Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    The Creator’s Critique

    Ever since I met John Kobara back in the summer of 2010, he has been my role model and a look at his biography easily explains why.

    “In 2009, John was appointed Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer for the California Community Foundation (CCF). He is responsible for all of the development, marketing, administrative, grantmaking, civic engagement, and donor relations functions for the 48th largest foundation in the nation. The California Community Foundation is L.A.’s foundation. CCF has been around since 1915, with more than $1 billion in assets. Since 2004, CCF granted more than $1 billion in grants to non-profits and charities in Los Angeles and beyond. CCF specializes in assisting high net worth families, individuals, corporations and non-profits to pursue their philanthropic visions.

    For more than thirty five years, John has been leading and managing diverse and complex non-profit and for-profit organizations. John has been engaged in three successful start-ups traversing a broad spectrum of industries during his career. He regards himself as a social entrepreneur who specializes in cause marketing and social advocacy. Prior to his appointment at CCF, John was CEO of the CK12 Foundation, a nonprofit technology startup that provides no-cost textbooks to K-12 market. He also served as President/CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles , Senior VP of Online Higher Education for Sylvan Learning Systems Inc, President/CEO of OnlineLearning.net, Vice Chancellor of External Affairs at UCLA, Executive Director of the UCLA Alumni Association, and Vice President and General Manager of Falcon Cable TV.”

    Taken from http://jeknetwork.typepad.com

    The man makes success look easy and to top it all off is incredibly humble about it. When Kobara offered me the opportunity (on Facebook no less) to discuss and plan my future with him, I immediately jumped at the chance. I completed his SWIVEL worksheet as honestly and completely as possible and sent it off to him. In a week, I was on the phone with Kobara, who was calling all the way from Los Angeles, talking about marketing, networking and me. Below are some of ideas and suggestions that Kobara gave me.

    Marketing vs advertising

    Kobara started off by explaining to me the difference between marketing and advertising, words which I use interchangeably when in fact they are two very different things. Marketing is the overall strategy of selling the product, therefore it encompasses advertising. Advertising, which falls under marketing is the way that you get the word out.

    Marketing Homework

    I was told to start looking critically at the products and companies that I had an interest in, in essence, create my own case studies. Kobara suggested I look at the companies’ cost of acquisition, which could be roughly determined by dividing the sales numbers by the marketing costs. The cost of acquisition is how much a company spends to get a sale, by comparing cost of acquisition across companies, I could begin to ask myself, “why is one company’s cost of acquisition higher or lower than another’s?” and most importantly “what would I do differently if I was heading up the company’s marketing efforts?”

    In addition, I was advised to create a marketing binder that would catalogue marketing things of interest. In this case, interest could mean both positive and negative reactions. Understanding why I love or hate a certain marketing approach is crucial to emulating success and avoiding mistakes.

    Think about coffee and tea

    Kobara noted my interest in coffee and tea; and took these two things and ran with it. He challenged me to start thinking about how coffee and tea is sold from the supermarket to the cafĂ©. How are different brands shelved differently in supermarkets? What makes someone choose Starbucks over Peet’s? In addition, he suggested take surveys and ask questions to customers and employees in order to understand the product. Putting together my interests in this way seems obvious in hindsight but I would not have been able to view my favorite beverages in this manner had Kobara not pointed it out.

    Little did I know that the usage of coffee and tea as examples was a lesson in of itself. “Preferences over options” was Kobara’s advice, because if I chose options, I would quickly find myself hating my work and doing a subpar job. In addition, at this point in my life, I am short on experience so my next best selling point is my enthusiasm. Approaching a company by saying “I love your product for this, this and this reason” will make me stand out in a group of applicants. Not to mention, you cannot market what you do not believe in.

    Getting credentialed

    If I wanted to learn more about marketing as well as get some credentials, Kobara suggested I take some marketing certificate courses. He mentioned that UCLA extension and USC offer such courses, and I bet that UCSD extension does as well, meaning that I could get certified while still attending school.


    “Keep hopping” is what he told me in regards to networking, and by that he meant that I should keep meeting people without regard for who they are, and who are different from me. The rationale behind this was that if I was selling tea, I would be selling it to anybody who likes tea and not just people who were like me.

    As for how to ask people for help, Kobara told me that if I was honest, people would help me if I asked. In addition, I could preemptively ask people if they needed help rather than wait. This way I would be able start reciprocal relationships. Relationships need to be formed organically and honestly in order to be enduring.

    Finally he stressed the need for me to do my homework before asking questions. Better informed questions would be better received and more likely to be answered.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    About Me: SWIVEL Edition

    The "strengthening what I value, enjoy, and love"(SWIVEL) worksheet created by John Kobara, Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer of the California Community Foundation, is an extremely helpful tool for self reflection. A look at my completed SWIVEL will give you a good idea of my goals, values and interests.

    I highly encourage everybody to complete the full SWIVEL for themselves.

    Download it here

    Note: The SWIVEL I have posted is edited to make it more relevant to the nature of this blog. Certain questions and responses have been deleted.

    My SWIVEL after the jump


    1.Personal Mission Statement—What do I want to do with my life next year? What will I stand for and how will I make a difference? (100 words or less)
    This coming year I will strengthen my existing professional connections as well as continue to expand my network in order to improve my chances of employment upon graduation. I want to once again pursue all those hobbies that last year, I was always too tired to get out of bed for. I will stand with labor and minorities, whose interests are underrepresented and at times neglected. I will make a difference by giving my time and skills to organizations that I believe are helping the interests of the underrepresented.

    2.Right now, my longer term and ideal professional goal is (12 words or less)
    Design and run an advertising campaign that lifts a company from obscurity

    3.What are the three most important professional goals for this year?
    a. Expand professional network while strengthening existing relationships
    b. Get work experience in the private sector
    c. Branch out of social media marketing

    4.What three things do I have to change in my life? Things I have to improve or work on?
    a.Overcome the awkwardness of approaching strangers and asking for help from connections
    b.Take my studies more seriously
    c.Learn to forgive and forget

    5.What three issues, causes, or things am I passionate about? Being more engaged with these things would increase my sense of fulfillment.
    a.Local politics
    b.Martial arts
    c.US – China relations

    6.What am I curious about? I would really appreciate some help exploring/learning about these subjects.
    I have a long running personal curiosity over coffee and tea, especially since I aspire to open my own coffee shop one day. Having somebody teach me about these two drinks would be a dream come true. Venture capital is a career curiosity of mine that came out this year when I realized that I was constantly getting excited by the startups that were in my own backyard of Silicon Valley.

    7.How will I expand and diversify my network of friends, confidantes, and mentors?
    I will expand my network on campus by attending my professors’ office hours and joining of student organizations. Diversification of my network will occur in off campus activities, such as employment and the joining of political as well as professional organizations such as the Chinese American Citizens Alliance and Asian Professional Exchange.

    8.With whom will I reconnect and/or strengthen my relationship? Who can I help?
    I will strengthen my relationships with the people that I have met while studying abroad in Shanghai. This is extremely important, because I do not know when I will see them again and they all live thousands of miles away in Asia. Another priority is to reconnect with old colleagues and work acquaintances, many of whom I have not talked to in months.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011


    I was once told by a certain speaker at a workshop that a professional blog is what future employers would look for on the resumes of job candidates. Now I am uncertain if the speaker is correct about the future, but as an anthropology student at the University of California at San Diego, my future at graduation is uncertain. After all, what skills does an anthropology degree offer potential employers outside academia? With the future on my mind, I see no harm in giving professional blogging a shot.

    Through my personal blog, I have found writing to be an amazing source of self reflection, leading to valuable insights about myself. This source of self reflection has been missing in my professional life. I have learned a lot, enjoyed some success and at the same time made many mistakes during my brief stint in the work force. However, much of this professional experience has been little thought over, I move on to the next job at hand without a thought about what I had learned and what I could build on. As the clichĂ© saying goes,” those who do not learn from are doomed to repeat it.” I would hate to learn something twice, especially on an employer’s time.

    Enter this blog, soon to be filled with my work experiences, thoughts and observations with a focus on marketing, public relations and culture. Past work experiences will be analyzed so that successes can be replicated and mistakes avoided. Current work will be discussed in order to ensure that I am not straying from the path. Future plans will be drawn up and shared on this blog to better judge their feasibility and chances of success.

    As in my personal blog, readers are invited to follow and encouraged weigh in. Who knows, if you follow long enough and with some luck, you might even learn a thing or two as I start my professional journey.