Whether this is your first semester as a #UHBauer student or your last, you should feel all kinds of pride for earning your degree from a place #WhereAwesomeHappens (no really, so much awesome happens here that we had to build an entire website to capture it).
Right now, you’re probably pumped for the new semester, but in case you start to feel a little lost say, around mid-March, we’ve got a list of #UHBauer success stories to keep you going. This is our list of 6 #UHBauer alumni to inspire you this semester (and maybe you’ll be on one of these lists in the future!).
Mahek Hooda (BBA ’18)
Global Supply Chain Planner, Microsoft
As a Bauer student, Mahek Hooda balanced a double major in management information systems and supply chain management with extracurricular activities, all in an effort to learn and absorb as much knowledge and experience as possible. In addition to leadership roles with Bauer student organizations Bauer SPO and MISSO, Hooda participated in a range of groups in the college and made connections with her classmates regardless of ethnicity, background or major.
Now based near Seattle to work at Microsoft’s corporate headquarters, Hooda is an integral part of bringing to market some of the world’s most popular gaming systems and accessories.
“I was part of all the different student organizations — the National Association of Black Accountants, the Hispanic Business Student Association, the Asian Business Student Association … you just go to a couple meetings, a few of their events and see what it feels like,” she said. “It became way more welcoming and empowering to be the person who can bring people from different backgrounds together to take advantage of being a student in an international city.”
Ralph (BBA ’12) and Michelle Degala (BBA ’12)
Consultant, Kendo Brands
Content Creator, YouTube
OK, so we’re cheating a bit here by counting this #UHBauer power couple as one on our list. But both Ralph and Michelle Degala are perfect examples of integrating work with life, pursuing their creative interests professionally while holding corporate leadership positions. Ralph competed on Fox’s “MasterChef” this year, while Michelle is a social media influencer with 23,000 followers on YouTube.
The couple met via the college’s Asian Business Student Association (ABSA), which Ralph co-founded in 2010. Michelle had just changed her major from pharmacy to marketing and was looking for a way to meet like-minded business students.
Anais Babajanian (BBA ’13, MSACCY ’14)
Principal, ATAB Insurance
Anais Babajanian isn’t a typical insurance agent. She thrives on risk — the kind that comes with changing careers just a few years out of college or revamping a family business.
Babajanian, 27, did both things in the last two years, transitioning from public accounting to work as principal at ATAB Insurance Services, an independent insurance agency serving clients in Texas and California.
And Babajanian realized quickly that she wanted something entrepreneurial that involved her family. She’d worked part-time for ATAB, her mother’s agency, during her time as a Bauer student and decided to take on the challenge of bringing a fresh perspective to the business using the skills she gained in the college’s accounting and honors programs.
Caroline Ferguson (BBA ’18)
Founder, Grateful & Company
Through her experience as a Bauer student, Caroline Ferguson gained the confidence to build her company while succeeding as a student and business professional.
Launched earlier this year, Grateful & Company operates an online store for gratitude-themed lifestyle products, including apparel, posters, journals, cards and mugs. A portion of the profits from each sale will benefit suicide-prevention and mental health programs on college campuses, using the University of Houston as a pilot.
“I’ve historically done life very fast,” Ferguson said. “I’ve always been on this quick route.” That drive and determination, she added, comes from growing up early — something she sees more as a blessing than a problem. Her business is in memory of her own father, who committed suicide when Ferguson was 9 years old.
Namrata “Nammy” Sirur (MBA ’12)
Co-founder, MisFit Communications
For most of her life, Namrata “Nammy” Sirur made decisions based on what might make others see her as smarter, cooler, better. But an unanticipated dance with unemployment in her early 30s made her realize that the surest path to acceptance is authenticity.
Sirur’s best friend, Pavi Dinamani, happened to be experiencing unemployment at the same time as a casualty of a huge round of layoffs in the oil and gas industry. Together, they decided not just to commiserate but to share their experiences with the world by starting a YouTube channel called The 9to5 MisFits.
“I have a freakishly high tolerance for risk,” she said. “You have to be comfortable with risk and highly adaptable. For us, we always went into it knowing that YouTube is not a sustainable business model. It was very much about building our brand and seeing what we could parlay that into and what other business opportunities it could turn into.”
Ryan Soroka (MBA/MS ’11)
President, Co-Founder, 8th Wonder Brewery
Ryan Soroka, who earned a MS in Hotel/Restaurant Management at the University of Houston while completing his MBA, leads 8th Wonder Brewery, a craft beer brand that can be found in supermarkets, bars and restaurants across Houston. Serving as president, co-founder and self-described hype man — and there’s a lot to hype when it comes to the business.
In 8th Wonder’s first year, Soroka and his partners produced just under 1,000 barrels. Last year, after only four years in business, they produced around 12,000, making 8th Wonder one of Houston’s largest craft breweries.
“We’re in a time in our society where people really want to be able to support someone who’s in their backyard, from their town and contributing to the local economy,” he said. “It’s a nice paradigm shift where customers get to see the personality and character of who’s providing their services and products. Small business really drives local economies.”