Alumni : Spotlight
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The College of Business features alumni stories throughout the college and its web site. We would be delighted to feature your profile and accomplishments in the upcoming semester.
You are invited to join your fellow alumni on the Alumni Spotlight bulletin boards and on the website. The profiles are an inspiration to our students.
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If you'd like to be in the Spotlight, we kindly request that you complete the Alumni Spotlight Form and submit a photo and biography in which you include your work history and anecdotes on how your experiences at SF State impacted your career and life.
Please feel free to contact Alex Sanchez, College and Alumni Relations Officer, by phone at (415) 338-1032 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and suggestions.
Spotlights on this Page
- Jeff Franco
- Stephen Gillett
- John Gumas
- Eric Kelly
- Chris Larsen
- Andrew Ly
- Bill Magill
- Pedram Pakneshan
- Gar Truppelli
- Bryant Waters
- Song Woo
Co-Founder, CEO, TripKick.com
It's been seven years now since Bryant Waters (B.S., Hospitality Management, ’02) graduated from the College of Business at SF State and entered the hotel industry. But he’s been busy working on his lifelong dream: To combine expert hotel travel knowledge with the opinions and recommendations of those that have actually visited the hotel.
In May 2008, he proudly debuted one of North America’s most notable new online travel web sites, TripKick.com. The strong educational support he received from SF State helped him accomplish his dream lifelong dream. TripKick.com has already earned the distinction of Time magazine’s Top 50 Websites for 2008 as well as Travel + Leisure magazine’s Top Website for 2008. “With hotels often being the bulk of travel expenses, we believe travelers should be empowered with expert room information to have the ability to make the best decision for their stay.” says Bryant about the value of TripKick.com.
The College of Business, as well as the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management and its professors, has instilled a high level of preparedness in him. He says this preparedness was what ultimately enabled him to succeed in his new venture—that of combining the hotel and Web environments. The strong educational support he received from SF State helped him accomplish his lifelong dream.
Be sure to see the fruits of his success (and get some great hotel tips, too!) by visiting www.TripKick.com.
President, CEO, Ly Brothers Corporation
Andrew Ly (B.S., Accounting, ’86) wasn’t the most rested SF State student. Between classes, he operated a doughnut shop he owned with his four brothers. “It was tough,” he says. “I studied all day and worked all night, rolling and firing doughnuts before delivering them to coffee shops.”
Today he heads the Ly Brothers Corporation, the $42 million parent company of Sugar Bowl Bakery. One of the largest and most successful family-owned and operated bakeries in Northern California, Sugar Bowl delivers treats to Bay Area retail stores, restaurants and coffee shops, and to warehouse clubs across the country.
Andrew calls his customers “the real bosses” and takes their suggestions seriously. Suggestions like removing trans fat from his entire product line—which he did before the removal was mandated by the Food and Drug Administration. “Do you know how hard it is to make a doughnut without any trans fat?” he says.
Although the operation has expanded from its humble beginnings, Ly still dons a hair net daily to chat with some of his 375 employees at plants in San Francisco and Hayward. And he still draws from his business degree. “My education at SF State helped me a lot,” Ly says. “Good professors and classes. Environmental Law and Accounting helped me set long-term and short-term objectives and understand how to deal with strengths and weaknesses of a company.” Ly’s attention to his employees’ needs as well as those of his community helped earn him the Bay Area’s Most Admired CEO award, presented by the San Francisco Business Times in November 2007.
Co-Founder, CEO, Prosper
As an entrepreneur, Chris Larsen (B.S., Accounting and International Business, ’84) revels in the freedom of coming up with new products and watching them grow. He co-founded and served as CEO of E-LOAN until he sold it for $300 million in 2005. Now he is taking his longtime consumer-friendly pursuit of greater financial transparency to the next level. Larsen is the co-founder and CEO of Prosper, an online marketplace where complete strangers can loan money to one another.
Larsen says it took a serious evolution in technology for Prosper to become possible. It does not merely use the Internet as an information source, but allows consumers to be the bank too. For Prosper to function, Larsen needed the ready availability of credit scores -- something he fought for while at E-LOAN -- plus the evolution of electronic payments through PayPal and the rise of online social networking.
Once again, Larsen—who says he studied accounting at SF State because "that’s the language of business" and "it’s good to hone the numbers"—may be one step ahead of the curve. As banks have retreated from lending during the past year, he says Prosper has seen a dramatic increase in credit-worthy borrowers. "The credit crunch is good for person-to-person lending," Larsen says.
He credits much of his success to good mentors who inspired him to move ahead without overburdening him with caution. The best advice he received came from an SF State professor who told him to start his own business, and "Cut the lifeboats."
Founder, President and Chief Executive, Lighthouse Management Group, Inc.
Song Woo (B.S., Business Analysis and Finance, ’98) was recognized in 2007 for his leadership of Lighthouse Management Group's thriving staffing and recruiting business, and praised as a “star” for developing his emerging company from a start- up to a multi-million dollar firm virtually overnight.
Since his company’s inception in 2006, his firm has assisted virtually every industry that exists locally in the Bay Area ranging from high-tech, health care, financial services, education, and non-profits and many others.
Song attributes a lot of his success to the time he spent at San Francisco State. “The foundation for my success was laid at SF State and the tools I received there empowered me to be able to maximize my full potential,” states Song. “The education I received both in and out of the classroom helped develop the skills I needed to be successful in the real business world.”
Song’s desire to help and guide people was also a byproduct of San Francisco State. “Through the urging of some professors, I became a tutor for the Decision Sciences department—then known as the BACS department,” says Song. “I never would have known how much I would enjoy helping someone be more successful if it wasn’t for that experience.”
Song especially credits Decision Sciences Professor Robert Saltzman, “The hands-on approach to learning and the advice I received from professors like him helped shape my future.”
Office Managing Partner, Ernst &Young, San Francisco
Jeff Franco (B.S., Accounting, ’83) joined Ernst &Young as an auditor in the San Francisco office, directly upon graduation from SF State. Although he learned a lot about financial accounting and people skills as an auditor, Jeff desired to be a tax professional where he could be more aligned with his clients and able to proactively assist them in achieving their operational and financial goals. When the Tax Reform Act of 1986 passed, Jeff took advantage of this opportunity to transfer to the E&Y tax practice. He was proud to find that SF State's College of Business had provided him with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed. He came to appreciate that his accounting education was thorough and practical and this background assisted him to move ahead quickly.
Since becoming a tax professional, Jeff has focused on understanding and solving the many issues faced by retail and consumer product companies. As a tax partner, he currently serves a client base that includes some of the most recognized names in the retail and consumer product industry.
Jeff was recently appointed the Office Managing Partner for the Ernst &Young San Francisco office. In his new role, Jeff is responsible for over 600 professionals from a multitude of different practices such as audit, risk advisory services, tax and transaction advisory. According to Jeff, “It was the SF State professors who made the difference. They were experienced, personable and accessible to the students.
One early recommendation I received from a faculty advisor was to consider adding a night class to my schedule each semester to achieve a more diverse classroom experience. This turned out to be sound advice. I found the insights from working professionals to be especially insightful and helpful in learning the related subject matter.”
CIO, General Manager of Digital Ventures, Starbucks
Stephen Gillett (M.B.A., ’06) stepped away from his desk one day and into the shoes of a barista. The experience showed him the pressing need for store managers, near or far, to stay connected to behind-the-counter activities. Laptops were handed out, the first step in Gillett’s quest to improve the daily grind for both patrons and employees.
Gillett’s illustrious career in technology began in 1997, when the then-20-year-old University of Oregon undergrad ran the IT department at a large Southern Oregon hospital. A mere 12 years later Gillett is the head technologist for the world’s best known coffee company.
“Even though I was the technologist, in order to advance past that and really have relevancy in discussing business terms with business leaders, I needed to formalize my training on the business and financial side of it,” says Gillett. In 2003 he entered the M.B.A. program at SF State.
Gillett loved Bruce Robertson’s course, for its incorporation of online gaming. John Dopp’s courses gave him the ability to reference literature about leadership, organizational design and theory, rather than just gut intuition.
“The M.B.A. was absolutely critical, not only in the foundational skill set it gave me and the vernacular I learned, but also for the confidence it gave me to go out and talk with nontechnology leaders in their language.”
Meanwhile, Gillett’s career continued to advance. In 2004, midstream in his M.B.A., he became the vice president of utility computing at Yahoo. Then, in 2006, the world’s richest man came calling. Gillett bit, taking on the role of CIO at Corbis, the privately held stock imagery company founded by Bill Gates in 1989.
Perhaps some of the young man’s success came from the fact that while he may have been beholden to Gates, he wasn’t intimidated by him. In fact, for the first slide in his first presentation to Gates, Gillett—a hard-core gamer—featured a picture of his World of Warcraft character bearing a giant sword.
That expression of individuality is what attracts Gillett the hiring manager to candidates now.
“I look for a differentiation in a candidate’s experience, résumé and background. Differentiation meaning your credentials get you in the door, but what is it that’s particular about you that’s unique?” For example, he recalls being intrigued by a candidate who mentioned he could juggle four objects and once lost on “Jeopardy.”
In 2008, another Seattle behemoth came calling. At first, Starbucks’ interest baffled Gillett, who had no retail background or supply chain experience and didn’t fit the company’s typical age and lifestyle demographics. But Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ iconic CEO, had recently returned to the helm of the company and brought with him a transformation agenda. Suddenly, Starbucks was in search of a new kind of CIO: someone who could merge old-school IT and next-generation technology. Gillett would not only handle the typical CIO duties—such as overseeing infrastructure, application development and systems for finance and human resources—but also head up Starbucks’ digital ventures.
Adding a gamer with an M.B.A. and a hefty tech pedigree to the grind seems to be making Starbucks extra hot. Already Gillett is modernizing Starbucks’ point-of-sales system: Ringing up an espresso drink is now more like selecting an iTunes playlist. If that’s a sign of what technology can deliver, latte lovers can only imagine the digital ventures Gillett is brewing.
--SF State Magazine, Spring/Summer 2008
President, Founder, Gumas Advertising
When John Gumas (B.S., Marketing, ’84) graduated with a degree in marketing, he told his professors he was going to start his own advertising agency. They told him he was crazy. The economy was in recession and entry-level advertising jobs were scarce, but “I had that entrepreneurial spirit,” Gumas remembers. “It’s born inside you.” That spirit powered him through some tooth-and-claw years, building his business one small client at a time.
In the early days, Gumas created campaigns for local restaurants and “dressed people up in costumes and had them hand out stuff,” but the small restaurant clients became large restaurants; a liquor store he created ads for grew into a national chain. And along the way, Gumas Advertising developed a distinctive niche: thinking smart for companies being heavily outspent in advertising by their competitors.
Today his clients—like SummerHill homes, Hewlett-Packard and SanDisk—aren’t nearly as small as they once were. And Gumas Advertising has become a major San Francisco success story, named one of the city’s top agencies by the San Francisco Business Times. Gumas received real-world experience at SF State. “My professor Jack Tenge encouraged me to be part of the advertising club,” he says, remembering a student campaign for Maxwell House coffee that took second place in the national American Advertising Federation competition.
Gumas adds that both Tenge and SF State professor Joe Ries “told me not to start my own agency because it’s a tough business. That was the only lesson I didn’t take.”
President, CEO, Overland Storage, Inc.
Update: Eric Kelly has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Overland Storage, Inc., since January 2009, and as a board member since 2007. His most recent corporate position was vice president and general manager of storage systems solutions at Adaptec, Inc. Prior to that, he served as president and CEO of Snap Appliance, which was acquired by Adaptec. Below is Eric's alumni profile from spring 2006:
Eric Kelly (M.B.A., ’82) spun off Snap Appliance ™ from Quantum in 2003, and stayed in charge 18 months later as Snap joined Adaptec to claim channel leadership as providers of external data storage to 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies.
Snap Appliance™ is a leading global provider of network storage systems for the distributed enterprise, and first in the industry in network attached storage unit volume with a 45% share of the NAS market.
Kelly remembers his MBA education at San Francisco State University as a great mix of the theoretical and the practical. He put what he learned to use as a leader in sales, marketing, and operations as president of Maxtor Corporation’s Network Systems Group, COO at iSyndicate Corp., and vice president of the Enterprise Group at Dell Computer Corp., where he managed a billion-dollar business.
Kelly also makes time to raise funds for the NAACP and participate in the annual LA College Black Expo, informing thousands of inner city youth about college, careers, choice, and opportunity.
When asked what single piece of advice he would give to current MBA students, his message is one he learned on campus more than 20 years ago—“Always be a student of your own profession. Once you believe you know everything, it’s time to retire. And make sure you have integrity. Everyone is smart. Everyone is ambitious. Integrity is what separates.”
Bill Magill (M.B.A, ’89), is a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. He’s also been a dishwasher, musician, engineer, consultant, and investment banker. He has lived in Europe and across the U.S., but the diversity of San Francisco always brings him back home to his favorite city.
Bill received his MBA from SF State in 1989, adding to a bachelor in economics and an associate degree in lasers and optics. For the past eight years, Bill has been a managing director at TeleSoft Partners, where he focuses on investments in energy, communications and materials.
Previously, he was a research analyst at Banc of America Securities, and a communications analyst with ElectroniCast and later RHK. He began his career working on lasers at TRW and Livermore National Labs.
According to Bill, “The concept of a 'career path' is becoming increasingly less defined and outdated. In the fast-paced world of start-ups, everyone wears multiple hats: engineers do sales, finance melds with operations, and so on. And a venture investor must understand all of these roles. Diversity makes the job exciting and keeps everyone engaged. I believe the SF State business program is extremely well suited to this trend, with its proximity to emerging companies and industries in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and its broad range of disciplines and highly accomplished faculty.”
Conference Sales Manager, Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Casino
Pedram Pakneshan (B.S., Hospitality Management, ’03 ) grew up in Berkeley, California, graduating in December 2003 from SF State with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management degree, with a minor in Business Administration.
While attending SF State, Pedram was named in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and was a member of the National Honor Society. He was also the recipient of scholarships from the California Hotel Lodging Association, the SF State Hospitality Management Society, and the Hotel & Restaurant Foundation. He was the founding president of the SF State Hospitality Management Alumni Association and president of the Hospitality Management Society.
In addition to his studies, he worked many jobs including at Clark Kerr Dining in Berkeley, where he was quickly promoted from server to banquet captain. After graduating, he moved to Las Vegas and in early 2004, joined the staff of the MGM Grand Resort & Casino as an assistant manager within the food & beverage department.
In February 2005, Pedram joined the sales & marketing opening team as a conference sales manager of the Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Casino, a Mobile Five Star and AAA Five Diamond destination. Pedram credits his education at SF State in allowing him to gain a diverse background within the hospitality industry, and as a result, it will enable him to achieve his ultimate goal of general manager, and eventually partner, of a mega-resort.
In February 2005, Pedram joined the sales & marketing opening team as a conference sales manager of the Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Casino, a Mobile Five Star and AAA Five Diamond destination.
Gar and Lara Truppelli, co-owners, The Beach Chalet and Park
At 23, Gar Truppelli (M.B.A., ’94) had a vision for a boarded-up building overlooking San Francisco’s Ocean Beach; but so did 100 other entrepreneurs hoping to lease the space from the city. "At a pre-bid meeting we were told it would be at least three years before new construction could start," Truppelli recalls. "About half the crowd walked. I thought, ‘That’s cool. I can wait. I can raise the money while I go to school.’"
His future wife Lara (B.A., ’93) helped gather investors, including real estate developer Timon Malloy, while Gar worked on a plan for the restaurant in a business writing class, drawing from research conducted for Ellen Sheely’s course in marketing management.
It took three years of negotiations with the city but the Truppellis' persistence paid off in 1995, when Mayor Willie Brown (B.A., ’55) approved their proposal. More than a decade later, the Beach Chalet continues to pull in a steady stream of tourists with American food, microbrews, live music and sweeping views (together with the adjoining Park Chalet, added in 2004, the restaurants generate roughly $8.5 million in annual revenue).
Gar appreciates that his classes at SF State weren’t just about making the grade. "I had an idea of what I wanted to do and my professors understood that. They were ready to help students put [their business training] into real life."
The Truppellis still do their homework. After negotiating with more city officials, they were approved to open another restaurant, at Oakland’s Lake Merritt Boathouse, scheduled to open in summer 2009.