A recipient of the "Rising Star Individual Excellence Award" at the Singapore Accountancy Awards 2018 in September, Tania Harsono attributes her success to great mentors who have guided and shaped her along her journey.
This prestigious award is given to young finance professionals who have performed at a high level with distinction not only in areas of work but also in contributing to society at large.
As a passionate advocate of giving back to the community and following in the footsteps of her mentors, Tania also spends part of her time as an active volunteer and mentor at The Apprenticeship Collective (TAC) to share about her experience in the accountancy industry with secondary school students.
We speak to Tania to find out more about how she got started and hear her perspectives on technology and business as an Audit & Assurance Manager at Deloitte.
What inspired you to enter the accountancy and finance profession, and what continues to drive you forward?
I started my journey in accountancy when I was a clueless 18 year-old, suddenly made to choose a university course after a whole lifetime of following the mainstream education pathway.
Over the years, I have developed an appreciation for accounting and started seeing accounting as a language which businesses use to communicate.
It can help shape the way businesses think and how leaders make important decisions.
A career in accountancy allows me to develop a better understanding of this language and gives me insights into different business processes.
Beyond the broad industry knowledge, what really drives me forward is the people I have had the opportunity to meet and work with.
Deloitte has a supportive firm culture, and I am grateful to my mentors who actively look out for me, and my self-driven colleagues who push and challenge me daily.
Having been involved in Deloitte Western Sydney’s digital transformation efforts and audits of technology companies, what are some insights that you can share about today’s rapidly changing world?
I have learned that the only constant is change.
In order to embrace change, it is important for companies to strike a balance between optimisation and innovation.
Faced with significant pressure to increase profitability and productivity, it is too easy to fall into the trap of working harder and longer hours.
But for businesses to truly transform, they need to look at talent development and give their people the space to learn, leverage new and emerging technologies and take risks.
How do you see the future of work and technology in five and ten years’ time?
Technology will increasingly augment the work that we do, for example, automating repetitive processes or even rendering some existing processes unnecessary, which in turn allows people to focus on areas that require more judgment and creativity.
On top of that, companies have learned to ask critical questions around current processes and rules, and will do so even more so in the future.
This will likely strip everything down to its most essential features.
We can expect to see more freelance type of work fueling the gig economy, as companies reinvent their offerings to meet consumer demands.
In light of these changes, it is important for us as workers to be agile and adaptable, and even more importantly, to stand by our values and not remain reactionary amid all the changes.
You are also an active volunteer and mentor at The Apprenticeship Collective (TAC), can you share more about what you do for this initiative?
The Apprenticeship Collective (TAC) partners schools with industry professionals to provide students with a structured way to find out more about the different career paths available to them, from marketing to urban farming, film-making to cybersecurity.
Very recently, I mentored a group of secondary school students and shared with them my role as an auditor, the skillsets I picked up along the way, as well as the common challenges and opportunities that I have faced.
Through this programme, we hope to kick-start the students’ journey of exploration and allow them to discover their passion and interests, and most importantly, allowing them to figure out why, through an interactive and engaging approach.
In June 2018, I also helped with the running of Day X, a one-day event where participants – both students and adults – get to try out activities that reflect aspects of different professions.
Participants also got to chat with professionals from over 60 different professions and ask any questions they may have to find out more about their day-to-day responsibilities at work and what keeps them going.
How do you view mentorship and what were some defining moments as a mentor/ mentee?
Good mentorship has led me to where I am today.
I did not start my career in accountancy being good at it, or even being sure that I would like it, but it was the people I met along the way who graciously guided me and prodded me along that has led me to where I am today.
When I was unsure about my career choice, it was my leaders at Deloitte who reached out to me to understand more about my interests and ambitions, and provided a listening ear to any concerns that I had.
From our conversations, they gave me opportunities to try out new things, such as an overseas secondment to Australia and getting involved in transformation projects.
My mentors have played a critical part in my professional and personal development journey thus far, and my experiences have inspired me to give back to my community and to follow in their footsteps to be a good mentor to others too.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced along your journey?
Performing audit work day in and day out, having to manage different stakeholders’ expectations and meeting tight deadlines can easily make someone feel overwhelmed.
During peak periods when things get incredibly busy, it can be a battle to find meaning and to keep my perspective even.
I recall a period of time when I questioned my decision to be in this industry.
Every day, it felt like I had to drag myself out of bed every morning to get to work, but I have since learnt that as responsibilities pile up, it is equally important to know how to take a break from all the pressure and just unplug.
I keep myself grounded by reading books and my favourite reads are Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Occasionally, I indulge in some chick lit with a cheesy plot too.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do not be afraid of failure and just give it a shot.
I used to be afraid of challenges and that left me indecisive and unsure.
I’ve learned that only by facing these challenges head on will I be able to overcome them.
Even when we fail, we will have the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, and that would help us to make better decisions in the future!