• Phuong-Hieu Nguyen ’14 and Marlin Brown ’89

Small, but mighty, is the perfect way to characterize Southwestern University. The intimacy of campus extends past the beautiful limestone buildings and lawns to encompass the living community of alumni, parents and friends. Students and alumni benefit professionally from this tight-knight, mighty community too.

“Two and half years ago, when I was looking for jobs in New York City, I reached out to everyone on LinkedIn with NYC listed as their location to ask for advice,” Nguyen explained. “Marlin Brown was one of them. Even though he was working for American Express in Hong Kong at the time (as opposed to NYC as listed), and he had no idea who I was, he was happy to jump on a 30-minute call with me to see how he could help. He was so nice, genuinely cared about my interests and tried to help me reach my goals. He gave me a lot of useful advice that I used in order to obtain my offer at PwC NYC.”

On June 17 of this year Nguyen met up with Brown in person for the first time for lunch in Bangkok, Thailand. Nguyen, originally from nearby Vietnam, was vacationing in the area, and Brown had recently transferred into the position of Vice President and Country Manager of Thailand for American Express. 

“Even though today was the first time we ever talked in person,” Nguyen said, “the SU connection made our conversation very natural and easy. We had a great conversation, and he gave me even more useful advice. I know I can go to him for career advice anytime. And he knows he can come to me for a customized Vietnam itinerary anytime.”

The two grads also reflected about the fact that careers don’t always go according to plan, and that’s not necessarily bad.  

“He actually advised me to start with an accounting firm in Texas,” Nguyen explained, “then slowly make my way to NYC after a few years, as that seemed to be an easier and ideal path at the time. One of the funniest things Marlin said during our conversation in Bangkok was, ‘You didn’t take all my advice two and half years ago, though you listened carefully, and that was a good thing.’” 

Their story illustrates that while seeking out different perspectives from networking contacts is very helpful, applying your own judgment and perspective is also critical when making your career choices.  You are in the best position to know your strengths and goals.

Nguyen, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate and Kemper Scholar, secured her position at PwC immediately after graduation from Southwestern, after taking part in numerous internships, including at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, Class Adventure Travel in Buenos Aires (via fellow alumnus Marc Harrison ’03), and a local accountant in Georgetown.  She also served as a volunteer tax preparer, held several on-campus jobs and was an active student leader.

“SU might be a small school but that’s what makes every connection even more powerful,” she said. “I love that about SU.”