CAN AN ACCOUNTING LEDGER SERVE AS THE TICKET TO A HIGH-RISE OFFICE IN MIDTOWN MANHATTAN?
It did for Russell Noles, a seasoned business strategist, Certified Public Accountant and executive who has spent more than 30 years in the telecommunications and financial-services industries. His foresight and strategic acumen have taken him to the heart of New York City, where he helps oversee nearly $1 trillion in assets as chief operations officer for Nuveen, a wholly owned subsidiary of TIAA that he helped acquire in 2014.
Noles chose MSU Denver because of its Cooperative Education program and a scholarship as an accounting student trainee at Lowry Air Force Base (five-year program), which paid for tuition, books and fees the first year and provided a job that helped fund his tuition in subsequent semesters.
MSU Denver Accounting Professor Russell Bean provided Noles with targeted career advice that was not initially well-received but was spot-on.
“I was originally not going into public accounting, as I had a job offer with the Air Force thanks to my co-op arrangement,” Noles said. “Bean considered governmental accounting a specialty and encouraged me to start with a Big Eight accounting firm. When I expressed concerns about the significant overtime and the stress I had heard about, he said, ‘You don’t have to like it. Get your ticket punched there, and it will open doors for your career.’ I took his advice, and he was absolutely right: It opened the door to US West and subsequent career opportunities.”
Noles spent more than 17 years in nine jobs in the telecommunications industry before a move to a Minneapolis property-and-casualty firm brought him the financial-service expertise that caught TIAA’s attention. He quickly moved through the ranks at TIAA, from internal audit to acting chief financial officer, product development and management, corporate strategy and development and his current role as COO for Nuveen.
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