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Pepperdine | Graziadio Business School

Fully Employed MBA Program Alumni Testimonial


MBA Alumnus, Tiffany Stith

As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Lawry's Restaurants, Tiffany applies her experience at Pepperdine to improve business outcomes. Enrolling in the Fully Employed MBA program, Tiffany continuously merges classroom material within her role. Referencing her experience, Tiffany believes she acquired the skill set needed to effectively lead her enterprise. Emerging as a leader, Tiffany is committed to cultivating change within her organization.

Read Tiffany's Story

"I've been incredibly fortunate to be able to remain open-minded, to try things that I might not have otherwise tried, but by saying yes to things, I've benefited from that, and I've learned a lot along the way because of it. My name is Tiffany Stith and I'm the president and chief operating officer at Lawry's Restaurants.

I started in business, really started in business with my first job at AC Propulsion, which I took as an undergraduate. I answered an ad in the newspaper. I didn't know anything about it. It was three engineers were coming out of the General Motors electric vehicle project and starting their own electric vehicle manufacturing company, so it was just a journey that really started off about saying yes to everything. Saying yes to, can you set up an office? Can you figure out how to give people benefits? And every time they said can you, I said, yes, so it was a great way to learn about business, it was a great way to learn about how companies start and how cultures are built and how you build teams.

Someone told me that I needed to interview with a company that was hiring in Pasadena and they said, you'll really like the people, and they were absolutely right. I fell in love with the people pretty instantly, and that company was Lawry's. I was in the role for a couple of years and went back to my plan for grad school. It was a pretty all-encompassing job already, so one of my biggest concerns when I was looking at grad school was, I don't wanna quit my job. I don't financially think that's the right thing to do.

I'm fairly newly married at that point and I ran across the program at Pepperdine and I looked at several programs. I looked at several fully-employed programs, and the one at Pepperdine at Graziadio really just felt like the best fit for me. Not dissimilar from the role at Lawry's, it felt like it had a really strong ethical core and background, and there was a lot of emphasis on it being a value-centered leadership program, and that was very aligned for me, and I also had the opportunity to really apply what I was learning at Pepperdine every day in my job.

I'd go through an organizational development class and we'd spend a lot of time talking about strengths and team-building, and I'd come back to work and be hiring a new staff for our restaurant and put all of that information that I was learning about strengths and team-building into practice. Then a couple of years ago, another opportunity presented itself, and not one that I was looking for. I can honestly say that I was, it was not in my role as VP of HR saying, you know, I think what I'd really like to do is be the Chief Operating Officer and the President of Lawry's, but I have had some good mentors in my career and I got some good advice that said, be open to the opportunity.

There's an opportunity to learn. You've got the operational background, you've got the experience, you understand business, give it some thought. And I did and I've never looked back. I'm the first person who is not a family member and I'm the first female to hold the role within the organization, and I think that's been meaningful for the transition and the evolution of the organization, and I know it's been incredibly meaningful for me.

What I learned at Graziadio helped me to speak the language of business and to open some of those doors, whether that was dealing with a board of directors or really being able to articulate strategy for the organization or articulate what I ultimately wanted to do in my career. So, those doors opened because of that, and I said yes, and I said yes because it sounded like a great challenge."