Student Interview Series: David Djapri, SMU MSc in Accounting

By William Hofman, ValueChampion

Already an experienced accounting professional, David Djapri decided to pursue a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) degree at SMU in order to build invaluable data analytics skills. In his 8 years of working experience, he felt that there was a need for employees that could work in analytics while also having a deep understanding of the core operations of a business. Furthermore, David’s strong academic record and entrepreneurial spirit also earned him a full-tuition scholarship for his master’s programme.


What influenced you to pursue the SMU MSA? What excites you intellectually?

Last year, I chanced upon an article by a leading consulting company about how automation will replace human talent in certain industries, with accounting and finance being a sector which will be highly impacted by the shift. In anticipation of this disruption, I began to conduct some research on how to “future-proof” myself.

Through my findings, I learnt that data analytics will be a relevant and lucrative field. There already exists excellent programmers who are able to code in their sleep, but often, they do not have the domain knowledge to communicate with the business and operational sides of a business. This is where the SMU Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) programme comes in: to bridge the gap between the technical and business sides of any enterprise.

Ultimately, I am excited on an intellectual level when I am able to create value and solve problems.


Did you consider any other schools or programmes? If so, why did you ultimately choose SMU?

Yes, I did consider some programmes available at other local universities. However, they usually focused on an IT or programming syllabus, zoning in on programming aspects. On the other hand, the SMU MSA programme combines accounting, finance and data analytics skills. Also, the convenient location of SMU’s central city campus made it an even easier choice for me.


How would you describe your experience in the SMU MSA?

It has been an interesting journey. Having worked for the past eight years, it did take some time for me to adjust to being a student again. To be honest, I have forgotten most of what I have learnt during my undergrad days, but it’s almost like riding a bike, once you’ve learnt how to do so, it just takes some time to get used to it again.

Also, I relish being able to connect with my classmates who come from a wide range of industries, as the perspectives they have may differ from my own, such that I am able to now adopt multiple points of view.


What has been your favourite module so far, and why?

Data Modelling and Visualisation has been my favourite module so far. I like it because of its relevance to today’s organisations. Data visualisation is a low hanging fruit that companies can utilise to create an immediate impact, enabling executives to make strategic business decisions. Organisations can also explore the use of data modelling to identify trends and fine tune their forecasts in order to anticipate market demands.


What type of extracurricular activities are you involved with?

I am part of the MSA class committee, being part of the first batch of MSA students. Full-time students like us, embarking upon a one year course, have a limited amount of time to get to know one another. During this short period of time, we hope to create beautiful memories for both students and faculty alike.


Did you work before going back to school? If so, where did you work, and how did it influence your decision to return to school for a graduate degree?

Yes, I have worked for eight years before deciding to pursue my graduate degree. The first four years of my career was with a small CPA company in Los Angeles, US, focusing on tax consultancy. After which, I moved to Ernst & Young Singapore’s accounting advisory team. In the last year or so, I was exposed to data analytics and software robotics, during which I witnessed changes in the finance function. I observed a lack of ‘data translators’ who can bridge the business and technical programming sides. This influenced my decision to return to school for a graduate degree.


What are your career aspirations?

I wish to use the skills which I have learnt in the MSA programme to help businesses achieve their strategic goals. Grooming students to become star programmers is not the objective of the MSA programme. Instead, it trains us to be the bridge between the business/operational side and the programmers—in essence, “data translators” for organisations.


How has SMU helped prepare you for this type of career?

SMU’s reputation as an educational institution is certainly an accolade that elevates my CV. The curriculum of the MSA programme is also extensive enough for companies to recognise its value and how it could benefit their organisations.


How are you financing your graduate degree? What resources did you use to learn about financing options?

Before I started the programme, I planned to use my savings from the eight years I spent in the work force to finance my graduate degree. However, I was fortunate enough to be awarded the UOB SMU MSA scholarship which helped finance my education at SMU.

Are there any resources that would help you with career development that you’re not currently getting?

I believe I am getting the right resources through SMU. The career development workshops on providing feedbacks and data visualisation have been helpful even for a mid-career student such as myself.


Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

As mentioned earlier, I was one of the recipients of the UOB SMU MSA scholarship, the scholarship given by UOB shows that the SMU’s MSA programme has a strong partnership and understand the needs of the industry. UOB has also given me the opportunity to intern and work after graduation with their Data Management Office (DMO) team, which was what I had in mind with the next step of my career. I am confident the experience and challenges with UOB’s DMO team will shape my future career.


This article was originally published on ValueChampion and reproduced with permission.