When Ksenia Kuznetsova (HCB, ’12) arrived in the United States as a teenager, she faced a formidable cultural adjustment. “I’m from Nizhniy Novgorod, Russia, a city of about two million people,” she says. “Not only was it a move from one country and language to another, it was going from a big city to small-town Tennessee.”
Tapping into her natural determination, Kuznetsova learned to speak conversational English in about two months and gained fluency in a year. Knowing she was academically strong in other subjects gave her the confidence to push through learning the language. The experience, she says, taught her about perseverance.
Kuznetsova grew up surrounded by strong female role models, including her mother, who had owned a business in Russia. “Everyone in my family is very driven, so I always knew I could do anything I could set my mind to,” she says. When she graduated from high school, Kuznetsova wanted to study business. With interests in math and science, accounting felt like a natural choice.
The Haslam College of Business drew Kuznetsova by connecting her with alumni and faculty who showed a genuine interest in her success. “I felt valued and respected from the very beginning,” she says. “The university also recognized my academic achievements through scholarships and grants, allowing me to graduate debt-free, and I am so thankful for that.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Kuznetsova took an internship with PwC. The firm then offered her a full-time position, and she relocated to their Nashville office to work as an associate in the risk assurance practice, doing external public company audits. Five years later, an opportunity came through for her to do a tour of duty in PwC’s US Internal Audit and SOX Center of Excellence (COE) focused on regulatory compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), legislation designed to protect investors from fraudulent accounting by corporations.
The role is unique because it’s comprised of internal audit and SOX compliance professionals from across the country and the world using technology to keep in touch. Members of the team write thought leadership pieces on relevant industry topics and drive PwC’s methodology development by creating internal webcasts, courses, and other materials. Kuznetsova appreciates the variety, flexibility, and creative outlets her job provides. “In one day, I might speak with colleagues in India, Chicago, and Seattle,” she says. “It’s great to work in the field I’m so passionate about and get to leverage my creativity as well.”
Kuznetsova’s drive to succeed taught her to approach life with a to-do list in hand, at least until she attended her first yoga class in 2013. The world, she says, seemed to stop moving as she was holding a particular yoga pose. “For the first time, I felt able to be fully present with what I was doing,” she recalls. Since then, she’s spent daily time in yoga and meditation, training her mind to be fully present. “It allows me to honor my body and spirit, focus my attention, and bring myself to center and focus,” she says. “That’s how I approach the world around me: ready to discover what each day has in store.”