‘You’re Never Going to Regret Trying Something’
By Tracy Seipel
Finance major Ross Ney ’22 talks about “maximizing” your time at Santa Clara.
By the time finance major Ross Ney ’22 was in his early teens, he was already investing in the stock market, assisted by his dad. The experience taught him about risk, due diligence, and the value of the long play.
Those insights—together with a proclivity for math—have served him well at Santa Clara, where he followed in the business school footsteps of his older brother Michael Ney ’20, and where Ross embraced the big picture, from classes to leadership positions to internships.
The SCU senior has made memories and friends for life. But Ney also appreciates the unexpected wisdom he absorbed along the way, whether from putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, reaching out to professors for help and advice, or learning to accept circumstances beyond your control.
On having to leave campus during the pandemic,for example, Ney says, “The main lesson was that the people make the campus, not the buildings, or the palm trees. It’s the students….
“Even though we couldn’t go to Benson or use the library, or have sporting events, those are additional things to what’s already there. What we did have was each other, all our friends, so we were still able to have a pretty satisfying college experience in that time even though we didn’t have any of the normal college things.”
Before he heads off to a job at Deloitte in San Francisco, where he’ll be learning how to value new technologies developed by the firm’s clients, we sat down with Ney to talk about highlights during his time at Santa Clara.
What’s something you’ve learned in your program that people don’t know about finance?
It’s more versatile, to me. It’s about understanding how everything works, knowing the back-end of a business, how things get done, what it takes to actually run a business properly. The money has to come first. But it’s also understanding that a company can have pretty bad financials and even be losing money, and have a lot of value, then succeed later on. Take Amazon for example; it was losing money for decades.
Can you tell us about one of your all-time favorite classes?
There’s an awesome class called “Conscientious Capitalism,” taught by Chip Adams and Bill Mains MBA ’22. It’s so different from a normal class; it’s kind of like therapy. We’d always call it “the feelings class.” It’s very much about personal development and how you work as an authentic, ethical person, and how to carry that with you in your career. The first assignment is to write down every memory you’ve ever had and then you take that and use it to find turning points in your life, for use in later exercises, like: where do you have baggage from past things that you’d like to forget about, or that are still causing issues? One of the things I wrote down was my experience with concussions in high school sports. Even though I’m fine now, I realized there were still some underlying issues from that time that were still affecting me. Like in college, I’ve had this fear of missing out, so I over-commit myself on activities. I never really understood where that came from, and then I remembered having four concussions in three months during high school, and I had to miss the last quarter of my freshman year to recover. I couldn’t do anything; I couldn’t see any of my friends. Reading that over, I thought: Maybe that’s where my FOMO came from.
As a student business consultant with the Leavey School of Business’s Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative and the student-run Santa Clara Consulting group, what kind of hands-on experience did you and your teammates have?
The NPI was a two-quarter class; you basically team up with a local small business, usually in an underserved community, and you help with their business. We paired up with a candy and party accessories store. The first quarter is all about understanding the business and figuring out what the owner needs, and budget that out with them. The second quarter is supposed to be all the implementation of everything, which was hard because of COVID-19. But we were able to help her reorganize her store, and got her onto Clover, which is a credit-card processing service that was an easier way of keeping track of receipts. And we were helping her use QuickBooks accounting software. Mostly we tried to free up her time to make it easier for her to run the shop and get more sales.
In the SCU Consulting group, we partner up with businesses from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. We worked with one really big company to help integrate some of their internal platforms and build more community between their employees. The other company we worked with was an electric car company that makes tailgate lifts for personal and light-work trucks. We helped them with market entry, crunching the numbers and market sizing, and advising them on where they should focus selling their product in the U.S. We recommended the South, because of the number of trucks sold down there.
Who are some of your favorite faculty at Santa Clara, and why?
I had a great Business 70 class (Contemporary Business Issues) with LSB Dean's Executive Professor Bob Finocchio ’73. My brother had taken his class, and told me when I was registering for classes at orientation to make sure I get Finocchio because he’s awesome. And he is. He just has so much energy and passion—and it spreads to the class. He ended up being one of my mentors for the first couple of years.
Another one was Accounting 11, which is usually a pretty dry class, but I had Professor Chris Paisley. I’ve never seen someone more passionate about accounting than him—like, every detail. The way he runs his class kept you on your toes because he would just cold call everyone with questions, all the time. That’s the most I have ever studied and done homework for any class in all of college. I was in the library for two hours a day at least, trying to get everything done.
And I like the instructors and staff, the people who have worked in business—they’re very animated and really into it. Brenda Versteeg ’97, MBA '07 runs the ACE Leadership Program, which stands for Accelerated Cooperative Education. Basically, it’s a professional development program where they teach you networking and job etiquette, and getting ready to apply for internships and jobs.
As students, we're not going to learn everything in the classroom that we’ll be doing in our jobs. For a lot of us, it’s learning how to develop other parts of yourself, how to interact with other people and communicate—your soft skills. You need that level of technical expertise for your job, but not everyone can have a conversation with a (firm’s) partner, and just be, like, a normal human. It's the airport test: if you could have a conversation with a person during a layover for however long, they might want to hire you because they don’t want to hire someone they couldn’t talk to on a layover. That’s where everything gets done, between people. It’s one of the hardest skills, but I think it’s one of my strengths, being able to connect with people.
You had an internship at Lockheed Martin last summer. What was the big take-away?
I was supposed to do program finance for them, with forecasting and the budget and things like that. But because I didn’t have security clearance, I was moved to the central accounting team, where I was mostly doing research and development on tax credits. The government gives big tax credits for research or development, and there's a strict criteria for it. So I was reviewing these big contracts and assessing them for how much of the money would be applicable for the tax credits; basically, finding programs that they missed, and saving Lockheed a ton of money. So that was pretty cool. It was a good experience, but I learned I’m more interested in corporate finance, since it’s a little faster, with a higher learning curve.
What key advice would you offer incoming SCU students?
Obviously college is a serious thing. You’ve got to get all your work done, do what you need to do, but I think it's easy to overthink things, and get kind of stressed out. I was very control-oriented when I was a freshman; I wanted everything to fit perfectly, but you can't do that. Just try to be more accepting of random things that are outside of your control and be OK with not having everything itemized. Work with the flow.
The second thing I would say is try new things. It’s kind of a cliche, but from what I’ve found, you’re never going to regret trying something, even if it’s just once. Don’t end up saying, ‘I wish I had done this, and this and this.’ College is a unique time you won’t get back again, so maximize it.
The last thing I would say is talk to your professors. I got one of my internships through a professor and I’m still pretty close with him, and others. That’s one of the benefits of being here. Most of the professors have been business people and they have connections. I think a lot of times, it might be intimidating for freshmen or sophomores to go talk to their professor, who was the CEO, or on the boards of companies. But they’re super nice and they want to help you. No one’s going to say, ‘Hey, here’s an internship.’ You have to go network for it, and advocate for yourself. Even if it’s kind of scary, just doing that little step is going to pay off huge down the line.