A winding road to success

Strategies to blaze your trail

A winding road to success

As a second-generation Mexican American, Crowe partner Nina Perez charted her own path to success. Now she offers insights and strategies for others.

When Nina Perez was in high school, she wasn’t even planning to go to college, let alone earn her certified public accountant (CPA) license and master's in business administration (MBA) and become a successful partner in an accounting firm. The youngest of five and the child of first-generation Mexican Americans, Nina watched her family work hard to build their life in Houston. But since no one in her family had gone to college, she hadn’t even considered it a possibility. 

“It takes a village to grow your career. You can’t do it all by yourself – you need support and guidance from other people.” 

“My high school guidance counselor asked if I was applying to college, and I said no. It had never even crossed my mind to apply, so I had no idea what the process was like, what I would study, or how to pay for it,” she says.

That counselor connected Nina with the League of United Latin American Citizens network, an organization that helped Nina work through the application process and secure financial aid. She started her education at the University of Houston-Downtown, but life quickly threw her another curveball. 

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“I found out I was pregnant with my daughter a year into my college education,” she says. “So, at 20 years old, I was working full time, going to school full time, parenting, and buying a house with my now husband.”

Nina started working in accounting for a variety of companies, discovering an interest in both the work and the opportunities it provided. Once she graduated, she continued to work in the accounting field but realized without a graduate degree, it would be hard to move up. She went back to school for a fast-tracked, executive MBA program.

“The day of my orientation, I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter,” she says. “Parenting two kids and working an 8-to-5 job, I still finished the three-year program in two years. I had to get it out of the way!” 

While she planned to stay in general accounting once she completed her MBA, she realized public accounting offered far more opportunity. Between her degree and her work experience, she had all the tools she needed to sit for her CPA exam. After starting her career with a national firm, Nina moved to Briggs & Veselka (B&V) and then to Crowe.

“When I started at B&V, we had about 90 people. Even though we were growing exponentially, it still felt like a small firm, with a great culture of caring,” she says. “We always thought we’d stay a legacy firm, but we knew that with the market and competition, we needed more resources. When we were approached by Crowe, we saw that our cultures were basically identical. It was a no-brainer to join such a well-respected firm.”

Now, Nina works as a tax partner at Crowe, and she is involved in a variety of organizations in her hometown of Houston, including the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and The Women’s Home. As a member of the Latino business resource group at Crowe, she attended the 2022 Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) conference for the first time.

“I thought ALPFA would be too big for us, but Crowe absolutely stood out. We got so much feedback about how people loved meeting our team and really appreciated our personalities and presence,” she says.

Strategies for success 

Find a mentor and be a mentor. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll need different guidance throughout your career. Seek out people who are doing interesting things and learn from them – and look around you to see who you might be able to help. 

Be resilient. Bring a genuine desire to learn, care for the others on your team, and know your purpose. At the end of the day, you’re serving the client, so be an advocate for them.   

Don’t say yes to everything. You’re not the best version of yourself when you say yes to everything. It’s empowering to say no, and it leaves room for you to do excellent work – and to rest when you need to.   

Ask for help. The industry is extremely short staffed, and it’s easy to get burned out. Lean on your team, be there for your co-workers, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Be open to feedback. Everyone has a different working style, so what works for you in terms of communication and process might not work for someone else.  

Looking to take the next step on your career path? Put your experience to work with Crowe.