Post-COVID-19 Economy: Executives, Alumni Share Insights

Executive video series features faculty moderating dynamic panels

We're all facing unprecedented times because of COVID-19, which has changed how we work, play and do business. With many relationships turned virtual, businesses need strategic advice for an uncertain future.

Over the past several months, we brought together more than a dozen CEOs and C-Suite leaders—many UC Davis alumni—in our exclusive video series: "Perspectives on a Post-COVID-19 Economy." 

From the front lines, they offer strategic advice navigating six key areas: finance, technology, business development, consulting/corporate strategy, supply chain/operations and leadership:

Below, we break down each of the six episodes. The series in available on this exclusive YouTube playlist.

Episode 1: Finance

Perspectives on a Post-COVID 19 Economy: Emerging Issues in Finance

Kicking off the series on May 12, financial experts and UC Davis alumni Wylie Tollette, Dan Griggs and Mike Kourey joined Professor Ayako Yasuda for a dynamic discussion on the pandemic’s impact on specific industries, the economic recovery and the most valuable skills students can bring to this job market.


  • Mike Kourey 81, UC Davis alum, Chief Financial Officer, Vlocity
  • Dan Griggs MBA 04, Consultant, former CFO, Sitecore
  • Wylie Tollette 88, UC Davis alum, Executive Vice President, Head of Client Investment Solutions, Franklin Templeton Multi-Asset Solutions

From their vantage points, Tollette, Kourey and Griggs shared the unique factors leading to this recession and a corresponding spike in unemployment, as well as the industries that are best positioned for the recovery.

“Almost every economic downturn has seen a W-shaped recovery,” Tollette said. “It’s very rare to see a V-shaped recovery. I predict it will look like a Nike swoosh with some bumps in it…it’s not a straight line back to a normal economy.”

Episode 2: Consulting/Corporate Strategy

Perspectives on a Post-COVID 19 Economy: Emerging Issues in Consulting and Corporate Strategy

In the second series panel on May 19, consulting and corporate strategy experts and UC Davis alumni Hussain Sharifi and Greg Thomas joined Associate Professor Elizabeth Pontikes for a candid discussion on how the pandemic is affecting client relationships.


Thomas and Sharifi both explained their organizations’ pre-existing relationships, underscoring the importance of past success and underlining the difficulties of establishing new gigs during the quarantine.

“Consulting is about doing great work for clients, but it’s also about building relationships… The ability to do that when you’re not face-to-face is difficult, and that’s going to change things in our field, no matter how long you think this will last,” Thomas said.

"When I think of the consulting business, because it’s moving in lock-step with the economy, it’s really going to suffer.”
— Greg Thomas MBA 98, Vice President, North Highland Consulting

Episode 3: Business Development/Project Management

Perspectives on a Post-COVID-19 Economy Series - Business Development/Project Management

In the third installment of the series on May 26, global business development and marketing experts and UC Davis alumni Randy Lee and Michelle Leyden-Li joined GSM Dean H. Rao Unnava for a timely discussion on the pandemic’s impact on their high tech industries.


“In times like these, you see the big players, those with big cash flows and a strong following, coming out better than they were before the crisis because those second and third-tier competitors are washed out.”
— Randy Lee MBA 00

Episode 4: Supply Chain/Operations

Perspectives on a Post-COVID-19 Economy Series – Emerging Issues in Supply Chain/Operations

In the fourth installment of the series on June 2, supply chain and logistics experts and UC Davis alumni Damien Caton MBA 09 and Peter Barrick MBA 16 joined Professor Rachel Chen to discuss changing consumer behaviors during the pandemic, production scaling and more.


Working for the second-largest winery in the United States, Damien Caton discusses the early decisions made at Trinchero Family Estates to mitigate the well-known risks associated with the pandemic. “Before we knew which way to run, we knew that we were on the clock and we wanted to ramp up our production engine because we didn’t know what the next day would look like,” he said. “We got lucky in some cases—but now we’ve got an obsolesce challenge and a top-of-the-line challenge.”

Episode 5: Technology

Perspectives on a Post-COVID-19 Economy – Technology

In the fifth installment of the series on June 30, four experienced CEOs in the technology sector joined Professor Hemant Bhargava to discuss the global digital shift during the pandemic, changing workforces, investments in recession-resistant sectors and more.


“There’s disruptions and distractions, but we can’t let that detract us from our long-term vision. It’s so easy to be distracted by the urgent, that we can overlook the important.”
— Jeff Benck, President & CEO, Benchmark Electronics


Episode 6: Leadership in Crisis

Perspectives on a Post-COVID-19 Economy Series – Leadership in Crisis

In the sixth and final installment of the series on July 7, former Lam Research CEO and Chairman Stephen Newberry drew on more than two decades of executive leadership in the globally competitive semiconductor industry.

He joined Professor Kimberly Elsbach to discuss issues facing leaders in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how leadership will respond to help the economy recover.


Newberry, a long-time supporter and advisor of the School, shared his values-based leadership approach and how it can help board members, CEOs and management teams guide their companies through even through the choppiest waters.

“Values in the absence of knowing what to do, will tell you what direction to go, and what not to do. People today expect to know what your belief system is (as a leader), especially now in terms of social injustices.”
— Stephen Newberry, retired CEO and Chair, Lam Research