Multinational Company Executive Reflects on CSUSB Experience
It's been more than two decades since Steve Vivian was a campus student leader and listened to accounting lectures, but fondly recalls a variety of experiences that contributed to his development as a leader.
"Early on, I knew this was a perfect opportunity for me to practice my leadership skills in a very safe environment, where I was nurtured and mentored. So, I got involved, eventually working for the Student Union which gave me more of a professional platform working with campus deans, vice presidents, and other leaders who encouraged me and made me feel empowered to stretch myself.”
Steve Vivian is now Vice President of Finance at Nissin Foods USA, a multinational food company based in Gardenia. The field demands a level of textbook and technical skills, but it's strategy, relationship building and empowering others that has driven his career.
He took on the role at Nissin in 2019. The following year, COVID-19 pandemic spurred an unprecedented demand for food from the company best known for its instant noodles - Cup Noodles and Top Ramen. It’s been a roller coaster of challenges, innovation and success. Steve is responsible for providing guidance, decision support and oversight for everything from financial planning and forecasting to implementing strategic processes and initiatives.
“It’s not just adding and subtracting numbers. What you bring to the table is the interpretation of those numbers. What does it tell you about what happened in the past and what does it tell you about what's going to happen next and how do you prepare for the future?”
Since graduating from CSUSB with a degree in Accounting in 2000, he has amassed more than 20 years of professional experience and earned a master’s degree in strategy and executive leadership from the University of Southern California.
“Cal State San Bernardino gave me the basis of my fundamental personal and leadership skills - a strong piece of that foundation of who I am today.”
LIFE & CAREER READY
Subconsciously, a sense of time value of money - a core finance principle - drew Steve to CSUSB. He narrowed his options down to cost, student/teacher ratio, diversity and location with the latter two ultimately leading his decision.
“You’re going to have diversity in business, in your career and in life, and if you’re not used to having that diversity around you, it could be a roadblock in understanding how to meet certain challenges in life.”
In the late 1990s, Steve recalled the Inland Empire as being the most diverse compared to Orange County and other Southern California places he lived before. He felt it was the most promising in finding connection, especially as the first in his family to attend college. And he did. The more he got involved, the more his network grew and he came to rely on it as he overcame hurdles with navigating higher education as a first-generation attending college such as culture, expectations, resources and costs.
“I found a family here - people I could rely on to give me an opportunity. There was a fraternity brother who let me crash on his couch to save money. Another who told me about a job opening. It was also impactful to have staff that supported me or professors that would listen to me and let me share my thoughts and ideas.”
GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
With the power of relationship building seeded, Steve worked in accounting and auditing for a little over 10 years after graduating and then held a series of finance management positions at Mars, Inc., maker of popular brands like Snickers, other food and pet care products. He said the company had an incredible knack for developing talent and leaders.
“I think my passion for wanting to feel connected to something tangible drove me to the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry and, once you are there (Mars, Inc.), then it is just a matter of time. You want to become better; you want to become more involved, and you want to grow within the organization. There is this natural progression to continue to climb that corporate ladder.”
Steve leaned into experiences that made him uncomfortable, yet helped him learn and work with people who helped him develop different skills and competencies to propel his leadership and career.
“When developing yourself, I always say you need to develop your toolbox. You need to be aware of what you want in your career, where you want to go, and what are the tools you need to get there. And then, start working with people who can help you develop the different tools in your set.”
Steve’s journey has compelled him to become an active alumnus, volunteering for one-to-one student mentoring as well as professor for the day events. He also meets and provides advice for student organizations.
BA Accounting, 2000
Student Union (Vice Chairman)
Delta Sigma Chi (President)
Accounting Association (Vice President)
Latino Business Student Association (Historian)
CSUSB New Student Orientation Leader
Food & Beverage -
Consumer Packaged Goods
Ruiz Food Products
Stonefield Josephson (Marcum LLP)
“My time at Cal State San Bernardino was very important to my development as a leader. Early on, I knew this was a perfect opportunity for me to practice my leadership skills in a very safe environment, where I was nurtured and mentored. So, I got involved, eventually working for the Student Union which gave me more of a professional platform working with campus deans, vice presidents, and other leaders who encouraged me and made me feel empowered to stretch myself.”