“The EMBA has been a personal and transformative journey. When I started the program I had very specific goals in mind, but I have learned and grown, and expanded my interests with new experiences,” Oswaldo Diaz, EMBA '19, said. “The program gave a whole different flavor to the journey.” • Jeanine Hill/UCI

Merage School Digital Focus Helps Elevate Oswaldo Diaz, EMBA ‘19, From CFO to CEO

July 11, 2019 • By Jessie Yount

Earlier this year, Oswaldo Diaz, EMBA ’19, applied for the CFO job at O&S LLP, a highly ranked and rapidly growing Certified Public Accounting and consulting firm in Southern California. The role was a natural step for Diaz, who had built his career in accounting.

But when Diaz started talking about how his education at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business was preparing him to lead in today’s digitally driven business world, the executive leadership team took special note.

The firm ultimately offered him the role of CEO.

Diaz was on the road to leadership before he joined the Merage School’s MBA for Executives program, but he credits the knowledge and network provided by the school with enabling him to step into a senior management position before graduation. 

“The EMBA has been a personal and transformative journey. When I started the program I had very specific goals in mind, but I have learned and grown, and expanded my interests with new experiences,” Diaz said. “The program gave a whole different flavor to the journey.”

In his new role at O&S LLP — which was named one of the Top 100 Accounting Firms in the Los Angeles Business Journal — Diaz is spearheading the firm’s growth initiative, overseeing mergers and acquisitions and profit for growth. For example, “I’m looking into artificial intelligence in the audit space, which could help us identify areas of high risk to focus on.”

It was Vijay Gurbaxani, Professor of Information Systems and Computer Science and Director of the Center for Digital Transformation at the Merage School, who laid a foundation in digital transformation, and allowed Diaz to refocus his career with the aim to disrupt old business models by introducing new technology as a competitive advantage. 

Diaz also started his own radio show “Change Agents” at KUCI radio during his time at UCI. The show allows him to give voice to what he’s already been doing for so many years: interviewing remarkable individuals that are making a change in business, education, government and society. 

“I see the show as part of my educational journey,” Diaz added. “It’s a great way for the community to learn about these businesses and the leadership driving them, but it’s also a learning experience for me. It’s a win-win.”  

Diaz was originally drawn to the Merage School because of its high rankings and ideal location. But as he looks back on his time at the school, he feels gratitude for the opportunities that have been extended to him, such as the ability to co-found a nonprofit, Synergy4Vets, and visit hi-tech companies in Israel.

“As you can imagine, working full time and going through the program is very rigorous. I needed the support of my family, and they have always been there for me,” Diaz said. 

Diaz has already joined the Dean’s Leadership Circle at the Merage School, where he can offer incoming students guidance and mentorship, and continue to network with industry professionals. “The value of the program is not only the education, but the network. The Merage School has a great network, and I want to continue to stay involved with our community.”