Major Insights: Accounting

Business School

Major Insights from Careers: an Accounting Interview with Karrie Chen and Abie Lau

By Felicity Chan


The age-old question for every student seeking a position in accounting: “Which line of business should I choose: Audit or Tax?” For some, the answer is simple, but more often, it can be a bit more complicated.

These insights from Karrie Chen and Abie Lau in their tax and audit roles respectively, will help you get a better understanding of the wider scope of the various pathways that follow an accounting major.

Karrie Chen, UNSW BSoc’s Co-President, is in her third year studying a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting and Information Systems). She previously worked at EY under the tax division in the Global Mobility tax team as a cadet. The GMT team provides taxation advice and services to companies and expatriates working in and out of Australia.

Abie Lau, one of BSoc’s sponsorship directors, is in her second year studying a Bachelor of Commerce(Accounting and Finance). She is currently an audit cadet at BDO in the Audit and Assurance division. This role involves the planning and execution of audit and assurance engagements for many clients that range from Australian SMEs to ASX-listed companies as well as large multinationals to non-for-profit organisations.

At its core, the accounting field is the fundamental basis for business. All businesses that operate in any function and industry utilise accounting concepts to keep afloat through the analysis of information to effectively manage business resources. Tax accounting focuses on tax returns and payments, referring to the rules used to generate tax assets and liabilities in the accounting records of a business. In Audit, the primary responsibility is to provide assurance to a business and its stakeholders that the numbers represented in their financial statements are true, accurate and in line with Australian Accounting Standards.

Both Karrie and Abie mention managing expectations as one of the challenges of working in their positions. Karrie talks about how working in the professional services field means that you perform services directly for clients. She says “the most difficult challenge is meeting client expectations and ensure the work you deliver is of quality both internally and externally. Hence, it is extremely important to communicate regularly with them as they are unable to see outputs directly.”

Abie adds upon this: “Remaining honest to myself and to my team by setting realistic goals, clarifying my technical understanding if necessary and keeping them in the loop with my commitments and mental wellbeing are all ways I help my seniors and managers help me.”

As with most industries, artificial intelligence is becoming part of the business mainstream. This transition presents challenges, so how will businesses respond? Naturally, the field is already shifting, seen in the Audit process where years ago, businesses held physical ledgers and kept hard copies of invoices, versus today, where communication and data transfers between Audit and client teams, predominantly occur online. Karrie comments that: “the focus within the accounting field is likely to shift away from technical expertise heavy individuals and take upon a more consultancy approach, preparing advice pieces and focus more on the human interaction side of the business”

Notably, Abie comments on the concerns of redundancy: “I don’t believe the Auditor’s role will become redundant due to technology because the professional scepticism and human judgement underpins the crux of the audit, but rather, these developments will significantly increase the efficiency and quality of audit services.

In terms of involvement in university, both being or previously been in a cadet position, they are prime examples of being able to apply their learnt skills between university and work. Fundamentally, as Karrie puts it: “For students pursuing a career in accounting whether it may be in a professional services firm or corporate, be open to learning. Majority of the skills required will be taught on the job so whilst in university you should focus on developing your personable/ soft skills.”

Abie and Karrie share similar lines of advice:

-       Don’t underestimate the opportunities already available to you like industry events held by societies and the Business School, especially since participation in university roles often exposes you to higher order leadership skills.

-       Be transparent and effectively communicate through setting realistic goals and clarifying technical understanding. Learn to manage expectations, for both yourself and your responsibilities. Don’t overpromise and set yourself up to disappoint!

-       The most important thing is to remain open-minded, willing to learn and adapt and enjoy the moment! Don’t stress too much about whether your first role will define the rest of your career as the world is progressing faster than ever before and career changes are completely normal, even expected in these times.

Want to find out more about Accounting as a potential major, more about professional accreditation and discover courses related to Accounting? Check out the 2020 Careers Guide from the UNSW Business Society:

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