Joe Greco, finance lecturer at CSUF

Joe Greco

Signs of reopening abound, and predictions of a return to a life somewhat as we once knew it are now everywhere.

After 16 months, the COVID-19 crisis finally shows signs of abating in the United States. That means good times may be ahead, but the post-COVID world will be different than what we were accustomed to before the pandemic.

What can we expect? And how can today’s young professionals position themselves to thrive in the future?

Cal State Fullerton Finance Lecturer Joe Greco, who studies international and corporate finance and investments, and is also owner and principal consultant for Irvine-based Global Financial Strategies Inc., gives an expert perspective of what might be on the horizon.

What are the biggest changes in business that you’re seeing as we reopen?

As the global economy reopens, which will be slower than in the U.S. as most countries don’t have the supply of vaccines that we do here, the most changed industry will be the security industry. This is due to the increased use of digital media, especially purchasing online. The need to secure increased use of digital transactions will hasten the decline of markets already in progress, especially shopping malls and department stores.

How can today’s college students and graduates prepare for these changes? 

The best preparation is to be observant as the government continues to change the status of the lockdowns. Industries that depend on live bodies to attend will have the best opportunities for job openings. The most immediate openings will be in the sports industries. There will also probably be an increased demand given the significant number of retirements.

There are anecdotal reports that “pent-up demand” may power the economy in coming years. Is there any evidence to back this up?

I know of no academic research that proves conclusively that increased savings rates result in increased pent-up demand. The pent-up demand that is present now is probably most concentrated in the consumer sector, where major purchases have been postponed or constrained by the lockdowns globally.

Will higher rates of savings continue? 

Americans traditionally are not great savers compared to residents of other developed countries, such as Germany, which has a savings rate as high as 32% of consumer income, according to World Bank data. We are lucky to see 17%, but estimates vary. If the past is any indicator, there will not be a significant change in American consumer saving patterns in the long run. Additionally, if interest rates paid to savers continue to be very low, there is no more incentive for Americans to save other than the safety factor in light of a future pandemic.

If you would name a single industry that is primed for the most growth post-COVID, what would it be and why? 

The sports industry that relies heavily on live attendance is most primed for the most growth in profits. Other industries that have been heavily impacted by retirements will also be primed, especially the fields of teaching and insurance.

Asha Bhattacharya

Asha Bhattacharya

When Asha Bhattacharya ’21 (marketing) looks back on her four years as an undergraduate at Cal State Fullerton’s College of Business and Economics, her impact is significant.

She was the only student to represent CSUF at the American Council on Education Mental Health Summit in New Orleans. A forthcoming mental fitness center at Pollak Library is her brainchild. And, as a resident advisor at the Juniper 5 on-campus housing community, she saved a life performing CPR to revive a student suffering cardiac arrest.

Bhattacharya adds to the list the 2021 Outstanding Student Scholarly and Creative Activities Award, which she received this spring for her study, “Leadership Emergence: Promotion Mindset, Prevention Mindset, or Both?,” examining the synthesis of mindsets that create the most effective leadership in student settings.

The Mindsets of Leadership

Bhattacharya’s study, which was advised by Cal State Fullerton Assistant Management Professor Ryan Gottfredson, looks at leadership emergence – the process whereby an individual is recognized as the leader in a formerly leaderless group. Read More

Joanne Tran of EPIC Insurance Brokers Inc.

Joanne Tran

Today, Joanne Tran ’04 (marketing and economics) is vice president and senior benefits consultant for Newport Beach-based EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants. Her career in the employee benefits field began 17 years ago when she was introduced to the field by her father, who was working on the technology side of the industry.

Tran discusses her career path, what it takes to succeed in the employee benefits field, her Titan experience, and why and how professionals can maximize their LinkedIn usage.

You are an employee benefits consultant with experience in the health and welfare insurance industry. What drew you to this field? What do you find rewarding about it? 

Like any college graduate, it was my first job out of college. I knew I was stepping into insurance, but at the same time, I didn’t quite understand what I was getting into. Read More

Jocelyn Lee

Jocelyn Lee

Jocelyn Lee ’19 (accounting) last year passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, enabling her to jumpstart her accounting career during the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. But Lee did more than merely pass. She far exceeded the national pass rate of 50%, earning an average score of 95.50% across all four sections of her exam, on the first try.

Lee is one of only 89 individuals among the 75,000 test takers in 2020 to receive the Elijah Watt Sells Award from the American Institute of CPAs in recognition of her accomplishment. She is the first CSUF Titan to receive the accolade.

The entryway to accounting careers, the CPA exam is a 16-hour, four-part test, which applicants must pass within an 18-month window. Considered one of the most challenging professional exams, the experience requires preparatory education, such as the program Cal State Fullerton’s Department of Accounting offers its students.

Vivek Mande, chair of the department, says Lee’s success is no surprise, given the alumna’s achievements while a student and the quality of CSUF accounting coursework.

“Jocelyn was an outstanding student and talented accountant from the start. During her years at Cal State Fullerton, she was an active member of the accounting honor society and carried a GPA of 4.0,” he says. “She was also awarded a prestigious $10,000 scholarship from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. This is yet another feather in her cap.”

Today, Lee is a tax accountant at Big Four accounting firm Deloitte and earned a master’s in business taxation at University of Southern California.

At CSUF, she graduated summa cum laude and was heavily involved as a student, serving in the Accounting Society, Beta Alpha Psi, Beta Gamma Sigma, Delta Sigma Pi, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and as an instructional student assistant.

She sees campus involvement as integral to maximizing the college experience: “Get involved on campus. If you’re curious about something, try it. Utilize the resources the school has to offer,” she says. “It really makes a difference.”

For More Information

Read more about Lee’s achievement in this CSUF News article. Or learn more about Cal State Fullerton’s accounting program, which includes undergraduate and graduate career paths, and related faculty research and student success, in our articles on accounting.

Quinlan Cantrell '21

Quinlan Cantrell ’21

This April, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the U.S. banking regulator and insurer, held its first Academic Challenge, which engaged teams of undergraduates from across the nation in examining the impact of community banks on local economic development.

A team of four Cal State Fullerton economics students placed among the top five teams, along with teams from such research-focused universities as the University of Chicago, the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A team from New York’s SUNY-Geneseo was selected the winner.

The Titan team members were Quinlan Cantrell ’21, Owen Hoogeveen ’21, Ivan Patel ’21 and Quynh Phan ’21. Read More

Alvin Cailan of Amboy Meats

Alvin Cailan of ’18

In May 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, Amboy Quality Meats & Delicious Burgers, a gourmet burger stand and butcher shop offering premium cuts sourced from small suppliers, opened in the Downtown Los Angeles Chinatown Far East Plaza.

Occupying the former space of Roy Choi’s Chego, the new entrant into the downtown culinary scene was launched by Cal State Fullerton management grad Alvin Cailan ’18. The name Amboy, his personal nickname, is a word for an American-born Filipino, and the business is intended to model a traditional Filipino steakhouse.

Cailan secured the spot in December 2019 prior to the arrival of coronavirus.

“Creating a butcher shop or what I like to call a ‘boutique steak shop’ was more important at the time because a lot of people were working at home and still are,” he says. “We wanted to provide a relatively affordable alternative to butcher shop quality meats. That’s what we ended up being, and it worked out.”

The Rise to Culinary Stardom

A lifelong resident of Pico Rivera, Cailan was first exposed to professional kitchens as a high school student, when he was a dishwasher at an Alhambra Catholic retreat center. He quickly developed an affinity for all things culinary and eventually led kitchen operations.

Later, Cailan would work as an account representative for a construction company. But when he was laid off and received a generous severance package, he used the funds to pursue his true passion: cooking.

After launching his successful egg-themed food truck in 2011, which eventually grew into a brick-and-mortar location in the Los Angeles Grand Central Market, the culinary profession would take Cailan to New York City, where his culinary acumen was noted in The New Yorker for his fried chicken.

By 2018, YouTube and Hulu were airing Cailan’s “The Burger Show” series, and his cookbook, Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2020.

At Amboy in Chinatown

If you visit Amboy Quality Meats, you’ll notice a simple menu, though the selection of burgers is anything but simplistic. Thanks to relationships with small purveyors, Cailan offers prime-grade cuts, which are for sale in the shop’s window.

Burgers range from $7 to $14, while meat cuts range from $10 to $159.

Cailan says he’s excited to be in Chinatown. “I love Far East Plaza, what it stands for. A lot of great restaurants came out of that plaza. Working with [Far East Plaza’s] George Yu, who I consider a mentor, really gave us opportunities to fulfill our culinary dreams without breaking the bank. I’m really grateful for that. Chinatown for me ‒ culinarily ‒ is home,” he says.

Read more in this article in DT News.

Kari Escobedo, senior SVP of information technology for the Seattle Mariners

Kari Escobedo at the Seattle Mariners ballpark in Seattle, Washington. Photo from Seattle Mariners

The Seattle Mariners on Feb. 25 named Cal State Fullerton management alumna Kari Escobedo ’95 senior vice president of information technology. This position involves leadership of all areas of technology for the Seattle Mariners Major League Baseball Club in the Pacific Northwest, including business operations technology, business intelligence and data, ballpark technology, baseball technology, and fan experience.

Escobedo played Division 1 softball for two seasons at Cal State Fullerton with an athletics scholarship as well as an academics scholarship as a CSUF Presidents Scholar. She has developed a 20-year career in leadership within a wide range of industries, including technology, health care, telecommunications, retail, and now sports and entertainment.

A Record of IT Accomplishment Prepares Escobedo to Lead the Seattle Mariners

Escobedo has served in senior technology leadership roles for Microsoft, Starbucks (while the coffee shop was hiring more than 1 million employees annually), T-Mobile, Kaiser Permanente Washington and, most recently, Bartell Drugs.

While serving as executive director of enterprise services and digital services for Kaiser Permanente Washington between 2015 and 2018, Escobedo spearheaded a revolution in virtual health care for members.

Kari Escobedo

Kari Escobedo

“Virtual appointments meant talking to a nurse over the phone. But we expanded this to include video-based and/or private messaging appointments with doctors and specialists,” says Escobedo. “Now, Kaiser Permanente regions all over the country are using the approach we developed as they provide care during the COVID pandemic.”

Escobedo notes that her professional journey began with a focus in human resources, but transitioned fairly quickly to technology. She encourages her fellow Titans to keep searching for the path that best suits their desires and interests, and what they excel in.

Tech on Display

With an increasingly strong fusion between high-tech and sports, Escobedo says, future experiences will be more firmly integrated with the wired world. For example, contactless technology makes fan interaction healthier and more efficient, biometric devices support safety and efficiency, 5G technology will ultimately connect fans through immersive experiences that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.

Some of this technology was on display on April 1, when the Mariners played their first game of the 2021 season—and their first game with fans in the stands since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Mobile tickets were self-scanned via kiosks at all entry points throughout T-Mobile Park, where they also transitioned to a completely cashless venue this year as well to further cementing the transition to more seamless contactless experiences for fans.

As Escobedo and others lead major league sports into a high-tech future, the experience for fans, whether remote or in the stands, is sure to become increasingly personalized and interconnected.

For More on Sports Careers

Looking to the business-side of sports as a potential career path? There are many opportunities in such fields as IT, sports marketing, event planning, and entertainment and hospitality management.

CSUF’s Department of Marketing has information on careers in sports business. Reach out to them at marketingdept@fullerton.edu for more on how to prepare for such roles.

Nguyen and Vu at TasteaTwo decades ago, two Cal State Fullerton students, Ted Vu ’02 (finance) and Scott Nguyen ’04 (entertainment art/animation), visited the first boba tea shops in Orange County. Boba tea had just made its way from Taiwan to Southern California, and lines of customers were snaking out the doors of these boba tea shops. Vu and Nguyen sensed an opportunity.

“We decided at that moment, we would start a tea company focusing on a wide variety of creative drinks and delivering an exceptional customer experience,” says Vu.

At 22 years old, with no business experience or financial credit, the high school buddies turned business partners wrote their plan as part of a writing course at Cal State Fullerton that would result in the opening of their first Tastea beverage store in Garden Grove on Sept. 15, 2001.

“We immediately started looking for a location, but every landlord turned us down,” Vu recalls. “We finally found a landlord who was so impressed by our business plan that he decided to give us a chance. However, no banks would approve us for a business loan so we took out private loans with our cars as collateral. With a lease secured and capital in hand, we opened our first location.”

Girl serving boba

Adapting to Challenges and Staying Relevant

Vu and Nguyen are no strangers to adapting to external challenges in getting their business off the ground and thriving.

Their initial grand opening day was the Saturday after 9/11, when the last thing on many Orange County residents’ minds was trying out a new beverage business.

The pair opened their second location at The Block in Orange in 2007, just before the Great Recession. The downturn resulted in a huge financial loss and eventual closure of the location.

And, like all food service businesses, Vu and Nguyen have had to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic.

Thankfully, Tastea, which now has 23 stores, including franchise locations, began investing in an online ordering app in 2019. That was just in time for the pandemic closures that began in March 2020. Contactless delivery and the installation of pickup windows at physical stores provided a lifeline through COVID-19 in the last year.

Nguyen and Vu encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to be innovative, but also to learn from the successes and failures of others.

“Get out there and do it. Not all ideas will work, but you just need one that will,” says Nguyen.

Says Vu, “Learn as much as you can and never stop learning. We continue to look at what our competitors do better than us and how we can improve. It’s how Tastea has remained relevant with the times.”

Read more about Tastea in the spring/summer 2021 edition of Titan Magazine.

Students walking on the campus of Cal State FullertonCal State Fullerton’s Sales Leadership Center has again been recognized by the Sales Education Foundation (SEF) among the programs best preparing young people for careers in sales. The recognition is the third consecutive annual accolade for the program, which is housed at the Cal State Fullerton College of Business and Economics, but is open to Titans of all majors.

“We celebrate the courageous efforts of these sales programs as they have charted new territory to ensure that students are well served in spite of the pandemic,” says Sally Stevens, executive director of SEF, as she announced the 15th anniversary edition of the SEF annual magazine, which includes the rankings.

Among the factors involved in inclusion are having sales-related degree programs and certificates and supporting the sales profession.

The CSUF Sales Leadership Center offers a minor and certificate program in sales, competitions in which students present sales pitches to business professionals acting as judges, career fairs and opportunities for student leadership.

“This year, we offered an all-California State University Sales Competition in cooperation with four sister universities that elevated our programs to businesses seeking our students,” stated Brad Anderson, director of the Sales Leadership Center. The other universities involved in the competition included Chico State, Cal State Los Angeles and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

“We appreciate our sponsors who fund our events and activities to provide these services to our students interested in sales careers,” says Anderson. “We are proud our students are better prepared for sales careers with our sponsor companies and over 80% find internships and career opportunities with these sponsors.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, the center has continued its events virtually and looks forward to the return of in-person operations in fall 2021.

For more information on the Sales Leadership Center, reach out to them at slc@fullerton.edu or read our articles on sales education.

CSUF campus with trees in fallClimate change is not a future worry, but a present threat, and companies must assess their vulnerabilities and develop strategies to mitigate risk. That’s the assessment of Cal State Fullerton Assistant Professor of Management Chethan Srikant and Associate Professor of Management Atul Teckchandani.

In their article published in the Journal of Business Strategy, entitled “Climate Change and Business Planning: Solutions to Keep Disruptions at Bay,” Srikant and Teckchandani argue that the traditional competitive advantage framework used by businesses must be updated to include climate change resilience, in light of such concerns as California wildfires and drought and more frequent and stronger hurricanes.

“The resource-based view of business strategy has said that an organization’s resources have to be valuable, rare, not easy to imitate and organized to exploit in order to create a sustained competitive advantage,” Srikant explains. “Now, it is absolutely necessary to consider a fifth dimension: the climate change resilience of the resource.”

While clear examples include oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, which is acutely at risk from hurricanes, Srikant and Teckchandani are more concerned with less-obvious but no less serious impacts on companies and workers.

For instance, during extreme heat waves in the Desert Southwest, certain types of airplanes are grounded because they cannot withstand extreme temperatures. Or breweries have made adjustments because beer must be exposed to certain air temperatures to become infused with wild yeasts, and changing temperature patterns have shortened brewing seasons, impacting workers and company bottom lines.

Srikant and Teckchandani encourage businesses to recognize that climate change is broader than extreme weather events, and instead, understand the persistent changes over multiple years. The manifestations aren’t only found in warmer temperatures or wildfires, but in all manner of extreme or unusual conditions.

“Remember the snowstorm earlier this year that brought down the electrical grid in Texas? The grid can’t be moved, so it needs to be redesigned or reinforced to be able to weather the next big storm, whether that occurs in winter or summer,” says Srikant.

Read more in this CSUF News article.