2022 MBA To Watch: Sarah Robertson, UCLA (Anderson)

Sarah Robertson

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“Creative marketer with big ideas founded in real world solutions. Always looking for next adventure.”

Hometown: New York City, NY

Fun fact about yourself: Growing up, I was a competitive gymnast and tried out to be an extra in the movie Stick It (Spoiler alert: I did not get the part).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Lehigh University, B.S. in Marketing

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was a Marketing Director at Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, a luxury marketing agency focused on real estate in NYC.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? I interned as a Summer Presidential Management Associate at The Estee Lauder Companies on the international business development team.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working at The Wonderful Company as an Associate Brand Manager.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President of Women’s Business Connection, VP of Alumni Relations for the Marketing Association, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Student Advisory Council Representative, Interview Prep Team Coach, Forté Fellow, VP of Surf for the Outdoor Adventure Club.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being elected as the president of the Women’s Business Connection has been the highlight of my business school experience. WBC has been pivotal in shaping my Anderson experience. As president, I wanted to make the collective experience for all women at Anderson as fulfilling as possible. This year, our board of more than 50 women worked tirelessly to offer impactful programming including a successful in-person exploratory Career Night, an alumni mentorship program with more than100 participants. It featured Diversity, Equity and Inclusion-focused programming, including an implicit bias training that allowed for thought-provoking conversations, along with social events to connect women across programs at Anderson. I was driven by my vision to foster an inclusive community that elevates all AnderWomen and equips our diverse members with the resources to form meaningful relationships, grow professionally, and thrive. As one of the largest clubs on campus, through our work this year, we grew membership 30% and male allies more than 40%. It was really energizing to give back to the community of women at Anderson while also having the opportunity to grow and learn as a leader, refining my own leadership style.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At Douglas Elliman, I led the implementation of marketing and sales strategies across a portfolio of residential properties in NYC, directing the brand planning, positioning and promotional efforts from product concept to launch with a combined sellout over $5B. While working on the first zero-waste residential building in NYC, I pitched an idea to create a zero-waste focused dinner series to help sell our premier inventory and endorse the building’s sustainability focus. Ultimately, I secured several notable eco-friendly partners, brought the innovative concept to market by developing marketing collateral to convey the sustainability messaging, and garnered top press and consumer attendance leading to a $14M sale.

Why did you choose this business school? We can probably all agree that any top business school offers a high-quality education and the potential for career advancement. What sets UCLA Anderson apart is its unique and supportive culture. The students in our current class are not just my partners on the next class project, they’ve become a personal board of advisors — a lifelong network I can lean on and rely on, regardless of what life throws at me. That supportive culture is a crucial element of the business school experience and was the reason I chose to attend UCLA Anderson.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at Anderson is Paul Habibi, who teaches Urban Real Estate Finance & Investments, which I took during my second year. Coming into business school, I thought that I wanted to pursue a career in real estate development. However, after exploring a few different career paths during my first year, I decided to focus on marketing and brand management. It wasn’t until I took Habibi’s real estate class that I started to think about how I could re-incorporate real estate into my life and career even if I wasn’t going into a real estate job. Professor Habibi is entertaining, knowledgeable, and provides practical information showing students what it takes to make money in real estate, whether they plan to work full-time in the real estate industry or those who plan to pursue real estate investing as a side business. The class is demanding, but what sets Professor Habibi apart is his ability to transfer his success in real estate to his students. He also uses cases — both from Harvard and his own projects — to give students a more hands-on approach to learning about real estate through examples.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event was UCLA Anderson’s annual Velocity Women’s Leadership Summit, a conference that I had the pleasure of planning as the president of the Women’s Business Connection. Velocity is a celebration of the power and impact of women, bringing together current and future leaders of all backgrounds to explore ideas for a more equitable future in business and society. For the past seven years, this event has been an important highlight of our year for Anderson and the larger UCLA community, bringing together almost 500 women – and men – to celebrate, support and inspire women in their pursuits of leadership excellence. The audience includes our MBA students, Anderson alumnae, and high school students who aspire to attend universities such as UCLA.

I had the challenge of planning our first in-person conference since the pandemic began in March of 2020. Our team worked tirelessly to secure a fantastic line-up of incredible women and thought-provoking conversations. They included three extraordinary keynote speakers, interactive workshops, a lounge sponsored by Bumble, and many panels featuring female leaders who are forging their own paths and shared their exceptional journeys. It was amazing to come together as a passionate and forward-thinking community, exploring the most exciting opportunities to create a more inclusive and equitable feature.

We hosted the conference during Women’s History Month in March of 2022 at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles with almost 500 attendees. It was the first time our community of women and allies had all come together in person and the energy and passion of the day were incredible.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would tell my first-year self not to stress so much over my internship or career path. Everyone ends up where they are meant to be and you can re-recruit in your second year if you want to make a switch. First year is all about exploring, trying new things, and working hard to grow professionally and personally. If you stay true to yourself and are authentic during recruiting, you will end up with a position that you are happy with.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That Anderson is a commuter school. In reality, we have a really strong and diverse community of students who are interested in creating lasting relationships with one another in the classroom and outside of school. I grew up in New York and didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles when I decided to attend Anderson. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to find a community of peers that I really connected with in LA. However, I’ve had the opposite experience at Anderson. From the first day, I found an incredible community of students who will be lifelong friends, business partners and allies.

What surprised you the most about business school? While I knew I wanted to be involved in student life at Anderson, I didn’t think that I would take on the leadership opportunities that I have. The learning opportunities and diverse group of leaders that I’ve been able to connect with have been deeply rewarding and I’ve grown in ways I didn’t know were possible before school.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? One of the reasons I believe Anderson is a unique MBA program is because the students authentically embody “Share Success,” a core pillar of the community. This means that Anderson students think about how they can help support and better the lives of their peers. During the application process, Anderson looks for students who are interested in giving back to the community. Since Anderson was always at the top of my list, I prioritized spending time speaking with current students and alumni throughout the process to learn about the ways that I could get involved that aligned with my interests and background. Then, through my essays and interview, I was able to authentically convey how I could give back and contribute to Anderson, including specific details about how I planned to get involved. Exhibiting a genuine passion and connection with Anderson students helped me stand out in the application process and gave me an edge.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? A classmate of mine that I deeply admire is Nuvie Ewharekuko. A fellow second year and the president of UCLA Anderson’s student council, Nuvie has shown immense dedication to maximizing the student experience and has been a huge advocate for our community. The past year has been challenging with COVID and the hybrid learning environment, but Nuvie always committed her time and energy to support her peers. She was never afraid to go to bat for student needs with the Anderson administration and our experience was greatly enhanced due to all of her efforts. She spent her time planning meaningful events, programming, and policies that benefitted the entire student body and promoted gender equity, diversity, and inclusion on campus. Having worked with her through WBC, I have seen first-hand the amount of passion and commitment Nuvie has demonstrated towards bettering the experience of her peers. Nuvie consistently acts with an inspiring level of courage, integrity, and strength, even in the most challenging situations. She always makes sure all voices and perspectives are heard, acting fairly and unbiased throughout her time as president. She is extremely smart and exudes confidence, and yet is very approachable and will be your ally or advocate when you need her. There have been many times that I have looked to her for guidance. I am honored to know Nuvie and work alongside her. I can’t wait to see where she goes post Anderson and all that she will accomplish in the future. Thank you, Nuvie, for everything you do!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Prior to Anderson, I worked at Douglas Elliman Development Marketing, a luxury marketing agency focused on real estate in New York City. The company was led by two inspiring and powerful women, Susan de Franca and Leslie Wilson; I looked up to both of them and would say they helped influence my desire to pursue my MBA. These strong women in business were role models for the type of leader I wanted to be in my own career. After expressing interest in pursuing an MBA, they both encouraged me to go back to school so that I could continue to grow as a marketer and a business professional. Through their efforts at DEDM, early on I saw the heights women can reach and the glass ceilings they can break when they lift each other up. They embodied the type of leader I aspire to be one day and I knew an MBA would be key to achieving those goals.

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

1) My goal is to become a brand and marketing leader at an impact-driven organization in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry. As a competitive athlete for most of my life, I am passionate about how healthier nutrition choices can naturally heal and nourish our bodies. I am looking forward to pursuing a career that is focused on bettering the lives of everyday consumers and making the world a healthier place.

2) Even though I will not be continuing a career in real estate, I hope to use the skills and knowledge I’ve gained in the MBA program to invest in real estate assets as a personal side hustle.

What made Sarah such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Sarah exudes the qualities of an ideal leader in all situations. Over the course of the last two years, I’ve seen her adroitly manage just about every sort of leadership challenge imaginable. In so doing, she never shrinks from taking a look at her own behavior and examining how she may be contributing to the dynamic of a team. She strives always to understand others and their unique motivations, and allows lots of space for those around her to experiment and grow. She is calm under immense pressure; even though she may be feeling it herself, she doesn’t allow that to color how she interacts with others. These are characteristics that many MBAs have to learn along the way, but Sarah has brought these qualities to everything she’s done at Anderson from the start. It’s not a surprise that she was then elected to serve as President of one of our largest clubs on campus.

At the helm of our Women’s Business Connection (WBC), Sarah was charged with bringing our annual women’s leadership summit back to life. I realize she talks about Velocity in her self-nomination form. What she doesn’t say is just what a heavy lift this was. She and her team partnered with the administration to host a massive public conference that they had never before seen or attended themselves as first year students, since it hadn’t been held in person since January of 2020. They had to ask administrative leadership (myself included) about literally every detail of the day and how it typically looked/felt/transpired, because they were flying completely blind. For example, they had no idea what the breakout rooms at the conference center looked like, how many people they held, what kind of tech was on hand, etc. The blueprints left behind by former WBC leaders were several years old, and some elements had gotten lost in translation.

Also, it’s one thing to build a new conference from the ground up; you have more latitude to create something wholly new. But when you are handed a signature event for the school and the Los Angeles community and you’re trying to restore it to its former glory, that’s quite a tall order. Luckily, Sarah was exactly the kind of leader to make this happen. She was able to translate ambiguity into concreate action, to pry the knowledge she needed from the various stakeholders at Anderson and then inspire her team to plan for a fully in-person, indoor, 500-attendee event even as Omicron was sweeping across California (of course, going remote was always a back-up option). Sara never failed to impress me in planning meetings. Every time she asked a question that we didn’t know the answer to, she never got frustrated or allowed herself to get derailed. Her vision for the event was clear, and she stopped at nothing until every last detail was in place. Future WBC presidents will inherit all of the benefits of her labor, because she more than anyone else at the school made Velocity once more a crowning jewel of Anderson’s annual events.”

Jessica Luchenta
Assistant Dean of MBA Student Affairs
UCLA Anderson


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