Aspiring to Make a Difference
Ngoc Can, Eller MBA ’12
By Liz Warren-Pederson
Ngoc Can came to the U.S. from her native Vietnam as a senior in high school. She completed high school in Lansing, Michigan, through an exchange program called Nacel Open Door.
“When I was in Michigan, I lived with a wonderful teacher who brought me to Tucson to visit her daughter during spring break,” Can said. “She took me to visit the UA campus and I was really impressed.” Can met with the director of international admissions and connected with some Vietnamese students who were attending Eller. “They spoke very favorably about Eller,” she said. “Later, I was admitted with a full four-year scholarship. Eller and the UA have given me the gift of education, for which I am very grateful.”
After graduating with a finance degree, Can joined the mergers and acquisitions group at Houlihan Lokey, an investment bank out of Los Angeles. “I learned a great deal about financial modeling and valuing companies,” she said. “I participated in all parts of the deal process, from preparation of pitch books to bringing the deal to market to due diligence with private equity and strategic buyers.”
With that experience under her belt, she wanted to learn about operating a company. She returned to Tucson for a position with General Plasma, a vacuum coating company. “My contribution was the implementation of their sales tracking process on the salesforce.com platform with international distributors,” she said. “I was also responsible for generating media coverage and assisted with creating proposals that helped the company win the Innovator of the Year and the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation awards.”
She returned last year to pursue an Eller MBA. “It’s an opportunity for me to take what I’ve learned on the job and reflect on the strategic implications of those decisions and behaviors,” she said. “The MBA will allow me to synthesize my work experience to allow myself to think more strategically.”
Can spent the summer in San Jose, California, interning with PricewaterhouseCoopers. “The experience gave me the opportunity to put what I’ve learned in class into practice,” she said.
That classroom learning included leadership from Don Seeley — founding director of the Applied Investment Management Program — which she went through as an undergraduate. “I not only learned a great deal about portfolio management in his classes, but also about what it is like to give back to the community while following one’s passion,” she said. “Don inspired me to learn and take an interest in the financial market.”
It’s something she’d like to use in her post-MBA life, as well. “My investment banking experience provides me with the methodology and framework to understand the value investors look at when making an investment in a company,” she said. “My experience in the corporate side provides me with the insights on the day-to-day decisions that enable a company to stay the course and compete effectively against its potential and existing threats.”
Can sees herself working in the investment industry, helping investors make informed decisions. “My dream job is to be in a position to make investment decisions as an ‘intelligent investor,’ as described by Benjamin Graham,” she said. “I aspire to make a difference, but I am not sure exactly how just yet.”