Currently working from home in Melbourne, Ashwin Sharma shares some tips and his memories of the unforgettable Professor Don Trow.
Q&A with Ashwin Sharma, Alumni regional co-ordinator, Melbourne Australia
Ashwin Sharma is keen to connect and help others living and working in Melbourne which is why he co-ordinates our alumni activities in his home town.
Tell us a little about your current role
I have been the chief financial officer (CFO) for a technology group for nearly 10 years and in this role I am responsible for the Accounting and Human Resources functions.
In that time the group divested two companies and started two exciting start-ups. The start-ups are very different from each other–one is a real estate listing portal for residential homes and the other a fintech start-up that provides online residential loans. Both companies service the Australian market.
What did you study?
I studied a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration majoring in Accounting.
Why did you choose your degree?
I had studied accounting in high school and loved it. It was my favourite subject so after completing high school I carried on with it at university.
Where are you living and what are you doing?
I live in Melbourne in the northern suburbs and work in the city. I work for a family-owned group that has a real passion for software that has also rubbed off on me. I have teamed up with a friend and have developed a few apps and started a job board for Fiji called www.MyJobsFiji.
What’s the current situation with COVID-19 in Melbourne?
We are at Level 3 lockdown so all physical offices are closed and we are all operating from home.
What's your best tip for others working from home?
We have choices—to get fit or fat! So, to keep my sanity I use my normal commute time in the morning and afternoon for exercise. I walk/run 10kms in the morning and another 10kmsin the afternoon. With so many online yoga, Pilates and HIIT classes I tune in and do that as well.
What do you enjoy most about working in your profession?
Accounting has changed so much over the years and keeps evolving. New software for accounting and new tax legislations means it’s never a dull moment.
Biggest challenge for your industry?
The biggest challenge is to offer an innovative product at a reasonable price that beats the competition. It is balancing the need to keep lean and to keep growing at the same time. It is a healthy tension that keeps us continually focused on how and what we do.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
I was told that “if you wish to accomplish something—then focus on it. If you don't focus, it will not happen”. It really is common-sense advice but I am now continually asking myself if I am giving the right amount of “focus” to what I am doing.
What was Wellington like when you were studying?
Wellington in the mid-1980s had student watering holes like Scribblers and 1860. It lacked cafes and restaurants with diverse international cuisine but we could buy fish and chips for $5.
Any memorable lecturers?
How could we ever forget Professor Don Trow –first-year Accounting and final year Auditing papers. He would choose a different colour for each class then picked people wearing those colours to answer questions.
The advice he gave us was to never say “I don't know” and suggested “I don't have an opinion” was far more professional.
What do you wish you had known before applying for your first job?
I wish I had “road tested” my first job or had a better understanding of what it entailed. Going straight from university without exposure or experience was a real punt as to whether one would enjoy the role. Luckily my employer (KPMG) allowed us to change to a different division after the first year.
What advice would you give someone planning to enter your profession?
The accounting profession has many opportunities as it is a wide field and it needs smart and savvy people who embrace technology and are client-focused.
Why did you take on the role of being an alumni volunteer co-ordinator helping to connect with the alumni community in your area?
With so many Kiwis who have moved to Melbourne, I was keen to find others who were also nostalgic about Kelburn Parade and to assist fellow Kiwis from VUW.
What would someone be surprised to know about you?
I am an experienced barista and have an Instagram account for Coffee Cups (CoffeeCupGallery) with over 16,000 followers.
*Find out more about our network of alumni who are working to grow connections for Victoria University of Wellington graduates around the globe.