Meet Harvard Business School’s MBA Class Of 2019

Darrin Rahn  

Harvard Business School 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Extrovert, passionate marketer, proud LGBT advocate, curious traveler, retail/CPG enthusiast, popcorn lover, & unapologetically myself.

Hometown: I grew up in the Midwest, a rural town of Chadwick, Illinois, population 550.

Fun Fact About Yourself: For over ten years my hobby was being a magician, I perfected all the classics – card tricks, linking rings, rope tricks, you name it! I was never successful in convincing my parents to let me buy multiple live doves.

Undergraduate School and Major:  Raised on a family farm, my entire childhood centered around local agriculture and working with crops, livestock, and machinery. And starting as a young kid, I was fascinated with grocery stores – the notion of agricultural outputs in so many products used by millions of people daily. What I love about food is that it sustains life, brings people together, and is an expression of personal, cultural, and geographic values.

Consumer brands are the face of the global food industry, and I wanted to pursue a career where I could lead strategy and marketing for mainstream food and beverage brands, leveraging my farm-to-fork perspective.

Following this passion, I attended Iowa State University, double majoring in Agricultural Economics and Marketing with a minor in Entrepreneurial Studies.

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: After undergrad, I accepted a job with Target Corporation, headquartered in Minneapolis, working on a buying team as the sourcing analyst. At Target, I led global sourcing for a new apparel brand launch, supported Target’s first international expansion into Canada, and managed the production of limited-time designer fashion collaborations– Altuzarra for Target, TOMS for Target, and Lilly Pulitzer for Target.

After three years with Target, I transitioned to General Mills, where I worked on marketing strategy and business growth for Betty Crocker, Gold Medal Flour, Bisquick, and Annie’s Homegrown Organic food brands. Some of my favorite General Mills highlights include the successful launch of Annie’s into the natural and organic baking aisle. It became the leading category brand nationally after one year despite intense competitive pressure. I developed a turnaround Bisquick brand strategy to drive reappraisal for lapsed consumers, and I guided the recovery of Gold Medal Flour brand through three national product recalls. Finally, I collaboratively managed Betty Crocker licensing relationships and marketing strategy with Hershey’s, Reese’s, Krispy Kreme, Cinnabon, Welch’s, and Nickelodeon as external partners, growing sales volume and category share.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At both Target and General Mills beyond my day job, I’m very active championing LGBTA diversity efforts through my leadership on employee diversity councils. At Target, I helped develop merchandising and marketing initiatives aimed at improving the LGBTA experience for Target’s consumers, including the launch of Target’s first LGBTA Pride assortment (apparel, accessories, décor, etc.), the introduction of same-sex greeting cards nationally, and the overhaul of Target’s wedding registry. At General Mills, I served as Director of Events within the LGBTA employee network, leading the planning of company LGBTA events, speakers, volunteering, inclusive trainings, Q&A panels, and casual gatherings.

I look forward to continuing LGBTA leadership during business school at Harvard and with Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA).

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Invest time in crafting your narrative and telling your story in a way that uniquely differentiates you (essays, resume, interviews, recommendations, etc.). Authentically share your life’s story and push yourself to go deep and take risks, as you show the multifaceted person that you are!

Who are you, really? What drives you? When were there turning points in your life? Why are you so passionate? Where are you heading? At times, the application process may not feel the most humanizing, but it’s your job to communicate how your well-rounded perspective is the right fit for the program.

Everyone has the insecurities of not getting in, but your admission essays should encompass who you are and not what you think b-schools want to hear. Let your closest friends and mentors read and give feedback on your application – ensuring it fully captures the real YOU behind the application.

FYI: I was initially unsure about applying to HBS, but a close work mentor and proud HBS alum insisted I apply. My big lesson here: never self-select out and limit yourself from opportunities, have the courage to take the first step.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I wanted a business school experience that would push me to think bigger, more globally, more diversely, broadly and long-term, and as a general manager. The case method teaching approach at HBS was a true differentiator for me –  discussing applied industry situations every day and then thinking like a CEO to make business decisions was very appealing.

HBS is a full-package school and perfect fit for me, giving me the ability to learn not only from the brilliant faculty but also from the large globally diverse perspectives in the classroom as well as through extracurriculars and travel immersions. Finally, HBS provides lifelong value in its alumni network and through the career opportunities it makes possible.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? 

During my first year at HBS, I hope to build lasting friendships, travel to new destinations, and serve in several student leadership roles. I’m excited to learn and be inspired through the rigorous first-year general management curriculum. And professionally, I aim to complete a brand management summer internship at a leading multinational food and beverage company driving strategic industry transformation.