Years before the TV show appearance and the start of the company, Yamamoto jokes, she acted as the “meanest” shark in mock Shark Tank simulations she’d lead in her communications classes as an adjunct professor at Cal State LA.
She taught her first course—on public speaking, at 22 years old while working toward a master’s degree—and eventually returned as an adjunct professor. She would later go on to serve as a clinical professor and associate director for the Center for Entrepreneurship at Loyola Marymount University.
Leading classes at a young age allowed her to relate to her students and helped her develop a more collaborative approach to teaching, she says. Yamamoto encouraged her students to work together and share their ideas while applying the theories they learned in class.
Yamamoto attributes the foundation of her teaching approach to her professors at Cal State LA.
“They made their students feel seen,” Yamamoto recalls. “They made me feel like I mattered. They made me feel smart, and if I didn’t understand something they would help me find the solution.”
She wanted to be able to do the same for her students.
“Watching her teach, of course, she just takes all those qualities to the front of the classroom,” says Communication Studies faculty member Lena M. Chao, Yamamoto’s professor and later colleague at Cal State LA. “She has command yet she’s not heavy-handed; she’s respectful.”