Growing up outside Washington, D.C., Somsak Chivavibul got a job working at a golf course, where he sold and collected range balls at the driving range. The experience taught him two important lessons.
First, he discovered how to run a small business operation. Second, working at a golf course exposed him to many successful people.
One of those people was a certified public accountant who owned his own accounting firm. Somsak leveraged that relationship to a part-time job at the accounting firm during college.
Somsak has come a long way from that job at the driving range. At Navient, he's responsible for directing finance, accounting, treasury, and investor relations.
Somsak was 9 years old when his parents, who worked for the Thai embassy, moved to the United States for a four-year assignment. They liked the education system so much that they decided to stay so their three children could go to school here.
His father had an accounting background, and a high school class encouraged Somsak to pursue the field in college. He is, he says, a "logical and analytical thinker."
"My parents were both hard workers; they instilled that work ethic in me, and it's helped me throughout my career."
After graduating in 1988, Somsak started working for Ernst & Young. Sallie Mae was one of the firm's audit clients, and a job at Sallie Mae in the financial planning and analysis group piqued his interest.
"As an accountant, I was always looking at historical financial information and this new position allowed me to anticipate the future—what is going to happen instead of what happened," says Somsak. "That aspect of the job really appealed to me."
He started at Sallie Mae in 1992 and worked his way up from analyst to senior vice president of financial planning and analysis in 2007.
Change has been a constant theme at Sallie Mae and Somsak was involved with many of most important events at Sallie Mae from the privatization of Sallie Mae from its government sponsored enterprise status to the recent spin-off of Navient from Sallie Mae. In the process, Somsak developed extensive experience in business and transaction modeling, corporate and portfolio acquisitions, financial analysis and management reporting.
When he's not spending time with his wife and daughter, he still relishes time on the golf course, either savoring the peaceful landscape by himself or spending time with friends. "You choose the environment," he says.
In both his professional and personal life, he enjoys bringing different personalities together to work as a team.
"You get everyone on the same page. At Navient, every day is different. There are today's challenges and tomorrow's challenges."