This 22-Year-Old Aussie Job-Shadowed An Amex Vice President In NYC For A Week - Here's What She Learned

Other school students may have dreamed of becoming scientists, world explorers and celebrities but Shreya Viswanathan has always had her sights set firmly on a career in business.

The 22-year-old starts work as an auditor at KPMG this week, just months after graduating from the University of Sydney with qualifications in accounting and international business.

Viswanathan spent her very last summer break on a five-day work experience placement with American Express in New York City, after winning the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia’s 2013 Mission Exceptional competition.

She spent the week shadowing Amex’s Australian-educated global corporate payments planning and analysis vice president James Ferguson, sitting in on phone and in-person meetings with economists, client relationship managers, investor relations and treasury.

Here’s what she learned:

  1. Just how much work goes into the preparation of financial reports

    Viswanathan worked as a cadet auditor at KPMG between 2010-12, during her first two years of university.

    She reviewed financial documents as part of her job, but didn’t fully understand just how much work went into compiling them.

    “As a student auditor, I’ve seen management reports and analysed the final product, but now I can really appreciate what an auditor does and how much work, time and planning go into these reports,” she said.

  2. The excitement of living and working overseas

    Ferguson, a chartered accountant, graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney and worked in Australia before moving to New York City.

    “I’ve never really lived and worked overseas in my life, so it was eye-opening to see that this was how it could be,” Viswanathan said.

    “[An overseas placement] was at the back of my mind, but after this, I would consider it more seriously.”

  3. There are subtle cultural differences between US and Australian workplaces

    Viswanathan said US managers tended to have a more casual, “open door” policy, compared to those in Australia.

    “In the US, people are just different in how they approach seniors,” she said.

    “People are more direct, and they’re a different kind of approachable. In meetings, they’re more flexible with the agenda.”

Mission Exceptional involved students from 21 universities across the nation, who had to complete a case study about a fictional medical device manufacturer that was considering moving its manufacturing operations to a fictional, third-world African nation that had just come out of military rule.

Viswanathan recommended the offshoring route, and was one of six finalist teams invited to pitch her recommendations in an “Apprentice-style” boardroom challenge, to executives from PwC, American Express, the Red Cross, the UN Global Compact Network Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia.

“I always wanted to work in the commerce field,” she said. “I was always very good with numbers, and the science field wasn’t something that greatly interested me.

“I do see myself spending the next five years in the audit field just to experience what’s out there, because the exposure is much greater. In 10 years, I see myself as a business leader; I hope to be working in a big multinational company across borders.”

Now read: After 20 Years As An Expat, Here’s What’s Surprised Me About Coming Home To Work In Australia

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