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What happens when an accounting internship ignites sparks a passion for research?

When Shruti Verma stepped off the plane to begin a new study journey in Australia, her focus was simply to complete a postgraduate accounting qualification.

Working full-time with accounting giant Ernst & Young (EY) in Delhi, she wanted to extend her knowledge and advance her career and decided that Deakin’s Master of Accounting and International Finance* would match her goals.

But by the time Shruti completed the degree in 2018, she’d discovered an unexpected bonus from her studies - a passion for research.  

Internship, mini-thesis and a taste for research

Now undertaking a PhD with Deakin Business School (DBS), Shruti says her interest in research was sparked by a Deakin internship that was part of her postgraduate studies.

‘It was a research and data analysis internship with the Quality Standards and Accreditation department of DBS and my role to was deliver a report that contributed towards the EQUIS accreditation activities of the School,’ she explains.

Preparing the report not only enabled Shruti to put classroom learning into practice but it also provided her with valuable insight into organisational functions and helped build key employability and networking skills.

‘It was my first exposure to a research intensive project and I really enjoyed it. In terms of the skills I learnt and the people I was engaged with, it opened doors of opportunities that became a key factor behind me choosing to do PhD,’ she says.

‘I am also thankful to Dr Fara Azmat, Tristan Krautz and Prof. Kim Watty for their support and direction which enabled me to successfully complete the internship.’

Building on her internship experience, Shruti chose to also complete a mini-thesis component as part of her degree and says both projects confirmed her interest and capabilities in academic research.

‘While undertaking my mini-thesis under the guidance of Dr May Hu from Department of Finance, I explored more technical aspects as well as challenges and opportunities that the research field has to offer. I developed a deep respect for academia and wanted to contribute to the existing research literature,’ she says.

From Delhi to Deakin

In India, Shruti completed a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) at the University of Delhi before commencing her graduate role with EY.

During her undergraduate studies she’d also completed a short-term internship in Singapore and says it was this experience that inspired her to explore postgraduate study options abroad.

‘I wanted to study at foreign university, learn from its expertise and be amongst the pool of best students from across the globe. I chose Australia as it is a multi-cultural country and nurtures respect for everyone irrespective of their ethnicity. Further, I chose Deakin as it offered a degree in accounting that also had the flexibility to explore other related areas and opportunities.’

A supported, accomplished postgraduate experience

One of the highlights of her Deakin study experience, she says, has been DBS’s ‘approachable academic fraternity’ and supportive staff.

‘I’ve had the opportunity to tap into the expertise of some of the top academic staff in this research field, expand my knowledge and share my experience.’

Shruti has also enhanced her study experience by being involved in some of Deakin’s programs and initiatives which have led her to an impressive range of accomplishments including a Global Citizenship Award, Golden Key International Honour Society membership, Students Helping Students Award and holding a director role for the Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank. She’s also been a panel member for the United Nations Association of Australia (Victoria Division) and a major course review member of the Master of Accounting and International Finance.

‘Being a part of these programs has given me the opportunity to learn and develop both personally and professionally. Along with ongoing support from Deakin’s international student and faculty course advisers who have helped me to stay on track, I’ve also greatly assisted by Deakin Talent, the University’s employment services team who have helped in building a personal brand and employability alongside my degree,’ she says.

Commencing candidature

Focusing her PhD research in the area of accounting, Shruti has spent the first half of her first year of candidature developing conceptual knowledge and exploring different research problems and issues.

‘My aim is to extend my research knowledge by gaining rigorous training through the Department of Accounting (and Faculty of Business and Law) to discover a novel research idea that helps extend the existing knowledge in the field of accounting. Through my PhD journey, I am really fortunate to have the support of Alfred Deakin Professor Ferdinand Gul and Dr Karen Lai who have wealth of research published in this field,’ she explains.

Reflecting on the journey that’s led her to the highest level of student research, Shruti believes that ‘stepping out of your comfort zone is the first step to achieving success and progressive choices’ – no matter how difficult it might be.

‘It was a tough call to leave my country, a permanent job and migrate to study in a foreign land. I had to start from scratch and faced a lack of various resources. Added to that, I had the pressure of being away from my family and accruing education debt. Even tougher was the decision to quit a full-time job and pursue my passion for research.’

But she says her decision to move to Australia and study at Deakin has been extremely rewarding.

‘With consistent effort I hope to prove that my following decision - to undertake PhD research – is just as rewarding. I believe the saying that “hard work is the key to success” is correct in every sense and at every step of one’s life.’

*Now a Master of Professional Accounting and Finance

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