Blog: Teacher Feature: Erin Thomas, Business Instructor

Learn how one Coastline Business Instructor relates the business theories taught in her class with real work examples.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a Business Instructor at Coastline College with a background in the defense and cellular technology industry.

I hold an MBA from the University of California, Irvine, emphasizing International Business and a BS in Information and Computer Science, also from the University of California, Irvine. Prior to teaching, I worked many years in Information Technology and spent my last five years working with customers internationally.

What do you love about working at Coastline College?

Community colleges are about teaching, not research. They are about the students, not profits. In my experience, student learning is enriched when all of us share how our work and life experiences relate to what we are discussing in class.

When you have as richly diverse a community of students as we have at Coastline, everyone learns more; everyone benefits from the participation of all students in a class.

What makes your class unique and fun?

I use my 17+ years experiences in the private industry to bring business theories discussed in class to life. I worked at Qualcomm for 16 years, therefore I witnessed the company evolve. Within my time at Qualcomm, I worked in many different roles, with different responsibilities. My titles ranged from Systems Analyst to Director of Information Technology to Director of Operations.

Fun fact: I started with Qualcomm when they were a privately held, venture-backed firm and left when they were a $5.7 billion company!

What is something most of your students or co-workers do not know about you?

I have spent time in more than 28 different countries; airport layovers don’t count in that list! This includes both business and pleasure travel.

Favorite business advice you ever heard?

The best advice I ever received came from the CFO at Qualcomm, and my key takeaway was simple: to always be honest.

One day, I was presenting him bad news: one of the systems that my IT team was responsible for was down. It had just happened and I did not have all of the facts or details at my disposal. So when he started to ask me detailed questions, I had two choices: say “I don’t know”, or try to make something up. I went with the former and said “I don’t know, but I will look into it right away” several times, which is no fun when you are being questioned by the CFO! However, he told me later that I earned his respect for being honest. This CFO was my friend and mentor from that day forward.

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