Like many international students, Winnie Nguyen ’12, ’13 M.S. had few connections in the United States upon starting her college career. However, in coming to Syracuse, she quickly discovered her passion for accounting, and has been working in Public Accounting for the past seven years with experience at Ernst & Young and Dermody, Burke, & Brown, CPAs, LLC.
Nguyen was an exchange student during high school and studied in Michigan, then went to Onondaga Community College for the first two years of her undergraduate studies. Afterwards, she transferred to the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University. “SU is a very well known, reputable school with a good accounting program, and I knew I would be able to get a good job getting a degree from SU,” explains Nguyen. “I also wanted to stay here because I knew my aunt here, and I really didn’t know a lot of people around the United States, so I chose Syracuse.”
Nguyen immediately knew that accounting would be her choice of study, although that was not always the case. “I always thought that I would be a lawyer, and I always wanted to become a lawyer when I was in Vietnam, but when I came here English was really difficult for me, so it was a challenge,” describes Nguyen. “I thought accounting is a lot of numbers and calculating, so I chose accounting. However, becoming a CPA is not all about calculating—you read, you write memos, you deliver your messages to your clients, managers and partners, and you train your staff; so it’s actually a lot of communication, verbally and in writing.”
As an accounting student, Nguyen found several ways to get involved while committing to her studies. She was a member of Beta Alpha Psi and VITA (now WhiTax) during her undergrad years, along with working part-time at a nail salon. She also interned at DB&B during a busy season preparing tax returns.
Nguyen was also committed to volunteer work, in which she served as a supervisory audit committee member at Countryside Federal Credit Union and treasurer of the St. Helen Catholic Church Choir.
“I really had a good time at SU,” Nguyen recalls. “I remember going to the games, going to Starbucks right across from Whitman to study, and checking out all of the restaurants on Marshall Street.”
In addition to her coursework, Nguyen assisted professors in theirs, beginning in her undergrad years as an Undergraduate Assistant for a statistics class. During her graduate studies, she was a Teaching Assistant for Ginger Wagner, professor of accounting practice, as well as a Graduate Assistant for Accounting Professor David Harris’s tax class, both of whom Nguyen gives credit for helping her along her career path. “The professors were really nice and excellent in terms of teaching and inspiring me into accounting. I am keeping good connection with some of the professors, such as Joyce Zadzilka, Ginger Wagner, David Harris and Mitch Franklin (who now teaches at Le Moyne),” she explains.
Nguyen was able to have several job opportunities come her way, and with that, the opportunity to promote diversity in the workplace.
“After I graduated, I realized that having SU on my resumé gave me a lot of opportunity. I accepted a full-time offer with Ernst & Young to work at their Syracuse office, which was awesome for me as an international student,” Nguyen says. “I feel very special/honored to be the first Asian student hired at EY’s Syracuse Office and the only Asian employee at DB&B.”
Nguyen worked at EY in the assurance practice for a little over five years before transferring to DB&B, located in downtown Syracuse, where she holds the position as an audit manager for the firm.
Her ties to Whitman and Syracuse University remain strong as a result of her success, and Nguyen has recently become more involved in recruitment on campus. “I thought the program was excellent. The career and recruitment opportunities at Whitman are phenomenal because of all the events where you are able to meet professionals and make connections,” Nguyen explains. “This year, I started leading the SU recruitment at DB&B as a way to stay connected to the school.”