Tiger Heritage Spotlight: Mona Samaan-Ockenden BS '94

Prior to her arrival to RIT, alumna Mona Samaan-Ockenden BS '94 took a year off to explore a career in mechanical contracting. Mona graduated from RIT with a degree in Civil Engineering Technology. After graduation, she pursued a career in Civil Engineering. Mona landed a position with Clough Harbour & Associates (CHA), an international engineering consulting firm based in Albany. Mona started in traditional site development projects, then moved into a position as Senior Vice President of Business Development. She then moved into a Chief Operations Officer at Airosmith Development.After her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, Mona left her position as Vice President of Business Development to start a line of chemical-free beauty products. Since starting Mona Moon Naturals in 2019, she hasn't looked back.

Mona headshot



 

Why did you choose to attend RIT?

My AAS degree was in Architecture and Construction from Alfred State and I really wasn’t sure in what direction I was going to continue. While a number of my Alfred Classmates transferred to RIT’s CET program, I opted to take a year off and work for a mechanical contractor so I could learn more about construction. After that work year, I began at RIT. The co-op program was also a big plus.

Who influenced you most during your time at RIT?

I can honestly say all of my professors left a lifelong impression. If I had to pick one, Professor Bill Larson influenced me most. He would always say “try anything and every opportunity offered to you and learn from it.” I can honestly say I adapted this mentality in my professional career and experienced many great things. I often share the same advice with any student or graduate.

Share your favorite college memory

The day Maureen Valentine started!! I was a senior and our class was comprised of 3 women, 75 men, and a lineup of male professors. Don’t get me wrong, school was good. Maureen was the Super Woman role model we needed. She's an engineer, professor, mom, and wife.

What is your current job, company, and title?

CEO of  Mona Moon Naturals. Inspired by my sister’s breast cancer diagnosis, I created a natural chemical-free skin care company.

What advice do you have for current students who want to make the most out of their RIT experience?

Take advantage of everything RIT has to offer. Take a class from every school if you can. AND make a point to stay connected to RIT as an alum.

Describe RIT in 3 words

Intentional, Innovative, Entrepreneurial

How would you describe being a female student at RIT and in your field?

I really never felt different because I was a female while at RIT, well maybe a little different since every professor knew my name. During my professional career, there were times I could point to situations where it was challenging, however, I knew I was working in a male-dominated field. I am fortunate that I always had great mentors that are still my friends today.

What is something people may not know about you?

I left my professional career to establish  Mona Moon Naturals.

How did your RIT education prepare you for what you are doing today?

RIT prepared me hands down to be a problem solver, meaning I can do anything. I may not have the skills to initially complete a task, however, I’m not afraid to learn what I don’t know and ask for help.

Describe your career path.

After graduation, I didn’t have a job yet and Bill Larson encouraged me to take a summer position as office manager for a New England company working on a project at Strong Memorial. They were installing a slurry caisson foundation system and he told me I would learn a lot and I did. As that project ended George Crowley, my co-op advisor introduced me to Clough Harbour & Associates (CHA) and Tom Wolanski (he's also an RIT CET alum) and I soon after began my 19-year career. My first few years were focused on traditional site development projects and then the telecommunications industry exploded and I was involved in every facet including site selection, lease negotiation, zoning presentations, and managing clients. As the client sector grew I had an opportunity to begin developing relationships and business. I found my purpose. After 11 years at CHA I became the third female partner. My final role at CHA was Sr VP of Business Development for the company. In 2014 I had an opportunity to help a friend build her WBE boutique firm. Airosmith Development focused on on-site development and technical services in the telecommunications space. My role as COO was to first create the platform for the company to grow and thrive and as Sr VP of Business Development, we created a plan to add business segments. In late 2019, I left to build Mona Moon Naturals.

Share your favorite RIT Memory.

My friend Rhonda Morrison was at the top of our class! I have so many fond memories of us just laughing together.

Favorite Food/TV Show/Sports Team?

I am a Harry Potter fanatic. Audios, books, videos – I even have the Cards Against Humanity version.

Fun fact(s)

My parents are from Egypt and I have visited twice.