2018 Best EMBAs: Raha A. Been, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Raha A. Been

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

“I’m a lifetime learner who continually seeks to grow with every experience. I have a lot of passion, I work hard, and I always follow my gut to make the right call.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Minnetonka, MN

Family Members: Clint Been (Husband), Calvin Been (Son)

Fun fact about yourself: I can be addicted to reading. To me, a good book can be a guilty pleasure, and I have to really be cautious of when I start a new book that I have enough time to read it. I love to read and enjoy a variety of genres, so I will read any book in one night and once I start reading, I have a hard time stopping. I’ve actually been banned from reading on certain family vacations because I get so into my book, I stop engaging with the people around me. Because of this, I try not to read on weekdays, because once I get engaged in a topic, it’s hard to stop. I can do this with almost any topic from business or non-fiction books, such as Quiet: Power of the Introvert to young adult fiction, such as The Hunger Games. If you search on the Internet for what to do after reading the “Hunger Games” trilogy, I have read all the major trilogies that are listed out (“Twilight,” “Divergent,” “Delirium,” … the list is actually very long).

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences, Bachelor of Science (BS)

University of Minnesota, College of Biological Sciences, Masters of Biological Sciences (MS)

University of Minnesota, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Thesis on cancer genomics.

Where are you currently working? 3M, Automotive and Aerospace Solutions Division with a role Global New Product Marketing Manager

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I have a passion for mentoring, supporting women in leadership, and STEM support. I have taken part in a variety of activities including:

  • 3M Women’s leadership forum automotive and aerospace division ambassador, 2017- Present
  • Patient Advisory Board, Minnesota Medical Research Foundation, 2017- Present
  • 3M United Way Aerospace Division Leader, 2016-2017
  • 3M Mentor for Honoring Women Worldwide Art of Honoring Leadership Development College Program, 2014-2015
  • 3M Mentor for Teachers interning at 3M to learn about real life applications for science to bring back lessons to high school science students, 2014-2015
  • 3M Mentor for 3M Discovery and Education Young Scientist Challenge, 2013-2015
  • 3M Special Awards Judge and a Standard Judge at the Minnesota Academy of Science State Fair, 2009-2014

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My ability to contribute at a higher level to the advancement of women through mentorship along with the broadened skills I gained through my MBA experience. I’m more informed and better equipped to navigate complex situations and pass those learnings onto individuals I work with and mentor. Through the MBA program, I have refined the tools I already had to better speak about, support, and lead on important issues regarding equality for women in the workforce.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Being able to make a successful transition from an R&D career to a business leader. I spent the first 11 years of my career in healthcare R&D, conducting cutting-edge research in cancer genomics and advanced wound care. I had authored eight papers in peer reviewed journals, won several 3M technical innovation awards, filed numerous patents, and was appreciating a successful career in healthcare research. It was a career I had passion for and loved.

But then I received an opportunity to transition to a business leader in an industrial business within 3M. It was a big leap for me since taking the role meant leaving what I knew and enjoyed for the unknow challenge of a new role and a new field. I had to think long and hard about what I wanted for my career and I decided I was going to take the challenge. I knew if I wanted to contribute to organizations at a higher level of leadership, I needed be able to stretch and take roles that were would broaden my experiences. In the role of a business leader at 3M, it didn’t take me long to get up to speed and find my stride. 3M is this great place where technology and business intersect to add value within industries. I was able to combine my passion for technology and my desire to add value within an organization and industry and find success in my new field.

As a business leader, my teams have launched several groundbreaking products in the aerospace field with game-changing technologies. Taking the chance in making the transition from healthcare R&D to business leadership in aerospace made it possible for me to contribute to my organization at a higher level. Having that cross-functional experience only added value and made me a better expert within my role. It was incredibly scary to leave a field I knew and was happy in for the unknown, but I did it and feel lucky I had the opportunity to take such an impactful challenge in my career. I’ve been able to use the skills I learned in graduate school to gather individual data points and then synthesize the information into a holistic story, but now instead of it being about cells and healthcare, it is about broader business principles applied to the aerospace industry.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Negotiations. The concept of negotiating well had always been challenging for me because I was always cautions of the stereotypes associated with being a good negotiator. In class, I learned how to negotiate with rigor and stay true to my values. I was able to hone in on a style that reflects my leadership style, but is effective through in-class exercises where we put into practice the principles we learned – but in a safe space where we could stretch the boundaries with little downside. I left that class able to contribute at a significantly higher level from gaining the insight into how complex negotiations can go well and how they can go poorly. The learnings in this class were irreplaceable and will be endlessly valuable tool throughout my career.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? It was the cohort aspect of the program that made it the right choice for me. When I entered the MBA program, I had significant years of R&D experience, but less time tenure as a business leader. In the cohort program, I not only learned from the professors and content, but I learned from my amazing cohort of peers through class discussion and working in groups. I could see how my classmates related to the same information from their unique lenses crafted from their experiences and background. Class discussions were extremely rich because, as we went through the program, our class became closer. Through that closeness, people opened up and shared more of their personal experiences. Those personal experiences, connected to the class content, was the intangible of a cohort class that is impossible to get in any other forum. It gave me the tools to think about problems and concepts in a way that was much broader than if I were learning as an individual student without consistent peers in a cohort. I made amazing connections with leaders across organizations and fields. I gained lifelong friendships through this program and met people I would have had no other way to meet.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Learning new information and applying it into my career in real time was the best part of being a professional and a student. This sort of learning made every class more relevant. I could cover a topic in school and instantly contribute to my organization at a higher level.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The best way to look at business is with a diverse lens combining all the elements of our courses of work including marketing, finance, strategy, organizational behavior, among others. Each class had their own principles but being able to thread the knowledge together to truly contribute at a high level is the key to unlocking the value of business school, tacking it on to your experiences, and leading at higher levels within your organization. Being able to pull it all together is a skill that the MBA program provided and I was able to harness.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The executive program is challenging for everyone. It’s not easy to be a student, to continue to grow at work, and to live your personal life. To tack onto the already significant commitment of going back to school, I was also 12 weeks pregnant at the start of orientation week. It seems like an OK thing to be pregnant and in school, but sitting for eight hours straight through an entire day of curriculum is not simple task when pregnant, especially as I entered my third trimester.

But if being pregnant was challenging, then having a newborn in the middle of second semester made my experience especially unique. In the middle of my second semester and trying to stay afloat with schoolwork, I also was learning how to be a mom. It was the support of the program and my cohort that made it manageable. I loved being a new mom, but I was exhausted experiencing all the new things that come with parenthood and having an infant. Through the challenges I faced as a new mom, my cohort and the programs was kind, thoughtful, encouraging, and supportive. I know that if I wasn’t in the executive MBA program, I would not have been able to complete my semester on time. It was through the unique experiences you receive in a cohort program that I was able to stay on track and complete my work. I was motivated to stay with peers that I had grown close with and was committed to doing what I needed to not drop back a year.

An extra aspect that helped was that the classes are recoded so I was able to catch up on the content when I could find the energy. It was through the combined commitment of my family, the program, my classmates, and groupmates that made it all possible. I’m grateful I had the backing and encouragement of the executive program and found success during a significant life change with their support.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it! It is the best professional growth you can experience.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? A big myth is that it will be harder because you have forgotten everything. It is not the case. School is actually more enjoyable when you go back as an older student because you are more committed to learning and know how it will be applied to benefit your career. There is for sure more to balance with school, family, and work, but as a student, you are more mature, so the school work has a different meaning. You can face the harder content by combining your work experience, previous school knowledge, and overall maturity to have a uniquely positive experience that you can only achieve when going back to school.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I have no regrets. It’s been a great program and I am so appreciative for every experience.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Linh Gillis. She can do it all. She was a leader in our group, is a leader in class, and excels at everything she does. I have never met anyone who can be brilliant at so many different topics. She was awesome at finance, accounting, stats, marketing, org behavior, which is not a skill everyone has. She is appreciated and liked by all our classmates. She is fun and professional. When I grow up, I want to be just like Linh.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…When I transitioned from a R&D leader to business leader and needed more tools in my toolbox to go beyond an individual contributor and be a leader on the organizational level in a new function.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…not have the growth opportunities in my career that I have access to today.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To contribute at the best of my ability and lead global organizations.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be known as a peer who is hard-working and dependable.

Favorite book: How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins

Favorite movie or television show: Coming to America with Eddie Murphy.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? My bucket list is mostly around travel in South America and Asia. The top two places are Argentina and Vietnam.

What made Raha Been such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Raha brings an insightful perspective to class discussions. She regularly shares experiences from her organization that offer terrific illustration to class concepts. More importantly, though, she makes connections between her and other students’ experiences to generate and enhance the learning environment. Raha also challenges her classmates to consider realities in organizations and the experiences of people who come from diverse backgrounds. She helped generate a psychologically safe environment in class by sharing experiences that demonstrated vulnerability with her classmates. I remember a specific example when we were discussing bias in decision making and Raha shared experiences she has had with people reacting to her name. Her comments made concrete some research I shared on differential treatment of resumes based on simply a name change. Sharing her personal experience drove home the point that even when we are intendedly rational and believe we are not subject to bias, it is still the reality for many employees. This helped students personalize the course content and better confront organizational realties. My impression is that Raha played similar leadership roles in other classes, contributes a positive, cohesive force to the entire class.”

Mary Zellmer-Bruhn
Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior

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