Grenoble MBA Takes Marketing Expert To Hewlett Packard HQ in Silicon Valley
Rasha Nasher graduated from the Grenoble Ecole de Management MBA in 2011. Originally from Yemen, she grew up all over the Middle East and became hooked on computer programming aged five
Rasha Nasher’s first memory of being passionate about IT was as a five-year-old in Saudi Arabia, so we aren’t surprised to find her in Silicon Valley, home to the world’s largest technology firms.
Rasha, 31, graduated from the Grenoble Ecole de Management full-time MBA in 2011. The computer scientist had joined the programme after working in several technical roles. Prior to the Grenoble MBA, Rasha was employed as the IT regional project coordinator for Halliburton’s Middle East and Africa business.
Rasha has been with HP since July 2010 when she started off as an MBA intern in France. She later transferred to HP’s office in the San Francisco Bay area to work as a marketing strategist. She’s only been living and working in Silicon Valley for about four months but we couldn’t resist quizzing her about what really goes on in those massive "campuses" and what it takes to get there.
She shares her first impressions and offers some advice for MBAs who would like to move their careers forward in a similar way...
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you discovered your passion for IT?
I come from Yemen but I've grown up in so many different places. I lived in Saudi Arabia until I moved for high school to Yemen. I studied my undergraduate in Iraq and I also had the chance to take some programming related courses in Egypt. I feel very fortunate because before I was 20 I lived in four different countries and gained exposure to different cultures. Even though these places are in the same region the cultures were very different and being exposed to all of them increased my curiousity to explore and travel.
My first memory of being passionate about IT was when I was five years old. I had found an old book of programming language. Since then I've lived every day hooked to the computer. Studying a computer sciences degree was one of my biggest life decisions and I'm glad I did it because IT is definitely a lifetime passion for me. In ten years time, I see myself working within it, perhaps from a different angle but still in it. Its a huge deal for me that I'm working with HP because its an area I'm passionate about and I'm motivated that my work gives meaning to my life.
What are the most exciting things about doing marketing for an IT company?
Marketing is very close to people and its a chance to build a close relationship with consumers by hearing what they want and learning from their day to day behaviour. It really gives you a close look at what excites customers and you get to translate all this data into projects. It was something I had in mind when I was going for the MBA. When I joined HP as an intern, I was part of the global team but I had the feeling that there would be a bigger opportunity in Silicon Valley because you're close to decision makers, the big clients and have more visibility with the partners.
Can you give us a breakdown of a typical day at the office for you?
A lot of what we do here is engaging with the various stakeholders. Most of our work comes in projects and for each project I deal with two or three different organizations within HP. There is a lot of brainstorming, analyzing proposals, weighing new ideas, making decisions and of course socializing.
The HP office is a beautiful site and the facilities on it are incredible. People are very friendly and nice and it's a great opportunity for me to learn about the country, the culture and what inspires people. Of course, there's the typical checking of emails and responding but the core of my job is maintaining responsibilty for delivering the best support experience for our customers.
Have you met any cool or famous IT geeks, maybe Mark Zuckerberg and his friends?
Well, one time I was walking to a retail store and Norton had a show so I went to check it out. I saw someone who I thought looked like Chris Rock and I looked and him and then went over and said are you Chris Rock? He smiled that big Chris Rock smile and said no. Anyway, I walked away and that's the extent of my Silicon Valley celebrity experience. However, I've also met some of HP's top executives. It's such an open culture here that it's easy to get introduced to top management or to strike up a conversation with anyone.
What's your favourite HP product?
Right now I'm glued to the Ultrabook SpectreXT, the latest product in our Ultrabook scheme. Its very thin and light weight and I feel so cool whenever I use it.
What do you do for relaxation in your free time?
I love the weather here and having nature around. If you're an outdoor person there are so many places to go. Just an hour's drive could get you to the sea, mountains, or the forest. I love hiking so I've been doing a lot of that. If you're an indoor person there are many nice bars and restaurants to go to. Even during lunch breaks you see people going outside, playing basketball or sitting and chatting in the relaxing areas.
People over here like to go out and have fun and after a hard day's work there are many ways to reward yourself. I'm yet to find a choir to join but I'm still looking for one because I love to sing.
Do you have any advice for MBAs who would like to work in Silicon Valley?
The first thing to note is that it's a highly competitive environment. There are many large companies but there's also a lot of talent. You need to know your strengths and your competencies, match them alongside your desires and then you start your job search.
Companies here are very selective when it comes to hiring people so building a strong network is a smart move because it will help you find the job you want, and also in your day-to-day role. Another thing is to be ready for challenges. Sometimes you are presented with assignments where its difficult to know how to start but knowing what your strengths are and being able to tap into your network will help you overcome those challenges.
How would you like to grow your career in the coming years?
I definitely want to leverage my position in HP to build a strong experience, improve my skills and learn more, and eventually establish myself within a management role. I know many former HP top managers employees later left who succeeded to go into entrepreneurial ventures, and I also want to acquire strong entrepreneurial skill so one day, I will be able to run a business within the technology industry.
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