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Future leader discovers unexpected path in accountancy

Madeleine Harmer loved every minute of her five-year degree at UOW

Madeleine Harmer never imagined that she would become an accountant.

The graduate had planned on studying marketing and economics at the University of Wollongong, but within the first year of her commerce degree, she was drawn to the precision and complexity of accountancy.

“In my first year, I had to study a bit of everything from the business field, and I realised that I really enjoyed accounting,” she said. So much so that for the past three years, Madeleine has been juggling her studies with a role at Wollongong City Council, where she has been an Accounting Officer in the Undergraduate Development Program.
On Thursday (13 December), Madeleine graduated from UOW with a Bachelor of Commerce (Dean’s Scholar), majoring in Accounting and Finance.

Originally from Wagga Wagga, Madeleine moved to Wollongong to study at UOW, along with her boyfriend, Aaron Wilson, and she has not looked back.

“I’ve loved Wollongong, and I’ve loved every minute of being at UOW. We lived on campus for the first few years, and that was fantastic. I was also a student leader at Koolobong Village, which gave me a chance to really get involved in the UOW community,” Madeleine said, who was also a student leader on campus for CPA Australia.

Another highlight for Madeleine of her time at university was the chance to experience another country and another campus. She spent a semester on exchange at the University of Exeter, an experience she described as “a highlight”.

As part of her course, she also travelled to Malaysia and Singapore.

“We spent 10 days in Malaysia and Singapore as part of our subject on international business. It was amazing, to be able to study overseas and also get an insight into how different businesses work in different places.”

For Madeleine, the appeal of accounting lies in its variety and complexity.

“Accountants have so much knowledge across the entire business. Because they control the money, they are involved in almost every business decision,” she said. “They are really a vital part of the team.”

Earlier this year, Madeleine and her boyfriend, Aaron Wilson, were both named as finalists in the Australian Financial Review’s Top 100 Future Leaders Awards.

Both high-achieving students in their own right, Madeleine and Aaron were thrilled at the honour at the time, and again had reason to celebrate this week, as Aaron graduated on Friday (14 December), with a Bachelor of Engineering (Dean’s Scholar).

Madeleine has learnt a lot about leadership during her time at UOW, and said the best leaders are those who lead by example.

“We need leaders who are willing to be part of the team and do their bit to get the job done, not just tell others what to do,” Madeleine said. “I feel like I have really had the chance to build on my leadership skills during my degree and during my work at council.”

Madeleine and Aaron are now bound for Sydney, where she will take up a graduate position with Commonwealth Bank in finance.

“I’m really sad to leave Wollongong,” she said. “We’ve had such an amazing time here.”