“Those who can retain their dreams through the many ordeals of life will be the creative geniuses of tomorrow. “ ~ R. Y. Okumoto

My Journey from Poverty to Student/Educator/Writer

“Assimilate!” This was repeated to me throughout my youth. Japanese/American children were always told to assimilate into American society and culture. “Do not fight the system and follow its lead. ” My parents reminded me that I must blend into the fabric of society and never show up as a stain. What was most important, “Do not embarrass our family. ” This was drilled into me every day. Japanese/American children were bred to be followers, not leaders. I was doomed to not bloom or be a late bloomer.

My work and my soul were not aligned. This created desire and a craving for more; I wanted to be a perpetual student, educator, and writer.

Early Years

Days before the age of 10 were just fantasy and childhood. At the age of 10 life became reality and I embraced it with childlike awe and puzzlement. It was a time of awareness when poverty and economic challenge faced our family. It was a sobering year in which Dad was crippled in an auto accident. With five children, I being the fourth, we each did what we could to help support the family. That year marked the birth of a mystical child. At age 10 I worked my Dad’s gardening route with my cousin Ken, worked at Chandler’s lamp shop, and helped Mom clean homes as a domestic. Like Dad I was small and tough – underestimated, ignored, and invisible.

At the age of 14 I was whisked off to a kind uncle with the hopes of landing a permanent stay or at least to the age of 18. Working 10 hour days doing landscaping and light construction were good for the soul, my muscles, and my pocketbook. I learned the value of hard work and the money that came with it. But, I missed home and a few months after my 15th birthday I negotiated my way back to Pasadena. My promise: I would work full-time at a gas station while attending high school to pay for my living costs. I kept my promise and my parents kept their promise. I would not be emotionally and physically abandoned as they had been. To earn extra cash my second job was delivering pizzas to questionable locations.


Luckily the community college system enabled me to save my grade point average and prepared me for a four year university. My night job during community college meant manning liquor stores in Pasadena and East Los Angeles. If you choose to generally engage the world in this way, you’ll have a much better chance not just of observing warning signs hr disciplinary assignment help future professional but of forging life-changing relationships. Both locations proved convenient and dangerous; having been robbed at gun-point twice. But, my acceptance to San Jose State University (SJSU) brought positive luck into my life and a chance to leave my neighborhood. Armed with money I saved, support from my parents, a bundle of student loans, and a job at Levitz furniture store in Santa Clara I embarked upon a memorable journey.

Obtaining a job after graduation was my only objective. I chose a practical major; I chose business administration with a concentration in Accounting.

Technology Storm – The Silicon Valley

In 1974 upon graduating from SJSU I entered the eye of a tornado; the technology industry. Specifically, I became a member of the semiconductor industry and found the wild-west still alive in the hearts and souls of brilliant technology cowboys and cowgirls. It was a fantastic and scary ride – adrenaline replaced blood flow and set sky high personal work ethics and expectations. If asked about the culture of Silicon Valley – short answer: you work very long hours and learn a lifetime in a couple of years.

My 30 plus years in the technology industry provided the opportunity for me to reach international destinations, paid for my MBA school work, meet political and business dignitaries, exercise my abilities as a senior executive, and practice transactional leadership. It was 100 years of work experience captured in 30 with aging elements to prove it. I was lucky enough to have taken a company public as a chief financial officer (initial public offering – the magic IPO), run a company as a r selling it for cash ($80 million price tag – poultry when compared to current deals), and execute many mergers and acquisitions.

I was unlucky in that thyroid cancer attacked me when I was in my 40’s and deteriorating discs in my neck during my 50’s required three replacements with titanium to hold me together. These are the remnants of war – the tech wars.

Student / Educator / Writer

In the spring of 1970 I saw two shooting stars. Upon the first I wished for success in business. Upon seeing the second I wished to be a writer and an educator. Upon the death of both parents, 14 months apart, I decided that it was time to realize my second wish.

In 2006, while recovering from reconstructive neck surgery, I found my uncluttered time un-nerving. Months passed and my tension vanished. Three things happened: I slowed down and began to embrace thinking, I fell into a daily rhythm, and I became comfortable with fewer things in my life. It may have been an anesthetic induced calm, but it felt like I was floating and smiling all the time.

In 2007, after a one year recovery period I made the decision to never return to a full-time corporate position. I tried consulting for a while, but found no satisfaction in the work. By chance in 2008 I was asked to develop a strategy course for the Lucas Graduate School of Business at SJSU. I was then asked to teach the class. I found my heart in teaching and mentoring. It was difficult, but natural. Teaching and mentoring provided a platform for me to chat, share ideas, and write papers for classroom use. To improve my skills I applied to and was accepted at Gonzaga University. For two years I attended the university on a full-time basis – receiving my Master’s degree in Communication and Leadership in December 2011.

While attending Gonzaga University SJSU granted me two additional to teach (both in strategy and one class is the capstone course). I was also asked to help develop a Financial Literacy course for undergraduate students. Although I had an accounting degree and had worked in corporate finance for many years; I went back to school for 1,000 hours of study to complete my Certificate in Personal Financial Planning and received my designation. This qualified me to teach the class. This was the first Area-E Personal Financial Education class at SJSU. As a service learning project I combined this class with financial education training sessions in the underserved East side of San Jose. CommUniverCity, a collaborative community organization, facilitated my activities. I am currently developing one of the first s at SJSU using my Personal Financial Education class as the pilot. It will be launched in the 2014 Spring Semester. For my work at SJSU the students and faculty granted me Master Teacher status in 2011 and 2012.

Ironically, I feel that I am not doing enough. As an instructor and a Board member I continue my teaching and mentoring work in both the academic and corporate environments. To Accelerate-Time-to-Knowledge I am building and will soon launch the Dot University©.

R. Y. Okumoto