Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Rakib Azad

azadName: Rakib Azad ’01
Occupation:  Sr. Manager – Financial Planning & Analysis –
Education (UR and additional):   BA (Economics), University of Rochester, 2001; MA (Economics), NYU, 2006; MBA, NYU, 2009
Current city/state of residence:  Hamilton, NJ, work in NYC
Family:  Married, no kids
Community activities: Try to keep active in volunteer activities whenever I can

Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I chose to attend the U of R for many reasons.  The major reason was the powerful combination of a small college feel backed by tremendous resources only found at large national universities.  When I made my first visit to campus, I was essentially sold.  The campus was beautiful and it felt right to me.  I am not sure there are too many schools in the country that can present this kind of mix like the U of R.

When and how did you choose your major?

I started off as a pre-med because “I thought” that was what I wanted to do.  After not enjoying the classes and struggling in Orgo, I had decided to take Economics 101 in my first semester of junior year and was hooked.  I was extremely lucky that I was at a school with a world class Economics faculty and interesting classes.  I was so immersed in the subject (along with a few finance-oriented classes); I finished the major and all requirements in two years!  I really think U of R’s encouragement to pursue interests in divergent fields was instrumental in finding my true interests.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was very involved in student life groups and was the chair for the UR Concerts Committee during my senior year.  My experience in UR Concerts is one my most cherished memories at Rochester.  What other school would a relatively shy guy like me have the chance to be put in such a leadership position and be in charge of a $75 K budget?  When I was chair, the rock band Everclear performed their first show at the U of R, in support of their latest album.  An unknown band at the time, Nickelback opened.  It was an awesome experience.  In my time at U of R my love for live music grew while also developing core leadership skills.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I graduated into a recession in 2001, which students today can relate to.   I certainly wanted to get into something in the Finance/Banking realm, and while I received some interviews from firms, I could not land a position.   It was very tough out there.  However, I was determined to get something Finance related, and finally came upon a position at company called Footstar, a retail and shoe manufacturing firm as a Financial Analyst.  In college, I had never really known that non-financial companies needed finance professionals, but this was a finance position, so why not go for it?

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I have mostly kept course and have been a Finance professional at retail and consumer products companies for the first phase of my career.  I have been at big companies such as Foot Locker and Avon Products.  After completing my MBA in 2009, I joined Havaianas USA, which is a subsidiary of a Brazilian company where their product has 99% brand recognition.  I decided to take on this challenge to help grow a brand and it has been a solid experience where I have had to use my financial acumen, creativity, leadership and communication skills. Recently, I decided that I wanted to switch gears and get into the Tech/Internet industry since it’s a burgeoning scene in NYC, which coincided with my growing interest in the space.  I am currently a Sr. Manager at TheLadders, a job search site that is looking to transform the job search on mobile devices.  I am enjoying it and plan to stay in the industry for the foreseeable future.

Where would you like to be in five years?

I always think back to the term Meliora to keep me inspired.  I always want to get better.  I have entrepreneurial dreams that I may pursue in the coming year or two (currently working on the business plan), but I also like what I am doing now.  My goal is to be at the top of my game as a finance, strategy and operations professional.  I want to keep learning and improve how I go about everything I do.  I am not going to set limits to where I can go and achieve.  If I had to give a more definitive goal, I would certainly like to be at an executive level at a mid to large sized tech organization in five years.

What advice do you have for current students?

Never limit yourself to the possibilities you may have out in the “real” world.  At first I thought needed to have a finance job within the finance industry.   When it was apparent that I could not break into the industry due to external conditions, I improvised and have created a rewarding career that I never would have imagined while in college.   Soak all the knowledge you can out there, whether it is in your major, minor, cluster or even outside of school.  Also, learn the soft skills of life, like communicating in a business environment.  These are very important skills to have.  In this day and age, it never hurts to keep on learning beyond the classroom!