Degree caps 19 year journey

By John Maslin

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Sharyn Pearce might have been a late starter when it came to following her career path but if perseverance counts for anything then you can't find a flaw in her work ethic.

Ms Pearce is now a chartered accountant and in July next year, at Wanganui chartered accounts presidential awards dinner, she will get her official certificate with the words "chartered accountant" inscribed.

"It'll be exciting because it finishes something I started a wee while ago. It's been a long journey."

In fact, she started studying 19 years ago. It's not that she's a slow learner; just that her studies were done extramurally.

Born in Wanganui and raised in Waitotara, she got her secondary education at Sacred Heart College on St John's Hill but when she left school tertiary study was not on her horizon.

She worked in Wellington, went overseas for a few years before coming back to her home city.

She had married but decided she should do some study so enrolled with the Open Polytech.

"Extramural studies opens up so many possibilities and at the time they were offering management and accounting as degree courses. I chose accounting because I thought that could take me further in a career," she said.

Ms Pearce hit the books in 1993 and in between raising two young sons she got her Bachelor of Business degree in 2001, studying as the boys were growing up. Armed with her degree, as well as a Professional Accounting Diploma, she started working with Lyndsay Tait and Associates.

Extramural study wasn't easy and about halfway through her degree she had doubts. But egged on by her husband and her mother she stuck to her guns.

"They've been fabulously supportive, and the mentoring I've received from Lyndsay working in the office has been marvellous. Lyndsay has freely given his knowledge and expertise and that, too, has been just wonderful from my point of view."

With her two boys at high school this year she decided to "finish it off" and get that chartered accountant status.

"I always had academic qualifications to go on to become a chartered accountant but that meant a full year programme of study and exams. So this year it's been upwards of 350 hours of self study and attendance at monthly weekend-long workshops in Palmerston North," she said.

When she began her studies she had no weekends because her nose was buried in books but this year was different.

"I've been working fulltime and that meant I'd come to work about 7am and study for a couple of hours and then at the end of the day pick up the studies for another hour or so. That way it meant I didn't have to go home and hit the books again at night. Going home and having to cook tea for the family and then having to face studying wasn't going to work," she said.

Ms Pearce said a key to making extramural studies work was having support systems in place.

It has been a hard road and given her time again she would do the degree through normal channels.

"I should have gone to university straight from school but I didn't. But the point is it's never too late for anyone to resume their studies."

Accounting was not her first career choice. She wanted to be a pharmacist but when she missed out on getting places in hostels at Otago and then in Wellington, her plans changed.

"I'd set my heart on pharmacy and had no other plans, so life changed. But it wasn't until we came back to Wanganui when I was 22 that I looked at accounting. The rest is history."

Mr Tait said Ms Pearce achieved an average of A passes through her degree. Of the 24 papers she sat she passed 16 with A, five with B+ and three with a B.

"We're all very proud of Sharyn's achievements. This qualification is not undertaken lightly as it requires a huge commitment of time and skill.

"That Sharyn averaged an A pass over her whole degree and her success in completing her final qualification to be a chartered accountant is a resounding confirmation of her abilities," he said.

Ms Pearce said it's a job she loves, working in a position of trust with clients who all bring different businesses to the table.

Now she has garnered experience working with farm accounting, retail and consumer products, importers and exporters, healthcare and other professional services.

Asked to give a piece of advice to anyone considering extramural study she says it's having self-belief.

"Have your support networks in place and use them. Don't be afraid to ask for help and get involved in professional groups. Textbooks can only teach you so much but that practical experience counts for an awful lot.

"And having a degree doesn't mean you know everything straight away," she said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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