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Monday, May 16, 2022

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Yvonne Besvold ('82) says it was the technical skills she learned in the classroom that helped her earn career success. Yvonne Besvold ('82) says it was the technical skills she learned in the classroom that helped her earn career success.
 


Tech Skills Learned at SDSU Opened the Door to Successful Career for Patagonia Executive

Many of San Diego State University’s nearly 500,000 alumni remember spending time at Monty’s Den, which was located on the first floor of the old Aztec Center.
By Suzanne Finch
 

Many of San Diego State University’s nearly 500,000 alumni remember spending time at Monty’s Den on the first floor of the original Aztec Center. Even though it was demolished in 2011 with the rest of the student union, Yvonne Besvold ('82, management information systems) and her husband, Chris, have some special memories of the old pub. 

“I worked at Monty’s Den,” she said “and my husband still holds it against me that I didn’t give him cuts in line for a pitcher of beer on Fridays when the crowds were deep.” 

While the people skills she learned as a bartender have served her well throughout her career, it was the technical skills she learned in the classroom that helped her earn career success. 

“Every business student needs to be proficient in advanced Excel, data management and analysis,” said Besvold, now the senior financial officer at Patagonia, Inc. “I was able to use technology and tools from some of my favorite programming/flowcharting IT classes to complete work in my investment class, small business administration support program and summer internship in the aerospace industry.” 

It was those same technology skills that helped Besvold get her first job in the retail/fashion industry when she applied for a position as a IT auditor for Carter Hawley Hale (CHH) Stores, whose holdings included The Broadway, Neiman-Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Contempo Casuals, among others. 

“When I interviewed, the general auditor told me they had a stack of resumes from accountants applying for the job,” she said. “They only had one resume with an IT background — mine! It was a great place to start my career since I got to travel, learn about retail and, yes, I got a great store discount.” 

Besvold learned her technical skills as a management information systems (MIS) student at what was then SDSU’s College of Business Administration. She chose to enroll at SDSU because she “had friends at SDSU and thought San Diego would be an amazing place to experience while in college,” she said. 

“I chose SDSU because I knew that the business school offered a superior experience in the breadth of programs and depth of practical experience. I have never looked back from that choice and continue to think that the Fowler College of Business is a leader.”

After Besvold landed her first job at CHH, the company split up and she was offered a position as a financial analyst with Contempo Casuals, where she worked for 10 years. She next worked at the Disney Store for 10 years before she embarked on a four-year hitch with Babystyle as the company CFO. 

In 2009, she became the corporate controller for Patagonia, where she now heads up the company’s finance, tax and controllership operations. 

“Patagonia has grown four times larger than when I started over 12 years ago,” said Besvold. “We are now a billion-dollar-plus global, vertically integrated wholesale/direct apparel business. Our team sets standards and manages all of the corporate financial operations from our headquarters in Ventura, California.”

One major component of Besvold’s job is the need to understand, evaluate, propose and implement financial networks, ERP systems, specialty programs and data warehouses with the objective of improving operations, infrastructure and decision making. 

While her skillset and the technologies have evolved, it’s that same passion for high-tech that has helped her to earn the success she enjoys today. 

She encourages today’s SDSU students to follow her lead saying, “Do not graduate without taking advantage of these classes! I guarantee this will set you ahead in your first job out of college.”