Labor Day: Hard hats, headlines and eggy dishes

September 04, 2015

LaborDayDefinitionDishwasher, ice cream scooper, paper boy. Those are just a few of the jobs that gave Brandman University’s senior management team members their early views of the world of work. In honor of Labor Day on Monday, here’s a look at where a few of them worked and what they learned and still use today as chancellors and vice chancellors.

Gary Brahm

Chancellor Gary Brahm

Chancellor Gary Brahm was a football-playing, 16-year-old when he started washing dishes at a rest home during the off-season.

“I had time and I was expected to work,” he remembers. “I would get there after class and all the dishes from breakfast would be awaiting my arrival.”

Brahm says that in addition to learning to always soak egg plates in water as soon as you’re done eating, he also learned, “We all have different roles and each is important, but some you don’t want to do your whole life, so get an education.”


Executive Vice Chancellor Saskia Knight

Saskia Knight, executive vice chancellor for enrollment and student affairs, was in college and looking for a summer job as a typist at Dow Chemical in Torrance, California, but flunked the typing test. When she saw a line of guys (Dow often hired summer workers who were the sons and daughters of full-time employees) signing up to be forklift drivers, she asked why she couldn’t do that job. And that’s how she became the first female forklift driver at Dow.

It wasn’t exactly smooth driving. “I got a lot of negative attention,” she says. She started by using the forklift to empty trash cans and graduated to unloading trucks and railroad cars. “The first day I was scheduled to unload a railroad car, none of the guys wanted to work with me. A few weeks later I had all these extra dads and brothers in my life.”

The job paid a “fabulous” $14 an hour, much more than the minimum wage then ($1.60) or now ($9 in California but $7.25 nationally). She made enough working summers that she didn’t need to work the school year.

Besides learning to drive a forklift and how to sport a hard hat in style, she learned, “Never put barriers in front of yourself. You still have to be persistent and put in the effort but don’t be afraid to ask for something just because it’s not offered.”


Vice Chancellor Shelly Neal

Dr. Shelly Neal, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives, also got her start in food service, although without cold eggs stuck to plates.

“My first job was working for a family owned ice cream shop.  My friend was the son of the owner and we had a lot of fun working together.  Customers were friendly and happy.  How can you not be happy coming in for a delicious ice cream treat?”

The job taught her that she really likes to believe in what she’s doing. “At the ice cream shop, we sold a high quality product that was desirable and a treat.” She also learned about working with others, including meeting and serving customers who came to the shop.

“Today, I recognize the importance of corporate culture and having an enjoyable work environment where people feel valued and are treated with respect. I have a passion for learning and am in the perfect environment.  I am proud of whom I work for and whom I work with.  I am surrounded by excellence and get to promote something that resonates with me.  Additionally, I know that in some way, I am a part of a positive journey of many students and that makes me fulfilled.”


Vice Chancellor Joe Cockrell

Joe Cockrell, vice chancellor for communications, got his start in the news business at his very first job: delivering his hometown newspaper the Burlington Hawkeye in Iowa.

“As I got to know the people along my paper route, many of the older/retired would sit and wait for the newspaper each day. They would ask me every day: ‘what today’s big news?’ I learned that if I sat down and read the newspaper before doing my route, I’d make tips from some of the customers who would just ask me about the news rather than taking time to read the stories themselves. That taught me all about the power of headlines and grabbing readers’ attention in the lead – because I mostly scanned the paper looking at headlines and would read the most interesting stories so that I could recap them to people who asked along my route.”

Using stories to engage people has been vital to his entire career path, first through print and TV news and now at Brandman, where he serves as university spokesperson and liaison to the news media. “My role is also to serve as the chief storyteller managing the news bureau that works hard to share and disseminate the many wonderful stories from the Brandman community.”


VIce Chancellor Ram Singh

Ramendra Singh, vice chancellor for marketing, filled us in on his first job out of college, working as a senior business consultant with IBM Global Business Services. Among the many lessons he learned on the job was to take “rounded consideration” toward problem solving – looking at each problem from a revenue, expense, financial and stakeholder-acceptance point of view.  Like Neal, he found that aligning his job with his passions means work doesn’t feel like work.

“When I completed my bachelors in Computer Science & Engineering, I did not know that my professional life would start, right off the bat, in the area of marketing and business development; however, I loved every moment of it – from talking to clients, understanding their needs, designing solutions for them, analyzing information – every moment was exciting. Today, in my current job, I still feel the same way, and that’s what I love about my current position.”

To learn more about the history of Labor day, go to http://www.dol.gov/laborday/history.htm

Become a Student

Have questions about enrollment, degree programs, financial aid, or next steps?

Further your education with a few questions

Please enter your zip code to proceed.
Please enter a valid zip code to proceed.
Is this an international zip code?
Please select a degree type
Please select your area of interest
Please select a program type
Please select a session
Please enter your name
Please enter your last name
Please enter your email to proceed
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter your phone number to proceed.
Please enter a valid phone number.

About Brandman

Earn your bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or certificate at Brandman, a regionally accredited university.

We value your privacy

By submitting this form, I agree that Brandman may contact me about educational services by voice, pre-recorded message and/or text message using automated technology, at the phone number provided, including wireless numbers. I understand that my consent is not required to attend Brandman University. Privacy Policy