Accounting graduate Melissa Liew was the second highest scorer in Malaysia for the Strategic Business Leader paper at the September 2018 ACCA examination.

Now the Swinburne Sarawak alum talks about how she got into accounting, her work at multinational firm EY, and adapting to the new normal.

Have you always been interested in numbers? 

I really enjoyed the challenge of Additional Mathematics but I had no experience in accounting at all throughout my high school years. As I wasn’t interested in pursuing science related careers, I decided to give Swinburne’s business program a go. It was then that I began to develop a strong liking for accounting. It’s not just about adding numbers but understanding the rationale and knowing how to apply the accounting standards to companies in various industries.

Accounting wasn't the field of my dreams but it turned out to be something I truly enjoy. While this is what I am now pursuing, it hasn’t stopped me from investing time in other interests such as music and brush calligraphy.

What’s a typical day like for you? 

It looks quite different depending on the time of the year. However most days involve going to the client’s office or travelling to their headquarters in other parts of the country. Fieldwork often involves a lot of communication with the client for clarification and to understand the transactions and the specific circumstances surrounding the company. We are also required to be in close communication with banks and other financial institutions as well as other third parties.

Melissa Liew, Accounting graduate and the second highest scorer in Malaysia's Strategic Business Leader paper (ACCA examination, September 2018)

Accounting is commonly regarded as one of the toughest jobs. How do you manage the pressure? 

The work definitely comes with a lot of pressure with various engagements, projects and deadlines to keep track of. You need to be ready at all times to respond effectively and efficiently to issues and unexpected circumstances. I’m still learning to manage the pressure but I find that having a clear to-do list along with the respective deadlines help tremendously. Discussing issues with my senior colleagues has helped me to be on top of things.

What do you consider to be the top three skills of a great accountant?

Communication and interpersonal skills. Organisational and time management skills. Business acumen and the ability to see the wider picture – someone who understands the underlying rationale behind the situation because this is what helps us to understand the true financial performance of companies.

What’s the future like for the younger generation like yourself?

We are definitely going through unprecedented times and workplace practices are now looking very different. A lot of tasks are moving online and the ability to adapt to change is becoming more important. At my current workplace, we have had to learn how to use new applications and platforms to facilitate the nature of our work. It involves a great deal of working in teams and timely information sharing.

It is also our responsibility to learn how to overcome difficulties and personal challenges; look at the uncertainties as the driving force to more efficient and effective ways of working which weren’t considered before.

  • "Accounting wasn't the field of my dreams but it turned out to be something that I truly enjoy. While this is what I am now pursuing, it hasn't stopped me from investing time in other interests such as music and brush calligraphy."

    Melissa Liew , Accounting graduate Melissa Liew

Tell us about your university experience at Swinburne Sarawak. 

My experience at Swinburne Sarawak will always be close to my heart. Throughout my university life, I always had really amazing, fun and kind lecturers with years of experience in the industry and academia. It was at Swinburne that I had many opportunities to get involved in various events. Not only did this expose me to things I’d never done before but it also gave me the opportunity to meet students from all around the world, many of whom have become dear friends.

You were the valedictorian at the 2018 graduation ceremony and recipient of the Sarawak Foundation’s Graduate Excellence Award. What’s your secret? 

I always believe in giving my absolute best in anything I set my mind to and seeing every setback as an opportunity to do something better. This often involves a lot of discipline, hard work and effort. Striking a balance between both academic and non-academic activities is even more important. I believe I was granted the great honour not just because of academic related achievements but also because of my active involvement in other activities. A greater emphasis on developing ourselves in both areas is what will lead to success in the future.

And finally, accountants are generally introverts and boring. Myth or fact?

Definitely a myth! I think people tend to think that we spend all our time looking at numbers but that is far from what really goes down every day. Working in the audit line requires you to always be ready to respond to various situations and know how to effectively communicate with various parties. The pressure and nature of the job actually make us very interesting people. We might just throw in a financial tip in our conversations, too!

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