My path to becoming an Accounting Professor in Dubai: From CA to Ph.D. to the University of Wollongong

Expat chartered accountant becomes accounting professor in Dubai

  • From a young age, CA (Dr) Namrata Gupta knew she wanted to be a banker or join the Big 4.
  • But a turn of events showed her that her true calling was in academia. 
  • CA Namrata worked her way up to Assistant Professor at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, UAE. 
  • Here’s a look into her journey. 

CA's Calling to Academia

When I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1991 in Delhi, I initially wanted to be a banker or join one of the Big 4 firms.

But times were different back then. If you didn’t do your articleship from a big CA firm or a Big 4, the chances of getting into one of those organizations were slim.

Instead, I got a job offer to work in the industry. I started working as a Finance Manager, with some CA articles working under me. It was then that I observed that these CA articles only had theoretical knowledge and lacked practical application skills.

This stayed with me.

A few years went by and I received an opportunity to work with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) as a Senior Technical Officer. 

While on the job, I also taught at the Board of Studies - ICAI (New Delhi) and took Advanced Accounting classes for CA students. This period was an eye-opener and that is when I realized that I am not made for the industry.

Academics gave me more satisfaction than I ever imagined. And that is how a new and exciting chapter began in my career.

One thing led to another and in 1996 I got an opportunity to work for a British university called Wigan & Leigh College. They were establishing their operations in Delhi, India. I was one of the first members of their faculty.

After attending their mandatory training program, I officially became Head of the Accounting Program. I taught for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification on 9 campuses in Delhi.

This was it. I had finally found my true calling. 

Also Read

My Journey from A Chartered Accountant at a Big 4 Firm to a Teacher Now Financial Analyst in the US

My sudden relocation to UAE and doing a PhD

In 1998, my husband received a job offer in Dubai, UAE and we relocated.

I got a job at Skyline University in Dubai almost immediately after moving there. The university had academic partnerships with the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside in the UK and the American National University. I taught Finance and Accounting papers to MBA students.    

While I had professional expertise in accounting and finance, I faced a great challenge.

The universities in UAE had professors with a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in accounting. I realized if I had to make my mark here, I was up against these highly intellectual individuals.

That is when I resolved to get a Ph.D. degree which is the epitome of expertise in education and research. I knew that if I earned it, it would make a big difference in my career.

That is the reason why in 2003, I started my Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Management Accounting. And the rest is history, as they say. 

It took me 4 long years (2003 - 2007) to complete the Ph.D. degree since I was working alongside, but it was worth its weight in gold.

While yearning to work for one of the best universities in the country I continued to gain experience in various universities on my final journey to reach the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD). It was the final destination that I was so eager to work at.

Currently, I am working as an Assistant Professor of Accounting at UOWD, a branch campus of Australia’s University of Wollongong.

It is one of the finest & oldest private universities in Dubai and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of their Faculty of Business. 

Becoming an Accounting Professor in Dubai: 

I have had a fair share of challenges from the day I moved to Dubai up until today.   

Mastering a different language: 

  • To start with, I studied at a government school in Delhi, India till 12th grade, and all my subjects were taught in Hindi. So, as you can imagine, getting used to English was quite tough for me, but I learned, nonetheless.
  • When I landed in UAE, most people around me were speaking in Arabic. However, the mode of delivery of lectures was English, which greatly helped me. 

Juggling my Ph.D. program with family: 

  • Doing research for my Ph.D. program required a lot of my time and energy.
  • It was difficult to manage my family and profession simultaneously, as I wanted to continue my job alongside my studies. 

Learning new technology: 

  • From what I've observed, sophisticated technology and these new-age tools got introduced to the field of accounting about 7-8 years ago, and it was a challenge to adapt to them.
  • Unlike today, when I was doing my CA, there was no accounting software such as Tally. It became popular in India much later.
  • But over the last few years, I knew I had to move with the times and quickly learned how popular accounting software in the region worked such as Sage, Xero, Zoho, and QuickBooks. This has been super useful for my students. I have started conducting these workshops for my students which introduces them to digital tools and software to make them job-ready.

As a professional, I think my biggest achievement is that I can easily adapt to changes around me. Without that, there is no point in teaching the young generation who have such a fast-paced lifestyle.

They are here to learn new things from us, so I regularly have to catch up with the changes that are happening in my field. 

From Teaching to Passion: A Glimpse into a Professor's Day  

I usually start my day at around 8 am and finish up by 2 pm, if I have a morning lecture that day.

Once I am back home, I spend around a couple of hours on my readings/research. 

I am also very passionate about the Indian equity/stock market. I spend about an hour or two of my day doing fundamental and technical analysis of stocks, analyzing stock charts, and reading about the global capital markets.     

Finally, the rest of my time is spent with my family.

Since both of my daughters are adults and nearly done with their education, I don’t have the added responsibilities that come with young kids.

Of course, there are some super hectic days as well, particularly with post-graduate subjects where my classes start at 6 pm and go on till 10 pm. By the time I head to bed, it’s 12.30 - 1.00 am, so the next day can be quite demanding.    

I know it may not sound easy, but when you love what you do, you don’t feel tired - you enjoy it. 

Also Read

This Chartered Accountant Failed 11 times And Now a Ph.D. & Professor At B Schools

Closing …

Looking back, I would’ve never gotten this level of knowledge in accounting and finance if I was not a CA.

Today I am using the knowledge and experience I gained as a CA in helping shape our future generation!

If someone is looking to enter the field of academia, I would suggest they pursue Ph.D. from a well-recognized, globally accredited university and learn to incorporate new technologies and tools into their teaching methodology. 

The level of satisfaction that this profession gives is truly unmatched. It gives me a lot of happiness when students return after a few years and say, “This is what I wanted to do in my career and you guided me. Thank you.”

After all, that’s what teaching is all about – helping students discover themselves.

Looking for career advice? Book a 1:1 paid call with an industry expert. Fill up this form

Sign up for The Finance Story Fortnightly newsletter

Inspiration, Learnings, Knowledge in your in-box

Get stories delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter
By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy.
Learning Learning Partner Partner
Which Dell Technologies offerings do you wish to know more about?

Book 1:1 call with industry expert