Why this accountant loves her job
Sheeja Kumar has done a lot in a very short period of time. Under 30 and recognised as one of Australia’s best accountants in her age bracket, Sheeja was a real wonder child with a strong passion for numbers. While her journey began outside of Australia, it was here that she decided to build a business and a family.
Sheeja began her schooling in Dubai. Her dedication to her work saw her secure a scholarship for a master’s degree in accounting in Australia. Without thinking twice, Sheeja packed her bags and boarded a flight to Sydney.
“I came to Australia about 10 years ago. Prior to coming here, I started my career at the UAE Ministry of Finance while doing my bachelor’s,” Sheeja recalls.
“I started working at the age of 17 or 18, as an intern at the Ministry. So, by the time I completed my bachelor’s, I already had three years of experience.
“It was early 2012 when I came to Australia to complete my master’s at the University of Western Sydney. Because I already had working experience, after three months I got an opportunity to work for one of the public practice firms.”
From there, Sheeja was hired as a bookkeeper, but it wasn’t long before her talents were recognised, earning her a promotion. And, only nine months after arriving in Australia, Sheeja was working as a full-time accounting assistant.
From there, Sheeja scaled the industry, while completing two masters’ degrees simultaneously.
In 2016, she became a registered tax agent. And a year later, her partner sat her down to talk business.
Both in their mid-20’s and both with backgrounds in numbers, Sheeja and her partner decided to channel their talents towards creating a company of their own.
“We’re high school sweethearts. He was the one that insisted on Australia,” Sheeja says with laughter in her voice.
“So, in 2017, he said why should we work for someone else when we have all the qualifications and registrations, that’s when we started Qualita Business Accounting.
“And in two years we doubled our revenue. We worked with a couple of financial planning firms and luckily, we got a contract with the state government.
“This is now our fourth year. We are turning over close to one million dollars and have a headcount of six people,” Sheeja says.
Asked about her recipe for success given her young age and plenty of accolades, Sheeja say it comes down to her passion for accounting.
“I’ve always been passionate about accounting.
“Before I actually started my bachelor’s, I went into science and after two months of classes I realised that it was not for me. That’s when I chose the commerce stream,” Sheeja explains.
Speaking about her motivation, Sheeja shares that although no one in her family worked in accounting, her mother has always been a business woman.
A single mother to two daughters, her mother was always her role model.
“My mum has a bachelor’s in economics and she ran a supermarket on her own. I always used to help her do her bookkeeping and all that.
“So, I started doing the books for my mum and then moved on to helping my sister. They are both in business,” Sheeja says.
Accounting, she admits, has always been her dream.
And it is this drive and love for her job that has earned Sheeja much recognition. In 2020, both her husband and her were finalists across five different categories at the Accountants Daily 30 Under 30 Awards.
As for the future, Sheeja says she expects the next 12 months to be big. The government contract, she mentioned earlier, has been renewed for another three years, with the volume of work now on an incline.
“We’re looking to grow the firm and hire more staff.
“We have also moved to a new location, so that we’re able to accommodate more staff,” Sheeja shares.
Reflecting on 2020, she admits it’s been “a one-of-a-kind type of year”.
“The best thing that has happened this year is that people have actually agreed to go digital. Before everyone was using Excel sheets and manual bookkeeping, but this year everyone is happy to use Xero, MYOB, QuickBooks and so on.
“From that point of view, I would say 2020 has been good, because from a compliance perspective, it’s a lot more efficient,” Sheeja says.
But from a personal point of view, Sheeja recalls having to work 14-hour days during the height of the COVID crisis in NSW.
Balancing her work and home life became a major struggle.
“I have a two-year-old son, so working 14 hours was a juggle for the three, four months I was working from home.”
Her dedication to her work helped a lot of SMEs pull through the peak COVID months.
“We focus just on SMEs and SMSFs. It has been really challenging for small entrepreneurs and small businesses in particular. So, we tried to help them avoid liquidation, because we have a lot of clients in the industries that were really impacted,” Sheeja says.
Outside of work, Sheeja is a globetrotter.
But after 2020 flung all of her travel plans into disarray, Sheeja stuck to her other hobbies – playing the violin and guitar.
“We have get-togethers with our friends. That has been 2020. Prior to that, we used to travel a lot. I love travelling and taking photos.”
But the biggest thing 2020 has cost her is her brother’s wedding.
“It was my brothers wedding on 17 December, he is the youngest. But we couldn’t go.
“It’s a sad ending to 2020,” Sheeja says, but admits that 2021 will be a good year, both on a personal and business front.