Profile

Vickie Sherman MBA 13
Credit Where Credit is Due: At the Center of Sacramento’s Golden Renaissance

Vickie Sherman’s office is steps away from the landmark sports and entertainment arena her company named and is a centerpiece of the renaissance of downtown Sacramento: Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise.

As a senior marketing manager for Golden 1, one of the nation’s largest credit unions with more than $11 billion in assets and over 850,000 members, Sherman is driven by being part of a “great organization that I believe in, and that believes in me.”

“My career path has been a climb across a jungle gym rather than a tangent up a corporate ladder,” says Sherman, who earned her MBA in the UC Davis Sacramento Part-Time Program while working full-time—and raising a family.

Today she manages the Golden 1 brand, creative team, product management, marketing budget and the Golden 1 Center relationship. 

Sherman also serves as president of the board of directors of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management Alumni Association, which is focused on building support for the school and growing its network.

We caught up with Sherman to ask about her MBA experience, her professional success and her career goals. Sherman was “unapologetic about who I am, what I want to achieve and the ambition I have for my department and my company.”

What opportunities, decisions, events have shaped your professional life?

As a child, I used to thumb through the three-inch JCPenney catalogue, picking out the professional women who I would grow to be. I wanted to rule the world from a corner office in a suit and heels. I wanted to shed my humble origins and become Corporate Barbie.

I was the first in my family to get a college education. I started out at the local junior college, earning my associate’s degree in three semesters instead of four, with honors. A Wheatland, California, native, I transferred to UC San Diego because it was as far from my small hometown as I could get without paying out-of-state tuition. I worked at Victoria’s Secret through college, putting in more than 40 hours per week while a full-time student. Working in retail confirmed the suspicion I’d always had: a tall woman in a sharp suit who emanates confidence can accomplish a lot. 

“My career path has been a climb across a jungle gym rather than a tangent up a corporate ladder.”

After graduation, I moved to Las Vegas to open my company’s first outlet mall as an assistant marketing director. I later transferred to Los Angeles and trained at an upscale suburban mall. I was promoted to marketing director at the coolest shoe mecca mall in West Los Angeles (Westside Pavilion) and was a part of the team that did the grand opening of Hollywood & Highland, home to the space formerly known as the Kodak Theater and the Academy Awards. I have more photos with celebrities than I care to admit.

In 2004, the mall corporation I worked for sold its portfolio to a little-known developer out of Australia known as Westfield. Soon after, I wasn’t offered the marketing director job I’d sought, and I was devastated. But life moved on.

Eventually, the same things that had inspired me to leave the Sacramento area were kind of cool after getting married and starting a family. I returned to the area in March 2007.

Mall marketing is dependent on discretionary income. When the great recession hit, career advancement opportunities dissolved. The advent of real estate investment trusts had changed the tax implications of acquisitions, and there was a lot of consolidation in the industry. I’d paid my professional dues in an industry that no longer needed me.

While assessing what I could possibly do to continue to advance my career, it hit me: What if I went back to school to get my MBA? I knew I had loved marketing. I just needed a new industry.

Four jobs and three years later, I graduated from the Sacramento MBA program in 2013. I now manage the corporate marketing department at Golden 1, California’s leading credit union.

Do you have any advice for women seeking to advance their careers?

Throughout their lives, most men are trained to be strong and ambitious. Most women are trained to be attractive, obedient and likable. This is so ingrained in our society that we hardly even see it. I adopted many of those premises myself. I always wanted to look the part. I also always doubted myself on some level.  

I am Vickie Sherman, and I am an imposter syndrome survivor. Hi Vickie.

“I am unapologetic about who I am, what I want to achieve and the ambition I have for my department and my company.”

I would venture to say any woman who has spent any length of time in a professional workforce has experienced subtle or not-so-subtle forms of retaliation for expressing ambition. Political maneuvering is generally seen as savvy if from a man, manipulative if from a woman. Asking for a raise is an expression of competence from a man, pushiness from a woman. Post-partum career slippage is more common for women than for men. Appraisals that include terms like territorial and interpersonal discord with no warning nor examples are as well. I have been met with sheer astonishment at my audacity when I dared to say that after three years of essentially doing so, I was ready to officially run my department.

We as a society need to talk about this and evolve. We shouldn’t shun the conversation because it’s difficult. In fact, that’s exactly why we should actively have it. Feminism isn’t finding one gender better or worse than another. It’s about finding both equal.

The only way I know how to combat gender bias is to reconcile who I am with what I have learned, what my values are and, professionally, to focus on results. I applaud those that do so as well as recognize their own gender bias, male or female.

I decided long ago I wanted to look and act the part of a powerful, attractive woman. But with that, I also decided I would work harder, be better at generating consensus and identifying data-driven strategy, and be clearer with transparency than my peers. It’s a balance that, to me, is very personal.

What are you passionate about in your work?

Results. Transparency. Inspiring trust. Working smarter, not harder. Identifying leadership’s currency and over-delivering. Making people raving fans of a company that does what it says it will do. Becoming invaluable and inspiring my team to do the same. Those are the only tools I know to thrive professionally. There are no shortcuts.

Where is your career headed? 

I will be a CMO before my career is complete. I want to lead the marketing function for a great organization that I believe in, and that believes in me. I think I’m moving in that direction.

How are you a game changer? Or, how are you making a positive impact in the world?

I don’t know that I am a game-changer. I do know I’m more myself now than I ever have been.

I am unapologetic about who I am, what I want to achieve and the ambition I have for my department and my company. And I know that I can’t do it alone: I am the first to say I need help, to express gratitude for an expert’s contribution and to admit it when I make a mistake.  

“I am shameless about my career ambitions: I want the corner office.”

I am most comfortable in corporate environments where I have a seat at the table. I wear sharp suits, high heels and bright red lipstick. I love not having to pretend that I’m weaker, dimmer or less feminine than I am. I am opinionated, smart, imperfect, pleasant, and driven. I laugh heartily and often. I encourage others to fully be themselves, in both their personal and professional lives.

How has your UC Davis MBA experience helped shape your success?

The Graduate School of Management enhanced my technical business acumen in exactly the ways I had hoped it would.  Finance is the engine of any organization, and I can speak it fluently.

The School also taught me the value of what I already had. I realized I knew much more than I had given myself credit for. I have a knack for emotional telepathy. People won’t remember what you do or what you say as much as how you make them feel.

Group work in the MBA program blew my mind. My first group project was in marketing, and it was because I learned how to shut up and listen that the final result was indeed far superior than if I’d taken charge and done the whole thing myself. When I ran across a group tyrant in my third year, I recognized a former version of myself and was horribly embarrassed.

The School taught me how to be a better leader. I learned the value of creating an environment where everyone feels safe to chime in. I honed my drive into wanting desirable results for all. The reward was that some of the most powerful insights from group projects were contributions from others. I learned to focus on the big win of the group being ours, not just mine.

What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?

I found my long-term professional home. At least I think so.

Your favorite GSM memory?

One night the planets aligned just so and I ended up skipping a class with about four cohorts to have drinks with four of the marketing professors at the School at an Irish pub in downtown Sacramento. We piled into two cars—mine being one of them—and shared a few pints with some of the most recognized marketing geniuses in the world. It was the optimum example of (Former) Dean Steven Currall’s advice to not let your class schedule get in the way of your education. It was amazing.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I refuse to propel the superwoman myth. My marriage and family survived my school schedule because I made time for it. But we made compromises: The house was a mess and we ate a lot of takeout. Now that my career seems back on track to pre-recession levels, the house is still a mess and we still eat a lot of takeout.

How do you support and participate in the Graduate School of Management now? Why is it important to support graduate business education?

I knew I’d get out of the MBA program what I put into it. So I gave it my all. Not only was I fully employed with a husband and two children, I was on the dean’s Student Advisory Committee as communications director my first year, served as class president my second year and was a Leadership Fellow my third year. I co-founded the now-annual networking event Capital Connections on the belief that happy, connected students become happy, connected alumni. I spoke at commencement. Although I was in the Sacramento MBA program, I took a few electives on the Davis campus to meet Full-Time and Bay Area MBA students. Now I’m the president of the GSM Alumni Association’s Board of Directors.

It’s important to support the GSM after graduation because after crossing the Mondavi stage and getting that diploma, a subtle transformation occurs: Responsibilities don’t decrease—they increase.

We are no longer consumers of business strategy and information. Now we produce it. Post-graduation, there is no syllabus, no conveniently bundled case studies with facts to light the way. There are no clear-cut questions and no right or wrong answers. What we say, do, influence and accomplish professionally is entirely on us. We have no one but our wits and each other to guide us.

The Graduate School of Management is a small school. Our faculty are some of the most passionate and talented in the world and are only too willing to spend time with us. There is no reason the School’s alumni network shouldn’t be the tightest and most powerful in the world. I’d like to help make that happen.

I am shameless about my career ambitions: I want the corner office. I know I have to earn it, and I’m willing to work very hard to do so. And I can’t accomplish what I want alone. I am willing to give what I can and contribute to others’ ambitions because I know that, at some point, I will need an introduction or perspective that I alone am not capable of.  

So I’m happy to pay it forward. Especially if it’s over a pint.