In 2008, Jackieleen Verdejo walked the stage at Commencement to receive her bachelor’s degree in communication and rhetorical studies from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts . She also completed minors in writing and sociology. The humanities devotee soon found her professional niche in an unlikely industry: financial operations. “I graduated during the recession, so finding a job was difficult,” she recalls. “I reluctantly applied to Chase Bank, and after a rigorous interview process I was actually hired!” She became a personal banker at Chase Bank and found that she really enjoyed investigating financial crimes.
Verdejo believes her undergraduate degree helped her achieve success in what might seem like an unrelated field. “My communication skills have opened many doors for me,” she asserts. “Talking about financial matters in a personable, practical and interesting way is something I strive to do in every interaction I have with a client.”
From Sideline to Business Enterprise
There was a high demand for her expertise, and in 2016 her pastor requested that she serve as the finance director for her church. “It was an honor to be considered for the role, and during that time I learned the basics of accounting and bookkeeping using QuickBooks Online and Excel spreadsheets,” she recalls. Verdejo enjoyed this sideline so much that she decided to make bookkeeping her focus, and she started a business called VIP Fiscal Services. “I work primarily with small businesses, but my dream has been to grow and develop my company.”
Verdejo knew that to make this dream a reality she would need higher-level skills and credentials. “I lacked foundational and advanced training in accounting, and I knew I needed a master’s degree to achieve my goals,” she says. But returning to school while working and raising a young child seemed impossible. Then she happened upon a solution.
“One day I was looking at Syracuse University’s LinkedIn page and found a reference to an online master of professional accounting,” she remembers. “I was so excited—I had no idea the Whitman School of Management offered an online program in accounting! As a Syracuse alumna, I wanted to return there for my master’s degree.”
The program held great appeal for Verdejo as a working mother who was well-established in her professional field, so she looked into it further. “I discovered that a GMAT waiver was provided if you've already had years of professional work experience,” she says. “That alone encouraged me to apply.”
Building Skills for the Future
Verdejo was accepted and is now enrolled in the online M.S. in professional accounting program, which she hopes to complete in October 2022. “I believe that having foundational knowledge in accounting is going to be critical in operating a bookkeeping firm where one day I will need to hire other professionals in the field,” she says.
Of equal importance is the example she is setting for her son. “My son, Colin, is almost six years old, and I hope to be a positive role model for him by providing us both with better opportunities and creating a legacy of sacrifice, faith and purpose,” she says.
The program has been remarkably workable for Verdejo. “The only challenge I have come across is learning to stay focused and disciplined while studying at home in a relaxed environment as I pursue my master’s degree,” she says. “The classes I’m taking this semester start at 9 p.m. when my son is in bed, and sometimes I have to fight my own fatigue. But there is a benefit in not having to travel to class, find parking and arrange and pay for childcare. When winter comes, I will be even more grateful I can attend class online while my son is sleeping peacefully in his bed.”
Giving Back and Paying It Forward
As Verdejo looks toward the future, giving back to Syracuse University and the Central New York community is always on her mind. “My dream is to grow and develop as a CEO of my company,” she says. “As my business grows, I want to provide career opportunities and internships for Syracuse residents and students from Whitman and VPA—particularly those studying communications and rhetorical studies.” Her vision is to help people prepare for careers in accounting, finance, human resources, management, social media, communications and public relations.
As my business grows, I want to provide career opportunities and internships for Syracuse residents and students from Whitman and VPA—particularly those studying communications and rhetorical studies.
“My goal would be for people to be motivated to stay in Syracuse after graduation, so some of those internships would turn into full-time careers with benefits,” she says. “I want to build an enterprise of stewardship and service to the Syracuse community that will exceed my time here on earth. This would be the achievement of my lifetime.”