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Debbie Sawers


Debbie Sawers
Debbie Sawers
BCom, MBus
Ernst & Young

For Debbie Sawers a long and proud family history of studying at Otago meant leaving the Hawke’s Bay to study in Dunedin was as straight forward as picking which subject to major in.

“Essentially all of my extended family studied at Otago and I grew up thinking Otago was where I would study. I chose accounting because it was one of my top subjects at high school plus because dad is a Chartered Accountant I knew there were plenty of career opportunities for commerce graduates.”

Upon arrival in Dunedin Debbie spent her first year living at Selwyn College located just minutes from campus and lecture theatres. In the years that followed she enjoyed flatting with friends she’d made at Selwyn.

In order to qualify as a Chartered Accountant Debbie completed a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) and Master of Business (MBus). The MBus was an attractive option for her because her thesis included a ‘practical’ aspect.

“The MBus enabled me to work closely with a firm and research a topic that they were interested in finding more about. I looked at a Chartered Accountant’s role in the Business Succession Planning of SMEs. I enjoy working with numbers, but am very much people focused so I loved working with, and interviewing participants as part of my research.”

Before commencing her MBus Debbie was fortunate to work as an intern at Ernst & Young. When the internship concluded she was offered a graduate position and consequently secured a job even before graduating.

“I was nervous entering the workforce as a junior in one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, but through my internship and working in groups at Otago I was comfortable in the Audit team environment.”

Debbie is appreciative of the time and support provided by Otago’s accounting staff, but in particular by her MBus supervisor. Because she completed her MBus off-campus during the summer holiday it was important to have someone she could call on for advice.

“I had an excellent supervisor, she was prompt at replying to my emails and I could discuss issues and ideas over the phone. This helped me meet my deadlines.”

Debbie’s family had high praise for Otago before she started studying, so what does she think four years and two degrees later?

“They said I’d make friends for life, grow as a person, and learn how to be independent. They were right! At Otago you are responsible for everything: the flat, bills, cooking, cleaning, socialising and studying. Otago made me find a balance. Dunedin has a great social environment, but come close to exams the partying dies down and the library becomes the place to be!”