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How I took my ACCA qualifications further

Rashika Fernando tells us how building on his ACCA qualifications with the MSc in Professional Accountancy has helped take his career to the next level.

Rashika Fernando
"In the modern economy, you should not only be able to do your job well, but be able to work and develop ideas to stay relevant."

Tell us about how you decided on a career in finance.

I started my career in computer engineering. Very early on, I realised that I would be limiting myself to a specific industry, even though that was what I loved to do. When I started working at IBM and met the clients that I worked with at a senior level, I realised that most of them were finance professionals with finance qualifications. That is when I decided to change my career from engineering to accounting.

When I migrated to Canada and had an opportunity to start fresh, I started in finance. I joined Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, also known as CIBC. CIBC is one of the Big-Five banks in Canada and one of the top 50 in the world. Having a finance qualification, combined with my engineering background, became immensely useful.

Why did you choose to study for the MSc in Professional Accountancy, as you already had ACCA qualifications?

ACCA was a great choice to learn the basics and I gained the main body of knowledge in accounting. It is a great brand name to have. I wanted to further build on the ACCA knowledge with a graduate level qualification.

I had gained work experience and also wanted to cap it off with a master’s level of qualifications that helped me crystalise the practical experience I gained. This is why I chose the master's programme through University of London.

What are your tips for scheduling your studies around your busy work commitments?

The programme was perfect for me because it allowed me to work on my studies at my own pace. The platform and the online format of the course enabled me to schedule studying anywhere and anytime.I was able to squeeze free slots in my calendar to get the work done. I dedicated couple of hours in the morning for heads-down studying. Mornings were perfect for me, as I am a morning person. A lot of my reading was done on my iPad while I travelled to work and during free time in my calendar.

In what ways did having your master’s help you gain your current role at Scotia Bank?

I would say number one is the reputation of UCL, who provided academic direction on the programme. UCL being one of the top universities in the world helped convey a message about my profile. Having the brand name on my resume definitely helped.

Second would be the skills and the confidence I gained from a high-quality master’s qualification. Not only was I able to say I had experience to take on the job, but also, I had the academics to go with it.

What are the learnings from the master’s that you have been able to apply in your role?

While most of the hard knowledge helped me to reaffirm my existing knowledge, what I gained are new techniques and soft skills.

Specifically, the skill of researching a topic is one skill that I now use regularly. I was able apply this skill to research key improvement opportunities and propose solutions to my employer. For example, when I took the lead to revamp the Global Project Policy, I used the research techniques to gather best practices and knowledge that were acceptable by everyone, rather than devise a policy that no one could follow.

Being a published author, the skills also helped me to research knowledge for my current book that I am working on publishing.

In a rapidly changing economy, I find this arsenal of skills and techniques that I gained through my master's degree immensely useful. It helps me adapt and keep pace in an ever-changing landscape. It essentially helped me to learn about learning.

Why would you recommend the Master’s in Professional Accountancy to other potential students?

I would recommend it because it builds confidence in yourself. The master's degree helped me build confidence in three ways:

  1. Branding – you have a global brand on your resume
  2. Skills and knowledge to constantly adapt to an ever-changing environment
  3. Having a master's level qualification to crystallise your experience

What is the biggest benefit you gained from your study experience?

Ideas are the new currency in the modern economy. To stay relevant and to continuously add value, you must learn how develop ideas and bring those ideas to fruition.

Everything else changes but this skill will remain static. In the modern economy, you should not only be able to do your job well, but be able to work and develop ideas to stay relevant.

Developing ideas in to fruition is the most important benefit I gained from my study experience. I would say the skills of how to keep my knowledge current helped me tremendously. This programme taught me how to be relevant and be up-to-date in my current fast paced environment.

How did the learnings from your MSc in Professional Accountancy enhance/complement the knowledge/skills you gained via your ACCA studies?

It enhanced my ACCA knowledge by helping me to stay current and up to date. It also enabled me to be dynamic and build on the skills that I gained through ACCA.

I see from your LinkedIn profile that you have amassed many qualifications over time. Is there anything else you are planning to study next?

I would love to continue the experience that I gained from my master's degree by continuing research on a special topic on Project Portfolio Management and to do in-depth research.

Rashika’s current role is Director, Enterprise Project Management Office at Scotiabank, based in Canada.

Find out more about the MSc in Professional Accountancy.