2021 MBAs To Watch: Taraneh Thomas, Emory University (Goizueta)

Taraneh Thomas

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

“Competitive, fun, and community oriented who loves a challenge.”

Hometown: Princeton, NJ

Fun fact about yourself: I convinced senior leadership to keep the office Christmas tree up for an entire year. We decorated with a new theme each month and used it as a team building activity at the start of every month.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelors in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience with a minor in History of Medicine and Health from the University of Michigan

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Account Manager at Caudex, McCann Health Medical Communications in New York City

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? PatientsPrecise, Remote

Where will you be working after graduation? (As I am an MBA/MPH dual degree student, I have one more internship before I graduate in December. I will be in the Commercial Leadership Development Summer Internship Program at Bristol Myers Squibb in Princeton, NJ.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP Student Activities – Off Campus, Graduate Business Association
  • Delta Leadership Coaching Fellow
  • Logistics Coordinator for the inaugural John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition Planning Committee
  • Received the Community Award during Goizueta’s Core Values Award Ceremony, Fall 2020

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?

It was an honor to work on the planning committee for the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition. Racial injustice and inequity have been a topic of conversation among our class since the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery this past summer. Many of our conversations revolved around what can we do as business students and future business leaders to make real change. My classmate, Willie Sullivan, came up with the idea to develop and host a national case competition specifically focused on racial injustice in big corporations. There was a lot of unknown when we started this journey last summer, but we had a strong team that was able to bring the idea to fruition and it was truly an incredible event. This event and being a part of the planning committee is a top highlight of my time in business school.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my last year at my company before going back to school, I had the opportunity to help senior leadership pitch for a new piece of business that was highly sought after. We ultimately won the business and I was promoted to Account Manager and given the new account. The accounts I had worked on in my first few years at Caudex were already well-established with processes in place and client relationships developed. This was a brand-new account, so I was in charge of creating processes for my team and building relationships with the clients. While with any new account, there are speed bumps along the way, I was proud of how the account progressed and my influence on the account within the year.

Why did you choose this business school? The small class size and tight-knit community are what sold me on Goizueta. I went to a huge undergrad so I was looking for a smaller program where I could have the opportunity to get to know all of my classmates and the faculty on both a personal and professional level.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? TI Kim was my favorite professor. He taught Data-Driven Market Intelligence last spring and it ended up being one of my favorite classes in business school. TI was able to make data analytics more palpable. I had struggled with the data analytics class during core and signed up for DDMI to push myself out of my comfort zone and really work to hone these skills. TI made the class entertaining and engaging, even when we went virtual halfway through the semester (due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Semi-formal! This was held at the end of core semester in 2019 and the last big hoorah for our class before COVID-10 hit. For the first year students especially, this event is a chance to dress up and celebrate the end of an intense core semester with your best friends.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would have said yes to more club and social events during the core semester. There were many social or club events held during the weeks that I did not attend because I had too much work or was too overwhelmed with the transition back into school. Especially with how things took a turn in early 2020, I wish I had taken advantage of those in-person gatherings to better get to know my classmates both in my class and the year ahead of me.

What is the biggest myth about your school? This is not Emory-specific but something I thought before going to business school was that students going for their MBA had everything figured out already. I thought that I would be the only one unsure about where I wanted to work, what I wanted to focus on in my classes, and ultimately what I wanted to do in life. I quickly found out that I was far from alone in these uncertainties. Many more people than I expected have come to business school to do a full career switch, so there is a true camaraderie in experiencing the unknowns together.

What surprised you the most about business school? Not having any business education prior, I was surprised how much I could contribute to group work and class discussions. I thought that I would have to play catch up with my classmates with business undergrad degrees but that was not always the case. Most classes and groups I have been a part of have felt like an even playing field where we are all learning and figuring things out together.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Being a dual degree student definitely helped me stand out in my application process. In general, I think it helps to show a clear professional interest and how it relates to your previous experience in the application process. I had a clear focus on the healthcare industry with my background in medical communications and an interest in the public health degree which helped guide my application and interview.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Kristen Little. As the President of the Black MBA Association, a Social Enterprise Fellow, Associate Managing Director of the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition (to name a few), Kristen is a true leader in our class. I have admired Kristen’s natural ability to network and her way of connecting and making people feel at ease. She is well-rounded in all of the activities she is involved in while also having fun and enjoying this time back in school.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Academically, the shift to online went pretty smoothly, but there was definitely an adjustment period to remain focused while taking classes from my apartment. As VP of Student Activities, the online shift was extremely disruptive. My counterpart, Robert Brooks, and I were just elected to our positions at the end of February and we were already discussing all of the fun events we wanted to plan for our classmates. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, we had to rethink our entire approach. Neither of us were that excited to host Zoom happy hours at first, but we were able to get really creative and with the help from a number of clubs on campus we came up with a ton of fun and engaging virtual events to keep the community connected.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom most influenced my decision to pursue my MBA. Since I was little, my mom has been taking me along to women in business or women in STEM conferences. I have watched my mom be an absolute force at these conferences, networking and making connections left and right. My mom has had an amazing career ranging from technology to higher education, which has been a huge influence in my decision to continue my education. My mom has always been my role model and taught me by example that I am capable of doing anything that I put my mind to.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Be a leader that is able to foster strong relationships within my team and colleagues
  • Be an advocate and mentor for women in my company

What made Tara such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

Tara Thomas’s impact on the Goizueta community cannot be understated. As the country dealt with the devastating effects of COVID-19 and systemic-racism, Tara did an exemplary job supporting her peers when morale was at its lowest. Physical distancing created a paradigm shift for the usually robust Goizueta community, which often feels more like a family. Tara, who serves as our Graduate Business Association Vice President for Student Activities, came up with creative and engaging programs that enriched remote social interactions by allowing participants to forget about “Zoom fatigue.”

In June of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing was released, Tara and other student leaders jumped into action, developing the Ally Education Series. The purpose of the series is to allow students who identify as allies to educate themselves on historically documented racism in the United States. Moreover, they committed themselves to address racial disparities as future decision-makers within their respective organizations.

Tara’s commitment to addressing the challenges that our community faced over the past year speaks to her leadership abilities, resiliency, and high moral character. These attributes are also what makes Tara Thomas an invaluable addition to the Goizueta Class of 2021.”

Irving Williams III
Associate Director of Student Life and Engagement




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