Pragya Tandon, Amid Her Travels, Has Got What Counts

pragya tandon

As a child, Pragya Tandon loved numbers. She knew which digits could get family and friends on the phone, and the dates of birth of almost everyone she knew. In addition, she always got top grades in math.

Her father and sister thought that this equated to a career in engineering or medicine, but one college engineering course later, Tandon concluded that her nous for numbers would find better use somewhere very far from the sciences.

“I knew it was definitely not for me,” she said, “and I also knew for sure that I couldn’t study for countless years to become a doctor.”

Still, that fascination with numbers made the transition to accounting easy. Since graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2005 from Arizona State University, Tandon started with a “Big 4” accounting firm, then worked with major corporations and, more recently, has powered a successful start-up. However, she’ll also tell you it was some early humbling experiences as a teen that shaped her drive for success.

From burger-flipping to financial mastery

Tandon grew up in New Delhi and came to America (Phoenix, Ariz.) as a senior in high school, where she had experiences that transcended a mere culture shock.

“I won’t sugar-coat it; I wouldn’t want to go through that again,” she said about assimilating into American teen culture at the time.

Within a couple months, she yearned to visit her childhood home again. Her father said she could go in the summer, after her high school graduation and before starting college, but with one caveat: she would have to pay for the trip with her own money.

To do that, Tandon worked the drive-thru at a local Jack-In-The-Box fast food restaurant, an experience she liked and appreciated.

“It helped me get more used to the culture. In the drive-thru it was a lot easier to talk to someone you don’t know on the other side of the speaker,” she said. “The experience made me really independent. Working, making money at age 17, it wasn’t quite the norm for where I came from.”

Career success

After doing a college summer internship in the auditing department of KPMG, one of the largest accounting firms in the country, Tandon was hired by the company — her first big career move. From there, she went on to Allied Waste, a large waste management company, working at its Financial Planning & Analysis department. She then worked as a principal financial analyst for AAA of Arizona, an automobile benefits membership company. While working there full-time, she also earned her Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree.

In 2013 she dove into the world of startups, working on iAcquire, a digital marketing agency, and ClearVoice, a content management platform. In her current role at ClearVoice, her team oversees every penny that makes its way through the platform. She also helped the business navigate an acquisition by the publicly-traded Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance services.

“In a big company it’s harder to show your worth. I needed to be somewhere where I can make more of an impact,” she said. “I love ClearVoice. I love how it’s part of Fiverr, and I love how we’re growing.”

An education in every trip

At the time Tandon was growing up in New Delhi, her mother was an English teacher, her father an engineer. The close-knit family enjoyed plenty of domestic travel together, too. Her upbringing shaped a love for travel and nurtured her independence, she says.

“I never saw myself as being dependent on anybody. I knew I was going to be a self-made individual,” Tandon said. “My mother was never dependent on my father. She had her own career and they both had their own identities.”

A foodie and lover of history, Tandon travels often. Her most recent pre-COVID trip was to Malta in November 2019, a southern European island and major Game of Thrones filming location. She has visited 33 countries, and aims to visit 40 before the age of 40. She is now 36 and a mother of two young boys, and may have scaled back her plans in these times of COVID. Until 2020, she traveled to India almost every year with her family, weaving other destinations into her itinerary on those trips.

“As a child, my parents took us all over India, so traveling is somewhat ingrained in my blood,” she said. “Traveling and exploring other countries and cultures became a passion over the last 10 or so years.… I still remember those childhood experiences and I believe it’s something my children will remember as they get older.”

The executive also works hard to make sure her America-born sons speak Hindi fluently so they can effectively communicate on their trips to India.

“That’s why we have a rule … to only speak in Hindi at the house,” she said.

Clearly, sometimes there is no need for a trip to get an education.

We clearly all miss travel, just like Pragya Tandon does, so you might be interested in this story on Travel in the Time of Covid