Deans’ First Jobs: From Washing Dishes To Selling Hot Dogs

Dean Sri Zaheer

“My first real job in business was actually a summer job at Citibank in Bombay, India. I was 20 years old, and I had to work by myself figuring out a way to reduce the time it took for Citibank India to report its balance sheet and income statement every month back to the head office. In those days, it took 12 days to collect that data, and send it back. They wanted it in two days. So I had to develop a whole flow-chart of how it was being done and what steps could be eliminated or run in parallel. That was my summer project.

I was successful in coming up with a process that would cut the time taken, but realized afterwards that it would have been far easier to implement if I had involved others in developing the solutions. This was something I have discovered again and again in my career. As a result, I now firmly believe that if you truly want to influence action, you have to involve the actors in coming up with the solutions.”

– Sri Zaheer, University of Minnesota (Carlson)


Dean Rich Lyons (Photos Copyright Noah Berger)

“My favorite mistake was, in some sense, my first real job. But my first real job was when I went on leave from Berkeley to serve as Chief Learning Officer at Goldman Sachs. I have never learned so much in such a short period in my life (though my job was mostly about making sure others were learning and developing). For example, because I worked in the HR part of the bank (what Goldman calls Human Capital Management), I was involved in designing and delivering sessions for new employees when they first arrived, so-called on-boarding. The intentionality around culture—shared values and the resulting behaviors— that was part of those onboarding experiences fascinated me. Academic institutions are not terribly intentional about culture, so my life as an academic did not prepare me for this. And yet, I could see how powerful it was (e.g., giving examples of “this is what teamwork looks like around here.”). There are many other elements of the bank that were eye-opening to me, too. Suffice it to say that when I left that role to take the deanship at Berkeley, it became vividly clear that being more intentional about culture as a business school was a huge opportunity—one that I surely would not have recognized had I not had my eyes opened.”

– Rich Lyons, University of California-Berkeley (Haas)


Dean Jim Jiambalvo


“Although I had summer jobs throughout high school and college, my first “real” job was with an international public accounting firm in Chicago. I learned that much of accounting was about judgment.  I learned the value of hard work (60-70 work weeks were common in busy season). And I learned that I liked thinking about accounting a lot more than doing it. So, it was off to graduate school!”

– Jim Jiambalvo, University of Washington (Foster)


Dean Doug Shackelford

“I grew up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina.  Every summer, I worked in green tobacco and got sick from the nicotine seeping into my pores. At least a week would pass before I could eat solid food. I never needed a study to know that tobacco was dangerous. I never smoked and am glad of it.

I learned about teamwork, deferred gratification, tough physical labor, perseverance and not to complain. I didn’t appreciate any of these lessons of experience until I was middle-aged and reflected on how they have helped me in my career and my appreciation of what a good life I have today. It’s funny that I now recognize people with similar backgrounds to mine and how they approach life compared with others who just aren’t wired the same way.

It’s hard to quit when you grow up in an environment like that. Today I have it easy – I work in an air-conditioned environment when it’s hot and I’m comfortably warm during the winter. Any problem I have doesn’t merit complaining about. Life is pretty sweet.”

– Doug Shackelford, University of North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler

(Stay tuned this summer for two other questions that we posed to the leading deans.)


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