“Everyone is genuinely interested in each other and our life journeys. Students are here to build a community that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” said Rana Ara, WG’20, who spent 10 years as a fashion designer before transitioning to marketing.

After graduating from design school, Rana Ara, WG’20, worked as a fashion designer at a range of companies and then gained experience in buying, managing retail locations, and building e-commerce stores. But after 10 years in the fashion industry, she was ready for different challenges.

At the age of 30, she began an undergraduate business program and discovered a passion for marketing. “I realized that as a designer I was doing marketing all along. I was always focused on the customer, researching their needs and market trends, and how the customer will use the product. I was responsible for the brand identity and managed its evolution through each seasonal collection. I researched competitor brands and would design my brands to be uniquely positioned in the marketplace,” she said.

Discovering an Unexpected Opportunity

After earning her bachelor’s degree, she worked as a brand manager for a global retail company, managing more than 700 international retail locations. But when she received an offer from Google, she couldn’t turn it down. “The recruiter said I would work on a new online store for Google. It turned out to be Google Store! I helped launch store.google.com in 2015 and grow it to an $800-million business by 2018,” she said.

During this time at Google, Rana attended a Wharton Executive Education program in marketing. “It was amazing, and I loved learning. After that program, I decided to take my marketing skills to the next level with an MBA.”

When she visited Wharton’s San Francisco campus for Admitted Students’ Day, she knew this was the right program for her. Rana explained, “The energy of the students was exceptional. Everybody was so excited to meet each other and celebrate our acceptance together. I was shocked because I had attended welcome sessions for other programs and the student body was not nearly as warm and welcoming. Wharton felt like a family.”

Learning about Unique Perspectives

Rana said, “I’m so glad I came to this program. I have an undergraduate business degree, but this program fundamentally teaches the material differently with peers bringing unique perspectives. I’m applying learnings to real-life situations every day and I’m also learning from my classmates’ experiences. The faculty bring in real-world examples and we discuss how the principles apply to a variety of industries.”

“Every class is adding value, especially the softer skill classes like Influence, where I’m learning how to be more persuasive. Negotiations has also been extremely helpful in understanding how to better navigate relationships and break down barriers.”

This new knowledge and network is already providing career impact for Rana, who recently began a new position as a senior manager at Facebook, leading the Data and Privacy Product Marketing team. “I learned about the opportunity through a job referral Slack channel created by my classmates, where everyone shares amazing roles with each other.”

As for her peers, Rana noted that the environment continues to be remarkable. “Everyone is genuinely interested in each other and our life journeys. Students are here to build a community that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.”

⁠— Meghan Laska

Posted: January 29, 2020

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