1. What did you learn from the meetings with your project mentor, including the presentation that you gave to your project mentor?
First of all, I was aware that three meetings with my project mentor are very important to accomplish the whole project successfully. Before meeting with my mentor, I read all the topics and try to choose the topic which is relevant to my previous study. Once the topic has been chosen, I planned and scheduled the time and place to meet with my mentor as well as organised the data to use in our first meeting.
1.1 Meeting 1
Before the first meeting, I thoroughly research about the company I chose for my project on the internet to ensure that the sources for this company are available. After that, I prepared all the necessary documents, which contain the chosen topic, aims and objectives, ratios and methods of information gathering of my project. Then I called the mentor to take an appointment and sent the documents I prepared.
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During the first meeting, as a first step, we discussed about the documents which I sent to her, and she suggested me to keep a diary to make our discussion up to date. She also pointed out my weakness and explained me how to use business models in which situation. She also advised me to read about information gathering techniques and data collecting methods as I intended to rely on the internet so much to collect data. She recommended me to visit City business library to gather information efficiently.
From the first meeting, I had learnt that I have some weakness in using business models and information gathering methods. I realised that I should use secondary data rather than primary data as they would be very difficult to find and take a lot of time. I also realised that I should not rely on the internet too much as it is hard to tell that the information on the websites is reliable or not, so I decided to visit the library frequently.
After the first meeting, as my mentor mentioned, I visited to the City Business Library and downloaded the business and financial information from Datamonitor, for both Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. Then I read through the reports of both companies. I also read ACCA text books and other relevant books to enhance my knowledge. With the use of Microsoft Excel, I drew financial ratios for three years for both companies and managed to finish Income statement and Financial Position and SWOT and Porter's five forces, draft analysis of my project. During research, I noted which area I needed to improve and what question should I ask to my mentor. So I realised that how self- evaluation is very useful and effective in doing research.
1.2 Meeting 2
Prior to second meeting, I emailed my RAP to my mentor and organised documents for the meeting.
At second meeting, we discussed about my draft analysis and my mentor pointed out some problems on my analysis. She also explained the importance of improving the critical analysis skill. This time, my mentor was quite pleased about the improvement of my information gathering skill. However, my mentor was critical on my referencing and citations as I had the lack of references in some parts of my project. Then, I asked her what I have to prepare for next meeting.
After the second meeting, I had learned that I still needed to improve in accurate referencing and had some weakness in research skill. As my mentor had explained me the importance of critical analysis skill, I tried to read books relevant to analysing skill to improve in this area. On the other hand, I found it difficult to manage the time as I was studying for ACCA exams as well. So I was worried that I could not finish on time.
1.3 Meeting 3
I realised that third meeting was very important for me as this would be the last meeting for us. So, I edited some parts of my research which my mentor mentioned, and I had made sure to finish every section of the project by checking from the beginning to the conclusion, as well as the correct referencing. After that I started to prepare sides for the presentation with Microsoft Powerpoint and read some books to improve my presentation.
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Before the meeting, I sent my project and presentation slides to my mentor, and also I kept a copy of presentation slides at home to practice as my mentor suggested. Although I prepared carefully for my presentation, I was quite nervous when doing the presentation. I had experienced that good presentation skill is very crucial for my future career. And I also learned that taking feedbacks from others is also important to finish a project smoothly.
2. How well do you think that you have answered your research questions?
Although I was satisfied with my whole project, I was not pleased with the depth of the answers to the research questions since I had decided to use secondary data rather than primary data due to the time and fund limitations. If I had been able to collect primary data,I would have been able to research more insightfully and acquire more balanced perspective by using both primary and secondary data.
As the company's Annual report was my primary data, I had tried to approach financial position based on information presented in financial statements. Despite the limitations to gather company information, I had managed to collect all the information I needed for my financial analysis by reading news, books and using internet. For non-financial analysis, I would have been able to answer the research questions in more depth if I had to access primary data such as internal audit reports. However, I had managed to analysis the non-financial performance of the company by using secondary sources.
To meet the criteria of the project, I was aware that I must answer all the research questions carefully. Answering my research question also reflected the knowledge of the work I had prepared and developed the skills to complete my project. Moreover, I had gained questioning skills during undertaking project.
To write a meaningful and reasonable report, I had always tried to use reliable sources to avoid unfair judgments. Choosing Google for my RAP also offered a lot of sources to collect information. I believed that I had done productive ratio calculations to understand the situation of Google Inc comparing to Yahoo Inc. I also concentrated when analysing financial and non-financial data to ensure that they meet the purposes of RAP.
After finishing my project, I was able to learn more about the organisation than before. Moreover, I believe that the topic I chose was right for me as I could apply my academic knowledge to the project and help me increase my skills and experiences.
3. How have you demonstrated your interpersonal skills and communication skill during the project work?
Communication skills play vital role in our daily life, as how we interact with others can greatly affect our professional and personal lives. Hence when meeting with my mentor, I concentrated on what we were discussing and carefully listened to my mentor's feedbacks and suggestions.
Before each meeting, I always wrote down the questions I wanted to ask my mentor. So I was able to save a lot of time when meeting with my mentor. Also I tried to visit websites and reading books to improve my communication skills during undertaking project. When I speak to my mentor, I always tried to speak clearly and precisely and my mentor had no difficulties in understanding me. Therefore, I believe that I could communicate with my mentor effectively.
Effective communication skills include active listening, praise and encouragement, paraphrasing, questioning, reflecting, and non-verbal communication.(Central TB Division, n.d).
Listening skill is also essential when communicate with others. During the first meeting, sometimes, I lost my concentrating when listening to my mentor. Therefore, I had to ask my mentor to repeat what she just said and thus wasted our time. So I realised that I need to pay more attention when my mentor speaking and tried to improve listening skill by reading articles about effective listening skill. By listening to my mentor carefully and followed her useful suggestions precisely helped me gain the confidence and guided me to complete the project in time without difficulties.
After all, these communication skills gained during the project period will help me in studies as well as in my future career.
4. How has undertaking the Research and Analysis Project helped you in your accountancy studies and/or current employment role?
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Undertaking the Research and Analysis Project (RAP) helped me improve my accounting knowledge by applying ACCA accounting concepts into real life project and enhance my interpersonal skills as well as project management skills which are essential to have as an account.
First of all, I have noticed the difference between applying financial theory at exams and applying theory onto research project. For practices and exams, I have to use financial ratios to evaluate the case scenarios. However, time is limited so that I just use the significant ratios which come to my mind and which seem to be appropriate based on my study practices. In order to evaluate the financial performance of Google Inc., I need to think carefully what ratios are suitable and for what reasons I have to apply those. By doing so, my understanding on accounting ratios increases and my thinking becomes more practical. Thus, for future accountancy studies, I believe that I can justify the exam scenarios more reasonably by analysing different perspectives.
Project management skill is one of the critical success factors for RAP. Without this, I will not be able to complete my project. If I did not undertake this project, I would not see how important the project management skill is. I have learnt how to plan my work and manage time to finish each workload on time through lesson learnt and with help of my mentor. Increased in planning and time management skills would help not only to my study but also to my work. All my work performance has been significantly increased through planning in advance.
Another skill I have gained from carrying out this project is communication skill. As a volunteer accountant, I have to deal with my supervisor and colleague two days a week. I feel that my communication skill has been improved and I am now able to discuss the topics and debate all possible solutions with confidence at the meetings. Moreover, utilising presentation idea, I can illustrate things better and persuade them to accept my idea.
Eventually I have learnt how to develop a formal report efficiently and effectively using Microsoft Office Word and Excel. Reporting and accountant cannot be separable as an accountant is a key person to interpret all financial data into manageable information via management reports. This project highlights my weakness in reporting skills and gives me a chance to improve those areas. Thus, I would be able to write a good report for my future ACCA exams and all the way through to my career. Writing a report also boost the research and analytical skills.
In conclusion, I have achieved a variety of skills by performing this research and analysis project such as project management skill, communication skill and reporting skill. Those skills are useful for both academic and working life. In addition, I have clear understanding on the financial techniques of how to analyse the position of individual organisations.
Reference and Bibliography
Central TB Division, (n.d). Improving Interpersonal Communication Skills in RNTCP Training[Online].
Retrieved from: <http://www.tbcindia.org/pdfs/ipc.pdf > [Accessed 19 April 2010]