For Tommy Tieu ’14, returning to campus to mentor students is a calling. A native of Brooklyn whose interest in a business career was sparked as a teen, Tieu entered Brooklyn College as a transfer student to pursue a double major in accounting and business management, and finance. Now a New York metro area talent acquisition manager at the accounting and professional services firm PwC, Tieu finds great fulfillment in shepherding Brooklyn College students on their career paths. Here, he talks about his role in recruiting talent, why it is essential for alumni to become mentors, and the big thing he had to overcome to get him to where he is now.

Are you a native of Brooklyn?

Absolutely. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, a Brooklyn native through and through. I grew up in Sunset Park so all my schooling has been in the borough.

Did you know what career path you would take when you entered Brooklyn College?

My career truly started when I was in high school. Hamilton High had programs that allowed me to intern at a Big Four and Fortune 500 company. As a high school student, it was a big deal and laid the foundation for my career. Add to it accounting and finance courses and a simulated business program run by students. The seeds were planted when I was a teenager, and I realized, “Yes, you can do this. This is really what I want to do for the rest of my career.”

You were initially studying at Kingsborough Community College. What made you decide to transfer to Brooklyn?

I didn’t come from a well-off or privileged family. I had to work diligently starting early. My single mom couldn’t afford for me to leave home and go away to school. I decided to stay in the public school system to take advantage of financial aid. Kingsborough was an ideal choice because it allowed me to work and go to school. But I wanted to pursue a CPA license, and Brooklyn College had a program for that, so that made more sense. I attended both schools—Kingsborough in the morning, Brooklyn College in the afternoon—for one semester. I supported myself while attending school by working at an auto shop and learning auto mechanics while there. When you learn how to fix a car, you learn to use critical thinking to solve issues. It was a challenge balancing it all, but I managed. I doubled up on classes to graduate. And to keep myself physically fit while in school, I learned Muay Thai kickboxing from a cousin.

Is kickboxing still a pastime?

Since I became a father— we have a 20-month-old-son—I’ve turned to my other favorite pastimes—photography and videography. I’ve been planning trips to national parks, where those come in handy for creating lasting memories.

Tell us about your role as talent acquisition manager at PwC.

I’ve been with PwC for close to a decade now. I started my career in our audit practice, focusing on financial services, alternative investment clients, hedge funds, and private equity funds. That allowed me to work with many different people here, interns through partners, and to be part of the interview process for bringing in new talent. And because our firm is big on giving back, it allows professionals like me to go back to campus and pursue passions that they are interested in. I was able to bring my experience to campus and share that with students. That’s a part of my role here: to build connections with students, help them understand what they are passionate about, and inspire them to dream big.

PwC is a Platinum Career Partner at Brooklyn College, a program that invests in supporting student talent and building career pipelines.

PwC has been working with Brooklyn College for at least 20 years. Brooklyn College’s inclusive community is a big draw for recruiters looking for talent and interns. Inclusion and equity—not only in gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation but also in ability and veterans trying to reacclimate to civilian life—is crucial. That’s why the firm’s relationship with the college and its Magner Career Center has been so strong. We alums embody several perspectives and experiences and know that with us there to represent, the chances of attracting candidates from all backgrounds grow.

A Latin quote on your LinkedIn profile translates as “He who feared he would not succeed sat still.” Why did you include it?

Coming from a single-parent home—I was at one point in the foster care system—was very difficult. The cards were pretty much stacked against my brother and me. There was this fear of pushing through all that adversity and all those obstacles and still amounting to nothing. That was the fear that I always had growing up. This quote allowed me to push through my fear. I realized I had to do the work and stop visualizing a future where I did everything I could and still fail.

And is this thinking still helpful today?

Yes. Many Brooklyn College students are first-generation. They might say to themselves, “I’m not worthy, I’m not good enough.” They might suffer from imposter syndrome. That fear can hinder folks and their ability to do more and do better. My goal is to inspire students. Yes, you can come from underprivileged communities, go to a city school, and still be successful. I did it, and you can, too.

So adversity had its silver lining.

I don’t regret any of what I experienced because my career path and my life would be very different had I not. And that’s another reason why I came back; to share with, support, recruit, and mentor. And always root for our students.