a thoughtful response to a corporate partner about a collaboration, onboard a new mentor onto our platform, review a deck or work through my inbox (still not inbox zero though).
7.00 p.m. Attend a GCT event, an Authors @ GCT talk, sit on a panel on careers in tech, or do a dinner with friends. In my career, I’ve gone to a lot of meetups, happy hours and large-scale events. These days I prefer a quieter gathering and tend to go by way of recommendations. Dreamers// Doers (a female-only and invite-only entrepreneurship group) has been a great resource for those. Ultimately, genuine connections with people get me through my day.
9.00 p.m. Get on the 7 train, walk or take a cab back home. My 12-year-old cat greets me at the door, while my husband arrives a bit later. I order a light dinner on Seamless or Postmates for my husband and myself, catch up on more email and social media. My task at this point is to wind down, so I take 30-40 minutes to focus on breathing exercises and meditation. Twice a week, I’ll have a trainer order me around our building’s gym – I suspect, mostly to make me stay away from email :)
10.00 p.m. Talk about our day, swear off ordering food online again.
11.00 p.m. Fall asleep to an old episode of “How I Met Your Mother” or “Sopranos." I will always stay awake for “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” If I wake up after 11 p.m., we end up watching TED talks, National Geographic features, and YouTube explainer videos. It’s a mix of all the random trivia so we can be better at playing HQ!
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MORE ABOUT GALINA
Galina Ozgur is General Manager of Grand Central Tech – a tech startup campus and accelerator program focused on high-caliber founding teams and companies poised for scale. She is responsible for building GCT's acceleration programming, supporting the portfolio and managing Grand Central Tech's network of mentors and experts. Prior to joining GCT, she was the first hire at Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York City where she successfully ran 7 consecutive cohorts and Demo Days and managed platform and community. Outside of GCT, Galina heads up the Board of New Women New Yorkers – a non-profit helping new immigrant women to reintegrate into the workforce – and mentors fellows at Venture for America. Galina is a native of Minsk, Belarus, where she studied Linguistics and graduated with a degree in the English Language and Communications. She speaks 6 languages and is an avid traveler.
Special thanks to Rachel Whelan for following Galina around on her busy day!