From Pre-Med to Accounting: Alum Nancy Kwong Yuen’s Journey to Google

With a background in sciences, Yuen's transition to accounting was a total change of direction.

Nancy Yuen

With a background in sciences, Yuen's transition to accounting was a total change of direction.

Google’s mission is “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” and their motto is: “Don’t be evil.” The motto resonates with M.S. in Accounting ’17 student Nancy Yuen, who was recently hired in June for a SOX Revenue Manager position at Google.

“I try to instill that motto in all areas of my life, at home, and work,” says Yuen. Before joining Google, Yuen worked with a close-knit team she likened to a family at The Clorox Company. Clorox was a great stepping stone for joining Google, where Yuen learned the power of doing the right thing was both good for consumers and business. “At Google, with it’s wide global reach, I also feel empowered to help others through the work I do. The contribution of our team has a ripple effect and the culture brims with opportunities for positive impact,” said Yuen.

With a background in sciences, Yuen’s transition to accounting was a total change of direction. She was passionate about the sciences and wanted to be a marine biologist or pediatrician ever since she was young, electing neurobiology as an undergrad.  “In my senior year, I was training as an emergency medical technician and realized I was not well suited for patient care,” said Yuen, pointing out that the training made her realize the extent of her germiphobia.

Professors at the College, especially Professors Sankaran and Finger, she said, were pivotal support in helping her understand how to navigate the lengthy interview process for Google, especially the technical questions she had to answer. Yuen was inspired by how each professor she had in the Graduate Program were both excellent in their fields and had a sincere interest for their students’ success.

Right off the bat Yuen hit the ground running in her new role, even throughout the lengthy onboarding process at Google.  Her position works directly within the Business Finance Accounting team and she leads the SOX program for the function.

The Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002 (commonly referred to as SOX) was first enacted as a reaction to major corporate and accounting scandals, including Enron and WorldCom. The act is also known as the "Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act" (in the Senate),  a United States federal law that set new or expanded requirements for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms.

Yuen is a non-traditionalist when it comes to implementing SOX programs and is an advocate for eliminating wasteful processes in favor of utilizing technology to automate and add value. “I am passionate about SOX but the traditional checks and balances may not be optimal for today’s fast-moving companies. We SOX controllers have a responsibility to use resources wisely while setting efficient and effective internal controls,” said Yuen. As Sox Revenue Manager, Yuen and her team will utilize their knowledge of revenue accounting, IT systems/applications and internal controls.

Yuen starts off her mornings with well wishes to her husband and kids and then hops on the Google bus to check emails, review the day’s meeting schedule and  task list during her hour and fifteen minute commute. “I have to synchronize and prep mentally because my day is hectic. I do my best to come prepared out of respect for the people I’m meeting with. It is my responsibility to lead with care, anticipate questions and have data prepped for more fruitful discussions,” said Yuen. Although her schedule is so packed, she makes time to connect with people, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

When she was initially looking into accounting programs at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and several others, she was drawn to Saint Mary's because, she said, “It's not just about the individual student, it's about what we can do together to impact the world.” After reviewing multiple graduate programs she decided that the Masters in Accounting program fit her hectic work and family schedule with their hybrid option. Yuen also found greater value in the small class-sizes and Lasallian focus.

Yuen believes everybody, whether you are a caretaker, student or in the workforce, has the potential to make a global impact. As she begins her work at Google—one of the world’s most impactful global companies—Yuen remembers what she was taught at Saint Mary’s. “The school’s focus on Think Globally Lead Responsibly, is critical for today’s world,” she said, “because actions and words matter. They may be to my three kids or my family, friends and co-workers  but they are carried out into our neighborhoods, communities, states, nations, and eventually lay to rest globally. We each have the power to lead change and make this world better, don’t underestimate the impact of your kindness.”