In 1994, Epson America, Inc., one of the world’s largest tech and printing brands, hired Andrea Zoeckler ’83 (Business Administration) as a contractor to do one spreadsheet. The young accountant walked in to present her analysis — and found herself seated across the table from the CEO.
“He was asking me my opinion,” said Zoeckler, shaking her head and smiling warmly. “Here I was, a relatively junior person in my career, and I’d just come from graduate school a few years before. How incredible to be asked my opinion! And I was completely tongue-tied. I wasn’t used to be being asked that kind of a question, and certainly not as an outsider.”
A quarter of a century later, Zoeckler still handles finance for Long Beach-based Epson America, but as the chief financial officer (CFO) and chief operating officer (COO). The Los Angeles native is one of the highest-ranking women in her field and highly respected, traveling the globe regularly to oversee the company’s operations in printers, projectors, robotics and beyond. The Japanese electronics company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computer printers, and information and imaging-related equipment. In 2013, she was promoted to senior VP and CFO, and in June 2017, she rose to her current position.
“The diversity of the product line has probably quadrupled since I’ve been here,” she said. “The opportunity to work in so many different products is the best part of it, as well as the diversity of working throughout the Americas.”
Zoeckler travels to the corporation’s global headquarters in Japan about five times per year, in addition to constant travel for her work in North and Latin America.
“Although my entry point was the accounting area, it was kind of a big small company, and anything you expressed an interest in, anything you could absorb — there was an opportunity,” she said. “One year I said, ‘I don’t have any experience with warehouses; I’d like some experience.’ They said, ‘Okay, here you go — you can be responsible for West Coast distribution.’”
A lifelong learner and professionally adventurous, Zoeckler stepped up in the mid-2000s to serve as director and then vice president of service and support for Epson America.
“I thought, ‘I can’t use a hammer!’” she said, laughing. “They took me completely out of my comfort zone of accounting and finance, and said, ‘Here you go.’ It was the most influential thing that happened in my career, because it taught me that if you have solid, core skills — analytical skills — if you are methodical, you will succeed.
“Business is how you approach things; it’s not the skill set,” she said. “The skill set is great to have as a base, but it’s what you do with it. I was plunked in the middle of service for what was at that time a $2-billion company in the Americas (North and Latin) and figured out how to swim. If you understand priorities, customer satisfaction and the impact product quality can have on that, it’s fascinating. I learned so much about Epson’s business, because [service] is a very important customer touch point.”
In those roles, Zoeckler oversaw the company’s repair operation for product warranties, refurbishing returned equipment, and the massive “customer contact center.” This division includes about 400 phone agents and 300 repair technicians, depending on the time of year, she said.
“My first responsibility was to evaluate our call center, and understand why people call, how to staff a call center and troubleshoot — especially if a person is dependent on the machine for their own income and business,” Zoeckler said. “I came into it at the director level, so I was fortunate to have a great team.”
She cited one especially cool aspect of Epson’s business — robotics and artificial intelligence. “Some of our robots are on automotive lines, and you don’t ever want to be the vendor whose robot has gone down and caused an automotive production line to go down,” she said.
Zoeckler, named in 2016 (its 50th anniversary year) to the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics’ “Fabulous 50” alumni, is the eldest of a powerful trio of siblings in finance. Her younger brother and fellow Matador, Richard Schweitzer ’87 (Accounting Theory & Practice / Finance), also was named to the Fabulous 50 and serves as CFO and chief resource officer of Aristotle Capital Management in Los Angeles.
The siblings grew up in LA, close to Sherman Oaks. When it came time to choose a university in the late 1970s, she said, she applied to CSUN with the intention of transferring after two years to the elite Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
“But I loved CSUN,” she said. “I got immersed in it and really was stimulated by the classes. I found my love, which was accounting. I found something that made me excited and passionate. I was involved in a sorority, Sigma Kappa, and in Beta Alpha Psi (the accounting society). I had found my groove, something that really opened up my mind. I felt like I was thriving.” Being social and extremely involved on campus, she said, led to her success on campus and beyond.
For her MBA, she did head off to Wharton, graduating in 1988 and going to work for Price Waterhouse.
“In hindsight, I learned that I had such a good foundation to head off to this world-class MBA program because I had all the necessary skills. The classes at CSUN were small,” she said. “I knew all of my professors. You had that great interaction, and when you were sitting, listening to a professor, you felt like they were talking directly to you. It was highly engaging.”
She’s still very close with many of her friends from CSUN, and she found that Epson employs a large number of Matadors.
To current students and others aspiring to rise in the world of accounting and finance, Zoeckler recommends openness and commitment to lifelong learning.
“Be open to new opportunities. Have an open mind, and don’t have preconceived notions,” she said. “Something may not have been ‘on your path,’ but be intellectually curious. Keep asking questions. Don’t think that questions are a weakness. The best way to learn is by asking questions. When the door of opportunity is opened, be ready to step through it and keep growing.”