First-Gen Zicklin Alumna Is Googler By Day, CEO By NightMarch 2, 2023
In 2015, Dominican-born Stephanie Nuesi (BBA, ’21) moved to New York City with her family, speaking no English. Today, only eight years later, she’s a full-time financial analyst at Google with a lucrative second career as the CEO of Max Up, a career consultancy startup she founded as an undergraduate at the Zicklin School. She also makes $6,000 a month as a frequent public speaker, tireless content creator, and social media whiz with 200,000 followers. At just 23, she’s been profiled as a successful, empathetic Latina executive in media outlets from Telemundo and Univision to Business Insider, Hispanic Executive, and the Dominican Republic edition of Forbes. How does she do it all? Stephanie sat down with Zicklin News to tell us more.
Zicklin News: Congratulations on all your success. Tell us how you got to the Zicklin School of Business.
Stephanie Nuesi: I’d always heard great things about the school. When I applied to college, Baruch was my first choice, but I didn’t get in. I applied to York College, but I didn’t pass the English proficiency exams, so I attended as an ESL [English as a second language] student for two years and then transferred to Baruch and the Zicklin School. I’d been an accounting student in high school back in the Dominican Republic, so an accountancy major was a natural fit. My brother is a CPA so I guess it runs in the family!
Zicklin News: It must have been challenging to come to a new country as a teenager without speaking the language. How did you become fluent in English so quickly?
SN: I worked my butt off [laughs]! I took free conversational English classes at the Queens Public Library, 30 minutes from my house. I got a job as a medical assistant, and that helped me develop fluency. And once I got into York College, I spent about seven hours a week in ESL classes. I faced a lot of rejection and discrimination, but I was determined not to let my accent or lack of English stop me from reaching my full potential. Today, I make as much as $3,000 a speech doing public speaking engagements for UBS, AICPA, Wiley, and other companies, but I should add that I already had a passion for public speaking in Spanish, my native language, so to some extent that skill was already there.
ZN: Tell us how you came to found your career consultancy, Max Up.
SN: Entrepreneurship is another thing that runs in my family. Growing up, my mom was constantly starting small businesses like making candies and my dad always had a lot of entrepreneurial ideas. In my junior year of college, I took an entrepreneurship class at Zicklin where the professor taught us the building blocks of starting a business, and I used those concepts as the foundation for Max Up. As a nontraditional student, first-generation immigrant, and non-native speaker, I often felt nervous and ashamed of my accent and lack of experience, and I think a lot of other people face that on a daily basis. I didn’t know how to network or write a resume, and I wanted to create a platform to help others like me find opportunity.
ZN: Fascinating. Can you tell us more about your time at Zicklin and Baruch?
SN: One thing that really helped me is the fact there’s a lot of business writing in the classes here. Students don’t always appreciate how much our professors help us with business communication and writing. In fact, I’d say the number-one thing I liked about Baruch and Zicklin was that the professors are really dedicated to teaching. I learned from their passion. Also, the students are very diverse and they’re people who hustle, who have the mindset of “I want to get that job.” If I hadn’t transferred to Baruch, I don’t know if I would have started my business. I took myself out of my comfort zone to transfer here and that really helped me in the long run.
ZN: Did you have any student internships?
SN: Yes, I had internships at Deloitte, PwC, and JPMorgan as well as Google. Because of the pandemic, I was able to get a summer internship working remotely for Google corporate headquarters in Silicon Valley. That eventually led to an offer for a full-time job once I graduated.
ZN: You live in Silicon Valley now. How does it compare to living and working in New York?
SN: Like New York, Silicon Valley is very diverse — people come from all over the world to work here. The main difference, besides the weather, is that the lifestyle here is not as fast paced. New York is mostly young people right out of college who are starting their careers. Silicon Valley people are mainly mid-career people with families.
ZN: Interesting. Finally, how would you describe the Stephanie Nuesi brand?
SN: That’s a great question! The first thing that comes to mind is a funny image of an octopus — like I’m using multiple arms to get everything done. From nine to five I do finance and accounting at Google, then after work I might rewrite someone’s resume or do a public speaking gig or branding for a video. When I share stories and create content, it all flows into these different things, and as result I’ve never had to pay for advertising for Max Up. All my clients come through social media.
I have a hashtag, #StephSynergy, where all my social media content is stored. Synergy by definition is combining forces to make a bigger impact, and I combine all the different things I do into one main brand, which is #StephSynergy. The #StephSynergy brand is all about empowering people like me to be proud of our backgrounds. I spend a lot of time talking about all the rejections and failures I’ve faced that led to redirections and wins, because I want people to realize they should never be ashamed or afraid of failure. I’ve failed so many times, but it all led to where I am today.