Call her a matchmaker. As a senior community manager at Yelp in Los Angeles, University of Iowa alumna Megan Ranegar works with local businesses and users of the popular website and mobile app to create lasting and harmonious relationships.

Your stomach is rumbling and you’ve decided to go to a restaurant, but you can’t make up your mind on where to eat. If you’re like millions of other people, you’re likely to pull out your smartphone and open the Yelp app to help guide your decision.

The online crowd-sourced review forum, created in 2004 to connect users with the best local businesses, contains more than 177 million reviews of businesses worldwide ranging from restaurants to hair salons to mechanics. Facilitating those connections are people like 2013 University of Iowa graduate Megan Ranegar, who started with the company in 2016 as a community manager in Denver and now is a senior community manager in Los Angeles.

“I’m what you would consider ‘boots on the ground.’ Yelp doesn’t have an office in L.A., so I work remotely,” says Ranegar, who earned an undergraduate degree from Iowa in health studies and business administration as well as a certificate in entrepreneurial management. “I’m a resource for business owners and users alike. I curate experiences, I create events, I answer questions—you could call me the Yelp expert in the city.”

Ranegar’s days are divided between event planning, outreach and marketing, writing and communicating, and socializing. She often works on her laptop in the apartment she shares with her fiancé and cat, but she can work anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. The nontraditional work arrangement suits her, she says.

“The city of Los Angeles is essentially my office,” she says. “A huge part of my role at Yelp is to curate events to connect our most prolific users in Los Angeles with some of the coolest business owners. To do so, I sit down with owners to talk about what they want to highlight and then invite users to an event and show them an amazing time. We’ve had events on yachts, at escape rooms, in classes on cooking and on meditation—I’m always mixing things up. It’s never boring, and I get to discover hidden gems all over L.A.”

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of her job, Ranegar says, is interacting with business owners.

“I love getting to work one-on-one with them and helping them tell their stories to create a platform for bringing in new customers,” she says. “I particularly love working with immigrant, minority, and female business owners and making their voices a bit louder within the Yelp community.”

“I started to realize that my creative side could be an asset to my career, rather than just something I pursued as a hobby or on the side. My experience at Iowa really helped me find a different version of myself.”

Megan Ranegar
2013 University of Iowa graduate who works for Yelp in Los Angeles
Design a major that works for you

Not sure what you want to study? No problem. Advisers in the University of Iowa’s Interdepartmental Studies Program can help students design a course of study that complements a wide variety of interests, from international business to diversity to the environment.

Ranegar credits her alma mater with leading her to a career in what is a fairly new field. In fact, the Indiana native and track athlete had planned to become a podiatrist when she enrolled at Iowa.

“About three semesters in, I realized that maybe I didn’t want to do something as regimented as medicine,” she says. “I had creative parents and a creative childhood, and I started to realize that my creative side could be an asset to my career, rather than just something I pursued as a hobby or on the side. My experience at Iowa really helped me find a different version of myself.”

A group of UI advisers and mentors helped Ranegar carve out an academic path that excited her—one that included classes in business, entrepreneurship, and health studies. Ranegar says Joseph Sulentic, an associate professor in the Tippie College of Business, encouraged her to set her sights high and pursue internships that would advance her career.

“Having someone in your corner rooting for you and presenting you with opportunities you might not have thought of—or thought you were unqualified for—is so important,” says Ranegar, who held marketing jobs with Whole Foods and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science before Yelp hired her. “Professor Sulentic helped me get an internship after my sophomore year, which led to another internship the following summer and, ultimately, my first job out of college. He was my mentor and my springboard.”

Sulentic says Iowa has great resources for students who want to create their own course of study and notes that classes on entrepreneurship can be valuable for all majors.

Ranegar had a good run at Iowa

As an undergraduate, Megan Ranegar was the captain of the University of Iowa cross-country and track and field teams. She says being a student-athlete helped her develop crucial time-management skills and taught her how to balance personal motivation with team goals.

“Students in my classes learn to identify a target or goal and then develop a strategy for getting there. It forces them to think about things they may not have considered, like customers or production. It teaches them to take risks and, in the process, they become more confident. Their whole view of what they can accomplish changes,” says Sulentic, who is coauthor of a book called Visualize Strategize Execute. “Megan’s passions were in health, organic food, and community building, and now she is using her entrepreneurial skills to make the world a better place.”

For now, Ranegar is content to help steer progress at Yelp—both for the company and for herself.

“Some of the things I was doing when I was new in my career at Yelp are things I could now do in my sleep. Today I am pitching partnerships and hosting events that I never really dreamed I would be doing, and I’m enjoying taking on bigger challenges. I think it’s important to continually push myself out of my comfort zone,” she says. “It’s been really cool to watch Yelp change over the years. I love being part of a team that is at the forefront of technology and hearing firsthand from users what they like about the various features. It’s been really interesting, and I feel lucky to have been along for the ride these last few years.”

Produced by the UI Office of Strategic Communication
Sara Epstein Moninger
Clarity Guerra and David Scrivner
Clarity Guerra