'All my lecturers were just awesome!'
Accounting with Finance graduate Zoha Awan, from Dundee, is well on the way to her dream role as a professional academic. Her Abertay degree wins her accreditation with professional bodies and she's planning to start a PhD soon. We caught up with her just after Graduation last month to find out more about her experiences at Abertay.
What course did you study and what made you choose this subject?
I studied BA (Hons) Accounting with Finance. Having been brought up in a family full of professionals (doctors), I was a bit of a 'rebel' with regard to my career prospects and progression, but my parents have always been supportive and my dad said just do what you like and enjoy the most.
I’d always wanted to be an accountant since I was in primary school – always interested in number-crunching – and I thoroughly enjoyed studying maths and accounting at school.
Why did you choose Abertay?
I was offered a place at Dundee University, but the main reason I chose Abertay was because the course it offered was more dynamic and broader in term of future prospects. Moreover, meeting with the Admissions Officer and going to Freshers Week made me quickly realise that Abertay was extremely welcoming and pleasant, and indeed the right place for me to commence my studies.
You went on some interesting placements during your studies – what did you get involved in?
With the help of my lecturer, Helen Smith, I had a variety of placements. For example, I was a Curriculum for Excellence project mentor, which gave me the chance to assist, guide and support fourth-year school pupils from Morgan Academy in Dundee. They were involved in a business challenge to formulate a business and marketing strategy, so I helped them devise advertising campaigns and a strategy for promoting products, and also helped them with their research and presentation skills.
Helen also helped arrange a placement with New Pathways (Community Interest Company) where I did some business planning and cash-flow projections.
I also participated in a number of business challenges as part of my degree course, including the IBM Business Challenge, CIMA Global, the European Business Masters Cup, the Principal’s Award for Employability and the IGG Challenge. I was also working part-time as an Accounts Assistant in an accountancy firm, which gave me a better understanding of the accountancy world.
About your dissertation honours project – did you get to do any research in Sri Lanka? What made you pick this subject? What were your main conclusions?
Although lack of time and funds meant I couldn’t travel to Sri Lanka, I did get the chance to speak to a few CEOs of Sri Lankan banks through emails, telephone and interview questionnaires. The idea came from doing a piece of coursework in third year on the concept of human capital and I absolutely relished it.
My research clearly indicated that although we describe human capital as an 'asset', it’s usually defined in annual reports as a 'cost'. Due to the complicated nature of this rather elusive asset, there hasn’t been much progress in the UK towards reporting and measuring it effectively. By contrast, I found out that Sri Lanka has been exceptionally efficient and transparent in terms of detailed reporting of human capital. I discussed with one of my lecturers Dr. Aminu Hassan the idea of a comparative analysis between the UK and Sri Lanka, and with his guidance, I decided to do my dissertation project on 'Human Capital Reporting in Banks Financial Statement.'
The Sri Lankan banking industry has been very proactive and effective in reporting human capital by making detailed disclosures about all sorts of employee performance-related components. These include performance measurement, evaluation, training and development, employee engagement, percentage of employees by gender/age etc. My conclusions were that the UK should put more effort into recognising and reporting human capital in a productive manner, and all industries should be motivated through various campaigns to be more explicit and provide detailed narrative disclosures.
What did you enjoy most about the course?
I literally enjoyed every aspect of this course. This is the most dynamic course because it opens up career progression routes in both accounting and finance. But since I love numbers, I would say financial accounting, management accounting and taxation 'precisely'.
What’s been the best part of your time at Abertay?
At first, it was a bit daunting for me because I jumped straight into 2nd year without going to college and I still remember that I cried during the first few days and was absolutely clueless about university life. But my dad, who is a doctor (physician and now a minister of religion too), said something which gave me confidence and drive: "People before you have done it and people coming after you will be doing it, so why can't you?" Also, as I mentioned earlier, the lecturers and careers advisors were so helpful and welcoming that I just gelled in quickly. I think the best part was my whole 3rd year when I topped in all my modules and received a distinction and prize from the University for best performance overall. And not to forget I made some very special friends for life.
Did you have any particular inspiring lecturers?
Yes, all my lecturers are just awesome! Supportive, helpful and encouraging throughout. But I think Dr. Aminu Hassan (Accounting lecturer) is at the top. I am really pleased to say that he has been my guiding light during the course of my study. He's not only the best lecturer but an amazing person who encouraged me and supported me every time I was nervous about my abilities. Also, Helen Smith-She's been teaching me since I started University and supported me with everything I need and the opportunity to experience a variety of placements.
Have you had any personal obstacles challenges to overcome during your studies?
I would say I had a lot of challenges during my studies. I worked part-time, had caring responsibilities and on top of that in my 3rd year, my dad had bypass surgery which was indeed an extremely difficult time for me because my exams were very close. I was working full-time and taking care of the house and family. But by the grace of God the Almighty I worked really hard, prioritised things and managed to get on top of everything.
Would you encourage students to come and study at Abertay?
Absolutely Yes! Abertay is a great place to study with such a nice and pleasant atmosphere for studying and people to help and support you all along – the lecturers, careers advisors, staff, anyone! It’s just that everything about Abertay is just best and I would say to anyone applying to Abertay "forget all the fears in your mind and get ready to experience a not so ‘stressful’ and exciting journey. I have got some great memories from here which I will cherish my whole life"
When do you plan to achieve ACCA and Chartered Accountant status? Where do you plan to go after that? What would be your dream role?
I am exempted from nine exams of ACCA already due to my degree. So I am hoping to finish the remaining five exams soon. I am also starting my PhD in Accountancy and Finance in September hopefully. And my dream role would be seeing myself as a professional Lecturer in Accounting and Finance.