More than numbers: the top five skills accountants need

Isha Miglani is a graduate of UNSW’s Master of Professional Accounting and an award-winning accountant in the entertainment industry. We spoke to her about the skills that have paved the way to her success – some of them may surprise you.

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UNSW grad Isha Miglani was recently recognised as Rising Star of the Year at the 2021 Australian Accounting Awards. Isha came to study at UNSW from India as an international student, and is now an Accountant and Client Manager at Count Out Loud, a boutique Australian accounting firm for the film and TV production industry. A focus on client relationships has been key to Count Out Loud’s rapid growth – and is also one of the critical skills accountants need, according to Isha.

Accounting is more than just numbers, bookkeeping and budgets – accounting careers can be versatile and exciting, meaning they require a diverse range of skills. These are Isha’s top five:

1. Technical expertise

“With rapidly changing legislation and a surge in digital trends and big data, it’s essential to maintain and update your technical knowledge,” Isha says.

2. An understanding and insight into industry

“As my role focuses on the accounting industry and the creative/film and TV industry, it’s been crucial for me to gain consistent insights in both industries,” explains Isha. “So, it’s essential to develop a good understanding of the industry operations and the regulatory bodies involved within any industry that one works in."

“I believe owning your unpopular opinions is a huge part of taking the lead as well... Although daunting at first, it has proven to be a great feat for my career so far.”

Isha Miglani at the Australian Accounting Awards
Isha at the Australian Accounting Awards. Photo: supplied

3. Communicate clearly and effectively

“I know it’s the most routine advice everyone hears but developing a clear communication style and being effective in your communication is the key.” Isha explains that this encompasses communication with clients, teams, managers, external bodies and anyone you interact with in a professional context.

4. Build connections

The ability to build strong connections and relationships is also a very important and ongoing skill. “Listening to and fully comprehending your clients’ needs and developing an understanding beyond the reports both sit on top of my list of key professional lessons I’ve picked up along the way,” says Isha. “This not only helps to build trust in your abilities in giving advice and resolving complex problems, but also enables transparency and open conversations within and outside the organisation. It’s the groundwork needed for successful collaborations and new opportunities.”

5. Take the lead

Isha says the ability to ‘take the lead’ is a broad skill. It involves taking the lead in the day-to-day, but also in less expected ways. “I believe owning your unpopular opinions is a huge part of taking the lead as well,” says Isha. “I consider this a key skill and an important one to develop to make informed decisions and help the organisation remain innovative. Although daunting at first, it has proven to be a great feat for my career so far.”

Isha enrolled in UNSW’s Master of Professional Accounting (MPA) after she set up an online business as part of a university project, and realised how critical accounting skills and knowledge were for its success.

She says the program set her up for success, not only by equipping her with critical accountancy knowledge, but because it also encompassed soft skills and industry relevant subjects like business risk management, negotiating in a global context, and strategic management of technology and innovation. “It helped tremendously that my professors and tutors spoke from industry experience and years and years of teaching experience.”

Isha believes that it’s these skills and experiences, accompanied by a holistic understanding of, and approach to accounting that underpin success. “It’s easy to lose vision of the bigger picture as accounting is such a detail-oriented profession, but ensuring how each report, data unit and piece of advice can help not only your client’s current needs, but also their future needs, is critical for your own success,” she says.

Find out where an accounting degree could take you. 

Accounting is one of the most versatile and critical skills for the future of business. 

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