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Tran Hang

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Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Title: Head of Travel Industry Operations, North America

Company: Google

My Story About Me

Know what you want and what you are looking to get out of the program. And always think about that as a compass when you are in the program itself.

Top business leaders may not know all the answers, but they do know enough to ask the right questions. Working in strategic planning and operations for Google’s ad sales operations, Tran Hang realized that moving up in her field meant being asked to make decisions that touch on other parts of the organization — some with which she may be unfamiliar. To do so, she had to know not only what questions to ask but who to ask. Attending Wharton has enabled Hang to widen her knowledge-base and capabilities and, more importantly, discover how to build a team with skills that complement her own. Tran talks about the immediate benefits of the Wharton network, broadening your industry perspective, and having fun along the way.

Calling on the network
Over the years, you tend to develop a network largely comprised of people who work in your industry. I work at Google, for example, so I’ve developed a network of entrepreneurs and people from Web 2.0 companies. At Wharton, because students come from so many different industries, I have access to all of these different perspectives. The way they approach problem-solving is very different, and I’ve been able to apply their process to problems and situations I’ve encountered in my own job.

Now I know who to call to get insight on different industries when I’m in a work situation. For example, we were trying to solve an ad problem for the education category. I pinged a classmate who is the VP of content for a company focusing on online education. I had a half-hour talk with him, and he gave me insightful information that you wouldn’t be able to find researching a company on the web. I came in thinking it was about learning the topics, but you do as much learning from your classmates as you do from the actual academic program itself.

Studying with friends
When I started at Wharton, I really didn’t expect to make close friends, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all of the close friendships I’ve made over the past year and a half. I hang out with these people outside of class. We have gone beyond conversations about class and school and really integrated into each other’s lives.

I really look forward to seeing my classmates every two weeks. It’s been fun. Last week we had a marketing research project due, so we figured we might as well make it fun. So we booked a hotel room, ordered pizza, and stayed up burning the midnight oil.

Getting there
I’ve already taken on a bigger role at Google during my time at Wharton. In your first role as a manager, you tend to manage people who have the same functional background as you. Then next step is general manager, which requires the skills you learn in business school, the ones that round out your skill set, the ones you may not have been able to acquire on the job. In that position, having an advanced degree definitely has some cachet, a level of credibility. Even in my current position, I was probably the only person at my level who didn’t have an advanced degree. I’m second in command for running the travel business here in the Americas. That’s a several hundred million dollar business. The next step for me would be running the whole practice.

Know what you want
Know what you want and what you are looking to get out of the program. And always think about that as a compass when you are in the program itself. Always know where your priorities are and where school falls in that. Once you are in the program, take advantage of the opportunities. And those opportunities are the people in the program — the friendships.

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