Rocio Parra
Rocio Parra
Home Region

El Paso, TX, and Mexico

Undergrad Education

Stanford University, 2005

Previous Experience

Monitor Group, New York

HBS Activities

Co-president for LASO, co-president for Luxury Goods & Design Club

“You build courage. On the spot.”

With a father who has a PhD in electrical engineering, and two older siblings who also pursued engineering degrees, it seemed only natural that Rocio Parra would continue the family's engineering tradition. "I always assumed that I would go into business on the technology side," Rocio says. In fact, she completed a couple of high-tech consulting internships while attending Stanford.

But her senior project led to a major change in plans. "I was part of a team that conducted marketing strategy for a digital magazine," Rocio explains. "Our job was to measure the interest among students and faculty. We did quant studies on campus and on Facebook, plus qualitative studies through faculty interviews and close observation of students using the product. Our team won first place — and I became really interested in marketing strategy and customer behavior.

Bring your "big" pants

Consulting appealed to Rocio, but she also wanted "a broad perspective on business beyond marketing strategy — a complete general management perspective." Her choice of MBA programs came down to one other program or Harvard.

"It was tough," says Rocio. "They're both excellent schools and I visited each of them twice. But it was something Dee Leopold [HBS Admissions Director] said to prospective students that swayed me. She held up a huge pair of pants and told us that if we're coming to HBS, we better bring these — not because we would get big, but because we were going to grow, as professionals and as persons."

"At first, I was skeptical about the case method," Rocio says. "Coming from an engineering background, I was used to a lecture style. Then I realized that the lessons would be the same at just about any business program. But the skills I wanted to build — to speak up, to make rational points and defend them — I wouldn't get anywhere else. Here, the constant speaking and interaction develop important leadership qualities. You build courage. On the spot."

International perspectives

"I've been amazed," says Rocio, "by the variety of perspectives here. Just today, we had a case about debt restructuring in Argentina — and we got an insider's view from a Venezuelan student who had bought Argentine bonds. This is the kind of thing that's always opening our minds."

Rocio's special interest, luxury goods ("I would love to consume them!"), has been tested by this variety of view points. "I can look at luxury from a demographical perspective and wonder how the current economy has affected the buying habits of the top 2% of consumers. But I can also take an international point of view and see how Tiffany has benefited from an influx of foreigners taking advantage of a declining dollar."

This summer, Rocio will take a closer look at buying habits via internship with American Express in New York, where she will explore credit card marketing. Looking past graduation, Rocio says her options are open. "I'm considering marketing positions, consulting, or retail management with a focus on marketing and merchandising."