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.

Diversity & Inclusion at Golden Gate University Law School in San Francisco

By Justin McNealy
Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Student Affairs
Golden Gate University School of Law

At GGU School of Law, we want to make sure we continue to forge a path as one of the most diverse law schools in the nation. As Director of Diversity, Inclusion (D&I) and Student Affairs, as part of the Office of D&I, my role from one day to the next can be wildly varied. Ultimately, my role is to provide a framework for how each department can do more to foster D&I. This can mean Law Student Support providing more learning and development opportunities for students or Career Development providing more networking and mentoring opportunities for first-generation law school students who can be frustrated by a lack of guidance and resources. It is my job to identify the D&I need for each department in the law school and facilitate conversation about those needs, provide solutions about how those needs can be addressed, and move toward solutions.

The biggest impact that all of our departments hope to have is to ensure students from diverse backgrounds feel included in the law school environment. We also want to make sure they leave the GGU School of Law with a network of diverse attorneys who can help guide them through their first years in the legal profession and ultimately become lifelong mentors. Additionally, we want to identify and improve student retention, create programming geared toward student inclusivity and belonging, identify mentorship and job opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds, and work with admissions on student recruitment and matriculation efforts.

Fact: 62% of GGU School of Law students identify
as a racial minority, 64% are women,
and 11% identify as LGBTQ.

Why I became a Diversity and Inclusion Professional

As a gay man of color, I often see the inequity that exists for my community and other communities of historically underrepresented people. My own experiences in law school and the legal field helped build a basis for empathy for students who do not feel included or feel as though their concerns will not be taken seriously. Inclusion, especially in an environment as challenging as law school, is the essence of surviving those challenges. People naturally build communities as a means of support, and I always want to connect people to those inherent support systems. Also, I want to see the legal profession become as diverse as the communities in which they serve.

During my first year of law school, I was surprised that two of the professors teaching 1L courses were black. While it did not seem like much of a big deal to many of the students, which is in itself a mark of progress, it was a big deal to the other black students in the course. Those professors became de facto mentors to many of us — not just because they were black, but because they understood what it was like to be “the only one.”

We also want to make sure [students] leave the GGU School of Law with a network of diverse attorneys who can help guide them through their first years in the legal profession and ultimately become lifelong mentors.

Diversity and Law Schools

Law is one of the least diverse professions in the country. If we talk about barriers to access of legal education, whether it is the LSAT, or cost (or even self-confidence), those who have been historically underrepresented have the hardest time breaking through institutional obstacles. From the perspective of many law schools, D&I bridges the gaps and the destroys some of those barriers. A diverse legal education environment creates an opportunity for dialogue among people who may not understand one another. In the end, this dialogue and exchange of ideas foster not only tolerance but also a deeper level of understanding that makes for a more empathetic attorney.

There are many reasons D&I is important at law schools. It creates a classroom environment feels more welcoming because people see a representation of their group. Diverse faculty members are also more likely to approach a student of a similar background and can offer nuanced advice, from having gone through similar experiences as the student that they are trying to reach. For instance, Dean Niedwiecki of GGU School of Law is a first-generation law school graduate (and a gay man) so he can speak to many of our students who are also first-generation in a way that someone else could not. Similar background and experience makes finding common ground and creating relationships much easier, whether it is financial stress or the discomfort many students feel when they enter a room full of attorneys.

The ability of a faculty member from a diverse background to connect with students on a granular level cannot be understated. Having faculty from diverse backgrounds creates a sense of belonging in the law school environment. Even among students who may not be of that same background, it is powerful when faculty members understand what it is like to be in a field where they are historically underrepresented. The feeling of belonging is valuable because it goes a long way toward students graduating and becoming successful professionals.

The ability of a faculty member from a diverse background to connect with students on a granular level cannot be understated.

D&I in the Business & Legal Professions

The legal profession is built on relationships and is customer driven. Similarly, the business world has taken D&I very seriously ever since the argument for the practice moved from one about moral failings to one that was about “what is good for business.” Law firms have taken note of this shift and are now being pressured by their corporate clients to follow suit. In the past year, HP has threatened to withhold legal fees from firms who do not match or exceed their business expectations for D&I. Facebook has begun instituting a hard quota requiring 33% of an outside counsel’s legal team to be composed of gender and ethnic minorities. Even for a smaller firm, which is typically serving clients who do not have the economic power of HP or Facebook, it still makes business sense to put D&I initiatives in the forefront — both from a human resources standpoint and from a marketplace-viability standpoint.

A number of D&I studies have proven that more diverse and inclusive work environments reduce turnover, increase retention of employees, foster better decision-making among senior leadership, improve client relationships, and foster better talent.

From a law firm’s perspective, D&I programs boast many benefits to their bottom lines. Aside from the economic incentive, D&I build a stronger, more resilient, and happier workforce. This impacts everything from turnover to productivity. Moreover, areas as sensitive as client management are positively impacted when a more diverse workforce is recruited.

How to Get Involved in Diversity and Inclusion in the San Francisco Bay Area

There are so many organizations in the bay area that promote inclusion. Whether we are talking about La Raza, the Charles Houston Bar Association, Queen’s Bench, or BALIF, the organizations are numerous and represent many diverse communities. Many students are connecting to these organizations through the GGU Law Student Bar Association’s organizations. We are also actively reaching out to each of these organizations to provide mentorship opportunities for our students.

You can read Dean Niedwiecki’s related article in the Advocate, A Gay College Dean Takes on Betsy DeVos’s Transphobia, or check out Diversity Managers: 10 Key Job Skills, Salary, and Required Education on this blog.

More about the GGU School of Law >>

Which Financial Industry Designation is Right for Me?

Thursday, March 1st (12:00 P.M. – 1:30 P.M.)
Golden Gate University, San Francisco [Map]
Room 6208 (6th Fl.)

Whether you’re searching for a new career path or just curious about the different finance credentials, this panel will help guide you through some of the best known professional designations in the financial industry: Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA),  Financial Risk Manager (FRM), Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Master of Finance (MFin). Each of these has a core career focus, and although their abbreviations often sound interchangeable, each designation gives you something unique. Join us for lunch* on  March 1st to discover what careers each designation typically leads to.

Register Now >>

Registration is free for Golden Gate Unversity Students. For the special registration code, contact David Kaczorowski Professor of Finance and Program Manager at GGU.


Lu Cheng, CFA, CPA
Associate Portfolio Manager, BlackRock

Lu Cheng, CFA, CPA, is an Associate Portfolio Manager within BlackRock’s ETF and Index Investments (“EII”) group, currently responsible for the US iShares ETFs. Prior to joining BlackRock, Ms. Cheng was an Assistant Vice President at State Street managing the Equity Index Client Operations team providing fund accounting, custodial services and financial reporting for index equity and asset allocation portfolios. Ms. Cheng earned her B.A. in Economics and International Relations in 2009 from University of California, Davis.

Bryan Hasling, CFP, EASenior Financial Planner, JW Harrison

Bryan Hasling, CFP, is a certified financial planner and enjoys using his expertise to guide clients through their various financial topics, such as tax planning, investments, stock options, retirement, and more. Previously, he worked with firms in the Dallas-Ft Worth and Lubbock, TX areas, serving high net worth families and business owners. Mr. Hasling is Co-Director of his local chapter’s NexGen group within the Financial Planning Association – a group dedicated to helping young professionals with their personal growth and continuing education. Mr. Hasling attended Texas Tech University, receiving a degree in Personal Financial Planning and a minor in economics. In addition to his CFP® designation, Mr. Hasling also earned the IRS Enrolled Agent certification, which marks one of the highest degrees in tax education.

Jonathan Short, CMA, MBADirector of Revenue Management – Wine & Spirits, Constellation Brands

Jonathan Short joined Constellation Brands in 2008 to build out the company’s Grape Strategy capabilities. He was responsible for optimizing the $0.5 Billion spend on Constellation’s annual grape and bulk wine purchases and 12,000 acres of internally farmed fruit. Since 2014 Jon has worked in his current role where he manages pricing and promotional effectiveness for Constellation’s Wine & Spirits business. Mr. Short holds a B.A. in Economics from UCLA and an M.B.A. from UC Davis. He earned the Certified Management Accountant credential in 2016 and is the Director of Outreach for the San Francisco chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants.

Valerie Wong, MFinVice President, BlackRock

Valerie Wong, Vice President, is an Equity Index Strategist within BlackRock’s ETF and Index Investments group. Ms. Wong joined BlackRock from MSCI where she spent almost 8 years, most recently as a Senior Associate and part of the Index Client Coverage team supporting West Coast Asset Managers. Before MSCI, she served as a Financial Analyst at HSBC. She began her career as an Auditor at KPMG. Ms. Wong graduated Summa Cum Laude from the EGADE Business School (Tec de Monterey) with an MFin. She earned a B.Sc. in Accounting with a minor in Public Accounting and a B.A. in International Business with a minor in Economics from John Brown University. Ms. Wong passed Level II of the CFA Program.

Gene Yoshida, CFA, Senior Director of Enterprise Risk Management, Prosper Marketplace

Gene Yoshida is the Senior Director of Enterprise Risk Management at Prosper Marketplace and became a CFA charterholder in 2014.  Gene is a practitioner of operational, credit, and new product risk at the line and in an oversight capacity. Diverse background in asset management, insurance, real estate, and consumer finance.


Dave Kaczorowski, CFA, MBAProfessor of Finance & Program Manager, Golden Gate University

David Kaczorowski has experience in the finance industry that spans both academic and industry practice.  He is a Professor of Finance and Program Manager at Golden Gate University.  He has also worked in both equity research and portfolio management.  His most recent industry position was as lead manager of a startup family office. Prior to that position, he spent five years as an equity research associate, covering technology companies.  Dave has both a CFA charter and an MBA in Investment Management from Yale University.


$15 Member/$25 Non-Member

This event qualifies for 1.5 hours of continuing education credit for CFA Charterholders.

*Lunch Provided.

Register Now >>

Looking at Risk Tolerance after the February 2018 Market Plunge–7 Tips to Lower Blood Pressure

After last week’s stock market drop, it’s fair to say that a few panicked emails landed in the in-boxes of financial planners and finance professionals. The writers of these emails may not have realized that their tolerance for risk was not what they thought it was, lulled by a multiyear bull market or an inadequate planning session with their advisors. For professional advisors, a more realistic determination of how much risk an investor can tolerate before a downturn can lighten their inboxes if the market dives and perhaps even prevent a few client defections.

“During stable moments in the market, you might say: I can tolerate X amount of risk,” says GGU Adjunct Professor of Behavioral Finance Richard H. Lehman. “They think they knew their tolerance for risk and then all of a sudden they are confronted with a 5 or 10 percent decline, and it is not always easy for them. They don’t know if there is another 10 percent drop coming or what’s next. Recency bias – a tendency for people to assume things will continue as they are – makes the drops even more shocking.”

A process for determining risk-tolerance that works a lot better than simplistic client surveys is needed. Says Lehman: “The advisor needs to be able to assess their clients psychologically in a way that clients cannot effectively do themselves. You cannot just ask people directly about their risk tolerance because it is a concept most people cannot articulate well.”

The Problem & Challenge

Advisory practices have by and large failed to take advantage of what academia now knows about financial behavior and the psychology of financial decision-making. The basic role of the advisor is to help tailor a financial plan and strategy for each client. The implicit assumption is that to do that, they need to fully understand the client’s risk tolerance, goals, and objectives — which is essentially their legal requirement as fiduciaries.

“The advisor needs to be able to assess their clients psychologically in a way that clients cannot effectively do themselves. You cannot just ask people directly about their risk tolerance, as it is a concept most people cannot articulate well.”

Lehman knows first-hand how challenging it has been to get the financial industry to embrace behavioral concepts. When he was at the NYSE more than 30 years ago, he managed a major study of investors that showed how psychographics are integral to the investing process. Like proper capitalists, however, Wall Street denizens couldn’t see much further than how much money their clients had to invest. The NYSE study told another story, though the results were way ahead of the industry’s thinking.

The challenge to make change happen brought him to roles as an author, teacher, blogger, and conference organizer. In 2013, he teamed up with a technical analysis and behavioral finance legend, GGU’s Hank Pruden, to create the Behavioral Finance Symposium. At the time, it was a new discipline with few courses available and almost no industry-targeted events. The Symposium, a first-of-its-kind, has been successfully held at GGU every year since.

How do you determine the real risk tolerance of an investing client?

How can Behavior Finance help clients (and their advisors) better understand their own risk comfort so that blood pressures don’t spike when the market goes down? Here are some of Lehman’s insights on risk tolerance that are part of his Behavioral Finance course at GGU’s San Francisco campus.

Differentiate risk, volatility, ambiguity, and loss.

Richard Lehman

People have misconceptions about the concepts of risk, volatility, loss, and ambiguity, frequently assuming they are all the same. They don’t fully understand risk (the potential for negative returns) versus volatility (the dynamics of up-and-down movement) and loss (the actualization of a negative return). Ambiguity is the sense of how much uncertainty one can deal with in terms of future returns.

Prospect Theory teaches us that when we evaluate the probability something is going to happen, we do it in biased ways. For example, consider the probability of a major earthquake in the Bay Area. It is so small on a daily basis that most people think it is essentially zero–but it is a finite number. On the other extreme, people overestimate the probabilities of winning the lottery, where the chances are infinitesimal–but people are willing to bet that it’s greater. Prospect theory also tells us that losing X amount of money feels roughly twice as bad as the pleasure of gaining the same amount of money. Understanding such ideas leads to much more realistic assessments of risk and reward.

Don’t sugar coat risk.

Even bonds can blow up, and people need to understand that. They also need to understand that occasionally companies do go bankrupt. It is better to understand and plan for risk than to be blindsided by it later.

Consider scenarios.

Investors need to appreciate all possible scenarios and plan ahead for how they might deal with them. For example, before the recent decline, people should have already had an idea what they might do in the event of a 10% decline.

Lehman knows first-hand how challenging it has been to get the financial industry to embrace behavioral concepts. When he was at the NYSE more than 30 years ago, he managed a major study of investors that showed even then how psychographics are integral to the investing process.

Examine trade-offs.

Investment choices produce numerous trade-offs between risk and return. Examining alternatives works well as a way of developing a portfolio that one is comfortable with. For example, you can construct model portfolios with various different asset classes and easily backtest them to see how they performed in historical periods.

Recognize downsides as well as upsides.

Clients will tend to focus on upside potential more than downside risk. It is important to change the focus to risk-reward or risk-adjusted return so that both are given proper emphasis.

Understand reference points.

A fundamental tenet of Prospect Theory, which informs much of Behavioral Finance, is that when we evaluate possible outcomes, we do it differently because we each have different reference points. When you are young, a $10K loss has much more impact than to a 50 or 60-year-old. Also, people who experienced a big negative impact from the financial events of 2008 are more sensitive to current risk than people who are older and who have seen several downturns. There are studies that indicate differing risk attitudes in different countries as well. Some Asian cultures, for example, will characteristically tolerate more or less financial risk than US investors. Investors in China, for example, exhibit a greater tendency to speculate; while Japanese investors are more risk-averse.

Consider Interactive games for assessing risk

A standout from the 2017 Behavioral Finance Symposium was Dr. Shachar Kariv, a well-known UC Berkeley Economics Professor and experimental researcher. He argues that interactive methods of assessing one’s risk tolerance represent a substantial improvement over classic risk surveys. Dr. Kariv shows that a simple computer game can reveal clients’ attitudes about risk much more scientifically than simply asking what they think they are. A company called TrueProfile is already using Dr. Kariv’s ideas in its profiling service.

More to be done

Lehman has made progress as an educator and continues to work at connecting industry with academia on the subject of Behavioral Finance. In recent years, more Nobel Prize winners in Economics (such as Yale’s Robert Shiller and University of Chicago’s Richard Thaler) are providing more visibility and acceptance of Behavioral Economics. However, Lehman says: “Human nature is very hard to change, and that will continue to challenge both investors and the financial industry for a very long time.”

About Richard Lehman

Richard Lehman has more than 30 years of experience in the financial industry, including eleven years on Wall Street with EF Hutton and the New York Stock Exchange. He later worked for financial data giant Thomson Reuters, startup Avenue Technologies, and the Wealth Management group at Mechanics Bank. Lehman has authored three financial books published through Bloomberg/Wiley and has been teaching Behavioral Finance and Options courses for three years at Golden Gate University. He is also the founder of the website and the San Francisco Behavioral Finance Symposium.

Seven Specific Strategies to Treat Your Career like a Business — and Make it Big!

Terry Connely, a former GGU Ageno School of Business Dean reflects on his first-hand knowledge of what works to achieve success. He says that some ideas may seem counterintuitive, but winning strategies always depend on demonstrating distinctive competence: “To be outstanding, don’t fear to stand out – even if that sometimes means going against the grain.”

1. Strive to make a difference.

Always aim high–even “to change the world,” to borrow the cliché. At the very least, strive to change “your professional world” for the better! Put another way, consider it a core goal of yours in any organization, job or meeting, to make a difference because you are there — to leave the situation better than what you found at the start. When you think about it, why else do anything? When you are in your office or cubicle or shared space, ask yourself this question every day: “What is the difference between me and a potted plant”? (This challenge works particularly well in boring meetings.) Never waste an opportunity to make a difference.) And remember: “good enough” is not.

2. Have a Strategy

Plan your career strategy as if it were a business strategy. Identify your “distinctive competence” (What am I really good at doing that I love doing, and want to build on to separate myself from the crowd?). Make it the centerpiece of what you seek to do, and how you can expand your capabilities from that base.

Do your own SWOT Analysis about your existing strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats in your career “market.” Do a Scenario Analysis of that market and the world around it anywhere from three three-to-five years out, and identify the likely “Change Drivers” and Key Issues that will most affect your success in any of the scenarios you foresee. Review and revise along the way. And always make sure the career steps you take have Strategic Fit with one another (that they are not contradictory) and with your distinctive competence. Set your priorities once you have set your strategy and stick to them – no flinching!

Do your own SWOT Analysis

3. Sideways Leads Up!

Manage your working relationships sideways, not just up and down the ladder. It’s not just a case of who you work for and who works for you. Reporting lines do not solely, or even primarily, define your “lane.” Your lateral relationships will provide the most telling feedback – if you ask, and listen. This is especially true of a workplace featuring “360 degree” performance reviews. Get out ahead of those reviews by keeping in touch with colleagues who are not in your direct chain of command. This is particularly useful in workplaces where there are known rumor mills or cultures like the Navy where everyone expected to “get the word” even if it is not written down. Remember, your peers may well be around longer than your first boss.

4. Do not slavishly target compensation as your benchmark of progress.

The larger the organization is, the more likely that its compensation incentives and plans will lag its strategic intentions. People that have climbed the ranks fight to keep the incentive structures that rewarded them in the past, and only give lip service to new strategies, but in the current strategy.

Even if the current strategy doesn’t seem to be changing soon, work in anticipation of a new strategy and the pay will catch up if you excel. Do not slavishly target compensation as your benchmark of progress toward leadership roles. Your best career advancement choices may be counterintuitive from a pay point of view in the short- or even medium-term. Identify yourself as a supporter of pay for performance, but be sure there is an appropriate definition of performance. Don’t gossip about pay, and don’t argue about pay with your boss unless you are comfortable leaving the job. Concentrate on making yourself useful — then, indispensable! Then you won’t have to argue about pay.

Your best career advancement choices may be counterintuitive from a pay point of view.

5. Think more about the business than your job.

Think more about the business than your job. The corollary is to choose to work in a business that you enjoy thinking about! Cultivate abroad perspective on your enterprise whether for-profit or non-profit. Immerse yourself in understanding its strategy, and even offer considered thoughts about it may be working well or whether there is a better approach than what you see. Listen to your peers because the best ideas come from their perspectives, not just yours

6. Form your own Board of Advisors.

A “Board of Advisors” is a group of people who are familiar enough with you and your competencies, and who will give advice to you in a constructive and straightforward manner. Anyone can profit from such a Kitchen Cabinet, which can be comprised of friends inside and outside your firm, executive search contacts, former classmates and colleagues, relatives, former teachers and even financial advisors or ministers. Some folks just know us better than we do – get to know them, take them into your confidence; and, if you trust them, listen

7. Be willing to go abroad.

Look to broaden your experience, including geographically: try not to look askance at an overseas posting or an inconvenient move – but get something in exchange for the extra burdens. At the very least, be sure you have a fair and reasonable expat financial and support package if you are being asked to move your family abroad. Domestically, you should be fairly supported financially in terms of the cost of moving, and do not accept that getting a promotion is sufficient. But by all means get the promotion, too. Be sure that you do not, however, link your career while it is on the way up with a new location that is on its way down, unless it is to be your job to turn the satiation around and you are not being set up to fail or provided insufficient resources to succeed.

More About Terry Connelly

terry-connellyTerry Connelly is an economic expert and Dean Emeritus of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University. With more than 30 years experience in investment banking, law and corporate strategy on Wall Street and abroad, Connelly analyses the impact of government politics and policies on local, national and international economies, examining the interaction of global financial markets, the U.S. banking industry (and all of its regulatory agencies), the Federal Reserve, domestic employment levels and consumer reactions to the changing economic tides. He holds a law degree from NYU School of Law and his professional history includes positions with Ernst & Young Australia, the Queensland University of Technology Graduate School of Business, New York law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore (corporate, securities and litigation practice in New York and London), global chief of staff at Salomon Brothers investment banking firm and Cowen & Company’s investments, where he served as CEO. In conjunction with past Golden Gate University President Dan Angel, Connelly co-authored Riptide: The New Normal In Higher Education (2011). Riptide deconstructs the changing landscape of higher education in the face of the for-profit debacle, graduation gridlock, and staggering student debt, and asserts a new, sustainable model for progress. He is a board member of the Public Religion Research Institute, a Washington, DC think tank and polling organization, and the Cardiac Therapy Foundation in Palo Alto, California. Connelly lives in Palo Alto with his wife.

Request information about GGU’s advanced degrees in business >>





Small Business Expert Leads Entrepreneurial Workshop Program at San Francisco Campus

“At GGU, we successfully train students in business,” says entrepreneurial expert Robert Shoffner, MBA, “but that doesn’t mean that they will be working at a company at all times.” He notes that trends indicate that 80% of US workers will be “entrepreneurs” at some point in their careers, and will have exhibit creativity, drive, and risk-tolerance to start a business successfully. As the new Director of the 10-week Small Business Program that revs up this April, Shoffner’s goal is to take students from concept to blast-off over the course of 12 months.  After classroom work, they will be paired with a mentor to help them move forward.

Like most GGU instructors, Shoffner leverages his real-time professional experience along with his prior teaching experience (over 3 years at GGU). As the current leader of the Small Business Development Center in San Mateo, he oversaw access to capital of $10.5 million in 2017. Shoffner grew into a champion of entrepreneurs when he worked in commercial lending and saw small businesses grow – including a small pizza place that became a San Francisco Bay Area chain. Shoffner notes that government statistics show that small businesses are a powerful engine of job growth — accounting for 50% of private sector jobs. (His banking and finance career eventually led him to the position of West Coast President for Citibank.)

Apply Now to the Small Business Program Now

Send a brief email outlining your business, resources, experience, and commitment to Applications are due by March 17, 2018. Classes start April 7.
There is no enrollment fee due to a generous grant by Chevron.

About the Workshop

Although tech startups are part of the GGU teaching and learning ecosystem, this entrepreneurial course is geared for any kind of business – from law practices, to marketing consultancies, to restaurants. The breadth of student backgrounds provides a vibrant laboratory for developing business plans. The learning model is built on Shoffner’s multiple years of consulting experience and group process that results in actionable business plans. Successful entrepreneurs from the GGU alumni community will visit classes to discuss how they started their businesses.

What it Takes to Be an Entrepreneur

“The entrepreneurial mindset is a desire to take risks, work long hours, and be creative. Creativity can be the trigger for starting a business,” he says. As an example of creativity, he mentions an entrepreneur whose book describes lessons from his Uncle Cleave: a slave that transformed forced-labor ice delivery into his own business. Does Shoffner’s own family legacy – his grandfather filled a seat formerly occupied by Louis Armstrong in King Oliver’s seminal Jazz band – give him an ear for creative endeavors? “To look at a business and say ‘I created that’ is very satisfying for many people.”

More about the Small Business Program…


– 10-weeks
– Convenient Saturday meetings
– Completion of a business plan
– Pairing with a mentor
– Abundant networking opportunities
– Instruction by faculty / alumni with their own businessesQuestions? Write


Taxation Graduate Spotlight: How Their Education Helps Them on the Job

Golden Gate University is 100% focused on giving students the skills and opportunities they need to advance their careers. This short video (4:53) features alumni who are working in IT consulting, forensic accounting, and auditing. All graduates of the Master’s of Science in Taxation program, they are asked how their education helps them on the job. Learning how to interview, conduct deep research, and communicate effectively are the key themes of the video. The advanced degree also provided them access to high levels of their organizations and provide services for local companies with a worldwide impact.

We invite you to build your career by requesting information about taxation degrees and courses.

Reasons for Career Change are Varied and Individual

By Wendy McWilliams
Intern, GGU Office of Career Planning


mcwilliams-project-manager-womenAs I approach my final semester of graduate school, the first major step in a total career change, it is fairly common for me to hear comments like, “Soon you’ll be making back all of that money you spent on college!” or something else implying that my motivation to pursue a Counseling master’s degree in my 40s was to increase my earnings potential. Ironically, my future vocation as a career counselor promises about half the salary of my former role as a software project manager (based on national averages.) I clearly have motivations other than money!

As a budding career counselor, the idea of what determines happiness and success in our professional lives is a favorite topic of discussion and reflection. In my case, being a stay-at-home mom put me back in touch with my core beliefs and aspirations while giving me the perspective to reflect on what wasn’t working for me as a project manager. While my decision was based mostly on strengths and values realignment, below are some additional reasons for changing careers. If any of these strike a chord, it may be time for some career reevaluation.

You want to work with your strengths (or at least not with your weaknesses!)

In my previous career, many of my natural strengths were utilized. I’m a planner who’s good at keeping the end goal in view. I’m skilled at building consensus, and I learned how to get up to speed quickly and be adept at changing direction. But, one of my core strengths, empathy, was left sitting on the shelf. I tended to be the one who knew if a layoff was coming or if somebody was about to quit or even if they’d had a bad weekend. While an interesting perspective, that quality did not help me do my job better. I am also methodical by nature preferring to take my time before committing to a direction. Yet, working in tech companies required me to constantly operate in a fast-paced manner. While we all can learn to work and even thrive in environments which are not optimal for us, not exercising your best traits, or being forced to lean on your weaker ones, can feel like using your left hand all the time when you are actually right-handed.

You want to work at a job or company that reflects your values.

According to the Barrett Values Centre, “values are the energetic drivers of our aspirations and intentions.” Values are our compass. If you spend the majority of your waking hours working in conflict with your values, it can feel as if you’re being pulled in different directions. For instance, you may be a staunch advocate of recycling and reuse but your job as a corporate event planner results in massive amounts of material waste. You try to take home all of the water bottles, pads of paper and drop off the leftover lanyards to your local reuse center, but it simply is too much.

While it can be frightening to consider making a change, this is the only life you have.

You are looking for a better salary or more advancement opportunities.

In some careers, there is only so far you can grow or advance before you have tapped out. Being bored at work can make the days go by like a snail crossing a gravel road every day (slow and painful). Or, possibly you need/want to increase your earnings potential. While big salaries are tempting, be wary of making compromises in other important areas, such as strengths or values, which may create job dissatisfaction later. A good fit is always important.

Your personal life circumstances change.

You’ve been laid off. You’re newly divorced and can move anywhere you want. Your kids have graduated from college and you no longer have to pay tuition. Your student loan is finally paid off. You survived a major accident or illness and your outlook on life has changed radically. Life is dynamic, ever-changing, but has your career kept up with your life? Maybe life has just handed you the opportunity you need to make a major change. Think about it…

You’re burned out.

You have been a television producer for a major news network for 25 years. You are at the top of your game. Your salary is great, your assignments are great, but the thought of working in the same job for another 15 years makes you want to pull the blankets over your head and hide. For many people, there is a point where we need something different no matter how good or successful we are at our current job. Sometimes it can be a readjustment of your current circumstances like a new location or a new company. And sometimes a major overhaul is needed.

Being a stay-at-home mom put me back in touch with my core beliefs and aspirations while giving me the perspective to reflect on what wasn’t working for me as a project manager.

You’ve changed your mind.

So, you’ve been an accountant for five years and it has been fine. You’re doing well, but you’ve never forgotten that job offer from your college roommate when she started her own company. Now her start-up has received a second round of funding and is going strong. You know the offer is still out there. Maybe you could try something else. You can always go back to accounting. Or your volunteer job leading backpacking trips is starting to become more real. Could you do it for a living? Maybe. Go find out. There is never any harm in exploring possibilities, and you can always decide to stay where you are. Remember. If you’re questioning your career now, you probably will do so in the future. Many of us think we are “stuck” without any chance of changing. While it can be frightening to consider making a change, this is the only life you have. Take control of it and help yourself out. You might be surprised what you come up with.

Having the benefit of a professional career advisor can help the process feel less overwhelming. GGU offers free career advising for students and alumni, so take advantage and make an appointment on GGUCareers.

Wendy McWilliams is completing her Master’s in Counseling with a Career focus at Saint Mary’s College of California. She worked as a software project manager for 15 years for a variety of Bay Area companies, was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years, and is looking forward to embarking on a new adventure as a Career Counselor. Email Wendy >> 

Data Analytics Skills for Business People: Video Interview with Dr. Judy Lee

Dr. Judy Lee, Chair of the new master’s degree in business analytics program, was interviewed this month at the 21st Cloud Expo in the Silicon Valley. She has spent the majority of her career in IT and software product engineering in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In this short video, she talks about GGU’s business analytics curriculum that provides foundational knowledge and also “branches out into the specific tool-sets [business people] are going to need and ties them to the business experience.”

Request information about GGU’s MS in Business Analytics >>