Written by The Business Journal Staff
Cara Peracchi Douglas
Development Office Director
The Craig School of Business at Fresno State
What I do: As director of the development office for the Craig School of Business at Fresno State, I work with a great team of community partners, alumni, faculty, staff and students to generate funds and raise awareness to prepare the next generation of our Central Valley’s business leaders.
Education: B.A., San Francisco State; pursuit of M.A., Fresno State
Age: Young enough to keep up. Old enough to know when to rest.
Family: I am the mother of three wonderful children, Hunter Douglas, 21, accounting student at Ole Miss; Cooper Douglas, 19, agricultural business student at Montana State; and Bridget Douglas, 14, student at St. Anthony’s in Fresno.
Tell us a little about your career to your current position, Cara.
My career launched the day I entered college. It was my best path to a great future. From the Understanding Business (an ad agency and subsidiary of Harper Collins), directing United Cerebral Palsy of Central California’s development team, and picking apples at night and weekends with my late husband on our 1,500-acre Fuji apple ranch, I was surrounded by people who were committed and passionate. It propelled me forward. As director of communications for the California Table Grape Commission, a fantastic mentor took me under her wing and gave me direction and freedom to do my job. I’ve had a mentor ever since. I learned the value of brand working for Janzen IdeaCorp and from it developed Whole Food Market’s national store opening blueprint, UCSF Fresno’s brand, “Growing Valley Doctors,” and Granite Construction’s brand, “Constructing Our Future.” Serving in leadership roles connected me to amazing people doing great work. Today, many are close friends and trusted colleagues. Still, life happens and for me it came at a very difficult time in my life. I left my comfort zone in Fresno to take on the role of chief business communications officer for the City of San Jose. My new boss said, “We wanted you because of your diverse background in both public and private business to help solve complex problems and prepare San Jose to be the city of the future.” From that innovative position, I returned home to Fresno to take on the very important role of development office director for the Craig School of Business at Fresno State.
What did you learn from your time as chief business communications officer for the City of San Jose, Cara?
Cultivating a culture that people can identify with is a roadmap to success. Culture, when woven into the fabric of a place, helps attract and retain the best and brightest people for business. The US Patent and Trademark Office, Samsung, Adobe, Apple, Dice, Apigee, Cisco, Coggswell College, Brocade, Avaya Stadium, the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the NFL Super Bowl Committee are a few companies I worked with. Working for the Capital of Silicon Valley, I learned the value of “placemaking.” I built the city’s brand around it. I created the brand, “Find Your Place,” and delivered a global marketing program to support it based on three culture-driven platforms — Talent, Amenities and Access to Transportation. It was adopted by our community partners in the Silicon Valley, and is embedded in San Jose’s culture. It continues to gain momentum today.
What is your plan for creating communities, developing relationships and building networks to sustain success for Craig School of Business students, Cara?
The Craig School of Business graduates more than 700 young business pros annually. Of these, 70-plus percent stay local. The Craig School realizes it has a vital responsibility to provide highly educated talent to fill the Valley’s economic pipeline. To do this, we strive to keep pace with the market and understand the region’s business needs. At Fresno State, student success is at the core of everything we do. At the Craig School, building partnerships across the region creates opportunities for students through scholarships and hands-on experiences. These real-world experiences sharpen students’ skills and better prepare them for the workforce. We plan to work with business leaders to grow the Craig School’s robust internship program. Also, to ensure that our students can compete globally, our team is committed to generating support to attract and retain exceptional faculty. In fact, the Craig School just hired eight outstanding new faculty members this year alone. Finally, it is absolutely essential that we keep pace with technological advances. This year, we are kick-starting a campaign to build a state-of-the-art executive classroom center. This center will enable business, community, students and faculty to learn, teach and train in a technological forward environment. In addition, we plan to create leading edge work/study zones to inspire student collaboration. I am driven by our mission to transform lives and am fortunate to work alongside a talented network of thought leaders, alumni, business professionals, students, faculty, and community partners. The Craig School of Business is empowered to be bold, innovative, and meet the needs of our community. Join us.
What could Fresno learn from Silicon Valley when it comes to business development, Cara?
This is a great question and one that was asked by many that visited San Jose. What former Mayor Chuck Reed said resonated with me because it reminded me of Fresno. He said, “The Silicon Valley is successful because its diverse population comes together around its differences and collaborates, problem solves, and ultimately develops products and ideas that change the world.” Likewise, Fresno has a highly diverse population — this is an incredible asset. Fresno is emerging as a culturally innovative place to live, work, and play. We have strong leadership and risk takers steering the ship in the right direction. I’m glad I’m on board.
What could Silicon Valley learn from Fresno, Cara?
Silicon Valley’s tech environment puts a high price tag on talent. Employers vie for the best talent and employees are often lured to greener pastures. The culture in Fresno is different. There’s loyalty and commitment and that’s refreshing. Personally, I believe it provides a strong sense of community and a solid foundation to grow. This is a good take away for the Silicon Valley.
What are your roots in the Central Valley, Cara?
I grew up in the Bay Area and lived on the East Coast and in Europe, but my family is all from Fresno. I was born at Fresno’s Community Hospital and have lived here for more than 20 years. I am lucky to have raised my children around five generations of cousins. Fresno is home.
What was the best advice you ever received, Cara?
“Get your education, it’s something no one can take from you.” It is my mantra and my children and their friends have heard me say it a million times.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Cara?
I was tour boat guide at Marine World, Africa USA in Foster City. I drove a 35-foot Colorado River raft around the perimeter of the park while giving a tour. I was most concerned about making sure no one fell overboard. I learned the value of teamwork, how to tell a good joke, show up ready to work. and not to take myself too seriously.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Cara?
Since I’ve returned, I’ve taken up hiking in the foothills. I love playing tennis at Fig Garden Swim and Racket Club with an amazing group of ladies. Of course, it’s hard to beat going to a Fresno State Bulldog game! I’m a diehard fan. Go Dogs!