Scott Song B’10 grew from an undergraduate international student, unsure and a little overwhelmed in a new country, to working nationally and internationally for a Big Four accounting firm, where his diverse background and experiences are an advantage.
“We talk to stakeholders from different cultures, and within the U.S., our colleagues also have different backgrounds. Nowadays, the world is flat and everyone is connected,” he said.
The Xi’an, China, native had taken one year of university courses when he transferred through a cooperative agreement to Saint Mary’s undergraduate campus in Winona.
“At the beginning, the first semester was really tough with the language and culture barrier, and I didn’t know anyone there,” he said. “But Saint Mary’s is super friendly so it’s almost like a safe bubble for international students to practice social skills and learn about the culture.”
Gradually, Song, a marketing and sport management major, immersed himself in college life, serving as a resident assistant, starting the international student club, serving as a student senator, and getting involved in mission and volunteer work — for starters.
“The opportunities provided by Saint Mary’s broadened my horizons and helped me grow in leadership and see education in a different way,” he said.
When Song applied to the MBA program at William & Mary right out of college, he discovered they required two years of work experience, and he didn’t meet that criteria. They asked Song how he could compete with others who did.
“I was able to articulate what I did for student engagement and compare it to a real-life work experience and how it gave me a mindset of servant leadership and helped me grow my management skills,” he said.
Once accepted, Song said he felt academically prepared for graduate school as well. “I felt like I had an advantage compared to a lot of other students. What I learned at Saint Mary’s was 100 percent aligned with my coursework, and in some ways, what I was learning in grad school was somewhat repetitive,” he said. “If it weren’t for my Saint Mary’s experience, I would have never been able to go to William & Mary and be where I am today.”
Song earned both an MBA and a Master of Accounting degree from William & Mary and soon began working at EY, which provides audit, consulting, tax, business risk, technology and security risk services, and human capital services worldwide.
Working from Washington, D.C., Song now serves as the senior manager of climate change and sustainability services through which he consults with clients on technical sustainability and ESG reporting and advisory capabilities.
ESG stands for environmental, social and governance, which is often called sustainability. Jobs revolving around ESG work are increasing dramatically as
businesses are being asked to publicly disclose progress being made on goals and commitments on environmental sustainability, social issues, and corporate governance.
“ESG is one of the big topics for the coming years,” he said. “Climate change, human capital, and sustainability governance are on the agenda for government regulations. Universities are beginning to offer ESG related fields as a new major. The ESG strategy has to link to business strategy.”
Song, who returned to campus in October, spoke to Saint Mary’s business students about the growing market and how it’s tailored to finance and accounting students.
“A new trend is impact investing, such as investing in infrastructures, DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) projects, environment projects, and the social impact businesses bring to society,” he said. “A methodology is in place and there are industry regulations. Gen Zers are more passionate about the environment. Being a CPA isn’t that sexy anymore, but the area, including carbon accounting, pulls students back into their interests.”
Song, who has worked in both Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Frankfurt, Germany, tells business students there are many opportunities for career choices, and though he wasn’t an accounting major, he’s a CPA now. “You never know where life is going to take you,” he said. “No matter your business major, marketing, finance, accounting… It gives you a basic skill set. The important part is to be well rounded.”
His advice to international students? “Be comfortable being uncomfortable and work outside of your comfort zone,” he said. “Embrace the opportunities Saint Mary’s will offer.”