Career Launch Stories Recap

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our international students’ individual journeys while they studied at UCI Extension.  Each of them share a unique perspective on the opportunities and impact that this experience has made on their career and personal growth.  In case you missed any or all, here’s a chance for you to catch up!

A Story of Firsts – First Company-Sponsored Female; First Trip Abroad
Shiori Sato, age 25, Japan
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Blending Business and Science for Global Success|
Yuta Okanoya, age 25, Japan
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The Power of an American Certificate
Davood Shahabi, age 32, Iran
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In Defense of Negative Employees


By Jeremy McCarthy

“If you are negative, I will kill you.”

A hospitality executive once told me that this playful stance on maintaining a positive attitude was his mantra with his team. Knowing that I had an advanced degree in positive psychology, he expected me to embrace his “negativity towards negativity” approach. But I surprised him when I told him he might be making a mistake.

When people are negative about something, it means they really care. And you don’t want to create a culture where people can’t come to you with problems. There is a time and a place for negativity in any organization.

Don’t get me wrong, I am as much of an advocate of positive attitudes as the next guy. I’d rather have a positive attitude, and I’d rather be surrounded by others who do. I even teach a course on “Positive Leadership” to help leaders create cultures that foster greater employee engagement. But every year in my course, we hold one discussion around negative employees. “What is worse,” I ask my students, “a negative employee or an apathetic one?”

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to this question, and it invariably sparks an interesting discussion. Some will recognize that an apathetic employee can be a drain on the system as they collect a paycheck but contribute minimally to the goals of the organization. Most of my students will say the negative employee is worse, citing, “one bad apple can spoil the bunch” or other fears of the contagious nature of negativity.

But in their new book, The Upside of Your Darkside, psychology researchers Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener say, “you need an anxious person on your team,” because they serve as the “canary in the mine shaft,” alerting you to problems before your more optimistic team members even become aware of them. You need someone who will tell you when you are making a mistake.

In one of the spas that I managed, I pulled one of the more negative employees aside and asked for her help. She was the one most likely to be complaining about things to her colleagues in the break room so I said, “I can tell you really care about how things go around here, and you are holding us to a higher standard. I’d like you to help us get better. Can you start coming to our weekly management meeting and presenting us the biggest problems in the spa from the employees’ perspective along with proposed solutions?” I was taking the energy and passion that she clearly had, and trying to use it for good instead of evil. She became a huge asset to the team, a leader among her colleagues and helped us to be an even better place to work.

Being a leader is not about eliminating negativity. It is about recognizing the different strengths on your team and allowing them to spring forth for the betterment of the business. As you look at your own team, notice who the complainers are, but don’t kill them. Thank them for keeping you on your toes.

My next course in Positive Leadership will begin January, 2015 in the Spa and Hospitality Management Certificate program offered through UCI Extension.

The Power of an American Certificate 3 of 3

Davood Shahabi age 32, Iran

This is the third installment of our international accelerated certificate program (ACP) student stories.

In his early thirties, Davood Shahabi had already accomplished a great deal. A native of Iran—where English is spoken rather inconsistently—Davood was fluent in English, had studied in several countries, had earned both an MBA and a doctorate of veterinary medicine and had years of work experience in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Still, he felt something was missing from his ideal career path, one that would eventually land him a top job. His next move might lead him to Dubai or the United Arab Emirates and he envisions that an American education combined with an internship in shipping, aviation or business development will be the perfect formula to take him there.

“To say that I studied in a business-oriented country at a recognized university and earned an American certificate—that has prestige,” says Davood Shahabi, an Accelerated Certificate Program (ACP) student earning a certificate in International Business Operations & Management (IBOM). “It will be important to future employers,” he acknowledges, as well as boosting the impression he will make when introducing himself in business.

Davood’s ACP colleagues mirror his sentiments. Each arrives self-motivated and, when surrounded by other high-caliber students with equal determination, they push themselves, stretch their boundaries, broaden their outlook, shape their career path and ultimately thrive.

For Davood and other ACP students like him, the accelerated programs are an attractive option because they require less time to study overseas. Representing between 20-30 different countries during any given quarter, students earn a specialized certificate by taking 6 or 7 courses over 12 weeks of a full-time, intensive daytime program. For another 10 weeks, students can add a real-world internship. In six months, they leave UCI with a certificate and practical work experience—not to mention enormous confidence, specialized knowledge and understanding of America’s culture and other cultures from both a business and a social perspective. (VIDEO

In Irvine, Davood immediately feels at home in what he describes as a “calm, peaceful, low-density” area. “People are very warm and friendly, especially at UCI,” he shares. Living with an American family in a homestay situation, Davood doesn’t have his own car. Instead he diligently rides a bicycle to campus thanks to the mild climate and wide roads. On rare occasions, a member of his host family will drive him if he is dressed up for a class presentation.

Though a skilled presenter with honed English and several degrees, Davood was previously only familiar with impersonal classrooms. “The professors didn’t care how you worked or how you learned,” he says of institutions he attended in Iran and Malaysia. “Here, they follow the students’ progress, engage you and immediately respond to your emails.”  Davood values that UCI offers a window into the “American style of thinking” in approaches to both business and education. “I am learning more practical import and export methods I didn’t know about in Asia due to regulations. I have my MBA, but what I learn here is on an international level, and the instructors were very good at explaining it.” Davood affirms that his interactions with his instructors were as valuable as the ACP certificate itself. (VIDEO)

He plans to follow the IBOM program with a second ACP and an internship. Once attracting just a handful each quarter, 40 to 60% of ACP students opt to join the 10-week internship program and put in a non-paid 20 to 35 hours per week. More than 200 Southern California companies participate, from Panasonic Avionics, Hannspree, Billabong and Mazda to companies specializing in finance, engineering, technology, hospitality/tourism, logistics, human resources, marketing and more.

“The UCI interns provide a fresh viewpoint for my organization,” says Cecilia Castro de Andrade, president of Oceanview Investments Corporation. As owner of the Havaianas store in Huntington Beach, Calif., Castro de Andrade values their cultural diversity as well as their comments and suggestions about every aspect of her business. She has taken great pleasure in watching her interns improve their English, interact with American staff members and scurry down to the pier on their lunch breaks—all which “makes their experience in America very productive” after completing the program.

IBOM’s graduation is bittersweet for Davood and his fellow students. One festive night inside the stately University Club brings students from all ACP programs together again under a tented ceiling aglow with strands of white lights. Some haven’t seen each other since orientation. Others haven’t spent a day apart. “One of the biggest advantages of the program is getting along with different nationalities and learning how to work with each other,” Davood says. “At the beginning of the quarter, we didn’t know each other, but by the end, we were close and would get together to go play beach volleyball.” Like many students, Davood views his certificate and his internship as essential ingredients for a brighter future, one that will set him apart from the competition and provide a clearer path paved with specific aspirations that are meaningful to him personally. (VIDEO)

Three Reasons Why Visionary Leaders Succeed

By Patricia Bravo, MBA

It’s almost the end of the day, you barely had time to grab lunch and you’re culling through your email looking for urgent items to address. You notice a request from your boss asking for your outline in preparation for the upcoming strategic planning session your team will be attending. It would be easy to recycle last year’s agenda and send it off to her so you can get back to getting your email down to a manageable volume. You know that your business and the team would benefit from reconnecting with the organizational vision. Yet, investing time to consider your vision is low on your list of priorities right now, given everything else on your plate. Sound familiar?

It can be tough to pull away from day-to-day activities to look ahead into the future. Visions provide clarity and direction and serve as a guidepost for organizational strategy.

Here are 3 reasons to invest time in considering your vision:

  1. Leaders focused on a vision distinguish themselves by accelerating business results and becoming known as a leader others want to follow
  2. Leaders who rally their teams around a shared vision set their organization up for greater success
  3. Leaders who collectively guide their teams towards a shared ambition create an environment where performance can accelerate and flourish

Take time now to consider your vision. What did you discover?

Career Launch Stories – International Students in America, 2 of 3

Two weeks ago we announced that we would be sharing stories about three of our international accelerated certificate program (ACP) students. This is the second in the series of three.

Blending Business and Science for Global Success
Yuta Okanoya age 25, Japan
ESL, ACP IBOM, ACP Project Management, Internship

Yuta Okanoya was right in the middle of earning his master’s degree in bioengineering and chemistry in Japan when he decided to pack up and leave. As he began to forge his career intentions, he realized that it would take more than a strong science education to stand out from the competition and achieve his goals. It required a bold move—and a one-year absence from a program he was enjoying. It was only when he took a step back and looked at the big picture of his career that he determined that learning English and international business skills in America would give him a cutting edge, even if it meant delaying his advanced degree—and missing his friends and family—during his time away.

“My dream is to work globally,” says the Accelerated Certificate Program (ACP) student. “So it’s very important for me to learn about other cultures and the way they do business.” He studied English for several months at UCI Extension before beginning the ACP in International Business Operations & Management (IBOM). He is in the U.S. to polish his language skills, study business and complete a professional internship. “Usually one year is not enough to do all of that,” he says, so he was thrilled to discover UCI’s program through an agent and applied.

In Irvine, Yuta finds a welcoming community. “In Japan, it is almost impossible to talk to strangers,” he says. “I like the people. Tokyo is humid and crowded. Everything here is very big, at UCI and in America.” Yuta is one of the ACP students who lived with a local family rather than living in campus housing or renting an apartment. “I had planned to stay three months, but my host family is so nice that I decided to stay for a year,” he reveals happily. His host mother is Japanese-American and his host father is Chinese-American, which he says gave him an instant comfort level. “They invite me to go to church with them and meet people there,” he says. “And they helped me buy a car,” which will be imperative for getting to and from his internship.

Despite his jam-packed schedule, Yuta arrives to his ACP classrooms looking relaxed in newly purchased flip flops, a SoCal wardrobe staple and affordable fashion statement. There, his focus is apparent. Without a business background, he occasionally experiences information overload, but he also knows this means he is absorbing what he came to learn.

Before he arrived at UCI,“I only knew things specific to biochemistry, so every day I learned new things about business,” he explains. (VIDEO) While the frequent group presentations with classmates from all corners of the globe challenge him, “it is getting easier” with practice, he smiles. “At grad school in Japan, the professors just talk and talk,” Yuta says. “At UCI, we have a conversation; there is discussion. For me, it’s very comfortable, and I didn’t expect that.”

In fact, Yuta says he didn’t like the popular online classes that he took in his home country because he couldn’t interact with fellow students or ask questions of the instructors. “I didn’t learn anything,” he says. “I prefer a face-to-face classroom. If I have time, I would come back and study again.”

Yuta says that during class he was always thinking about how he could use the methods he was learning to export Japanese devices in the future. “When I go back to Japan, I hope to combine that knowledge for my career.” For Yuta, the ACP program has expanded the way he will approach his career upon his return. (VIDEO)

Why These 5 Viral Marketing Campaigns Became Hits


By Lalida Sriyordsa

In a world where we are constantly filled with social media overflow, it seems less and less possible to make our brands stand out from others. In a recent infographic published by Digital Insights, not only did we learn that “75% of the engagement on a Facebook post happens in the first 5 hours” but also that “100 hours of video is uploaded on YouTube per minute.”

As businesses adapt in technology to keep up with trends in social media, it becomes vital that a company’s marketing not only has to have an idea executed wittily, but also have a theme that resonates with a broad audience.

Below, we dissect 5 marketing campaigns that went viral and what you can learn from them:

  • Dove – “Real Beauty Sketches”
    With over 64 million views on YouTube, this Dove marketing campaign not only won a Titanium Grand Prix Award but has also successfully continued on the brand’s goal to make women feel beautiful inside. Despite some controversy, Dove has been able to extend its campaign beyond videos and allows its fans to participate through its #wearebeautiful hashtag via social media as well.
  • Coke “Share a Coke”
    It’s no surprise that Coke has experimented many times before with its marketing strategies but its most recent Share a Coke campaign resonates with the audience through personalization and social media. With #shareacoke, the brand can pull from more than 125,000 fan posts and give people something to be excited about.
  • Chipotle – “Food With Integrity”
    While fast food is constantly criticized nowadays, Chipotle tries to impress the public through its natural foods and show transparency in its marketing campaign. By using its “Food With Integrity” campaign, Chipotle was able to receive over 13 million YouTube views, build a game that reached more than 500,000 downloads within the App Store, and give the public a unique and authentic view of the brand.
  • GoPro
    Arguably the most successful YouTube brand channel online, GoPro currently has over 2 million subscribers, 588 million views across its channel, and over 2,000 videos on its channel. Most importantly, the brand is able to build on its own content curation and customer loyalty and connection.

Career Launch Stories – International Students in America, 1 of 3

Last week we announced that we would be sharing stories about three of our international accelerated certificate program (ACP) students. This is the first of the series.

A Story of Firsts – First Company-Sponsored Female; First Trip Abroad
Shiori Sato, age 25, Japan


When Shiori Sato graduated two years ago with a degree in accounting and finance from a Japanese university, she began work for a car industry materials supplier. Though fresh out of school, she excelled in the Accounting department. Her company immediately identified her as someone with immense potential, someone they hoped would stay there and grow her skills. Willing to make a significant investment in her future with the company, her employer offered her an opportunity to travel to the U.S. to attend a UC Irvine accelerated certificate program – making the soft-spoken 25-year-old the first female given the honor. Shiori knew the company selects only one candidate to attend every few years, and she accepted their offer—though it would be her first time traveling to or living in the United States, and she was unsure what to expect.

“They probably thought I am strong enough to survive here,” she says, “so I said ‘yes’ right away.” Before long, this decision led Shiori to the airport to board a flight for a country and a university where she didn’t know a single person, and where she would spend the next year studying and gaining real-world experience. “My family says it is a great opportunity,” that encompasses valuable experiences both inside and out of the classroom, she says. (VIDEO)

Her plans include a full year in the U.S., combining a quarter of English as a Second Language (ESL) followed by two Accelerated Certificate Programs (ACP), and concluding with an internship. Many students follow a similar route as Shiori, selecting the ACP in International Business Operations & Management (IBOM) to gain a business overview, followed by a second certificate program that focuses on a specialty, then a smartly targeted internship.

Before her classes even began, she formed initial impressions, marveling at the cleanliness, pleasant weather, and vast spaces between the homes and roads in Irvine. “In the beginning, I didn’t have much motivation to study here; my English was very poor,” Shiori says. “But my classmates take their English very seriously, and they inspire me to become a better English speaker.”

Like all ACP students, Shiori’s three short months to earn each certificate will comprise 160 hours of classwork. She will devote additional time to projects and homework balanced with social invitations and, of course, trips to In-N-Out Burger. Shiori’s year abroad marks her first time away from home for longer than a month. She assures her family that she is quickly adjusting to life and enjoying it. When she turned 25 during the program, she seized the chance to throw an American-style apartment party with her roommates. She has also secured a California driver’s license and bought a car. Though a key component to completing her internship, she plans to sell it when she leaves.

Shiori doesn’t find the classes too difficult for her, despite the fact that many of her peers have more work experience and stronger English. For Shiori, the frequent opportunity to work in small groups greatly enhances the lectures. (VIDEO) She adds that learning about accounting and finance from an American point of view has been eye-opening. “The instructors often mention Japan in our lectures, so I’ve learned how Americans view Japan” and Japan’s importance in the global economy, she says. Her new fascination with the inner workings of international trade and exports has awakened an interest in sales. Now she ponders a career beyond the facts and figures of accounting someday.

As the ACP academic advisors observe, students come with one idea and leave with many others. They may come wanting to better themselves, but they leave with a vision to better their country, influence ideas, launch a company, or improve the global economy and leave their imprint on the world.

When Shiori returns to her job back home, her company will expect her to share her newfound knowledge with colleagues—both from her coursework and her unpaid internship at an American company. Shiori imagines she will also tell them about American culture. “I’m getting used to life in California. It’s totally different than life in Japan,” she says. “I can do whatever I want here,” and, she implies, be whomever she desires to be. “Yes, I could live here.”