Black History Month Series: 17 Again - Assurance Senior Associate Advises Younger Self

Black History Month gives us dedicated time to reflect on and appreciate the contributions of Black professionals within our firm and beyond.

Throughout the month, BDO’s Multicultural Alliance is hosting local and national events centered around dialogue, education, and exploration into the cultures and influential roles of Black Americans. As part of this learning experience, we invited professionals to share their perspectives through first-person letters, touching on their personal triumphs and the lessons learned along the way.

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter from Raleigh-based Assurance senior associate Ariana Ruiz who wrote a letter to her 17-year-old self.

Hey 17-Year-Old Ariana,

It’s your future self! I’m writing to you from 2023. While I could have written a letter to you at any age, I chose 17 because it’s our lucky number and I want to provide some reassurance as you near adulthood. I know you have so many big questions running through your mind: What will my career be? Where will I end up after high school? Will people accept me?

You want answers because you’re a planner. But I’m here to tell you that no one has the answers to the rest of their life in high school. In college, you’re going to set your sights on becoming an agriculture lawyer for the United Nations (which, looking back on it, is an admirable but oddly specific goal – LOL!). Fast forward to today – you will be part of a great audit team at a major firm and loving life.

Heck, I’m still trying to figure some things out, having just started my professional journey. But uncertainty isn’t scary; it’s an opportunity. Let me drop some knowledge to ease your worries and get you ready for what’s ahead.

Ariana Ruiz at 17 

Trust your gut: Manning, S.C. will always hold a special place in your heart. It’s your hometown, after all! A lot of people you grew up with may end up staying there forever. That works for them. But for you? What you seek may lie outside the city limits. Even though leaving home may be scary, the opportunities for your fulfillment are outside Manning. You’ll be happy to get out of your comfort zone.

Balance is a must: You’ll be faced with hard choices in life. Sometimes the best path is the hardest one. What if I told you that you’ll get a D in your first college accounting class but end up in a promising career in (yes, you guessed it!) accounting? You’re going to fail at times along the way, but every setback sets you up for a comeback … and life works out in funny ways.

You will learn that although you may sometimes feel like Superwoman, you’re not. You’re going to have to take time to step away from your daily tasks and take care of yourself, and that’s okay! Pursue life with balance in mind, and don’t feel like you’re disappointing anyone if you need to step back occasionally.

Ruiz with high school friends after she competed in a Miss America Organization preliminary pageant 

Stay kind: I know you’re a kind person, Ariana. But I want to tell you an anecdote to remind you how important that is. When you have to retake that first accounting class (surprise ― you get an A this time), there will be an awesome professional named La Shaun King who will speak to your class. She’ll give you some remarkable insight into the industry. Even though the class may not be engaged, step up and make her feel welcome. Ask questions and be curious. It’ll pay off. In fact, that speaker will come back, you’ll build a rapport with her, and she will boost your confidence by encouraging you to apply for an internship at her firm. That internship will change your career path in the best way possible. Kindness can be rewarded!

I tell you all this not to spoil what’s to come but to remind you to embrace your journey. It’s a wild, fun ride. But with intuition, balance and kindness, you’ll set yourself up for success in ways you couldn’t even imagine.   


25-Year-Old Ariana

Ruiz after winning a college scholarship 

Inclusion Groups at BDO

Our inclusion groups are a critical part of our DEI efforts. Each group began with its own grassroots movement and is championed by BDO leaders who are passionate about DEI and dedicated to advocating for their peers. While the groups serve as a safe space for our people to connect, they are also a catalyst for change. Our inclusion leaders are encouraged to connect directly with firm leadership, ensuring that the ideas and feedback shared in these forums are heard and addressed.