In 2010, when Roni Ben-Aharon, MBA ’08 quit her job at Patient Keeper, a Waltham-based patient data software company, her colleagues were shocked. She had it all: a nice 900-square-foot apartment in Allston with a roof-deck swimming pool and two cars. She was only 28, yet had nearly a six-figure salary and managed projects in the U.S. and internationally. Her co-workers figured she was ditching the nine-to-five to start her own consultancy.
Instead, the native Israeli - who grew up in the seaside town of Herzelya, north of Tel Aviv - followed her passion for the ocean to Honduras, then later to the Dominican Republic, Palau and the Philippines (where the toilet in her small beach cottage needed a bucket of water in order to flush). She became a dive guide and traveled the world, selling her skills and guiding dives for the next year and a half. She loved it.
“Nerds say I’m living on the wild side of life and 'am so courageous,'" said Ben-Aharon, speaking from Tel Aviv where she now lives. “I think when you have one goal, you miss the wide spectrum of opportunities that are available to you. For me, a lot of things always interest me, so I think when you’re not set in one direction, you can see many directions to take.”
This mindset figured prominently in her decision to attend Brandeis International Business School (IBS). Ben-Aharon had been working as a consultant for a Massachusetts-based clinical software consultancy when she got the itch to go back to school. She had earned her BsC in Marketing and International Business at Bentley College, graduating summa cum laude.
“I’m one of those people who likes going to school,” she stated.
She loved the international student body at Brandeis IBS and counts many of her classmates as current friends. She was also attracted to the school’s globally-focused MBA program, which at the time was just getting off the ground.
“When you have a new, small program there’s a lot of room for flexibility,” Ben-Aharon noted. She engaged in independent studies in both the U.S. and Mexico, served as the vice-president of the International Marketing Club, and took part in the Leadership Program, mentoring first-year MBA students.
While primarily focusing on marketing and economics in business school, her openness to opportunity led to her opening her own business for marketing writing for Israeli-based businesses, as well as offering Hebrew-English translation services that emphasize communicating the overall concept of the writing piece, rather than its literal translation.
One of her current projects is writing the content for an English/Hebrew website and creating a web-presence for Desert Shade, a boutique eco-lodge built of mud structures on the rim of the Ramon Crater in Mitzpe Ramon, Israel. Ben-Aharon was working for the Israel-based NGO Appleseed Academy when she met the couple who owns Desert Shade. When they approached her about their website and, more specifically, how they can communicate their uniqueness via the web, she jumped at the chance. She is also involved in marketing small boutique Israeli wines, such as Rujum and Shekef, to restaurants in Tel Aviv.
“I believe the best things in life happen by chance,” said Ben-Aharon, who also does translation work for businesses and academic institutions.
A question that she grapples with is finding the balance between embarking on projects she loves as opposed to ones she is proficient in.
“It’s courageous to ask yourself if you're doing what you're doing because you're good at it or because it’s what you want to do," she said.
Growing up in Herzelya, Ben-Aharon spent plenty of time at the beach, wind surfing and sailing. “I love being outside and soaking in the fresh air,” she said. She has also always had an affinity for animals and owns two rescue dogs with her boyfriend, Naor. At one point she had aspirations to be a veterinarian, and these days she volunteers in a dog rescue nonprofit in Israel.
It’s no surprise that Ben-Aharon is not a rigid goal-setter and does not view the question of “What’s next?” as a particularly relevant one. She and Naor, a chef, toss around ideas of opening a small resort or a restaurant on an island somewhere. And, yet, she still has the travel bug.
“What’s next,” she said, “is now.”