Rising Runner Ryan Drakos moving up in the 'Wonderful' world of business

Ryan Drakos

Ryan Drakos is an accounting manager at Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds.

Ryan Drakos is one of four 2018 Rising Runners, CSUB alumni of the last 10 years being recognized for their exceptional work post-graduation. He was chosen by the School of Social Sciences and Education.

Ryan Drakos is a Bakersfield native and double CSUB alumnus who has a love of political philosophy but makes his living in the world of business.

He’s currently an accounting manager for Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds, overseeing the payroll and accounts payable departments for a company with clients all over the world.

He’s also an adjunct lecturer at his alma mater, a job he’s really grown to love.

“I get a lot of enjoyment out of teaching, out of instructing, out of guiding,” he said.

Ryan grew up attending small private schools, St. Francis Parish and Garces Memorial High schools. The intimate settings of both were great for learning to network, a critical skill in business, he says.

He went on to Bakersfield College and then CSUB, where he studied political science. The Great Recession had hit, and Ryan was fascinated by the heightened politics surrounding it.

“I felt political science would be a great vessel for me to explore some of those topics of the day,” Ryan said.

While he enjoyed studying the humanities, a few things steered him toward a business career. He was intrigued by finance, including how his own father’s business worked, and knew it would have more earning potential.

After graduating from CSUB in 2013, Ryan went to work as a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, not only competing with colleagues at the firm but low-cost brokerages online such as E-Trade. Then he heard good things about working at Paramount Farms – people with very different personalities all said they were happy there – and so Ryan took a job as an analyst there.

“I saw how big they were, I knew quite a few people who were employed there, and heard nothing but good things,” Ryan said of the company, now Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds.

His job was to assess the credit worthiness of buyers, from corporate giants to small mom-and-pop businesses, to determine whether they would pay their bills on time.

He did that for three years and then was promoted, last spring, to accounting manager, overseeing payroll and accounts payable. It was a major pivot – from a job where you must take risks to one where you must be very systematic.

Ryan recommends taking on those pivots, for one never knows where they might lead.

“Explore different positions if given the opportunity,” he said. “Learn as much as you can about your organization.”

Ryan earned his MBA in 2016, while working, something he recommends to others. Having work experience either before or while you’re in graduate school helps you make sense of what you’re learning in the classroom, he says.

In the MBA program he learned the softer skills of business, including how to lead and the importance of collaboration, Ryan says.

“The 21st Century is defined by teamwork,” he said. “It’s no longer ‘Every man for himself.’ … Collaboration is big.”

Outside of work Ryan volunteers with the Active 20-30 Club of Bakersfield, which has two signature events: a back-to-school shopping spree for underprivileged kids and a “Christmas experience” for families who need help with a tree and presents around the holidays.

While the best part of working with a nonprofit organization is of course giving back to the community, he says, there’s a side benefit of developing new skills such as networking, sales, marketing and accounting.

Ryan also is a voracious reader of political philosophy, which he says sharpens his critical-thinking skills. He has a goal of reading 18 to 24 books a year and likes to take notes as he goes.

“I’m one of those that has to journal things down,” he said. “When I summarize books, what the author’s trying to convey, I’m able to expand on it, criticize it and form my own thoughts.”



WHAT IS A RISING RUNNER?

Now in its fourth year, the Rising Runner program recognizes CSUB alumni of the last 10 years excelling in their work and giving back to their community.

In consultation with faculty, the dean from each of the university’s four academic schools selects a Rising Runner. Rising Runners come back to campus to participate in an awards ceremony and panel discussion where current students can ask them questions about how they got where they are today.

This year's event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Feb. 23 in the CSUB Stockdale Room.