By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)—When Hien Nguyen walked across the Commencement stage to receive her diploma at Freedom Hall on May 9, it was the culmination of an already eventful day.
Just a few hours prior, the business major with a concentration in accounting had been hired to fill the position of intercompany controller at GE Appliances, a promotion assisted through her recent internship at the company.
From Southeast Asia to IU Southeast
Nguyen was born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam. She arrived in Louisville six years ago. She has come to appreciate the diversity and friendliness of the city, and has taken great advantage of the opportunities for advancement here, including her internship at GE Appliances, a subsidiary of the global tech giant and an anchor of the local economy.
GE Appliances was formed in 2004 from GE units that had been in operation in the region for over 50 years. It is located at GE Appliance Park, a sprawling 1,000-acre manufacturing, engineering, research and design complex on the southern edge of Louisville built in 1951 that once employed as many as 25,000 workers and has its own zip code.
Hien’s road to GE Appliances began at IU Southeast. She considers accounting her “backbone,” a benefit to managing budgets and minimizing costs in her everyday life, so it’s no surprise that she chose to study at IU Southeast, where tuition aligned with her budget and she received an initial scholarship.
Then the Career Development Center helped Hien organize her resume to maximize her strengths and polish her presentation.
“I have truly enjoyed the times I’ve spent with Hien, because she truly wants to learn and grow as a professional,” said Danielle Leffler, CDC director. “She has listened to every suggestion and has taken every opportunity to expand her network in the local community.”
Leffler noted that GE Appliances is the perfect fit for Hien’s initiative.
“Students who intern with GE Appliances are given real challenges to solve and are considered part of the team from day one,” Leffler said, adding that the company has traditionally gone out of its way to provide excellent opportunities for IU Southeast students, and includes numerous Grenadier alumni among its employees.
“It’s a wonderful partnership for our campus and our students,” Leffler said.
An integral part of the team
The controllership area is a subset of finance. Nguyen’s unit is a team of three full-time employees and two interns, of which she is one. The team is responsible for external reporting, accounting, policies, compliance and oversight.
“My team ensures that the books and records are accurate and closed timely on a monthly basis and in accordance with internal policies,” said Brian Wigginton, assistant controller closing and reporting, and Nguyen’s supervisor.
“Hien is an integral part of the team as her role has routine responsibilities equivalent to a staff accountant,” said Wigginton.
Nguyen’s job to ensure that all unassigned accounts are assigned to the right owner; to perform internal account audits to make sure that accounts satisfy corporate criteria; to run weekly reports that track the status of invoices; and to report errors in incoming and outgoing foreign and domestic bills. In addition, she assists in the tests of design and effectiveness for manual journal entries and representation letters required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
“It’s challenging sometimes,” said Nguyen. “But it gives me more opportunities to see and understand how the real business model works, and to see how each department has a different perspective and a different way of doing accounts.”
Beyond basic knowledge
Nguyen attributes much of her success in such varied roles to her preparation at IU Southeast, where she enjoyed small classes that opened up more opportunities for discussion.
“Accounting, computer and statistics classes have been very important to me, because they helped me to build up a good basic knowledge,” she said.
That foundational knowledge proved decisive in helping her master the requirements of the position for both account reconciliation and proficiency with programs such as Excel.
“Hien has the accounting knowledge and was well prepared for the position,” Wigginton said. “She brings drive and the willingness to learn. She is always eager to reach out to other areas to constantly expand her knowledge.”
Success in the internship also means growing as a professional, learning to work with different people and different units, and applying what she has learned to assist in completing diverse responsibilities.
“GE Appliances has given me wonderful opportunities to explore more about my career,” she said.
That willingness to explore more, and to go above and beyond the job description, is a proven recipe for career advancement.
In her role as intern, Nguyen noticed that assigning unassigned accounts was taking a lot of time, time that could have been spent helping other team members accomplish more significant and urgent tasks during the corporate transition.
“I saw this as a barrier to my role,” she said.
So she devised formulas that provided a new time-saving way to assign unassigned accounts. Nguyen’s process has reduced the time needed to perform this task by 50 percent, from three days to one and a half. Increasing efficiency means increasing effectiveness, and ultimately the firm’s bottom line, Nguyen said.
Appreciating the bigger picture
Nguyen has been hired at an exciting time in the life of her company and her team. Earlier this year, GE announced the sale of its appliance division to Chinese manufacturer Haier Group, and the internal transition is underway. Nguyen’s division, controllership, is pivotal to the successful alignment of processes and procedures.
In her new role, Nguyen will support the monthly and quarterly closing process, prepare account reconciliations, analyze intercompany discrepancies between Appliances affiliates and the parent company, and manage the integration of intercompany processes within the business enterprise resource planning system.
Nguyen credits her internship with giving her an appreciation for the bigger picture of how business functions in the real world.
“Accounting is not only about debits and credits,” Nguyen said. “Accounting is more like an unlimited map for a business, helping a company draw up many possible directions for how to manage operations budgets and maximize business profit.”