Yasuda connects students to leading CFOs in tech
Spotlight Story

Q&A with Associate Professor Ayako Yasuda
Academic Coordinator, CFO for Technology Industry Immersion

Ayako Yasuda, associate professor of finance at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, has studied the shortfalls of socially responsible impact investing, the all-stars of stock analysts and investment mishaps in the Great Recession.

Most recently, Yasuda and co-author Professor Brad Barber were honored with the Moskowitz Prize, the only global award recognizing outstanding quantitative research in the field of sustainable, responsible impact investing.

Yasuda has taught MBA courses on venture capital and the finance of innovation. Now, as the coordinator of the new CFO for Technology Industry Immersion, she is introducing MBA and other graduate students to the new opportunities and challenges in leading the financial operations of technology firms.

She says the role of tech CFO is rapidly evolving, “becoming more strategic and more active, as opposed to the more passive, comptroller-type roles.” The course draws on top executives and the proximity to the global innovation hub of Silicon Valley.

“In the technology sector that evolution is happening much faster, attracting a lot of people with this combination of skills and mindset.”

Yasuda shared how her course stands out:

What can students expect from the CFO for Technology Industry Immersion?

The course is truly unique. I don’t think there are any courses currently offered anywhere that focus on the roles of CFOs in the technology sector.

Here are the types of questions that we’ll explore:

  • Are you interested in careers that leverage your skillset in finance as well as your passion for technology and science?
  • Do you want to learn how CFOs in today’s technology companies shape and guide the strategic direction of the company alongside the CEOs and CTOs?
  • What skills and expertise are vital for CFOs of early-stage startups on the verge of scaling and in need of capital infusion?
    • …for CFOs for startups that are at a fork in the road in terms of their technology platform choices?
    • …for CFOs for late-stage startups that are getting themselves ready for IPOs?
    • …or for divisional CFOs of multinational technology companies with teams on the ground in every continent and a large product portfolio to manage?

The class will feature two speakers on each day, and each speaker will present a real-world case problem to students that they will work on in small groups in class. Students will benefit from the experiential learning of a real world-case study and direct insights from the speaker as the discussion leader in class.

“I see this as a great opportunity to raise awareness for career paths that may not be as visible to students otherwise.”

How does this Immersion experience draw on UC Davis’ strengths in technology finance?

We have two tremendous advantages in offering a course like this: One is the enthusiastic support we have received from our alumni network. Many I spoke with immediately saw what a unique and unexplored opportunity this course offers to graduate students at the School and across UC Davis, and they generously gave us their time and energy to make the course happen.

Second is our proximity to Silicon Valley. This enhances both the caliber of speakers we have in the classroom as well as the potential professional benefits for students, as many are naturally interested in working there after graduation. The two advantages are obviously interrelated, too.

What gets you excited about teaching this Immersion?

There are several distinct themes I see emerging already in the design phase of the course that excite me. Being a technology company CFO means you need to wear a lot of hats and have skills that are not necessarily associated with being a more traditional company CFO: Managing the board and outside investors, acquiring other companies and integrating them post-acquisition, guiding technology decisions with economic forecasting, just to name a few. That’s part of the excitement—and the people I’m inviting seem to really enjoy what they do.

The roles of CFOs are evolving more generally in the economy as a whole. They are becoming more strategic and more active, as opposed to the more passive, comptroller-type roles. But in the technology sector that evolution is happening much faster, attracting a lot of people with this combination of skills and mindset in the near future. And being part of that evolution is an interesting learning experience. 

What opportunities do you envision this opening up for students and the campus?

First and foremost, I see this as a great opportunity to raise awareness for career paths that may not be as visible to students otherwise and to gain leverage in pursuing them. In the longer run, I could imagine even more of a virtuous cycle happening, growing the alumni network in this area and attracting students interested in this field. But in the short run the network benefits are already there, with the direct interaction with speakers and lots of opportunities for engaging them. 

Who are some of the speakers and what do they offer to the course?

To name a few: David Faugno, CFO of Qualtrics, who earlier took Barracuda Networks public, will lead a class on readiness to go public. We will have an “M&A Day” with Brian Moriarty of twoXAR, covering M&A dealmaking in the morning and David Cole of Intuit doing a case on post-M&A integration in the afternoon. Mike Kourey, CFO of Medallia and formerly a Khosla Ventures Partner, is also confirmed as a speaker.