Several years after graduating from Bren, Sunny Sohrabian has already experienced several of the twists and turns that normally take place over the course of a full career. A sustainability manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, she has been through economic, sector, and industry changes that give her perspective on what it takes to succeed in her field.
“You need to be adaptable, be able to evolve, and keep calm if things don’t go the way you planned,” she says. “And network—start at Bren and continue throughout your career. Networking has gotten me every single job I’ve had. Go to conferences, put yourself out there, and reach out to people.”
When Sunny came to Bren initially, she had a clear vision for her life’s work. After being inspired to pursue a career solving environmental problems in high school, she studied environmental science for her undergraduate degree. Graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2011 as the global economy was still recovering from a recession, she decided her best bet to accelerate a career in the public sector was to go to graduate school.
“I felt like I needed better skillsets before I could really go into the workforce,” she said. “What I liked about Bren was, first, the professors and the research they were doing. I was really impressed by that. Then, second, I liked the variety of specialties they offered. Other schools were a little too specialized; I wanted to build a broader range of skills. So it was just the perfect combination in terms of what I was looking for.
For most of her time at Bren, Sunny stayed on a path that would help her find a job in the public sector, focusing on coursework in economics and policy and doing an internship with an international organization focused on sustainable development. Then, as she approached graduation, she felt called in a different direction: corporate sustainability.
“I was really excited by the opportunity to do something meaningful at a large scale on the corporate side,” she says, “but everything I had trained for up to that point was really geared for government, economic, or policy work. The Bren Career Development team was a huge help at that point. We went through my resume, and they pulled things out that would be relevant to applying for corporate jobs—things I didn’t even realize I had done!”
After Bren, Sunny was able to move immediately into the corporate space. Her first position was with a boutique consulting group, where she learned more about the opportunities her new path would offer her. “In that consulting world I was able to become very familiar with my clients’ operations, what their work was,” she says.
The Bren Career Development team was a huge help...We went through my resume, and they pulled things out that would be relevant to applying for corporate jobs—things I didn’t even realize I had done!
Knowing she wanted to move in house, Sunny kept her ears open and actively continued to network. The next position she took was with AEG, a company that specializes in events and venue operations—sports, music, and entertainment. With over 100 sites worldwide, the company offered room to grow. “I started working with all the data as an analyst,” she says, “and basically earned a promotion every year. I worked my way up to program manager, where I was overseeing the day-to-day operation of the global sustainability program there.”
Ready for her next challenge, Sunny looked to the tech industry. In her position now at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), she works as part of a team of about 12 people within a multinational corporation. She helps create and publish the company’s annual Environmental, Social, and Governance report and supports her team’s data assurance process. Additionally, she manages her team’s external communications platforms and oversees special projects like minimizing the operational environmental footprint of HPE’s largest annual customer event. In a position that intersects with hardware and software engineers, assurance specialists, and marketing and public relations professionals, she draws on skills learned from her work at Bren.
“During my group project especially I learned how to communicate and work with a diverse group with different personalities, which has been so important,” she says. “Everyone’s thinking about sustainability now, but it may not be their first priority. Being able to take a step back and understand that your coworker has something else going on helps you work with them. Being able to communicate helps you develop good working relationships. And from there, you can really get the workflow going and be productive.”
As Sunny looks to the future, she knows more changes will come down the road, and she encourages Bren students to embrace some uncertainty. “You don’t have to have it all figured out. It’s okay to change your mind, and it’s okay not to have all the answers,” she says. “You can learn from experience—in fact, that’s the best way.”
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