Boonsiri Somchit-Ong shares with us how failure isn’t everything and the essential skills to be an accountant of the future.
Many think failure is the end of everything. But sometimes, it’s okay to fail. In fact, failure can be the start of a success story.
We speak with Boonsiri Somchit-Ong, co-founder and chief conceptualist of Xtrategize Technologies. Previously, she spent close to 20 years spearheading the accounting and financial sector of a multinational corporation, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). But, before she became a career-driven woman, Somchit-Ong didn’t always have it all figured out…
A: At 17, I was devastated because I felt like my whole life was gone and I’m going to be left behind among my peers. But then I told myself, so what if I failed? There must be other options.
I was lucky I managed to get into a college because they were one of the few colleges that accepted students without General Paper. But I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do. I ended up picking a professional accountancy programme as I didn’t know it’d be difficult (sometimes it’s best not to know). As I came from an average family, I told myself I wasn’t going to fail again!
A: If you failed in SPM or STPM, step back and ask yourself, why did you fail? Was it your study method that was wrong? If you’re able to apply for a programme, choose something you've an inclination towards. Put in the effort. Look at how you studied before, do something totally different, and find the right approach to study.
Also, failing is nothing. If you failed and you got up, you didn’t really fail. But if you failed and don’t get up, that’s when you really fail.
A: I don’t think you can truly find yourself because you’re always changing. As you grow older and mature, your mindset changes. You need to ask yourself, “What’s your goal and what’s your vision of who you want to be?” And work towards it.
Every job has a reason and meaning. Go find the meaning of your job and connect that meaning of your job to your value and your vision.
Someone may say “Oh I’m an accountant, so I’m just a bookkeeper.” No, you’re not. If you made a mistake, someone’s salary, pension, or life’s going to be affected. You’re actually helping the world by getting it right.
Think big about what you want to do and find the worth and value of your job. Once you do that and understand it, waking up every day to work will be worth it.
A: We don’t want to hire people who’re just book smart and when an issue occurs, you’re unable to be problem solvers. You must be analytical and be able to create meaning out of the numbers. So colleges and universities need to not just churn out numbers, but good, strong, and valuable assets that can be used in the accounting industry.
You also need to be collaborative and build good relationships with people. And to do that, you need to start connecting and networking with people when you don’t need them and not only when you need them.
A: Accountants need to stop thinking about themselves crunching systems because today the system crunches the number, you don’t have to do that. A lot of things are integrated into digital systems.
You've to be able to see and tell stories from the numbers that are meaningful for your leaders to make the right decision. Accountants today need to be at the table with leaders to make decisions that’ll impact the performance and future of the company.
It’s no longer just doing journals or trial balances but being able to look at the numbers to see if they make sense or detect what went wrong. You need to be able to predict the future and be forward-thinking.
A: You need to read a lot and know what’s happening not just in the accounting industry but in the world. For instance, take the Russian-Ukraine war, how does that impact the different industries? And say there are changes in the tax and employment laws in companies, you need to know how it may affect the tax rate of your company and what’s eligible or not to be deducted.
If you work in a palm oil company, and there’s a new sustainable law being implemented, you need to know how that’ll impact your company and translate or take advantage of it. So it’s important for you to know these and it can only happen if you actually read.
A: Robots can only do repetitive stuff. Even though Artificial Intelligence can learn, how much can they learn? It still needs a certain permutation and configuration. So if change happens the robots are going to be stuck.
Hence, you’d still need an accountant, but the role is changing. Now, you’ve to be more analytical rather than operational. You must know how to analyse the numbers to determine if it’s on track or not. That said, the education system also needs to change to be more hands-on and less theoretical.
A: You’ve to keep up to the trends and know what’s going on in the industry and what people are looking for and be able to provide things that are of value, not to you, but to your end customers.
Take BTS as an example. In the beginning, they were just like any other boy bands. But what differentiates them now is that they're willing to change and adapt to the ARMY. They talk about the armies in their songs and have spoken up on many issues to show that they care (Yes I’m an ARMY). Everything they do, adds value.
So if you look at your job as about people that are impacted by you and not about you, you can put that into action. Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn from a K-pop group?
A: Study hard but make sure you read, because when you do, you’ll answer it in a more holistic manner that’ll impress the markers and you don’t end up sounding the same as everybody — that’s your differentiating factor.
Today when you graduate, you'll be competing with the rest of the world, so you’ve to be different. Don't be afraid to speak up, give ideas, challenge, and read. When you read and connect the dots, you’d be able to show that you’re different.
That sums up our conversation with Madam Boonsiri Somchit-Ong from Xtrategize Technologies, who’s also an industry advisor of Taylor’s College. We hope you’ve gathered a new perspective of what it takes to become an accountant today!
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