Alumni Answers: Su Zhou, ’15 MS in Business Analytics

Meet Su Zhou, experience associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York City, and a 2015 graduate of Simon’s MS in Business Analytics program.

Su Zhou at UR Simon Weekend

Su recently came back to campus for UR Simon Weekend, where she lent Simon insight to admitted students during a variety of sessions and networking opportunities.

Tell me a little about you and your career since you left Simon.

Before Simon, I was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York but in a different function: risk assurance. After I attended Simon, I returned to the same firm in a different department: core assurance. I’m currently an auditor in the alternative investment practice mainly doing auditing work for hedge fund and private equity firms. I think at PwC you have opportunities to be exposed to all types of projects. You could be with the same client for years or just a few months before you switch to the next project. Each project has its own unique aspects, different people, different personalities, and different types of problems you need to solve. It never gets boring. You are constantly challenged, and every day you are learning something new and meeting exciting people.

How did you know Simon was right for you?

The people in the Admissions Office really made a difference for me. They are just the most wonderful people I’ve ever worked with at any school I attended. You know how people say the first impression really matters? When I came for the interview day, everything was very properly arranged, and everyone was super helpful giving me guidance. The current student who showed me around campus had lots of great feedback about the school, so I instantly felt like this is really a place where everyone takes an interest in your development, and everybody is working super hard to make sure you succeed after school. This sort of personal connection is very important to me. I actually was able to work with the Admissions Office as a graduate assistant when I was here, and that further confirmed my belief that it’s a group of very wonderful people.

Who impacted you the most while you were at Simon, and why?

The two people I worked closest with in the Admissions Office, Andrew (Brayda) and Julie (Sadwick). They gave me a lot of support. While I was here, I actually worked full-time for four months with PwC in New York City during the busy season. So from December-March I was commuting twice a week between the two cities, taking three classes, passing the last part of my CPA exam, and still working 5-10 hours per week at the Admissions Office. It was a really challenging time for me, and the fact that I got strong support from the two people I worked closest with meant a lot to me. They constantly encouraged me and told me “you can do this.” They were very flexible with arranging my grad assistant schedule so I could do my best at my job. They were with me every step of the way. From the beginning, and every time I’ve visited since, I always feel like a part of the Simon family.

Fill in the blank: While you’re in Rochester, you absolutely have to __________.

Well I think you absolutely have to use the tunnels in winter! Everybody talks about the weather here, but if you’re prepared for it, it’s not intimidating. There are lots of fun things to do in the winter. I love skiing, and I actually learned to ski while I was at Simon. Some students come from tropical locations and they may never have seen snow before. It can be a very interesting experience—just get a nice collection of snow boots!

What do you like to do in your free time?

I actually thrive when I’m busy—whenever I have too much free time I go into panic mode, so I try to stay busy. I ran the New York City Marathon a few years ago, and my next goal is to do the New York City Triathlon, so I have been going to the gym 5 or 6 times per week for the past 8 months. I also recently applied to become a tour guide volunteer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. They have a two-year program when you receive systematic training on how to narrate the art in the entire museum, so hopefully I’ll be accepted and will do that on the weekends. There are many fun things to do in New York. Simon actually has a huge alumni base in New York City, and we regularly keep in touch. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us!

Do you remember where you were when you received your Simon acceptance? How did it feel?

I was coming out of the gym in Grand Central Station and I walked outside to check my phone. I had a missed call and then I saw an email from Julie with my acceptance. I started jumping and screaming which drew a few stares! Then I started calling everyone I knew to share the news about going to Simon.

What was your most memorable Simon experience?

The winter when I was working. I had evening classes, so I remember getting off the shuttle to walk the five blocks home carrying my textbooks, my CPA book, and two laptops. While walking in the snow, I thought about how I had to get up at 5 a.m. the next morning to fly to New York City. That is sort of a “whoa” story for my colleagues at PwC as well—I think that’s why they wanted me back! What Simon taught me was not to set limits and that if you want something, you need to go after it with your best effort. I see that same spirit in my classmates as well, and it pays off for our careers after Simon.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

I think my best advice would be to make sure you come to Simon! Simon only recruits the best and brightest students, so most of the admitted students have multiple offers, but I believe Simon has many unique characteristics that you won’t find in other places. I’m really proud of Experience Simon Weekend, UR Simon Weekend (for admitted students), and the Day One programming. Those are things I talk about so frequently when people ask me questions about choosing a business school. I have friends who have offers from other schools and the last communication they receive before they start classes is “make sure you pay your deposit.” They don’t hear from them after that. At Simon, the programming sets you up for success two or three months before you begin classes. It sets the right tone and makes sure students are well-prepared to begin business school.

It’s only been about 10 months since I left Simon, but even with that little time, principles and strategies I learned at Simon come up in my daily work. When I’m presented with a challenge on the job, I find myself drawing upon how Prof. Tilson taught us to use Excel to solve case problems, and I truly appreciate how practical and applicable my education at Simon was. It’s a great investment to make in yourself and one that you’ll benefit from throughout your entire career.

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