headshot of Barbara Ashkin

From Malls to Microchips, Alumna Helps Put Syracuse on the Map

When Barbara Ashkin ’74 (A&S), ’77 M.S. was studying accounting at Syracuse University in the mid-’70s, there weren’t many women accountants in the workplace. That didn’t stop her, however, as Ashkin built on her business education and her natural leadership abilities to leave her mark on the greater Syracuse landscape.

Graduating with a master’s degree in accounting, Ashkin at first assumed she would take the usual route into one of the big accounting firms. And she did, as she was hired by Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC). Within a short time, she decided she wanted something else. After a stint with Agway, an agricultural business, she took a job in Syracuse with The Pyramid Companies, a major commercial developer, and was soon involved in what was certainly one of the biggest contributions to the Central New York economy: Carousel Center. The giant shopping mall not only attracted visitors from all over the Northeast and Canada, but also beautified a site that had long been an eyesore known for its huge oil tanks, contaminated soil and a polluted lake.

In 1988, Ashkin worked as a Right to Build specialist for the mall (which today has been expanded and renamed Destiny USA), playing a key role in navigating the obstacles to transforming the area into a thriving hub of shopping and entertainment. Once the mall opened in 1990, Ashkin was named general manager, a job that kept her busy night and day.

“Working for Pyramid taught me to believe that anything is possible,” she says of the lessons she has carried with her throughout her career. And, while her position at the mall was not directly related to her background as a CPA, she credits the education she received during her time at the Whitman School for helping her understand the countless business transactions necessary to succeed on the job.

In 2000, she decided it was time for a change and joined CABLExpress, now called CXtec, as vice president of operations. She is now vice president and chief financial officer, responsible for the company’s strategic financial direction; information technology; financial planning and analysis; and accounting. The Syracuse-based company is a global provider of new and certified pre-owned computer networking and technology equipment, as well as North America’s largest secondary market network hardware provider. In 2009, she was instrumental in launching a sister company, TERACAI; today, she is vice president and CFO of both companies.

In the midst of the pandemic, CXtec’s equal2new brand has become increasingly in demand given the scarcity of microchips, which are primarily sourced outside the U.S. The company has been helping its customers around the world overcome this supply chain issue and keep their businesses going by providing the highest quality pre-owned computer network and technology equipment through this brand.

In addition to her impressive career path, Ashkin finds time to engage in the success of the Syracuse community in other ways. She is a member of the board of directors of Crouse Hospital, just blocks from the Syracuse University campus, where she serves as the chair of the finance and audit committee. Ashkin is also a past board member of the Everson Museum of Art in downtown Syracuse.

From the classrooms at the School of Management to the C-suite of an international company, Ashkin has made her mark. And, while she branched out from her original intention to be an accountant, Ashkin is forever grateful for the fundamentals her degrees in accounting gave her.

“The information I absorbed during my time at Syracuse University has stayed with me throughout my career,” she says. “It helped me build a solid foundation to be an effective businessperson and leader at various companies that have made this community an even better place to live and work. I’m proud to continue to contribute to that.”