Oregon Executive MBA graduate Shan Rammah smiles while posing in front of an off-white wall.

Flying Start for Rammah Design

Shan Rammah, MBA ’23, admits that founding and running his own business was always at the back of his mind when he started at the Oregon Executive MBA in Portland.

Still, Rammah never expected that by the time he earned his degree he would have already launched Rammah Design—his own firm specializing in airport planning, airfield design, and program management.

It was during the spring of his first year in the program that Rammah realized the time might just be right to explore this longtime ambition. Fittingly enough, this insight came to Rammah through his coursework in Andrew Nelson’s Opportunity Recognition course.

“As I started to do the homework assignments and really take a read of the aviation market, a lot of green lights turned on. I thought ‘wait a minute, there’s really something here,’” said Rammah, who came to the MBA program with a decade of experience working as a civil engineer specializing in airport development.

Rammah followed up on his “aha” moment by diving into research, taking full advantage of the resources available through the Oregon Executive MBA—including his network of fellow students.

“Several classmates were business owners or had been part of a growing startup, so I spent the rest of spring term, the summer, and our global trip to Europe asking them all of the questions I could think of,” said Rammah.

When Rammah and his classmates returned home from the program’s trip to Spain, it was time to move forward.

“I think it was October 3. I made the decision—every day moving forward, I’m going to sit at my desk and make this happen,” said Rammah. 

Rammah launched his firm soon after that—and continued to gather advice from classmates who generously shared insights from their leadership roles in human resources, marketing, and related disciplines.

Classmate Mike McGrew went even further, introducing Rammah to his father, Jon McGrew, an associate principal and business development director at Henneberry Eddy Architects, Inc., a Northwest architecture firm with an aviation practice.

“Even though I’m not an architect, when I met with Jon I immediately experienced Hennebery Eddy’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and their interest in growing local small businesses,” said Rammah. “That meeting led to an introduction with Justin Smith, one of Henneberry Eddy’s aviation practice leads, who has quickly become a mentor for the business that I can call any time of day.”

To shape his firm, Rammah also took full advantage of his capstone project—the self-defined, thesis-like individual effort that each student pursues throughout their final year in the program.

“Using my capstone project to research and build Rammah Design made me answer questions that I was probably never going to ask myself if I was just building my business without the benefit of the MBA,” said Rammah.

Rammah also credits his capstone advisor Steve Sterba—an experienced high-tech entrepreneur and venture capital investor—with playing a pivotal role in helping him develop and execute the company’s strategy.

“I don’t know where I would be without Steve’s advice and perspective. Having him in my corner has been invaluable for the growth of my company,” said Rammah.

To date, Rammah Design has already landed several projects—with more in the pipeline.

The continuing growth and success of Rammah Design is highly gratifying for Rammah, of course. But it holds a deeper meaning, as well: It’s a way for Rammah to honor his parents for the opportunities they provided him. 

As a first-generation American whose parents emigrated to the United States from Pakistan in the 1980s, Rammah had watched his mother and father tirelessly work to create a life in America that offered many opportunities for Rammah and his sister.

Rammah’s parents achieved their own American dream through their hard work and drive. Now Rammah can build on the foundation his parents laid by being the first in his extended family to have his own business.

“I knew that starting a business was one thing that my parents never had the opportunity to do. And I thought I had a shot at it,” said Rammah. “I’m proud that Rammah Design has my family’s last name on it, because it is representative of all the generations of people before me that have allowed this to happen.”

—Kit Alderdice, Lundquist College Communications