Meet Kristine Vergara, a 2008 graduate from UTS Business School and our first Alumni All Star!
Having worked for one of the big four, before diving headfirst into the startup space, Kristine’s career exemplifies how diverse the world of business truly is. So naturally, we had a chat over coffee to pick her brains!
What have you been up to since graduating from UTS business school?
I graduated from a Bachelor of Business Accounting and Marketing in 2008. Over the past decade I have been pursuing a professional career in accounting. I initially worked as an auditor for Deloitte Private in Sydney for 2.5 years. However after a while I realised that working in a commercial setting and assisting a finance function of a company is where my interest and strengths lie. After I made that decision, I moved across to work for IMC Financial Markets for 3.5 years. IMC Financial Markets is a trading firm headquartered in the Netherlands with a subsidiary in Sydney. I learnt so much working for an internal finance division, however I was up for a bigger challenge of implementing and running finance divisions for emerging businesses, which is why I moved into the start-up space.
I currently work as the Finance Director for Voltio, an energy optimisation and technology start-up established to create intelligent energy strategies for businesses and commercial property owners so they can generate electricity independently, use it more efficiently and reduce energy bills by securing competitive rates.
What made you pursue accounting and marketing?
Pursuing accounting and marketing was a left brain, right brain decision for me. I chose accounting as I enjoyed mathematics growing up and loved the process, linear thinking and logic that came with accounting theory. I also had experience in commercial accounting roles since I was 15 years old – and understood from an early age the value an efficient accounting team had on the broader business.
I chose marketing as I saw it as my creative outlet. What I learnt through marketing theory is the importance of understanding the value proposition of a business and how a business can differentiate itself apart from its competitors. I also understood that marketing was the predominant way a business generates revenue. Having a good understanding of the value proposition of a business is also the fundamental way to create new revenue streams, which will ensure the continued success of a company.
What do you enjoy most about the start-up space?
What I most enjoy about working in a start-up is being able to add value by applying my theoretical knowledge and on-the-job experience and seeing the tangible affect I have in helping a business develop and grow. Unlike large firms and companies, there is nowhere to hide when you work in a start-up. Start-ups have very flat hierarchies and it is quite common to be able to have access to very senior people on a regular basis. Working in a start-up also gives you more scope than a role in a more established and mature company. I have had almost 5 years’ experience working in start-ups and during that time I not only broadened my accounting knowledge, I was able to move across the business and implement compliance, HR, customer service and operations divisions.
What was the biggest hurdle when you made the transition into startups?
Each day is different when you work in a start-up. This was quite different to my corporate experience where you would typically have a large finance team with each person having a segregated role. It is quite common in start-ups to have more responsibilities, learn new skills and get involved in other aspects of the business. You just have to put your hand up for these opportunities and they are yours for the taking.
What does your average day look like?
My average day would start with exercise early in the morning. I operate at my best when I either go for a run or a long walk early in the morning. The start of my work day involves reviewing my priorities for the day which I would have set the day before. As I have a full-time flexible role working from home, I usually have a call with the other team members to have a quick chat about our priorities for the day and whether certain tasks or projects need to be expedited. As I have recently started my role with Voltio, the remainder of the day will involve working on strategy and planning for the business.
What was the highlight of your university experience?
I completed the Bachelor of Business as a full-time student, however I also had two part-time accounting roles, one in an engineering firm and the other in a small chartered accounting practice. This did not leave me much time to fully immerse myself in university life. Those three years definitely flew by and what I remember most about my university experience was meeting great people who I still keep in touch with to this day.
What advice do you have for current UTS business school students?
1. Get clear about what you are good at and what interests you to gain an understanding of your career path. A very good indicator are the subjects you enjoyed or performed well in during university. Another approach is to identify your strengths and weaknesses, in order to understand areas in which you would like to develop and grow.
2. Do your research. In this day and age, there are no excuses. Information is at our fingertips and at the click of a button. Read widely. Those who I see excelling in their chosen fields don’t just know a lot about one area, they are people who are able to appreciate a specific situation both at a micro and macro level and are able to use this knowledge to problem solve with different stakeholders in mind to come to the most workable solution.
3. Increase and leverage your network. There are various social platforms and also real world events and meetups you can utilise to find the right people to talk to. You are not in this alone. Also you would be surprised how willing senior people are to help you along the way.
4. Be open and talk to others. A quick way to learn is to talk to people who have had the experiences you wish to pursue. Ask them what worked well, what didn’t work well and if they had their time again, what would they do.
5. And most importantly, make the right decision for you. Researching, talking to others and gaining advice from those whom you trust is all an information gathering exercise. It is your personal responsibility to make the best decision you can for yourself at this point in time. You are not expected to have it all figured out now. When I was your age, I certainly didn’t. However, I viewed all my mistakes and failures as a learning opportunity for the future.
Stay tuned! There are more Alumni All Stars to come!