Learning with Accomplished Peers: The MBA Cohort Experience (Video)

Katharine Grimmer earned her MBA (’12) as part of a cohort: a group of students who journey through a degree program together. In this short video, Grimmer describes her cohort as “a group of smart, driven individuals..from different backgrounds and career areas.” Grimmer sites collaborating with peers outside her chosen field of biotech — and small class sizes — as instrumental in her education. Cohort-style learning also helped inform and inspire the launch of her entrepreneurial product, Lotus Rx Hair Solution.

Because Grimmer was working full time while pursuing an MBA, she chose to blend in-person cohort learning with online classes. GGU is nationally recognized as the #1 college for adult learners because it offers students like her the flexibility they need.

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Big Data & Brontobytes: Business Development Professional Speaks to Advanced Math Students

The “brontobyte” is not the world’s biggest dinosaur – as big as 12 African Elephants—that was discovered this year in Argentina — but a new unit of data measurement representing 1027 bytes. As Jerry Chang, Director, of Business Development at Mercury Systems explained to Dr. Cang Nguyen’s (DBA ’13) Statistics class said, this number represents the challenge and opportunity of Big Data for today’s businesses.

“In the age of inter-office print memos, we needed more information to make a sound business decision; now, however, in the age of Information Superhighway, we have too much,” said Chang. “The companies who learned how to analyze this information effectively will have significant competitive advantages; and so are the students who learn the critical thinking and data analytical skills through the courses offered at GGU.”

“…managers heavily depend on data and make decisions based on the data; but when setting the future for the company, visionary leaders often look beyond the data!”

Dr. Nguyen, himself a graduate of the DBA program at GGU, invited Chang to show students how decisions are made using Big Data in real-world situations.  Chang cited 1-to-1 marketing as a way how business leverages Big Data. Companies strive to know what consumers want, when they want it, and how much they are willing to pay for it. Instead of focusing on mass market, business is now able to personalize and contextualize the individual market in anticipating focused prospects’ needs. Chang recalled a situation where he hoped that Google could figure out where he may need to buy an umbrella in anticipation during his travel to a new city with an upcoming shower rain.

Dr. Cang reported to Chang for 14 years at Microsemi Corporation – a company that provides semiconductor and system solutions government and industrial markets. Working in both R&D engineering and business development, Cang analyzed large data sets to identify the best possible product positioning and competitive advantages. Based on these data-driven decisions, Microsemi was able to design better products and create optimal product roadmaps.

Trends and the Future

Rather than looking back, as does the paleontologist, business people must have their eyes on the future. As Chang shared, “success in business goes beyond harnessing Big Data and has to do with having a vision of the future like Steve Jobs had. In daily business practices, managers heavily depend on data and make decisions based on the data; but when setting the future for the company, visionary leaders often look beyond the data!”

Request information about data analytics programs and concentrations >>

“More than Just Theory”: MBA Graduate and Board Member Scot Ferrell

Scot Ferrell, FBCI, CBCP is a graduate of GGU (MBA ’88, Finance) and also serves on its Board of Directors. Based in San Francisco, he has held management positions at EY and Gap, Inc. and is currently Managing Director at Marsh Risk Consulting’s (MRC) within its Risk Consulting Practice. Over 600 organizations have benefited from Ferrell’s assistance in development of their risk management programs.

In this short video, Ferrell discusses his experience in the MBA program and what makes GGU different. “One of the things that I love about GGU is that the classes are taught by business professionals,” he says. “It’s more than just the theory. Theory is great but they teach you what you need to know–for example, how to close a deal or communicate effectively.”

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From Biotech Expert to Entrepreneur: An MBA at GGU Story

Katharine Grimmer (MBA ’12) wanted to move up to the next role in management in biotech, a field that she was in for 16 years. At GGU, she says that she was able to apply what she learned right away in her job from courses in marketing, supply chain management, and finance. GGU is nationally recognized for the kind of education that brings adult professionals the best of academic and real-world insights from its faculty–and it paid off for Grimmer.

Grimmer had been pondering an entrepreneurial idea for some time. Encouraged by a finance professor to pursue her dream, she launched a hair care product for those suffering from dandruff and scalp discomfort brought on by chemotherapy (so-called Chemo-cap).

Boasting literacy in both pharmaceutical drug development and financial terminology from the MBA program, she was able to pitch her idea to funders with confidence and greater impact.

The chemo-cap treatment developed as a remedy for her mother who was suffering this side effect while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. “By reducing itching, inflammation, and flaking, it  gives patients back a little bit of ‘normal’ in a uniquely abnormal situation.” Grimmer has also experienced dandruff her entire life which served as additional motivation.

Boasting literacy in both pharmaceutical drug development and financial terminology from the MBA program, she was able to pitch her idea to funders with confidence and greater impact.

Lotus Rx Hair Solution launched in 2016, and she is now crowdfunding the next iteration of the formula and to raise funds for the Lotus Rx Cancer Connect Initiative. You can support Grimmer at iFund Women.

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GGU’s Women in Leadership Series and Why It Matters

By Marianne Koch, PhD
Associate Dean, Ageno School of Business

We believe that GGU’s annual Women in Leadership event is valuable for women in the San Francisco Bay area at the start of careers in business, law, or entrepreneurship. Open both to the GGU community and the public, this event gives attendees the chance to learn directly from real-world experiences of highly successful and entrepreneurial women.

Marianne Koch

Held in the evening, the Women in Leadership event includes Q&A with panelists, networking with old friends and new acquaintances, and food and drink.  Since its launch five years ago, panelists and moderators – most of whom are GGU alumnae – have included executive-level women from Franklin Templeton Investments, Sequoia Capital, Salesforce, and Yahoo!; entrepreneurs from Lamano Law and Strategy Squad Insurance Services; and public servants from the SF Employees’ Retirement System, SF Child Support Services, and the State Board of Equalization.

This Year’s Event: Sharing Life and Career Experience

Last month, I moderated the fifth iteration of this event, which featured (pictured, left to right) Helen Fanucci, Global Windows Sales Leader, Microsoft Corporation; Nicole Middleton (MS, Financial Planning ’17), CEO of Strategy Squad Insurance Services, and Hazel Blackhart (JD ’08), Group Product Manager, Hematology at Genentech.

To get us started, I asked the panelists to tell us about some decisions they had made – both good and bad in terms of results – and what they learned from them. Their candid responses addressed the fallout from poorly timed decisions, finding the courage to take on assignments that they believed they weren’t quite ready for, and finding a trustworthy mentor who lit the path for them. From my place at the podium, I observed smiles, heads nodding in approval, and outbursts of applause of support from all.

Audience members took turns asking questions and sharing their perspectives on a host of topics related to women at work. Many questions were personal (“I’ve just been promoted to management and I have no role models; what do I do?”), or bold (“How do you deal with men coming on to you inappropriately at work?”). Audience comments were tremendously helpful and resources were shared as well. As in earlier years, the support and interest made for a useful and warm experience.

Women in Leadership organizers (left to right): Amina Kasumov (Enrollment Manager, GGU), Kendra Calvert (Director, Admissions, and Recruitment, GGU) and Marianne Koch.

Although growth in the number of women in leadership positions in the U.S. is extremely slow, events like these serve as a catalyst for that to change – and we are proud to be part of it.

Photo Credit: Jenny LeMaster

About Dr. Marianne Koch

Dr. Marianne Koch is an educator, human resources manager and consultant with experience in designing and delivering educational programs, and managing and consulting in the fields of human resource management and labor relations. She has worked in a variety of venues to help managers improve how they manage people at work, help organizations understand, clarify and improve practices for the management of people at work, and research and write about such issues as collaboration, work / family practices, and the relationship of human resource management practices to productivity. Dr. Koch is the Associate Dean of the Ageno School of Business, HR Program Director and also a Professor of Management.

International Graduate Students at GGU in San Francisco

In honor of International Education Week, we’d like to share the stories of students from overseas who are in graduate school at GGU’s San Francisco campus. Among the international students from over 46 countries are:

Tsovinar Yenokyan (MS, Marketing ’18), Armenia


Tsovinar has been driven to succeed from an early age. She started to work at age 16, which was not common in her native country of Armenia, and began what she calls her, “long-lasting relationship with marketing.” Two years later, she took a Brand Manager position at Starcom Mediavest in Armenia.

Each student has an advisor and mine has been helpful in answering questions about student Visas and my curriculum.

Tsovinar’s story >>

Jatin Jaiswal (MBA, Marketing Concentration ’17), India

Jatin made his way from India to Golden Gate University in part to take advantage of San Francisco’s innovative technology environment. He landed an internship at a local start-up called FinTech School where he applies skills he picked up at GGU such as SEO, email marketing, and social media. But he says a big part of his education has been learning how to collaborate with people with different backgrounds and personalities.

Steve Jobs said that people are there to help you and all you have to do is ask. In San Francisco, I had coffee with people from Salesforce just by writing them through LinkedIn.  You may not get a job, but it leads to the next thing.

Jatin’s story >>

Zhaoqian (Anna) Zeng (MBA, Supply Chain ’17), China

Zhaoqian (Anna) Zeng is from China where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Law from Shanghai’s Customs College. After working in import and export operations, she wanted to expand her career. Golden Gate University provided a very comprehensive program in Supply Chain that covered the aspects of operations she found the most interesting: strategy and tactical operations.

San Francisco is a very welcoming place and people from different cultures feel comfortable here. There are young, energetic people here who are absorbing new information every day. These are the reasons I want to stay here after I complete my degree.

Anna’s story >>

Hussain Aziz Sham (MS, Marketing ’19), India / Dubai

Hussain a member of the Student IT Advisory Board, a Graduate Student Assistant in the GGU eLearning Department, and Vice President of the GGU Marketing Club. The members of the club participated in the Marketing Edge competition this year, which challenges student teams to produce a marketing plan to solve a real marketing problem posed by a real company.


At GGU, you will have the chance to meet, collaborate and make friendship with students who come from all over the world – India, the Middle East, China, and others — and bring their unique experience into classroom discussions and projects.

Hussain’s story >>

Learn how GGU supports its international students from start to finish >>

Preparing for the CFA Exam and a Career in Finance: MSF Student Taylor Tsao

Taylor Tsao recently completed a year in the Financial Reporting & Accounting Services division at CalPERS — the largest public pension fund in the United States — and is taking online classes from Golden Gate University. A student in the Master of Science in Finance program with a concentration in Investment Management, he is preparing to take the first of three CFA exams this December.

Tsao says that the Master of Science in Finance program’s recent admission to the CFA Institute University Affiliation Program is important to him. “It shows that what we study aligns with the CFA exam curriculum,” he says. “For example, the Corporate Finance course that I took with Dr. Andrea Anthony covered most of the Corporate Finance topic material from the CFA exam and also went into greater detail.”

Students in Dr. Anthony’s class were challenged to fully analyze a fictitious company by using its financial statements to forecast future cash flows and give a recommendation based on the data. “Not all of the assignment skills are covered on the CFA exams, but they will be very important to succeed in finance, such as determining a company’s intrinsic value.”

At a modest-sized University like GGU, Tsao says he gets more personal attention and that faculty members are always very responsive online. For example, Finance Professor David Kaczorowski helped Tsao get a scholarship for a discount on the price of the CFA Exam as well as a discount on the CFA Society of San Francisco’s review that comes with the CFA Institute University Affiliation Program.

I started to explore GGU for a master’s degree in finance because of their great reputation in the fields of tax and accounting. Networking-wise, there are a lot of opportunities with fellow students and employers because of GGU’s location within San Francisco’s Financial District.

This is not Tsao’s first career transition. After graduating college with a degree in accounting, Tsao went to work for his family business for several years—handling their accounting records and running day-to-day operations.  Studying at GGU, Tsao is hoping to streamline his entrance into a new field and aspires to work on the investment side of CalPERS as an analyst and hopefully one day as a fund manager.

Related post: Career and Educational Paths in Finance: An interview with Professor David Kaczorowski

Women in Leadership’s Tradition of Excellence Continues

Now entering its 5th year, GGU’s Women in Leadership event has attracted successful panelists who have launched businesses or are prominent at corporations, nonprofits, and law firms. The 2016 event was no different and featured alumnae (pictured below, left to right) Givelle Lamano (JD ’10), Attorney at Lamano Law Offices; Sofia Tulchinsky (MBA ’96), Senior Director Global Business Planning & Strategy at Salesforce; and Susan Lovegren (MS, Human Resource Management ’86), Chief People Officer at AppDynamics.

2016 Alumnae Panelists

The 2016 event was hosted by Dr. Marianne Koch who is Associate Dean of GGU’s Ageno School of Business, HR Program Director, and a Professor of Management. Dr. Koch began the session by posing a single question to the three GGU alumnae: What choices did you have to make to get where you are today? The answers touched on themes such as their career paths and accomplishments; challenges and solutions specific to women; networking; and the link between personal and professional development.

Last year’s event drew 175 attendees from the GGU community and beyond. If you want to see more of what you can expect at this year’s Women in Leadership Event, we invite you to watch the video of the 2016 event.

The 5th Annual Women in Leadership Event Is on October 25th!

Attendees of this year’s event can expect another group of accomplished women who will share real-world advice based on their personal and professional journeys. The event is open to the GGU community and the public. Admission to this event is free and refreshments will be provided. We also invite you to take advantage of networking before and after the panel.

2017 Women in Leadership Panelists

Helen Fanucci, Global Windows Sales Leader, Microsoft Corporation

Hazel Blackhart (JD ’08), Group Product Manager, Hematology Franchise Communications, Operations and Alliance Strategy, Genentech, Inc.

Nicole Middleton (MS FIPL ’17), Chief Executive Officer
Strategy Squad Insurance Services

Event Details & Free Registration

Date: October 25, 2017
Time: 5:30 – 8 p.m.
Location: Golden Gate University, San Francisco [directions]


5:30 – 6:30 pm — Registration begins / networking
6:30 – 7:30 pm — Panel discussion and Q&A
7:30 – 8:00 pm — Post-panel networking

For more information about this event, please visit www.ggu.edu/women-in-leadership.

Get updates and share with friends: #GGUWomen.

Related GGU Blog Post: My Advice for Women in Business: Know What You Want and Ask for It! by Helen Fanucci, ‎Global Windows Sales and Digital Transformation Leader at ‎Microsoft.

All photos above by Jenny LeMaster.

What Is the Best Executive MBA Program for Me?

By Terry Connelly, Dean Emeritus of the Ageno School of Business

Choosing an Executive MBA (EMBA) program turns out to a “multiple choice” question – and a good one. EMBA programs are offered in multiple shapes and sizes, in large universities and small, private and public, non-profit and for-profit, distinguished and ‘not so much’, in-person, online and hybrid – with variable lengths and depths, with little or substantial travel commitments, domestic and overseas or both, expensive and more expensive.

Making the right choice would seem to require an MBA degree in and of itself, in only to sift through all the marketing claims focused on convincing you why each program is “just right for you”!

What does “Executive” really mean?

Let’s instead start with a simple matter of definition – not of the “MBA” part at first, but rather of the key term: “Executive.” Too many prospective students associate that word with an idea of a sort of mid-career shortcut to a Master’s of Business degree that will help them climb to the next, narrower zone up on their career path. They confuse the Executive MBA with something like an “Executive” Golf Course designed for less-experienced (talented?) players. If that’s what you’re looking for in an EMBA program, you know one thing for sure: you’re not ready to pursue an EMBA!

The right understanding of the “Executive” aspect requires a focus on two factors: the folks who will be accepted as your classmate, and a level of effort expectations – of both your fellow students and the teaching faculty – that is commensurate with the knowledge leverage that assures that the “MBA”-part of the program provides for real career advancement.

The term “Executive” envisions a level of responsibility that goes beyond mere management of enterprise affairs to the ability to provide leadership in those affairs.

Learning from Peers

In the right Executive MBA program, you should expect to learn not just from a faculty that has more real-world experience than you have accumulated, but also from your fellow students, whose experience, taken as a whole, should have business knowledge on par with your own. And you should also be prepared to contribute your fair share of challenging, questioning and probing insights as part of the program – or again, you are not ready for a real EMBA!

The right school will select a class by making their admissions criteria clear, compelling and challenging. Years of managerial experience will be important but the most important factor should be ready for leadership roles, as certified by employers. Look favorably on EMBA programs that interview all applicants
that you will interact with and learn from. GGU students tend to be older, so you will most likely find a cohort of individuals who have accrued a certain amount of experience and success.

Look for Road-Tested Faculty

The best Executive MBA programs are ones in which you should expect to learn not just from a faculty that has more experience in enterprise (for-profit or non-profit, governmental or NGO) than you have, rather than just academic pedigrees. Whether full-time professors or part-time adjuncts, they should show a record of leadership involvement that, in stock-trading parlance, would be an “up-tick” to yours and your classmates. If not, give their EMBA program an “Incomplete” grade and look elsewhere. Since the first job of a leader is “define the reality” that your enterprise confronts, you can only learn this skill from real-world sources.

You are far more likely to find the business experience so critical to a good EMBA faculty in a private rather than a public institution, which must prioritize its tenured faculty privileges. All the better if it’s a non-profit school so that your place as a student is not outranked as a priority by the shareholders and the marketing directors.

In the right Executive MBA program, you should expect to learn not just from a faculty that has more real-world experience than you have accumulated, but also from your fellow students, whose experience, taken as a whole, should have business knowledge on par with your own.

Finally, look for diversity in both your classmates and the faculty, in terms of experience, background, race, ethnicity, and gender – as well as foreign as well as domestic home bases. Again, this will help you define reality in the future.

Location, Location, Location

When all the above boxes are checked favorably in your search for the best EMBA program, you may be surprised to find it closer to home or your job than you expected – maybe even near a public transit hub with good nourishment sites around in the neighborhood. You are going to spend many intense hours at school and you don’t want to add any more time getting fed or to and from your destination!


Check to see if the EMBA program itself integrates real-world, present tense problems into the curriculum. You and your classmates will savor the chance to put theory into practice on actual enterprise challenges that have yet to find a solution. The best EMBA programs will readily find enterprises willing to share these opportunities for problem-solving with their students, precisely because those programs will have earned a reputation for being a “cut above” than the others in terms of students, faculty, and ingenuity! And a “cut above” is what you want to be when you get your EMBA, isn’t it?

About Terry Connelly

Terry 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, Terry 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. Terry 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 Golden Gate University President Dan Angel, Terry 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. Terry is a board member of the the Public Religion Research Institute, a Washington, DC think tank and polling organization, and the Cardiac Therapy Foundation in Palo Alto, California. Terry lives in Palo Alto with his wife.

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Learning from – and for – the Real World

by Amina Kasumov (MBA ’16)

I enrolled in Golden Gate University in April of 2014 with the hopes of obtaining my Master of Business Administration degree. I’m proud to say that as of April 2016 I am a Golden Gate University MBA graduate. In my time at GGU, I was able to explore many different facets of business through the diverse curriculum of the program, which gave me a well-rounded perspective on how to succeed in the real-world of business.

Though I obtained a great deal of value from all of the classes I was a part of and from the instructors that I was fortunate enough to be taught by, one class greatly resonated with me. In the fall term of 2015, I was part of a Management Leadership course taught by Professor Jeffrey Yergler. One of the learning outcomes of this course was to be able to “evaluate, support, and cultivate effective leadership approaches in organizational setting.” I recall one assignment where we were tasked with evaluating the significance of leading by example, and examining the approaches taken by certain companies in the process. For this assignment, I wrote about the importance of developing practices and maintaining a company culture that is consistent with the organization’s core values. I also reflected on the importance of leading by example, ensuring that values and actions were consistent from leadership to the lower ranks.

I was able to explore many different facets of business through the diverse curriculum of the program, which gave me a well-rounded perspective on how to succeed in the real-world of business.

The appointment of Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, serves as a recent example of these issues. In the article that I saw in Recode,  he admitted that after over 12 years of being a CEO for Expedia, transitioning to this new appointment was a tough decision. He was also quoted saying: “I have to tell you I am scared.” What does this transparent response say about him as a leader? A frequently quoted management consultant, Peter Shaehan, explains that, “if you want a culture of creativity and innovation, where sensible risks are embraced on both a market and individual level, start by developing the ability of managers to cultivate an openness to vulnerability in their teams.” The tone that Khosrowshahi is setting in this early stage is already vastly different from what the company experienced with the previous CEO. It may be too early to tell what this new appointment will do for the company, but it seems that he is starting off on the right foot.

In the Management Leadership class, we also focused on similar hot topics in the news such as an article in the NY Times at the time about Amazon being a “bruising workplace,”  and participated in robust discussions about them. With students from different countries, different industries, and different levels of professional experience, we heard various perspectives on issues like these. One of my favorite things about this class experience was the insightful conversations that took place among the classmates. GGU’s diverse student body presents an opportunity for students to not only learn from the professors, but also gain valuable knowledge from the perspectives of their peers.

When I read about CEOs of world-renowned corporations stepping down or being scrutinized, or of decisions made by those in political leadership roles, I consider the classroom discussions that these events would inspire. I wouldn’t have been as able to assess these events the way I do today without the knowledge I gained in this course.

Another thing I appreciated about the classroom experience at GGU is how the courses are developed to provide valuable knowledge that can be applied to the real-world by evaluating real-world examples such as Uber and Amazon. In this class, many of our conversations were around the actions of CEO’s and other C-level executives of well-known companies—such as Toyota, Johnson & Johnson, GE and many others—and applying the theories we were learning directly to these examples.

Having completed my degree, I often think back on some of the conversations that took place in the classroom. When I read about CEOs of world-renowned corporations stepping down or being scrutinized, or of decisions made by those in political leadership roles, I consider the classroom discussions that these events would inspire. I wouldn’t have been as able to assess these events the way I do today without the knowledge I gained in this course.”

Dr. Jeffrey Yergler on the Management Leadership Course
“This course offers a unique approach to understanding who the leader is, the practice of leadership, and the impact of leadership on people and performance. By examining a number of leadership approaches, students are able gain specialized knowledge not only about which leadership approach would work best in a particular organizational setting but also the degree to which a particular leadership approach would be an excellent match for the student’s own exercise of leadership in their respective organizations.”

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