Syed Hussain came to Wayne State University with a dream of getting a degree in accounting — a dream some of his extended family thought was a bad idea.
“I’m from Pakistan and was raised there until I was 16,” Hussain said. “Accounting was never looked at as one of the most successful jobs by some of the people in my family. They consider the successful jobs to be like an engineer, lawyer or doctor, and accounting is considered like a mediocre job.
“A lot of people tried to convince me to change my major. I was a little heartbroken by that, but some people were pressuring me. But my parents and sisters were very supportive.”
Thanks to that support from his immediate family, some help from his learning community in the Mike Ilitch School of Business and a lot of hard work, Hussain will graduate on Dec. 17 with a double major in accounting and information systems management (ISM).
Hussain said some of his extended family insisted that accounting jobs were going to be replaced or have already been replaced by computers. Keeping that in mind, Hussain kept working hard at his accounting degree, but also decided to make himself more marketable. His uncle, who works in IT, encouraged him to explore the ISM program. After taking an ISM class, Hussain knew it would be extra work but made the decision to double major.
“Everything is going towards the technological area; no matter what you do, everything requires some sort of technology,” Hussain said. “I realized I needed to do something that’s going to make me stand out in the accounting field. I started exploring different options and landed on information systems management. I took a class and really liked it. It opened my mind because it related to the business field but at the same time, it’s from an IT perspective. I decided to pick it up as a second major. I knew it was going to require a little more work but would mesh well with my accounting degree.”
Hussain also credited the Multicultural Professional Readiness Education Program (MPREP) for helping him confirm that he was making the right choice. MPREP was originally designed to increase the diversity of entry-level employees in accounting and finance. The learning community has now grown to provide circles of support for multicultural students from all majors within the Ilitch School.
“If I ever had any issues with school, I could go in there and they would help,” Hussain said of MPREP. “They’re always there for us. Lynita Taylor was my first contact, and I had a meeting with her like twice a month. She would always give me clarity like, ‘You are making the right choice by going into a field you really want. It’s a good field; don't get disheartened by your extended family.’”
MPREP introduced Hussain to mentors in the accounting field and Taylor encouraged him to get some experience. Hussain began volunteering at Accounting Aid Society, landed a co-op at DTE Energy and, finally, an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
“Lynita is the one who encouraged me to apply for the PwC internship,” Hussain said. “I felt like I wasn’t worthy enough to apply. I never thought I would be able to get in. I applied and got in. They even offered me a job, but I turned it down because I already had a better offer to work at Ernst Young this summer.”
Taylor said Hussain was always great at considering multiple angles of all his decisions and believes he will thrive in the corporate environment.
“I'm very proud of Syed's perseverance throughout his college journey,” Taylor said. “Having shared some of the obstacles he was facing, I am glad he committed to the path he wanted for himself.”
Hussain had a scholarship to go to Wayne State but had to pay his own way to live on campus. He often worked a full-time job in addition to going to school; he also worked side jobs to make extra money.
“That was really the most challenging part because I was very financially independent,” Hussain said. “I was a double major and wanted to graduate on time, so I was taking five or six classes and working 40 hours. There were times it was very exhausting.”
Hussain said he finally felt all his hard work paid off when he got the internship at PwC.
“That was most rewarding part, finding the internship,” Hussain said. “Wayne State has a great career fair, and I tell people all the time they need to join. Through all the struggles financially, saving money to pay for my dorm and all the hard work in class, just getting that internship made it all worth it. I knew it would change everything. Now that college life is done, I feel like I’m on an easier path and it’s quite relieving.”
Hussain plans on taking a semester off before going to graduate school. He’s already completed four graduate level classes through the AGRADE program.
Having a job lined up and plans for graduate school make Hussain feel validated that he picked the right path. He believes that in time, everyone else will come around.
“My parents were great; they were my pillars through all of this,” Hussain said. “They told me I should do whatever makes me happy, so with them behind me, I felt I could make the decision that was best for me. I’m also so thankful for the MPREP program and everyone who helped me at Wayne State, whether it was working on my resume or prepping me for interviews; they were always there for me.”