5 Under 5: Ashley Thombs ’14, ’15 M.S.
Our Five Under Five column features a Q&A with a Martin J. Whitman School of Management alum who graduated within the last five years. For this issue, meet Ashley Thombs ’14, ’15 M.S., a financial management associate in KPMG’s advisory management consulting practice. Thombs, a native of Tarrytown, New York, started her career at KPMG in New York City four years ago in the real estate tax practice, primarily working on tax compliance engagements.
After two-and-a-half years with that group, she decided to diversify her work experience and broaden her skill set. She transferred to the advisory side of the firm, specifically management consulting. She currently works on global end-to-end finance transformation engagements for consumer market clients to help transform their finance function to maximize efficiency and drive value.
(1) Did you have any early influences in your life who incited your interest in business?
My dad was the owner of a small restoration and home improvement business, recently retiring after 38 years in operation. He had to give it his all every day because his business and his family depended on him. Since I was young, I used to write up contracts for him, mail out invoices and help him in any way that I could. My dad is firsthand the root of my drive and inspiration to work in business. I have learned the value of work ethic and family balance from watching him run his own company.
(2) What factored into your decision to major in accounting at the Whitman School?
I did not always know that I wanted to pursue accounting. I was undecided when I first started my freshman year at the Whitman School, and I explored my interests while I had to take the Whitman-required courses. I took the first two required accounting courses, ACC 151 and ACC 252, and decided to continue on with the upper-level accounting major courses and see where it took me. I was not a math whiz — I was in regular math classes in high school, not AP calculus, but what attracted me to the major was the notion that accounting was a challenge. I had to push myself a little harder than other students to whom accounting maybe came more naturally.
(3) How do you feel the Whitman School prepared you to be a professional and/or to meet the requirements of your position?
As an undergraduate student, I kept myself busy with a number of different involvements and leadership opportunities. I was a member of the professional service fraternity, Beta Alpha Psi, and served as the organiza-tion’s treasurer. I was also a peer facilitator for three years, advising incoming undergrad-uate students and helping them acclimate themselves to life at Syracuse. As a graduate student, I served as a teaching assistant for ACC 151 and worked in the Whitman Career Center as a graduate student career assis-tant. Having the opportunity to be so actively involved taught me the power of building relationships, networking, multitasking and managing my time more efficiently.
(4) Do you have any advice for current students?
I encourage students to apply to whatever job postings that might interest them — whether it be for internships or full-time positions. My first internship at General Electric was the summer after my sophomore year. The internship posting specifically asked for rising seniors to apply, but in my mind you can always be the exception to the rule. In the end, that proved to be true as I received the internship offer. Do not let the fear of rejection hold you back and take you away from putting yourself out there.
(5) What do you do to de-stress or keep balance in your life?
I am constantly on the road traveling for work to various client sites across the country. It has been a cool experience seeing cities I probably would never have gone to in my life. Working in consulting has not only helped me grow professionally but personally as well. Traveling has been a journey into the deepest parts of my vulnerability and I have developed a newfound strength within myself. To keep grounded, I spend a good amount of time with my family, where my roots run deeply.
Reff also has held various positions in journalism and public relations, including special sections editor at Manlius Publishing Corp. in Fayetteville, N.Y., and assistant director of community relations at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse.
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