Born in New York to a Cuban mother and Dominican father, Wendy Unglaub’s first language was Spanish—she didn’t learn English until she started attending school. That may have contributed to her longstanding interest in language and linguistics, which has served her well as vice president of international tax for Ecolab, a global provider of water, hygiene, and energy technologies in more than 170 countries.
While Unglaub’s main responsibility is tax planning for the company, she and her team are tasked not only with managing hundreds of different jurisdictions and regulations but also with being able to translate the complicated world of international tax to the Ecolab C-suite and maintaining alignment across all areas of the business. Luckily, translating is one of Unglaub’s strong suits.
The first person in her family to attend college in the US, Unglaub says that when she was growing up In Miami, her family wasn’t very familiar with how the educational system worked. That didn’t stop her from earning a BA from Harvard or studying French in Paris, though—she just had to get comfortable with being herself completely. She says she had no idea what she wanted to do or if she even wanted to continue with school.
Ultimately, she elected for law school at Georgetown, then followed it up with a Master of Laws degree in taxation from New York University’s School of Law. As her career turned toward law, she found that she enjoyed the analytical side of things. She interned with the IRS and found tax law to be fascinating. To her, she found an area that could have a real impact. She worked on a variety of projects in private practice, handling Delta’s bankruptcy, among other cases.
Unglaub eventually went in-house at Microsoft, an organization that she noticed was very supportive of their people. But she knew she wanted to continue to develop her management skills and grow in a leadership perspective, which led her to Ecolab.
At Ecolab, Unglaub has found the most fulfilling role she’s had, and she’s been able to create a team and learn how to leverage their skill sets. Managing a global team can be a 24/7 challenge, but Unglaub still finds time to give back to her community.
She’s on the board of trustees for Girl Scouts River Valleys in Minnesota, where she says she has the privilege of partnering with talented and motivated women from across the country. Unglaub is also a board director of the Minnesota Opera Company and was a speaker at the fifth annual Women of Color in the Law Forum. She finds it important to branch out and meet people who are not like her.
Unglaub says that her best advice has proven itself over and over again in her own life: think big and don’t get discouraged or let someone tell you that you can’t do something. She advises younger executives to find people they look up to, talk with them, and figure out how to incorporate their learning into their own journey.
Editor’s note: At press time, Wendy Unglaub had left her position at Ecolab.
Congratulations to Wendy Unglaub of Ecolab for the well-deserved recognition she is receiving as a leader and innovator in tax. KPMG is proud of its long-standing relationship with Wendy and looks forward to continuing to work with Wendy in the future.