Personal Career Strategy: Hitchhiking to My Destination

Number of Days Until Graduation…looking ahead?

Graduation Countdown_20130519


Since undergrad I had a strong interest in learning about the working dynamics of various businesses and organizations, but had no clear goal in mind. Trying to make every dollar of my education count, I made a conscious effort to take the college courses that (I thought at the time) would help me achieve my vague goal of doing something in the business world I was passionate about.

Getting into some tax trouble during my freshman and sophomore years, I took tax courses that not only helped me knock out some business degree requirements and a $12,000 tax misunderstanding, but landed me a job with a Tax Attorney. She was a wonderful mentor, but a horrible manager. I appreciated the time she invested to help me develop my career, but her ill temperament drove me away.

Shortly after, I landed a job in the hedge fund world.  With accounting and tax fundamentals under my belt, I was eager and ready to learn a new set of vocabulary, Finance. With minimal work experience I was impressionable and happy to work for a firm that treated me with respect. Being a key player in finance research and high net worth asset management, my former firm was the perfect place (at the time) to learn about the fundamentals of investment strategy. Young and naïve, I thought I landed a great job that would spring board me to other opportunities within a firm I loved. Flashing forward five years later I was board and frustrated and made the mistake of “settling”. I had job security, but was learning nothing new. My pay scale continued to increase, but I had no motivation aside from earning a paycheck. Plateauing in my role, there was nowhere to move but laterally.

Finding My Destination

Getting too comfortable, I didn’t maintain my network and lost touch with contacts that I could have leveraged for job opportunities. Interview after interview, I grew frustrated with being pigeon-holed into positions that were mirror images of my job at the time. Yes, the pay was incrementally higher, but it took four interviews and three offer declines to realize, I needed to get my goal straight – which was not even a goal at all, it was a destination.

My once “vague” goal now became a mission to find my destination, my passion. I don’t want to be one of those cliché business people who set a career goal with no clue how to get there. Instead I want to outline a path that takes me to my destination. Some of us are lucky to wake up one day and know what to do for the rest of our lives, and others like me are gathering crumbs of information and hitchhiking opportunities hoping to finally arrive at their destination.

My path is still a work in progress, but I envision my current destination to be: creating or supporting business opportunities that have a positive impact on others. I want to utilize all the hard work I put into memorizing accounting and finance concepts, blend it with tax fundamentals and add legal elements to help recognize viable business opportunities or operations that make a positive impact on the lives of others.

Strategy to My Destination

Since I’m still picking up my crumbs and hitchhiking, I’m keeping an open mind. My current strategy is to find a role (or roles) that will put me in a position to evaluate businesses, operations and organizations from a macro prospective and make recommendations on a micro level that could make a positive impact. This impact could range from profitability, scalability or simply accomplishing an objective.

Learning more about the Venture Capital (VC) world, during the course of my MBA, I figured having a supporting role in Due Diligence within a VC firm might be part of my strategy, to help me reach my destination. My strategy isn’t clear cut and simple, because getting a job at a VC firm is like competing in The Apprentice (it’s tough). In addition to refining my resume, I need to build my network and harness the connections that could help me get my foot in the door, i.e. internships, people that know people who work at a VC, leveraging informational interviews to make an impression, getting connected with companies that work directly with a VC I’m interested in, etc.


Ultimately, I just want to be an indirect force that starts the chain reaction of positively impacting others. Since a chain has links, I can’t make an impact alone. If there is anything I took from this MBA program- “You need to be the change you wish to see in the world” by networking.  Gandhi got it right, but technology coupled with Social Media took it to another level. Some of us, namely within our MBA cohort, want to create opportunities and others want to be a part of opportunities, I want to do both.

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The Big Draw A Citywide Art Celebration Pleasanton, California

The Big Draw A Citywide Art Celebration Pleasanton, California.

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The Big Draw A Citywide Art Celebration Pleasanton, California

The Big Draw A Citywide Art Celebration Pleasanton, California

Live music, intriguing performances, and unique arts and crafts were all fun components of Pleasanton’s “The Big Draw” a citywide chalk art festival. The heat didn’t stop anyone from coming out to claim their square and share their love for art. Professional chalk artists along with up and coming young ones shared their love for arts as they expressed their creative vision on the sidewalks of Pleasanton near Firehouse Theater (a monument dedicated to inspiring passion through the arts).

Aside from enjoying the intricate life like chalk art drawn out by professional artists in support of their passion for the arts, many supporters claimed their square and expressed their creativity to support the Arts in the Schools Grant Program.

Live music performances were received, as a crowd gathered (willing to endure the scorching heat) enjoying raw talent. Comical and inspirational performances drew in sidewalk spectators from Main Street. Vendors engaged passerby’s with stands of unique arts, crafts, and jewelry as well as clothing pieces. Local businesses along Main St. supported the event with flyers posted to their front windows.

The fun filled atmosphere of The Big Draw was a great place for family to capture special moments and create lifelong memories with friends.

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The Big Draw- Chalk Art Festival

The Big Draw- Chalk Art Festival

The Big Draw campaign was like a social media boot camp. I felt like a fish out of water, having learned a lot: putting together a video, learning how to navigate around YouTube, what to do on Facebook, and getting it out there on Twitter.

Now I know what my parents feel like – helpless. I already learned a lot, but have a long way to go. Thank goodness I have supportive team members you have the patience to walk me through “tweets” and “posts”.

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Keiretsu Angel Capital Expo

Joanna, thank you so much for connecting us with this opportunity. I know you went through a lot to get us into this event. I appreciated the live Start-up pitches and getting a feel for the questions and concerns Angel Investors have. There were some pretty far out products, but all of them had an underlying commonality, filling an unmet need. This event is an eye opener to the processes, commitment and risks Start-up’s experience just to keep their idea alive.
There were so many volunteers (mostly from Cal) trying to create opportunities for internships and employment, instead of seizing and embracing the spirit of Keiretsu. It’s was amusing to see how most of these students were “waiting” for traditional opportunities to come upon them, instead of observing ways of creating these opportunities for themselves.
Attending this event exceeded my expectations. I got a firsthand account of the risks and potential rewards a Start-up could experience. For instance, I was skeptical but impressed by a presenter’s tenacity to get his “medical testing” innovation off the ground. He successfully sold the previous company he launched for 3.3 million and got another to the IPO phase, but even I couldn’t grasp how this innovation was scalable.
On another note, you have always come through whenever we reach out to you for contacts, resources, advice, etc. Thank you Joanna, for being a valuable resource to myself and this MBA program.
Best regards-


I was incredibly proud of my classmates who came to volunteer at the Keiretsu Angel Capital Expo at Microsoft on May 11th.  They were on time (I was late), they worked hard, and they made me and the rest of the Keiretsu staff look great.  25% of those who had offered to volunteer failed to show up, and not one of those who didn’t come were from my class.


Another thing that impressed me was the use of their free time – they went and watched pitches and spoke with other attendees.  That’s how it should be!  Make the most of your networking opportunities.  Other students hid out in the “green” room and went on walks around the campus.  Uh, what’s the point of going to a networking event if you’re not going to see the pitches and meet people who can help your career along?

Meanwhile, there was one…

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Looking Back- 15 Pieces of Pre-MBA Advice to Myself

Dear Lyla,

Congratulations, you are in for an incredible and challenging year in CSUEB’s MBA program. It’s Monday, June 18, 2012 and you are walking into a room with 38 strangers. You’re coming in to class all excited about the three hour schedule and are planning out your anticipated free afternoons. FORGET IT! You are about to embark on one of the most difficult and stressful academic boot camps. YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE! You will unfortunately lose some classmates along the way, but each of your 29 remaining classmates will influence and challenge you in ways reading a textbook or online class can never teach you.  You will have fun, you will get mad (really mad), you will lose LOTS of sleep, but you will enjoy every minute of it and cherish the experiences and friends you have gained.

Hopeful these 15 pieces of advice will help you get through this unbelievable year better than I did.

1) Keep it simple- This program is complicated as it is. Keeping everything simple versus trying to be an overachiever will save you stress and time.

2) Short and effective- Applying both at the same time in communication pieces is a challenge. “More is less” is a lot more effort. Don’t get too excited when you are asked to summarize a 12 page article in two pages or less.

3) Time Management- Establishing a time and place to complete critical tasks is crucial to getting projects completed. Completing projects in phases and organizing tasks incrementally will help you get projects completed in the allotted time.

4) Get to the point- Time is of the essence. Craft ways to extract “the” point a person is trying to make in order to keep projects and tasks on schedule.

5) Challenge everything- Don’t depend on the math whiz or the writing expert in your group to come up with the answers, have confidence in yourself to prove out what is presented. You just might surprise yourself.

6) Sharing is caring- Be open to share with others because they might have something unique and special to share with you.

7) Learn Goggle! Google Docs and the functionality of Goggle tools can save you from sleepless nights and tears by having work and files remotely saved. Your computer will crash and you will lose a thumb drive, but Google will always be around to help you pick up where you left off.

8) Effectively communicate- Knowing the importance of getting your message across different mediums: writing, presentations and interpersonal communication, could mean a whole letter grade difference.

9) Difficult Conversations- Is a book by Douglas Stone. Read this book and stop making assumptions.

10) Social Media- Don’t be scared and invest in your social capital. If used wisely, you will be able to use social media as a tool to keep in contact and connect with others in your MBA program going forward.

11) Networking –The thought of having to reach out to people is a really uncomfortable concept for you. Learning to use the tools and techniques from other classmates will help you realize how easy and important networking in.

12) Be organized- Stuck to one organization technique, it will save you time. Handwritten notes, handouts, thumb drives, etc. You will be all over the place your first quarter. Adopt ONE method, preferably electronic archiving on a remote Hard Drive. You will constantly look back to material from previous courses so don’t lose them.

13) Prioritize- Equivalent to strategic planning. There are so many hours in a day and you will have so much to juggle. Save yourself grief and embrace the “done is better than perfect” stance earlier on in the program.

14) Patience- Not our strongest virtue. This program has tested my ability to be patient with others and above all myself.  Read Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg, this will help.

15) Get Sleep- Medical studies claim that sleep deprivation has equivalent effects to having blood alcohol content three times the .08 U.S. legal limit. So think twice before staying up all night with your closest MBA peeps over Taco Bell, Pepsi and Red Bull to study for an exam.

Work hard, play hard! Good luck Pre-MBA Lyla, you are going to need it.

Best Wishes!

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Technology – Helping Overcome Tragedy

     Amidst tragic events, social media platforms and web applications such as Google Person Finder enable us to connect with loved ones and friends in times of fear and sorrow. These platforms and applications enable strangers to unite together and achieve the common goal of overcoming the adversity at hand. Unfortunately, it often takes tragic events to help us put life in perspective and establish a commonality over grief and sadness in order to help us collectively fortify our faith in each other, in hopes of making a better tomorrow.

     Technology has given us the freedom to post our accounts and footage. Each of us now has the ability to give raw and unique details of what “really” transpired. Forums such as YouTube, allow users to globally share just about anything in real-time, giving users “freedom” to share videos and information about major events even before the press and television media.  

     In the past, we gravitated to news channels to give us firsthand accounts about major events. This has shifted over the past decade with the advancement of mobile technology and dominant usage of social media as a platform to simultaneously connect with users in real-time.

     Looking ahead, technology will allow us to narrate the tragic events that transpire, versus the press giving us a filtered account of what occurred. Social media and web applications will help us stay connected, become kindred and give us the control to help each other through the power of information.

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