The decision to become an accountant was an easy one for Hwei Yuin Yong, often fondly called “Yong”. Not only does working with numbers run in her family, but the profession is quite prestigious in her culture.
“In the Asian community being an accountant is alongside being a doctor and a lawyer. It’s a very highly regarded profession and that is why it appealed to me,” says Yong.
So after competing high school, Yong studied a Bachelor of Commerce, with a major in Marketing Management and Professional Accounting at Murdoch University in Perth.
She then returned to Malaysia after being offered a graduate role in tax at big four accounting firm, Ernst and Young (EY).
“I was at the national office of EY, which enabled me to work for large multinational clients such as Reuters and Texas Instruments. So it was really good exposure for me in that sense. I also received a lot of training and support, which helped me at the start of my career.”
An Australian accounting career
In 2007, Yong decided to pack her bags and move back to Australia to join her husband who was starting his pharmacist career in Darwin, Northern Territory.
She decided to remain in public practice and joined a local Darwin accounting firm, Merit Partners Accountants. She worked her way through the ranks there to be Manager of Tax and Business Services.
“I spent a total of eight years at Merit Partners and the position was great because the business followed the same principles and practices as EY. I also got to work with some big name clients, including Darwin Airport and companies within the oil and gas industry.”
Yong was then offered a Senior Manager Position at audit, tax and advisory firm BDO Darwin, where she worked for seven months.
A healthy finance career
It wasn’t too long before she discovered that working alongside her husband as Finance Director at the Country Wellness Group was her next career move.
“BDO offered me a senior position as they were growing their base. It was a good role but then my husband needed my help at the Country Wellness Group. So I decided that I needed to concentrate on his business and help to develop it.”
Yong says the transition from public practice into the healthcare industry was an easy one because accounting principles remain the same across different industries.
Skills to help you be a good accountant
“As an accountant you need to have the skills to be able to relate to different people on different levels. Whether it’s the CEO of a corporation or if it’s just mum and dad who own the cake shop down the road.”
In an added boost for the business, and in recognition of Yong and her husband’s hard work, the Country Wellness Group was named the Telstra Australian Start-Up Business of the Year in 2014.
“It was actually quite unexpected. We went up against some very stiff competition from other states. But I think in the end the judges could see that we were extremely passionate about what we were doing.”
Using the CPA Program to advance your career
When reflecting on her career to date, Yong, who is a member of CPA Australia, says one of the keys to her early career development was putting what she learnt in the CPA Program into practice.
“Even when I moved away from public practice, I found that I was using all the skills I had learnt in the CPA Program. You not only learn important technical skills, but you also get business related information that really helps your career development.”
Tips for young accounting professionals:
- Don’t be stereotyped by what is expected of you as an accounting professional – your role is a lot broader than just the numbers
- Be willing to learn as much as you can
- Don’t be afraid to take risks and just go for it