While accounting marked his road to success, Ryan Siurek finds hispassion in promoting ethics and integrity in business. The39-year-old signed on as Sprint Nextel's assistant controller inJanuary 2009 and 10 months later was named controller of the $32.3billion wireless communications company.

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Siurek has also worked at Arthur Andersen and LyondellBasellIndustries in such posts as senior manager of technical accounting,controller of European operations and director of risk managementand global shared services. But it was his stint as one of fourgraduates selected for a year-long fellowship at the FinancialAccounting Standards Board (FASB) after he earned a master's inaccounting at Texas A&M that planted him firmly in his chosenfield.

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Ryan Siurek

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What has been your biggest challenge or learningexperience?
Gaining comfort with ambiguity. Mostpeople think of accounting as black and white, but it's much morethan that. Also, a big challenge has been planning how to developexceptional people. I really have to set aside time for that.

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What has been your most rewarding project sofar?
In terms of personal satisfaction, it has beensetting a tone of ethics within the organization, plus setting atone of dignity in the office. Also, just dealing with thetechnical issues of accounting. I like working with new accountingstandards, and figuring out how they will apply to the company.

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What do you like best about your job?
Dealing with M&A issues. These are fun and intellectuallychallenging. They are also multi-disciplinary. You get to work withdifferent teams in dealing with these deals.

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Could you talk a bit about your role as a speaker onbusiness ethics and integrity?
I worked for severalcompanies (including Enron both before and after the bankruptcy)and saw early the need to set a tone at the top. I'm on an advisoryboard at the Department of Accounting of the May's School ofBusiness at Texas A&M, and I have spoken on the importance ofintegrity in the workplace to hundreds of graduate students. I havealso spoken at a number of accounting societies andorganizations.

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How did you get on the career fast track?
I had a good opportunity with the fellowship at the FASB. Iwouldn't consider my career to be fast-tracked, but I have hadopportunities. I've always been focused on trying to do a good jobat the position I'm in. The next levels have kind of just happened.Certainly there's been an element of looking ahead, like askingpeople what I could do to move up, but I wasn't ever aggressive tothe point where it would be annoying.

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Did you have a mentor? If so, how important wasthat?
My boss at LyondellBasell Industries– CharlesHall was my mentor. He is one of the few people I know who is morepassionate than me about accounting and ethics. When he moved overto become Sprint's controller, I followed him. When he retired, Ibecame controller.

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Accountants aren't usually viewed as thinking much about people.What I gained most from him was learning the importance ofdeveloping special people, and the importance of a sense of dignityin the workplace.

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He continues to be a mentor to me, even in retirement.

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What advice would you give newbies starting out intreasury and finance now?
Find something you enjoydoing. A passion really helps. Also, strike a balance between workand home.

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What finance area now offers the mostopportunity?
Accountancy is a strong path to futuresuccess. It offers the individual a chance to start their careeroff, and to appreciate the relationship between business operationsand finance. It can also be a great springboard to other areas offinance.

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What skills are the most sought afternow?
After ethics and integrity, I would saycommunications skills, both written and oral, the ability to thinkthrough issues, and executive presence–people who are comfortablewith who they are. As for math? I always carry a calculator.

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Click here to see the entire 2010 40 Under 40 list.

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