For Tova Renna ’98S, Senior Analyst at Johnson & Johnson, the choice to attend Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business made perfect sense for her professional ambitions.
“I knew I was interested in business and accounting in high school, and I had heard wonderful things about Sy Syms,” said Renna, originally of Teaneck. NJ. “I was confident that YU would prepare me for the intensity of the business world.”
Renna had always been interested in economics and enjoyed being involved in financial dealings. Her interest began in elementary school, when she served as treasurer of the student council. “I also wanted to have a career where I knew I would be able to make a good living for myself and my family,” she said.
At Sy Syms, she majored in accounting, and credited Professor David Hornung’s class, Introduction to Accounting, as a great training ground. “Professor Hornung laid a really strong foundation that really helped me in the early years of my career,” said Renna.
At YU, she also served as treasurer of the Sy Syms Student Council—continuing the role she had held years earlier, although now on a larger scale—and as manager for the basketball team. But it was the time spent with friends, notably her same roommates throughout her years of college, which Renna recalled most fondly. “I had great classes and teachers, but the things that I really cherish are the memories of running to Dunkin Donuts with my friends in the middle of the night to buy up all the donuts that had been sitting on the shelf for far too long and were going to be thrown out,” laughed Renna. “Thankfully, we had 18 flights of stairs to walk up in Brookdale Hall, and we thought it canceled out all those donuts.”
After graduating Sy Syms, Renna went to work at Deloitte & Touche, LLP, as a Senior Accountant, and then at Atari, Inc. (yes, as in the popular ’80s video game Atari) as a Manager of Royalty Accounting. As one might expect for a company that produces video games and is responsible for beginning the trends of the video arcade and modern video game industries, it was a rather laid-back work environment. “People wore shorts to work, and I don’t imagine many accountants work in such an atmosphere,” said Renna.
In 2006, Renna arrived at Johnson & Johnson, where she is a Senior Analyst. A typical workday involves a series of meetings every day, as Renna’s scope of responsibilities spans the globe. “In the increasingly fast-paced and digital world in which we live, I, too, have found myself working in a very modern type of office,” explained Renna. “I use technology that allows me to share computers with other colleagues, utilize Skype for face-to-face meetings and exercise other videoconferencing options.”
Because Renna and other female colleagues sometimes face certain challenges being women in the world of business, which tends to be led and largely populated by men, Renna said she has learned to speak up for herself, which she admits is not necessarily an intuitive inclination found naturally in many women.
“The jobs I’ve held haven’t necessarily made me the only woman in the office, but finance and accounting does tend to be male-dominated, and I have to work at confidently speaking up for what I want, as I expect many other women do,” explained Renna. “But I think that as long as women are aware of it, we can work at it and really succeed.”
Renna’s own ability to speak publically was helped along by a two-day workshop on presentation skills that her company sponsored in 2008. “Since I took the class, public speaking is something I am much more comfortable with, which is important for any professional in a growing global workforce,” said Renna.
One thing that Renna regrets? Not keeping in touch with the many connections she’s made over the years from professional networking. “I know that I missed certain opportunities and widening my network of contacts by not being consistently in touch with some people,” she said.
This is one of the pearls of wisdom she happily doles out to current YU students at some of the events in which she actively participates. “I got reinvolved in YU about two years ago when I met another alumnus at work, and he invited me to tag along to a career fair he was attending at YU,” said Renna. “I was glad that I went, because I know that I’m grateful for the opportunities I got at YU and it’s nice to be able to give back in this particular way.”
Renna has spoken to students at events like “Being Orthodox in an Unorthodox World,” interviewed students for internships at her company and participated in a recent mentoring panel at the start of the spring semester. “I’m able to share with the students some of the things I did right when I got out of YU, and some of the things that I wish I could have done better,” she explained. “Perhaps the most important thing that I emphasize to the students is to know their own stock and be effective advocates for themselves when they go into the workforce. After that, I make sure they know that fostering connections with the people you work with not only makes for a better working environment, but could help you professionally down the line.”
Renna lives in Highland Park, NJ, with her family: her husband Jeremy ’98YC, who is the Vice President of Vendor Collaborations at Macy’s, Inc., and their three children, Miriam, 10, Netanel, 6, and Aliza, 8 months. She also served as the Vice President of Finance for her synagogue for four years, and is currently serving as Co-Chair of the Financial Excellence Committee of the Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva (RPRY), a day school in Edison, NJ.