4 Oct 2018 11:47am

Tales from the frontline: Vidya Castelino

Vidya Castelino worked as an auditor for Deloitte in Dubai before moving to the construction company Multiplex and swapping the Middle East for Australia and a global IT role

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Caption: Photography: Daniel Boud
I grew up in the United Arab Emirates where my parents lived for over 30 years. It’s basically home for me. As I was graduating from the University of Wollongong in Dubai with an economics and finance degree – my interest was mainly in investment banking – Deloitte recruited me into their graduate programme for audit, an opportunity I knew would give me broad experience across various industries. I studied the ACA and, though accountancy wasn’t my intention, I would say it became my destiny.

My first challenge was as a fresh graduate. I had to document the internal controls at a new audit client, which involved understanding business processes through interviewing people from different departments. It required critical thinking about risk, about what could go wrong.

I was constantly doing something new – learning about different businesses and their accounting, and the impact of changes to accounting standards on their financial results.

As an audit senior and manager, I was primarily leading the audit of construction companies and companies listed in the UAE, Australia, North America and Europe. Time management, mentoring large audit teams and ensuring audit procedures were performed effectively was important.

Multiplex was a client and I joined them in 2014. I was curious to experience accounting for a business. As an auditor I could see the financial results of a business and its operations; I wanted to understand how various parts of a business supported each other and addressed business risk. It was interesting to see how different teams work together and report across different countries. Multiplex Middle East has offices in UAE and Qatar, and also operations in plant and equipment rentals and facilities management that support its construction business.

In 2016, my husband moved to Sydney, Australia to study, found work and stayed on. Having lived in Dubai most of our lives, we wanted to experience a new country and so I came over in February. Since moving to Sydney, I’m overseeing the finance function supporting global IT within Multiplex. It is a global cost centre overseeing IT operations, and is responsible for the implementation of new systems to improve financial reporting and operational efficiencies.

My role as finance manager for the Middle East involved finance management and financial reporting compliance to accounting standards (IFRS) such as IAS 11 that is now replaced with IFRS 15. My current role includes cost accounting as the costs of the IT function affect project costs, overheads and cash flows across the regions. Budgeting, forecasting and cash flow reporting are also a key focus.

Since I interact with teams across the globe (including Australia, the Middle East, Canada and the UK), effective communication is important. It is a challenge to organise meetings across these time zones. The support from my husband and parents helps me manage work and home.

I have learnt a few languages growing up in Dubai as the city is multicultural with residents from all over the world. It gives you the opportunity to interact with different communities while also being able to speak and learn different languages. I have been able to speak some of these at work in Dubai, though the primary spoken language globally is English.

Sydney is a nice city and my biggest challenge has been the first winter. The hottest months in Dubai are from June to August, when temperatures reach a high of 48 degrees (sometimes 50). Temperatures in Sydney during these months reach lows of one degree some mornings. I’ve been dressed like an Eskimo! It’s obvious I’m not from here.

Increased competition means the construction industry is challenged with delivering projects of good quality at a competitive price. Contractors place importance on work safety, sustainability, CSR and innovation to help reduce their carbon footprints. They train new graduates in engineering, project management, tendering and finance and you find more women working in the industry these days.