A. Gary Anderson
Graduate School of Management

‘I Don’t Want a Job; I Want an Opportunity’

Alumnus Mickey McGuire ’97, ’99 MBA discusses how relationships have been critical to his career in senior leadership
By Darin Estep |

Mickey McGuire ’97, ’99 MBA has always had an entrepreneurial mindset. The first business he launched was a lawn-mowing service in his hometown of Modesto, Calif., at the age of 12.

By the time he was 14, he had too many customers to handle on his own, so he hired another teen and split the profits. At 16, he was installing sprinkler systems and laying sod in a new subdivision, then setting up maintenance deals with homeowners who moved in. He sold that business before heading off to attend UCR—but he didn’t leave the entrepreneurial spirit behind.

As a freshman studying business, he sold contracts for student painters. As a sophomore, he sought the assistance of a professor to write a business plan for a magazine his friend launched, then helped expand the circulation.

“I think I maybe have a strong appetite for risk, but I find ways to mitigate the risk,” says McGuire. “Not every venture has been wildly successful, but I learned something from each one.”

This approach has served McGuire well throughout more than 25 years of entrepreneurial and senior business leadership, whether as the owner of a managed IT services company or, today, as chief information officer at HCN Bank in Riverside.

“I had a professor who would ask on the first day of class, ‘What kind of job do you want?’” McGuire recalls. “And people would go around and say, ‘I want this job,’ ‘I want that job.’ And it came to me: ‘I don’t want a job. I want an opportunity.’”

He continues: “I want an opportunity to really create value in an organization. I want to be able to share in the rewards, not just have a paycheck. And I get that there’s greater risk with that, but there’s much greater upside to it as well. So that’s been my focus.”

A poster in his home office, with the photo of a snowboarder leaping from a cliff, summarizes his philosophy with a quote from author and disability advocate Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

‘On a Trajectory’

He credits his late stepfather for showing him the value of education—and for challenging him and incentivizing him to earn a scholarship. Before high school, McGuire says, he earned mostly Bs and Cs.

“He put me on a trajectory that I would not have attained otherwise,” he says. “I graduated No. 1 in my high school. I got a scholarship to go to UCR, which paid for about 75% of the tuition costs. And I worked to cover the rest.”

What’s more, he took full advantage of his time at UCR, starting as an undergraduate pursuing his degree in business administration with an emphasis in information systems. McGuire met and proposed to his future wife when he was a freshman. She was a junior — so he resolved to accelerate his studies so he could complete his MBA around the same time she finished her graduate work in education. He worked hard, always made a point to meet with professors for office hours, and he found a mentor.

“One thing I learned early on is that you’re going to garner a lot more value out of a human-based interaction versus just reading the book,” he says. “Not to say you shouldn’t read the book. But in a dialogue, you can pick up on things that you’re not understanding. Or you can cover topics that aren’t in the book.”

These relationships have served him well throughout his career—including at the graduation ceremony for his finance-entrepreneurial management MBA. As he walked across the stage and accepted his diploma, the dean pulled him aside and said, “I have a job offer for you. Come see me Monday morning.”

A Series of Adventures
While at Acorn Technologies, Mickey McGuire received a Spirit of the Entrepreneur Award in 2019.

This led to an assignment to launch alumni relations for the then A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management. That was followed by being part of startup business of video game centers. He then moved on to develop a managed IT department at an internet company, which he and some colleagues spun off to create Acorn Technology Services.

As CEO, McGuire expanded Acorn’s offerings to serve a wide range of clients, municipalities, nonprofits, private companies, and government, including Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Secret Service, the SEC, the FBI, and the White House Communications Agency. After setting up the company for sustained success, he sold Acorn to a group of investors in 2022 and exited the organization in early 2023.

His newest role as CIO at HCN Bank is the outgrowth of a lunch conversation with the CEO of the bank where McGuire is a longtime customer. It is another example of putting value into personal relationships, he says.

Due to these relationships, McGuire has never interviewed for the many jobs or business ventures he’s pursued. It’s important for students or new graduates entering their careers to build relationships, he says. “My advice would be to network, network, network.”

More Advice

As an employer, McGuire always took pride in treating employees well and seeking their input. In return, he looks for a strong work ethic. He also recommends students polish their interpersonal skills.

“All the technical stuff can be taught. But don’t forget to focus on your soft skills—the ability to communicate, the ability to present yourself, sell yourself.”

Students and graduates should take advantage of the School of Business’ alumni network, and the relationships made possible through the Executive Fellows program, McGuire says, and adds that the success of UCR graduates around the globe is a story worth telling.

“There are graduates from UCR who are doing so much with the businesses that they’re building,” says McGuire, who continues to seek opportunities to give back to UCR and a new generation of students.

“This may be an overused truism, but you get out of life what that you put into it. I really believe that. I believe when you do right by people, that comes back to you.”