CFO Builds Global Business Skills in the Executive MBA Program at Golden Gate University

Like many GGU students, Sam Martin (EMBA ’17) knew that showing initiative in his career development would impress company leadership. After consulting for Napa wineries for a decade as a public accountant, he seized an opportunity to join a wine company as CFO / Controller with 12 staff members to manage. Because Dana Estates Winery has its headquarters in South Korea, he says: “It put me on a different expectation and trust level. The Executive Master of Business Administration would prove my commitment and expertise.” It was the right time to go back to school.

Martin says he needed to immerse himself in all aspects of business — primarily in sales and marketing — because the winery is a multinational enterprise that exports to South Korea, Canada, China (Hong Kong), and Sweden.

Sam Martin (EMBA ’17)

“Exposure to other professionals was a huge plus in my decision to come to GGU,” Martin says. I was able to have informal discussions with my fellow students on BART on the way to school in San Francisco.” One member of his cohort managed a large team at a healthcare company, which exposed Martin to new leadership ideas. Another student brought real-world IT situations into class discussions. “Listening to my fellow student talk about his travels and sales pitches helped me to gain an expectation of what our traveling salespeople should be doing,” says Martin.

Listening to my fellow student talk about his travels and sales pitches helped me to gain an expectation of what our traveling salespeople should be doing.

As a relatively new manager, Martin says he benefited from the instructors’ first-hand knowledge of soft skills that are critical for the human resources aspects of his job. Developing personal leadership and strategic management skills were also valuable steps forward for Martin.

“The courses are designed to help students to analyze situations and think beyond the immediate benefit to the company,” he says. “This included social responsibility, as well as taking the perspective of the world marketplace, to ensure that the best decisions are being made. An example is to create an enduring two-way street where the company treats the customers with the utmost respect to earn their business and, at the same time, grows the customers’ respect for our team. It takes both sides of the equation to develop a strong relationship and grow the company. That is important for us as an international company.”

Learn more about the Executive Master of Business Administration at GGU >>

International City/County Management Association Salutes Member-Volunteer Joaquin “Jay” Gonzalez


This post originally appeared on the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Blog. We invite you to learn more about the ICMA.

ICMA members have generously shared their time and expertise in support of ICMA’s global programs. Some have served directly as volunteer advisers on projects around the world. Others have shared indirectly by “lending” their technical experts for volunteer assignments in the field.  Over a period of months, ICMA Academic Member [and Executive Master of Public Administration Chair and Professor at GGU] Joaquin “Jay” Gonzalez (at right in the photo above) spent many weeks in Tanzania on the Enabling Growth through Investment and Enterprise (ENGINE) project, which is designed to increase private-sector investment leading to inclusive, broad-based economic growth in three agricultural regions and in Zanzibar.

Gonzalez worked with the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture in Morogoro, assisting in efforts to build its credibility with the private sector. Bringing public- and private-sector actors together, he facilitated an agreement by the municipal council to reduce a service levy on local businesses — a move that encouraged greater compliance by small businesses and improved tax collection by the municipality. In addition to his volunteer work on behalf of the ENGINE project, he has been an active volunteer supporter of the ICMA China Center.

Gonzalez is the faculty adviser for the ICMA Student Chapter at GGU. He recruited GGU students for a study tour to China in April 2017 and shared his technical expertise in local government during meetings and forums.

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Global Philanthropist and Humanitarian Bita Daryabari Will Receive Honorary Doctorate and Deliver Golden Gate University’s 2018 Commencement Address


Bita Daryabari will receive an Honorary Doctorate and deliver the commencement address at Golden Gate University’s Graduate Commencement Ceremony on April 27, 2018. A global philanthropist and humanitarian, she received a master’s degree in Telecommunication Management from GGU in 1996. After graduating, Daryabari joined GammmaLink, Inc., one of the early pioneers in the field of telecommunications. She later moved to MCI Communications where she received distinguished awards and recognition for her work on more than one occasion.

Philanthropist and Humanitarian

Daryabari has had a long-standing passion for increasing knowledge of the culture of her native Iran, as well as improving the lives of people from Iran and beyond. Her vast charitable work includes establishing the Unique Zan Foundation, whose mission is to promote health, literacy, and peace for women in and from the Middle East. She also launched the Pars Equality Center, a community foundation that supports the full integration of people of Persian (Iranian) origin in the U.S. — including refugees, asylees, immigrants, and the American-born — and to advocate for their perspectives in American society. She works to create a more just and compassionate community in which Iranians of all cultures and beliefs can participate.

In gratitude for her GGU graduate education experience, Daryabari established the GGU Bita Daryabari Endowed Fund for Middle Eastern Students, which supports a scholarship for graduate business students born in a Middle Eastern country, and a graduate law fellowship for lawyers who reside in a Middle Eastern country. She has also endowed GGU with the Bita Daryabari Scholarship Program for Women of the Middle East in Business and Law.

“Bita Daryabari exemplifies Golden Gate University’s mission to prepare individuals to lead and serve,” says GGU President David J. Fike, Ph.D. “She is an inspirational alumnus, not only for what she has achieved in her career but also for her rich legacy of giving back and helping others get ahead. Bita is at the forefront of supporting immigrants in the U.S., and her leadership in expanding access to U.S. education for students from the Middle East is unparalleled. Her establishment of the Bita Daryabari Graduate Fellowship and the Bita Daryabari Scholarship at GGU are only two of many examples of her generosity and commitment to higher learning. GGU is honored to have Bita share her wisdom, optimism, and enthusiasm for positive change with our 2018 graduates.”

I vowed that I would use my influence and resources to create positive change in the world, as I don’t believe any child should have to live in a war zone.

Bita Daryabari (MS ’96)

Awards and Honors

Daryabari’s awards and honors include the World Affair Council Honoree of the year (2015), Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2012), the United Nations Appreciation Award for Outstanding Leadership, Commitment and Support of the UN and Achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (2011), PAAIA Philanthropist of the Year Award (2010), and GGU’s Alumni of the Year Award (2008). Gentry magazine also listed her among the Top 50 Bay Area Philanthropists (2015).

Creating Positive Change

As an immigrant who came to the U.S. at the age of 16 with virtually nothing to my name, I worked my way up through the telecommunications industry,” Daryabari says. “I was also fortunate enough to be part of the Google family during its inception, which resulted in my journey into philanthropy. I vowed that I would use my influence and resources to create positive change in the world, as I don’t believe any child should have to live in a war zone.”

She adds: “I hope to convey to this next generation: that anything is possible if one applies himself or herself; and I see my story is a living example. I also want to put emphasis on the importance of our daily intentions and relationships. These are the most important aspects that determine the outcome of our life stories.”

The Gig Economy: What is it? What’s It Mean, and What’s Ahead? Q&A with Tom Cushing, Senior Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University


Tom Cushing, JD, MBA has operated within the evolving structural environment of work throughout his careers as an attorney, corporate executive, legal recruiter, and freelancer (As he says: “an Adjunct Professor, after all!”). Cushing is a Senior Adjunct Professor at Golden Gate University teaching employment law, negotiation, and Corporate Social Responsibility-related courses.

What is the Gig Economy?

It’s an environment in which work is temporary, done primarily by so-called independent contractors and moderated by the internet in several ways.

What can people expect to hear at your seminar on the Gig Economy?

The seminar will start with some big picture context about the evolving economy and then define terms. There’s a lot of overlap among non-traditional work types. We’ll look at the slippery numbers associated with the obvious growth of the Gig Economy, and the two primary types of gig workers. Then we’ll talk about the messy ways the law currently sorts workers, and why that’s so important to all concerned. Folks will get a chance to be the judge and try their hand at applying the current rules to an actual case. Then we’ll conclude with some reform proposals and takeaways for workers or next year’s budding (or is it “bro”-ing?) “Kalanicks.”


What has changed socially and economically that has birthed a Gig Economy?

In the very big picture, there has been a “war on overhead” (fixed costs) since roughly the 1980s. If major expense items like labor are made “variable” with the amount of business activity, then companies can be agile enough to stay competitive across the business cycle. US workers may be hired or shed “at-will“ — meaning that those individuals, rather than their companies, bear most of the risk in that business cycle.

Technology has also tended to replace human labor, and the jobs it does create are often lower skilled and lower paid. That, combined with a relatively abundant, inclusive workforce (as well as global outsourcing competition) has reduced workers’ relative bargaining power. They’re settling for fewer benefits and less security at work, making it possible to convert large numbers to contractor status (albeit with some legal risk). Contractors are “purely“ variable, as they are only engaged – and paid – when they’re specifically needed.

Connectivity via the web has certainly accelerated these changes. It has also created whole new approaches to businesses like urban transportation, as just one obvious example.

It’s now good to be an investor or an owner, rather than a worker, as U.S. wealth-disparity problems demonstrate. As an aside, I’ve noticed that how various commentators weigh the relative importance of these factors, and whether they consider these trends to be problematic, seems to depend on whether the writer expects to profit from them.


Gig Economy: What is it? What’s It Mean to Me, and What’s Ahead?

Tom Cushing will be presenting a seminar on the Gig Economy on Tuesday, April 24 from 6:30-8:30 pm at GGU (Room 3201). You can attend the seminar either in-person or online (via ZOOM).

Register now >>

The seminar is open to GGU undergraduates and alumni. Graduate students have priority for registrations, but space is limited.

What about this phenomenon in California and the Bay Area?

The Bay Area tech industries are at the epicenter of these trends, as demonstrated by the likes of Uber, Task Rabbit, Upwork, Craigslist, and others. Tech firms are busily creating the future, and flexibility is an important element in their thriving. At the same time, it’s instructive to note that most of the California legal rules were established in the context of the ebbs and flows of agricultural work during the last century. There are similarities to today’s circumstances, but it’s not clear that those rules well-serve this fast-changing economy.

Can you give an example of career paths that are relevant to the Gig Economy?

“Path” is an interesting term, as it implies proceeding and building in some career direction. There is much to be resolved, as above, but “staying current” and “seeking growth sectors” (e.g., health care?) are relatively timeless good advice, if not comfort.

I think the term “career” is being redefined. “Thirty-years-and-out” is an artifact of a much more stable time and worker heyday. I think that today’s worker has to be ever-vigilant for the next new opportunity and accept the dislocations and turmoil that come with job-hopping. They also need to retain their own “agility” – meaning low, fixed personal costs, and high investment in retraining.

Does surviving in the Gig Economy have to do with transferable skills or building new skills?

“Yes.” We’ll see that there are those who dabble for some extra dough on the side, and many others who are treading water – only staying afloat by hustling among several ‘gigs,’ all of them insecure. Those latter are usually lower skill and lower paid.

/Rant on: As is typically American (and implied in the question), we tend to look at this as everybody’s individual responsibility –  to accept the system as it is, and to protect your own personal interests as best you can. But there’s a dawning, systemic public policy issue here – that nobody wants to address. What kind of society do we want to be – and what kind of social contract will there be among us? Is the Gilded Age really something we want to repeat? You know we’re a lo-o-o-ng way from constructively dealing with these issues when even Social Security, which we’ve paid into for decades, is labeled an “entitlement” for political purposes. /Rant off.

That said, in the short-run, micro sense, you are captain of your skillset. A significant trend in education is gaining specific vocational skills via certificate, rather than degree. You want to be among those higher-paid “giggers,” so tending that skill set by adding new capabilities in the programming arena, for instance, will be important.

How does one discover one’s secondary talents?

Learning to juggle?

You can register for the Gig Economy seminar or any seminar in the Innovation in Practice series on Eventbrite.

City of American Canyon Appoints EMPA Student as City Manager

The American Canyon City Council has appointed Jason B. Holley as its City Manager. He is currently pursuing an Executive Master of Public Administration degree from Golden Gate University and graduates next year. Holley decided to pursue the degree to augment his prior technical training in pursuit of broader city management roles. The City of American Canyon has a population of 20,000 and is located in the southern end of Napa Valley.

Holley had served as the Interim City Manager for the past six months and previously served as the Public Works Director/City Engineer since 2013. Holley is also California Registered Civil Engineer, an ICC Certified Building Official, and California Office of Emergency Services Disaster Service Worker.

Related image
Jason Holley (EMPA, ’19)

During Holley’s tenure as Public Works Director, the City of American Canyon implemented an award-winning response to the California drought. The “Zero Water Footprint” Policy facilitated $2.0M in private capital funding and resulted in a 25% reduction in water demand. He also oversaw the development the Long-Range Capital Improvement Program, the Traffic Impact Fee Nexus Study, and the Measure T Implementation Plan to improve street maintenance.

“We want to congratulate Jason Holley on his recent appointment,” says Dr. Mick McGee, Associate Professor of Public Administration at GGU. “He distinguished himself as the Interim City Manager during the North Bay Fires last October. We wish him the very best of success as he tackles the many challenges of his new job.”

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Building Employee Engagement: Dr. Jeffrey D. Yergler Shares Expertise on U.S. and Global Stages


Jeffrey D. Yergler, Ph.D., is a leadership development scholar and consultant who is currently the Department Chair and Academic Program Director of Undergraduate Programs at GGU.

Last week, at the 2018 International Chair Academy Conference in Denver, Colorado, Yergler presented Building and Sustaining Employee Engagement: A Research-Based Training Approach with Diagnostic Survey. This workshop outlined a training model and diagnostic tool that can equip leaders and managers to build, sustain, and measure employee engagement.

…the percentage of engaged employees remained the relatively stable at roughly 30% according to Gallup. A leadership gap is a contributing factor and it needs to be filled…

Along with Wayne Butson, Director of Service Industries and Transition Education at Victoria University (Australia), Yergler discussed the E6 Employee Engagement Training Process. The process springs from interviews of hundreds of adults and students that uncovered six components that fuel engagement: alignment, contribution, development, autonomy, recognition, and purpose.

“With the millions of dollars that have been spent by organizations to address employee engagement,” says Yergler, “the percentage of engaged employees remained relatively stable at roughly 30% according to Gallup. A leadership gap is a contributing factor and it needs to be filled.”

Yergler notes the same Gallup poll revealed that even fewer employees are engaged at a global level, which makes him all the more eager to contribute his expertise globally. Later this month, in Seoul, South Korea, he will serve as the Leadership Development Instructor in The Asia Foundation’s 2018 Development Fellows Program.

Dr. Yergler speaking at the 2017 Asia Foundation event

Each year, the Foundation selects an elite cohort as part of its commitment to identify emerging national social reformers and social entrepreneurs who are committed to the development of democratic values. This year, the group includes representatives from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

“The Development Fellows Program provides a unique opportunity to learn with and from an exceptionally talented and visionary group of leaders who represent the vast diversities of Asia,” says Yergler. “My experience last year showed me the high priority that each Fellow places on justice, fairness, transparent governance, the environment, equal access, education, economic opportunity, job training, social equality, and respect for the rights of girls and women — and how all of these priorities inform the way they build, lead, and influence within and beyond their organizations.”

We invite you to read more about Jeffrey Yergler and explore Golden Gate University’s undergraduate degree programs.

A Career in Financial Planning: Insights from a San Francisco Firm

GGU’s Office of Career Planning hosted an Employer Spotlight session that featured Chuck Bowes and Jesse Pence from Waypoint Wealth Partners. The event was attended by GGU alumni and students and covered the evolution of the financial planning industry and its current best practices.

What skills do financial planners need?

A self-professed “finance geek,” Bowes says that he serves three roles for clients: a “financial advisor, a psychologist, and a marriage counselor.” Waypoint’s big picture approach requires a team of people, which typically includes a senior staff member and an associate supporting each client. The Waypoint team includes CFPs®, MBAs, as well as a CPA. (Jesse Pence has passed the exams and will become an official CFP® professional this year.) With many different backgrounds, the team can provide a method that ties in rigorous technical education, coaching skills, and behavioral finance in research and practice.

Do you want to say your life accomplishment is staying ahead of S&P for 30 years? Or is it something else? No one says the former.

Why do people go to financial planners?

The main trigger for clients, says Bowes, can be a simple lack of time and an increasing level of complexity in their lives. If saving time is a benefit, what other problems can wealth managers solve?

The first is a lack of clarity about financial decision points, desires, or anxieties. “Clients may not even be aware of the emotions that lead to a conscious choice, so we call the first step ‘Discovery’.” Bowes provided an example of those who are “under-insured versus self-insured,” those who make a decision about what level of risk they are comfortable with and those who don’t even consider the difference.

Waypoint often asks clients: “What would they want to do if they were not too busy growing a career?” A successful discovery process can start clients on a journey toward a more satisfying life experience on the client’s terms, not the advisors.  As part of their “establishing clarity process,” Bowes asks: “Do you want to say your life accomplishment is staying ahead of S&P for 30 years? Or is it something else? No one says the former.”

Photo caption: From Waypoint Wealth Partners: Jesse Pence, Associate Wealth Manager (third from left) and Chuck Bowes, Founding Partner & Senior Wealth Manager (third from right). From GGU: MBA/JD Alumni (unknown) (far left), David Kaczorowski, Academic Program Manager and Professor of Finance at GGU (second from left),  Quyen Le (MBA, Finance ‘19) (second from right); and Kandis Rodgers, Assistant Director, Office of Student Affairs at (far right). 

We invite you to explore GGU’s certificates and degrees in Financial Planning and Financial Life Planning. If you want to learn more about the Financial Planning profession, see the article by Dave Yeske, DBA, CFP®, A Concise History of the Financial Planning Profession. Yeske is Director of the GGU’s Financial Planning programs and Distinguished Adjunct Professor.