Dr Julia Wu has always enjoyed working with small businesses. It’s why she switched from corporate accounting to academia — she wanted to prepare the next generation of accountants for the incoming tidal wave of startups, social entrepreneurs and small businesses.
“We’re already seeing the shift. People want a more personal, intimate experience when they engage with businesspeople – and that space is where small businesses thrive.”
To ensure her students are ready for whatever their career throws their way — whether in corporate accounting or small business land – Julia has focused on using technology to draw out their inquisitiveness.
“Technology is developing rapidly. The software they’re using today won’t be the same in a few or even one year’s time. They must be confident exploring new technology and teaching themselves.”
- Dr Julia Wu, Academic, University of Christchurch
Her university’s partnership with MYOB has become an integral part of Julia’s teaching — which is why she was awarded MYOB Educator of the Year – NZ at the MYOB Partner Awards 2022.
Speaking the same business language
Julia says technology has been a game-changer for small businesses.
There are the operational benefits of automation and more streamlined processing, but more than that, it’s bridging the gap between accountants and business owners.
“It’s about sharing the same language,” Julia says. “As accounting professionals, we can’t expect everyone to share the same high-level knowledge as us, particularly business owners who may have never worked with an accountant before.”
Julia says that’s where software like MYOB is helping her students go beyond the numbers – and connect with the vision and goals that drive smaller businesses and social enterprises.
“When they graduate, these students will be working with people from all walks of life, so they must be able to adapt their skills to suit whatever works best for the client.”
She adds that it’s common for students to “come in with their eyes on the big four,” but with the growing rate of small to medium businesses, they’re the ones who need the most help.
“There are so many businesses out there doing progressive, innovative things. Hopefully, I’m opening up my students’ eyes to the more diverse needs of our industry, and with tools like MYOB, teaching them how to have genuine conversations with business owners – minus all the jargon.”
Creating an authentic learning experience
It can be hard to replicate the real world of accounting in the classroom — it’s why internships and work placements are such a big part of the learning journey. But Julia has found a way to use MYOB as a platform for “an authentic learning experience” rather than an “I write, they write” situation.
Her students get direct access to MYOB’s software and must complete a case study exercise, followed by a reflection.
“I give them a handbook, and they follow the storyline from there,” Julia explains. “They take what they’ve learned so far to figure out how to use the system appropriately, but, like all real-world examples, there isn’t one ‘right’ way.”
It’s a course she’s been running for about six years with both undergraduate and postgraduate students. As MYOB has developed, Julia’s students have grown and adapted to it.
“It’s really a journey for them to figure out how to complete the task, to judge whether what they’re doing is right for the client. Access to the same software that many small businesses use – seeing what they see – has always been critical to the learning experience.”
Cloud-based learning? It’s an expectation
It's been a turbulent few years for students (and teachers) – more online, less hand-holding – but that’s where cloud-based systems have truly proven their worth.
“This new generation of students is very interesting,” Julia says. “They’re inquisitive, IT savvy, thirsty for knowledge – and they want to know how everything works. But they also want to learn on their terms.”
Even now, as students flock back to campus, software like MYOB gives Julia’s students the flexibility and freedom they crave.
“The MYOB assignment is completely self-directed. They can do it whenever, wherever they like, and there are so many ways they can approach it. I want them to be curious, make mistakes and explore the software’s capabilities – because that’s exactly how things are in the real world.”
Staying connected with the business community
Outside the classroom, Julia says the university’s partnership with MYOB helps her stay on the pulse of challenges that small businesses face.
She attends as many MYOB partner events as she can and always walks away with an even deeper appreciation of the community she’s so passionate about.
“Sometimes, when you’re so busy teaching and researching, you can go a little mad,” Julia laughs. “So, I take every opportunity I can to reconnect with the wider MYOB community and learn about the new upgrades to the software. Then I take that all back to my students.”