Adobe Stock 339066729 blur

A Conversation with Financial Expert Thao Nguyen

Thao Nguyen details her role as project accountant for Colliers Project Leaders and her desire to contribute in the creation of amazing communities and projects that have long-lasting impact.

Thao Blog Header

Q&A with Financial Expert Thao Nguyen

In Thao Nguyen’s role as project accountant for Colliers Project Leaders, she ensures that project financials are accurate and up to date while providing project managers with the necessary financial information needed throughout their projects’ lifecycles. Driven by the desire to contribute to the creation of amazing communities and projects that have a long-lasting impact, Thao is inspired by Colliers Project Leaders’ environment of continuous learning and the opportunity to work alongside a dedicated team.

Read more to learn about Thao’s commitment to keeping projects financially on track.

How long have you been with Colliers Project Leaders and what brought you to the industry?

I have been with Colliers Project Leaders a little over four years and I've been in client services my whole career. What brought me into this industry was the prospect of building amazing communities. It was literally in the job description when I applied. It just felt more authentic being a part of something that was going to be generational. I think it's about having a place to belong.

What do you do in your role?

I am a project accountant, or you can call it a financial analyst or cost controller. I'm responsible for ensuring that our project financials or project budgets are up to date and that they're accurate. I support project managers with their project financials and make sure they have all the information they need throughout the life of their project. I create cash flow forecasts and process reimbursement requests, where necessary. I also assist in the development of financial reports, which are shared with our clients on a regular basis.

Project support is analyzing estimates and data, monitoring financials, and making sure that we're auditing as we go, so that we're catching any pieces that may fall through the cracks. We make sure that we have all the information in one place and that we're tracking it to the best of our ability because in a high-paced environment like this things can get lost.

How do you keep projects financially on track?

I research a lot of financial problems. I try to carry forward my experience from other projects because you can always learn from similar situations and apply it to the next one. I also make sure that I'm working with the project managers to review all their contracts, purchase orders, and expenditures. I reconcile our project financials with our clients’ general ledgers. I make sure that we're capturing everything and that everything is in its rightful place because we can easily go off track if we're not properly and proactively managing our project budgets.

What do you enjoy most about working at Colliers Project Leaders?

It's the people, 100%. I could be doing the same thing somewhere else, but you trust the people that you work with. It makes it more enjoyable when you're exceeding expectations and you're meeting targets. I enjoy seeing the final result in the completion of a real physical building. That just makes it more fulfilling.

I also enjoy learning new things. I learn something new every single day, and it's not always finance related – sometimes it’s construction related. I enjoy having that camaraderie with my colleagues. I think it makes my job more enjoyable. In my role specifically, I like knowing that I'm helping our clients achieve their goals. These aren't light decisions that are being made – and it's costly in a lot of circumstances.

Tell me about a project that you’ve worked on from beginning to completion, with the opportunity to see the finished product.

I was project accountant on Bristol County Agricultural High School, from the beginning to end. I was there for the design process through their budget development, and we're in closeout now. It was really eye opening because it was a large project with a lot of different districts involved. Bristol County Agricultural is a high school and there's a lot of different facilities that you wouldn't have at a traditional high school. We spent a lot of time figuring out expenses and costs for a dairy barn, for example. It was cool to see the moving parts and it feels satisfying knowing that we made it to closeout. The audit process is time consuming and I’m hopeful we will have a successful closeout.

You attend a lot of interviews for potential projects. What would you say it takes to be a successful interviewer?

I think being personable is key. It’s not just important to build relationships with your team, it’s important to earn their trust. I think the project managers have confidence in my ability to aid these potential clients and I hope that that's conveyed in our interviews. No one wants to take a chance on selecting a firm unless they're vouched for. I'm sure our references speak for themselves, but being there with a team that trusts you fully provides me with a lot of confidence.

Now you're starting to grow your own team. Will you be adding even more people to your team?

We're growing at a rapid pace and it's amazing that we're reaching all the new communities that we are. As much as I want to share my knowledge and help as many people as I can, I'm only one person! I am starting to build a team that's capable of supporting our technical leads across all of our regions and sectors while providing the same level of quality and excellence. Building a team now is amazing as we’re experiencing such strong growth company-wide.

Do you have any accomplishments you want to share?

We were project manager on the Cape Cod Regional Technical High School project, a large and complex education project, and I was acknowledged by the client at their ribbon cutting ceremony. I was invited to the event and was there to see all the remarkable things our team has done with the facility. I was recognized by a few of the people that I worked with over the years to complete this project. They thanked me for my contribution towards helping them with their state reimbursements. It felt really rewarding in a way I didn't expect. You do your job day in and day out and you don't really know if people notice you because no one wants to look at numbers all day. But I thought it was cool that a few people out there really recognized me. I was like a celebrity for 10 minutes!

Do you have any role models or mentors that have helped you in your career?

I'm always on the lookout for good mentorship. As a woman in a male-dominated field, I always feel like I'm reaching out to other women – not that I don't have a few male role models as well. There are so many great people that we work with. My predecessor, Julie Trella, was one of them. She was doing this role for over 20 years and she was awesome. She was just so helpful in my growth here. I wish I had more time with her. Working with her felt like an accelerated MBA program, she really put me under her wing and everything really skyrocketed from there. I also have a few outside mentors that help me career-wise and I think it's good to keep those relationships no matter what career path I’m on.

What advice do you have for people looking to get into the field?

I'm in the process of training a new team member right now and I'm happy to say that I tell him that it's not a monotonous job. There's a new problem every day, a new strategy that we can explore and there's always a new accomplishment with the things that we do. As much as there are standards of procedure, I feel like every day comes with something different, so I think that's rewarding.

Can you give me an example of these strategies?

We help many different types of clients and there's always different streams of revenue and money and grants and rebates. We have to take that all into consideration when we're developing a project budget and making sure that these are being tracked in a way that is transparent. I don't always see the same type of budget every day. They're always all different. People are finding unique ways to get funding for their projects and it's rewarding to see how it all comes together. It's definitely a challenge, so I'm making sure that we're all on the same page and coming up with an even better strategy than we could have imagined to handle certain fund types and situations.

Where do you see yourself in the future with Colliers Project Leaders?

I think the future of our company is very bright! I am probably the most optimistic and positive person you might come across. I think there’s a lot of new sectors and divisions we can learn from right now. The only way we're going to be successful is if we keep growing. I think leadership has made strides in making sure that our future isn’t small. I think the more that we grow, it can't be a bad thing. There's going to be bigger and bigger things coming on the horizon and I'm going to always be prepared for it!


Click here to learn more about how Thao and Colliers Project Leaders can help with your upcoming facility capital projects.