Earning her stripes

What does it take to really soar in your chosen field? Pushing your critical thinking and problem-solving skills to the next level, says accountant Nishalini Rajasekar CPA (Aust.)

Ever since starting her career in accounting, Nishalini Rajasekar CPA (Aust.) knew she wanted to be a leader in her field. While the path to achieving this dream seemed straightforward, as Nishalini embarked on her career, her understanding of what constitutes good leadership evolved as she went further in her profession. Not simply about having strong technical skills, to be a successful leader in today’s world Nishalini says it’s crucial to understand and pre-empt the external forces shaping the industry, particularly those rewriting the very role of accountants.

Lady at desk

The accounting sector is undergoing rapid change, with new technologies and software replacing many of the more technical elements of Nishalini’s role. Undertaking the CPA Program helped Nishalini realize that in order to remain up-to-date and successfully compete in today’s dynamic business environment, critical thinking and problem-solving skills would be her most vital asset and the key to accomplishing her leadership goals.

Based in Selangor (near the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur), Nishalini was recently promoted to team lead at Total Marine Technology and tasked with implementing a new venture for the business in Malaysia. Now reporting directly to top management, Nishalini says the CPA Program has greatly helped to boost her confidence and changed her as a person.

Nishalini has found the designation has helped provide greater weight and credibility to her work, particularly when proposing recommendations to senior management.

“It has given my employers confidence to take me to the next level and know that I’m an asset to the organization,” she says.

In addition, Nishalini notes the significant improvement in her public speaking skills. As well as being an active CPA Australia member, she also participates in the YPN (Young Professional Network) Committee, which has helped hone her presentation skills further. Reflecting on her transformation, Nishalini now feels confident and comfortable clearly articulating her views and recommendations to senior management.

Lady reading

Another key direction Nishalini has taken on board is the need for accounting professionals to look beyond the technical skills, with an appreciation of the broader issues driving business.

Nishalini believes it’s increasingly important for accounting professionals to have a strong knowledge of the wider business environment. Given the rate at which this environment is changing, and the complexities associated with the global landscape, it’s more important than ever that accounting professionals constantly assess and take the broader environment into consideration before making key recommendations.

Leadership involves patience, understanding and strategy, as each person works in a different way, and has a different personality that requires a different approach.

Now managing her own team, Nishalini says the CPA Program’s focus on teaching you to think outside the box has not only helped her to make critical strategic business decisions, but also influenced how she manages people.

Most importantly, however, the CPA Program has equipped Nishalini with the skills she will need to adapt and thrive in the future, whatever it holds.

With women holding only 6% of CEO positions in energy, female representation in the oil and gas industry is comparatively low to other sectors. Addressing this challenge, Nishalini says the CPA Program, in particular the Women Series which involved a variety of female guest speakers, has given her clarity on how to succeed as a woman and how to juggle personal and professional responsibilities as you move into a leadership role.

“To succeed as a woman, it’s important to be confident during decision-making and leading, to have a strong will and the determination to be heard in the workplace,” she says. Having the opportunity to hear first-hand the challenges these female leaders have faced and overcome, and to network with other women successfully balancing work and home life, has inspired and motivated Nishalini to keep striving for the top.

“These women taught me to be bold and fearless, to not be afraid to voice my opinions or be intimidated about excelling in the workplace,” she says. “Being a woman shouldn’t stop us, there’s always a way to reach the top.”

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