Rena Deng, BS 2006, won a spot in Wachovia's highly competitive Corporate Investment Banking program.
Working full-time at Southern Company every other semester made Rena Deng, BS 2006, feel much older and wiser than her fellow undergraduates when she returned to campus.
During her last two years at Tech, she participated in the Institute's Cooperative Program, which allows students to earn as they learn, alternating semesters on campus with full-time jobs at high-tech companies.
"It really makes you realize what you need to focus on in your classes," says Deng, 22, who earned certificates in accounting and finance. "You see it being used in real life so it's no longer just about grades. You want to learn it because your manager is going to give you projects that utilize those skills."
She says her experience working four semesters for Southern Company's financial planning and analysis group was great preparation for her new job in Wachovia's highly competitive Corporate Investment Banking program.
Though she's moved into her first condo in Charlotte, where Wachovia is headquartered, she probably won't be spending much time at home. The typical work week in the two-year Wachovia training program lasts about ninety hours. "It's kind of a lifestyle more than a job," Deng says. "It's a great business boot camp."
Good thing then that Deng is used to long hours. While most students in the Cooperative Program take five years to graduate, Deng managed it in only four. She'd race to campus from Southern Company's downtown offices at lunchtime so that she could squeeze in classes.
"I'm very ambitious and type-A," says Deng, who's got the list of honors to prove it. During the spring semester, she won the Alpha Kappa Psi scholarship award for being the most outstanding senior management major as well as a scholarship award from the Georgia Society of Certified Public Accounts. In 2005, she was named Outstanding Junior in Management by the faculty and won Bank of America's finance scholarship.
Her drive to succeed was evident at an early age. When she moved to Duluth, Georgia, from China at age eight, she didn't even know a letter of the English alphabet, much less a whole word. But within six months of starting her new school, she was fully up to speed with the other kids, no longer needing separate English as a Second Language instruction.
"It was frustrating coming to a whole new world where you couldn't read any of the signs," remembers Deng, who returns to China about every five years to see her extended family. "That frustration drove me to learn English at a really fast pace. Watching lots of 'Sesame Street' helped."
By her senior year, she knew she wanted to major in business at Tech. Even though her schedule here was demanding, she says she managed to maintain a good balance between her studies, work, and social life. "I think I've always been able to step back and look at the big picture," says Deng, a devoted runner who loved working out in the Campus Recreation Center as well as socializing with friends at Tech, other local universities, and Southern Company. "Grades aren't everything."
After completing two years of investment banking training, Deng could advance within Wachovia, but she's keeping her options open. Eventually she might earn her MBA and go into consulting for nonprofit organizations. "Maybe I can use my skills to contribute to more meaningful organizations," she says.