The Man behind Accounting • Juan Mendoza Rodriguez

Meet Juan Mendoza Rodriguez, assistant professor of the accounting department at the VU. Many of you probably know him already, he is the lecturer and tutorial teacher of Accounting for first-year students. Accounting is quite a challenging subject for most of the students and many of you are not done with it yet. This interview enables you to get to better get to know of the lecturers and to get insight on his perspective of the subject. Additionally, Mr Mendoza gives advice on how to efficiently study for the exam, to hopefully help you in your studying process.

What is your study and work background?

I studied a bachelor of Economics in Bogotà, Colombia in one of the top universities in Latin America. I initially worked for the Colombian government in the central planning agency. Our team designed strategies for each industry to enter free trade agreements with other countries, and especially the US and EU.

Then I worked for the main business magazine in Columbia in a section called Small and Medium Enterprises. I gathered tips and suggestions from other professionals on several diverse business topics, that aimed to help entrepreneurs that didn’t have the chance to study in a formal and academic institution.

At the time, behavioral economics became very trendy and an increasing interest was invested in this research topic. I was myself already interested in experiments with people, and how they can take decisions that are not necessarily rational. So I researched programs in this sector and came across the master in social psychology offered by the VU, that I then undertook. After that, I integrated a PhD in Psychology at the VU and graduated in 2014 and since then I have been an assistant professor.

Teaching-wise, I have been teaching Accounting I for two years now. I also used to teach Social Network Analysis, Empirical Research Accounting. I taught Corporate Governance for 3 years. I also supervise master students and help them with their thesis.

Did you always know you wanted to have a job related to accounting?

Never. No child says they want to work in accounting and even less do research in accounting. Once you understand more about accounting, you realize that it’s much less about bookkeeping and more about social behavior. Accounting is a communication science in which decisions that affect the organization are taken. At the end of the day it is all about people. How you reward your employees, how you motivate them, how you can push investors away by making a wrong decision. Students need to understand that accounting is a very central piece of the decision making puzzle in organizations. Exactly that is the reason why it is important to integrate it in business programs.

Why do you think there is such a low passing rate in accounting?

Last year I created a survey to gather information from students, that, with other sources of information, enabled me to understand the reason why many students fail. We observed there are three types of first-year students.

First, we have the busy students who leave everything until the end. They do multiple things at the same time, they are still learning how to manage their schedule and did not quite find a good process to do it. Even if they are disciplined people who want to have good grades, they have too much going on and the time they put into studying is not enough.

Second, many students rely on resits. They think their fellow students who passed the first time can help them for the resit. It is a completely valid strategy, but very risky and those students tend to fail.

Lastly, we have students who idealize the idea of working in the corporate world. They like how professional dress, talk, look and are all about consumption, which is very fair too. However, they get caught up in the process and didn’t expect the program to be the way it is. They like the outcome but not the process. Unfortunately, they realize this with other subjects, including accounting.

Can you give some tips on how to efficiently study for the exam?

Create a study group, with 3-4 people and get together frequently. Try to explain to the other person how to solve the problem or a specific concept. If you can explain it in your own words, then you understand it better and it helps you remember it. Sometimes you think you understand it by studying it by yourself but when it is definitely helpful to talk about it with someone else.

Then it sounds obvious but don’t leave the exercises until the end. Be consistent with the study load. It is just impossible to understand everything last minute, especially because you will have many questions. In many cases, students didn’t buy the bok, and didn’t prepare the exercises for the tutorials. In this case it is going to be very difficult to grasp what is happening. This course is like going to the gym. You need to do your own homework in order to see results.

We hope that with this interview you will see Accounting from a different perspective and consequently pass the exam. If you still have trouble studying, we recommend you reading our tips to boost productivity here !