Sara Jones, M.Ed. MBA
FlexWeekend 2013, Rady School of Management
Founder and CEO, Plum Blossom Creations
Author, Getting Ready: Your Journal to Help You Deal with and Heal from Sexual Harassment
Author, Stories from Athena’s Garden, blog, www.storiesfromathenasgarden.com
What impact has Rady had on your career progression?
I cannot begin to express the value of this. When I lost my job in DC, I had very few career options. I immediately called up Rady and asked them if I could reapply. They said yes and they accepted me. This was 2011. I had been accepted in 2006 but did not matriculate. Now jobless and moving back to San Diego, I relied on the Rady Career Center to help connect me with a local part-time job.
My expertise up to this point was in education and emergency management, but as a Rady FlexWeekend student, I was learning about entrepreneurship and high-tech innovations. After a few months of searching, I started with a local software firm as their Director of Client Education and Strategic Advancement, part-time. Immediately upon graduating, I moved into full time and was promoted to also be the Director of Marketing, a skill and talent that I did not know I also had until I took Professor Ayelet Gneezy’s class. I quickly realized that marketing and education are very similar – they both teach you about things you, the customer, want or need to know about or that the company wants or needs you to know about. A few years later, I was promoted to Senior Director of both positions.
But the seeds of innovation for my own company, Plum Blossom Creations, had been planted a while back and in 2015 I began my blog. I started very slowly at first. I had a demanding day job with responsibilities in two relatively high-level positions and these took much of my energy. As I put the ending period on the first draft of my memoir, the nation started discussing my newest area of expertise. I knew when the #MeToo movement took hold, that I needed to finish my book and start teaching a different kind of topic altogether – how to deal with and heal from sexual harassment. The 2nd book to be written but first to be published, Getting Ready: Your Journal to Help You Deal with and Heal from Sexual Harassment, came very quickly after that.
From Lab-to-Market, to real-world experience, to incubator and investor exposure, Rady has helped me become aware of my talents and my passions as well as helped me understand how to think about and grow into being an entrepreneur.
Has your Rady MBA enabled you to change industries or functional areas or even achieve a promotion?
Initially yes, and long term yes.
Tell us a fun fact about you, or something people may not know about you.
I love to hike. I had the opportunity to hike for four days along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru when I lived in Brazil back in the late 90’s. On the longest climb day, it was a glorious thing to be sitting along the trail for a break with our guide, four of my friends and eight other hikers in our group from around the world. We enjoyed the effort, each other and the moment so much that we spontaneously burst out into a chorus of “I’m on top of the world” by the Carpenters. I met one of my totem animals on that trip. I’m currently training for a section hike along the Appalachian Trail which, this year and the launch of my new business, may become the Pacific Crest Trail. The bucket list hike may have to wait a year.
What was your favorite class and why?
I loved almost all of my classes at Rady – I found the finance classes to be very difficult to work through. I really tried to be a sponge and learn as much as I could and my professors all had lots to share and teach! Even though I got the most out of the marketing classes, it was the Advanced Management Communications course taught by Todd Salovey that I really enjoyed. Worth only 2 credits, with little to no team work and with no exam, it was supposed to be my “easy” class. But perhaps it was because I let myself relax in that class that I opened up and really let the professor show me how to find my core and then find my voice. Less than 2 years after that class, I started my blog and now I am a published author with a second book on the horizon.
How did your view of entrepreneurship/innovation change throughout your time at the Rady School?
I’m not sure my view of entrepreneurship and innovation has actually changed. I think what happened is that I learned how to live into them. I learned to value my innovative side and find the path to successfully manifesting it. I learned to have the courage to be an entrepreneur as well as how to recognize when to risk being one!
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Go for it! All of it. The curriculum is rigorous. The professors are demanding. And the team work reveals the worst (and best!) side of you. Regardless of the challenges, commit to the process. Trust that you are in good, caring hands and open up to the interpersonal work. It’s where most businesses succeed or fail. Why not practice in the best incubator, before you risk it all with the innovation you want to bring to the world.
How have you applied your studies to your career?
What is the best thing about being a Rady alumni?
I ended up being the only woman in my cohort for a good portion of my track. In my time, the student body had “Rady Ladies” but the group focused mostly on the full-time students and did not reach to the level of professional growth focus as the Women of Rady. As an alumna, I am very much enjoying being a part of the newly resurrected Women of Rady chapter of the NWMBA. The very recent Rady Women’s Forum, Discussions and Action Plans for Vibrant Leaders, was a fantastic achievement in planning as well as an invaluable tradition for years and alumnae to come! I respect our current students so much for the time they put into this group and the impact it has on not only the current students but we alums as well.