Most people don’t know what they want to be when they are in high school or maybe even college but for Rong Wang, Principal Accountant at VCPWA, she knew she wanted to be an accountant since middle school and considers accounting her hobby just as much as her career.
Rong was born in China and attended secular school and university there before moving to the United States in 1998 with her husband and daughter. She and her family first lived in Columbus, Ohio, then Alberta, Canada, and finally, California. She says adjusting to American culture was one of the biggest obstacles she had to face early on. “It was really hard for me to understand other people’s thought process and why they did things a certain way.” As she transitioned from growing up in China to living in the U.S., she credits working in the restaurant industry and attending church services with her husband for helping both of them better acclimate to the culture, improve their communication skills, and build a sense of community.
Rong spent many years believing there is no room for mistakes, making another personal challenge she’s had to overcome the expectation of perfection. “Growing up, I was told I had to be perfect.” She said she feared public speaking even before moving to the U.S. because while attending school in China, reading and writing were taught a considerable amount whereas speaking was not emphasized as much. “The language barrier is one thing but even in China I was scared to talk in public. It was more out of fear of making a mistake or saying something wrong and having people look down on me.” Rong’s daughter was the one to make her realize that making mistakes is part of life. When her daughter was in kindergarten, she had errors in her homework, so Rong asked her why she didn’t do it correctly. The five-year-old responded three words Rong remembers to this day, “I’m just human.” Rong says, “that was the first time I heard that because when I grew up no one ever said, ‘We’re human, we make mistakes.’”
Before starting her journey at PWA Rong worked at the Ventura County Health Care Agency, first as an Extra Help employee with HCA Fiscal, then working her way up all the levels of accounting officer. When she began working as a principal accountant at Public Works she attended many trainings on customer service, supervising skills, and staff interaction and communication, which helped her not only at her desk but in her personal life as well. She said her social skills with co-workers, friends, and family improved thanks to the trainings that helped her gain confidence with public speaking. She also had to hold a more active role in meetings which brought her out of her shell. “Public speaking is still my biggest challenge but little by little I feel more comfortable.”
Rong enjoys working at Public Works and feels challenged enough to further her skills every year. If she could thank one person at PWA for getting her to where she is today, Rong says “that would have to be Debra.” Rong says her manager, Debra Cavaletto, “provides room for me to grow and she pushes me a lot.” Rong even says if not for Debra and all she’s learned at PWA, she would not be sharing her Pathways story today. “A couple of years ago, I may not have been comfortable to accept this interview. When I first joined Public Works, every time we had a meeting, I always sat in the corner trying not to draw attention to myself, trying not to be seen. But now I am more comfortable sitting in the front and find it easier to speak up.”
About Pathways: This newly added section to our monthly “The Works” newsletter – “Pathways” – will highlight the unique pathways that each of us has followed to the Ventura County Public Works Agency. We hope to highlight the “pathways” of an individual in each newsletter. If you have a story you’d like to share for a Pathways feature, please contact our Director of Central Services, Joan Araujo at your earliest convenience.