Meet Vidhyut- a CA Dropout at IIFT Kolkata!
How difficult is it to be knee deep in a career path, only to realise that it was not going well for you and you did not enjoy it. How do you pivot? Do you have that god awful habit of measuring yourself against test statistics?
Meet Vidhyut- a PGP student at IIFT Kolkata, a former CA student/enthusiast and strap in for a wild ride.
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Hi. My name is Vidhyut Vijay Gadia and this is my unconventional MBA story.
TL;DR: Failed! Failed! Failed! Switched! Rejected (almost) at 99.8%! ______ Evolved.
X- CBSE- 92%
XII - ISC- 78%
UNDERGRAD - B.COM – 75%
Other education - CA (Inter) - Dropped out.
Work ex - 14 months in the Social Development field.
MBA – IIFT, Kolkata Campus.
Summer Internship – Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages.
The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things. – Rilke.
November 8, 2016: while the whole nation was still finding it hard to fathom what had just hit them in the form of an absolute redundancy of currency, I was with my dad at a café that evening chalking out my MBA plans on a paper napkin.
The CA rut
Allow me to please rewind the clock for a couple of years. Soon after finishing my 12th, I rushed to prepare for my CA entrance exam that was called CPT at the time. I passed it with not much trouble. As my B.com started so did my preparation for the next level of CA- IPCC or Inter. Most of my undergrad time was not spent in college but in CA coaching tuitions. I was never sure if CA was what I wanted to become. Did I want to work in finance? Would I enjoy this? Would I feel fulfilled to be paid for it? I did not know!
Only later did I realize that the answer to these questions would be a resounding no.
This absence of clarity at the time reflected when I appeared for my IPCC exams. All my closest friends cleared the exams in the first attempt. I didn’t. They moved on. I didn’t. I was left back to see this through all by myself the next time out. 6 months later I sit for the exams again.
Result: Fail! 6 months later, on my 3rd attempt I passed one group out of 2.
Result: group 1 Fail! this time more miserably than my first 2 outings.
If you’re not a CA or a CA aspirant, let me tell you that the mechanics of these exams are not built in your favour. They are quite harsh. Brutally harsh. You fail one paper; you appear for all of them. After the 3rd failure, I was distraught and completely spent. Not because I didn’t have any energy left in the tank to do more 3-month-14-hour study days and reappear one more time- because I was done fighting to conquer something, I was sure by now that I wouldn’t enjoy.
I felt like a character in an existential crisis from a Dostoyevsky novel where he says this- If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment, all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning. The difference here was, that man here was me doing this to myself. I was a kid in a dread-inducing existential crisis. I felt lost and awful.
Looking back at that time now, I crush my teeth thinking how naïve I was to weigh the result of an exam with who I was.
It was when I decided to just give one last shot at the exams as a CA related internship opportunity fell my way. The role- I get a chance to work with Cloudtail (Amazon) in Audit and Finance. I say to myself- Alright man! Let’s find out what kind of work I will be doing if I mistakenly ever become a CA. Wouldn’t hurt right!
The first month into the internship I am convinced that this was interesting work but I just couldn’t commit to it because the lessons I wanted to learn, the skills I wanted to pick up and the stories I wanted to write were different to this.. That world was somewhere else. I realized I was a generalist and this was a specific piece of monotonous work that I was doing.
Another thing I had noticed was this- although I was working with finance guys and CA’s, Cloudtail being one the largest e-commerce companies had these sharp MBA guys from top schools doing all sorts of things which I found so much more fascinating than what I was doing. These folks were managing brands, doing sales pitches, building strategies. They also had an enviable work-life balance compared to us CA guys.
During this internship, I got to know what an MBA does. What is an IIM? What did you need to do an MBA? Life after MBA? The internship was an eye-opener for me, because it revealed the world to being a much bigger place than I had known yet- with so many more things I could learn and strive to work toward.
Growing up, I was an adventurous kid with a wandering imagination. I hated doing the same thing over and over again. I loved to experiment. I loved taking risks and being silly. Here I was a new adult at 19, staring across the desk on a cold Sunday afternoon doing the most monotonous audit work, pondering about how much more I could be.
And that’s how it happened: In a couple of days, I cut my internship short and flew back home. And on November 8th, 2016, I was with my dad at the café to discuss this. I have quit CA now I prepare for CAT for 2018.
My tryst with exams and how I hedged my CAT risk
CAT 2018 does not go well. But I had other options. I had done well in other exams. I had calls from the newer IIMs, NMIMS, IMT, and a bunch of other good schools. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join any of these colleges. I felt I could take another shot at CAT and shoot for the bigger leagues so I wait for another year.
2019- While re-preparing for CAT, I also take up a job. Not because I felt I needed one. But I thought I needed to keep growing and learning in different ways and I was convinced that the job I took would help me achieve that. I started my work in the social development sector. Looking back a year ago from today, I think this job was the best thing that had ever happened to me. On this job, I found newer personal purposes. I was part of such beautiful and humane projects with teams that were making a real societal impact. I was in a whole new world, feeling and learning brand new things. Although the job was taking a big part of my study time, but personally I felt very fulfilled. One week I was training rural women from villages around my city, Hyderabad on how to use the internet and smartphones to find livelihoods for themselves, another week I was working on a cleanliness project with the local government hiring people, creating marketing and operating strategies, and leading teams. I was revelling in this new chapter I had embarked on. This experience did me a lot of good for my CAT prep.
It’s the MBA exam season now, I am much better prepared than the last time. Math had always been my Achilles heel, but I thought I was really smart in my back up plans this time. IIFT was a school that I was targeting in case I crapped my pants in the Quants section of CAT again and that’s exactly what happened. I did exceedingly well in English and DI, and Quant was difficult that year and I succumbed. But I did not panic this time as I had worked smartly on my strategies for other exams. I had prepared very well for IIFT and I also did extremely well in IIFT that year. Funnily quant was the best part of my paper.
Come results day- BOOM! I managed a 99.8 % in IIFT among a bunch of other calls from top schools like XLRI(HR), MICA, and a few other schools just like last time. Clearly, IIFT is my north star and I wanted to get there at any cost. I prepared extremely well for the GDPI and I thought I did very well there too.
The final IIFT result- Not on the final list.
When I saw the result, I was speechless for an hour. I did not react at all because I was just not prepared for this. As the bitter reality sunk in, I felt like my heart was lacerated, my dreams crushed and my mind had completely shut down. 2 years of hard work after 3 years of unfulfilling education and finally a glimmer of hope of a good result culminated to nothing!
All’s well that ends well I suppose- I did make IIFT through the waitlist. I study at the IIFT Kolkata campus today. A year into my MBA, I still find it hard to fathom that I wasn’t selected in the first list. But I do not ponder much over the possible scenarios leading to that result. I learnt to just suck it up. I still do take this as a rejection and instead of being dejected about it, I took this pretty well on the chin and moved on and the very next opportunity I had to do good and I did that with success.
During my summers at IIFT, early during placement season, I got selected in my first interview. The company? Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, one of the largest FMCG organizations in the country. Now, I will never say that a job at a fancy company in anyway defines who you are. It shouldn’t. I am mentioning this because I felt this was an interview that cemented a level of confidence in me that I only want to build upon. My honesty felt accepted and appreciated.
To sum things up in two thoughts/bits of advice:
Firstly, because this was a CA – themed piece for the most part: a humble reminder to all the CA aspirants (for whom I have nothing but deep respect and admiration)- if you feel disappointed and lost on purpose, I swear on my imaginary dog that a failure in your course is not the end of the road for you. Just like an MBA is not the end of the road for me. The lessons I’ve learned along the way have given me so many more pursuits that are left unvisited that I want to fulfil.
Secondly, a piece of general advice in the form of my philosophy – Life is not this monolithic exercise where you get a degree, acquire a job, marry someone, and just settle the hell down. You got to keep exploring and experimenting even amid the most testing of times. I know you will face rejections, your decisions will be unmade by circumstances, your heart will be constantly broken, but even in such times remember to stay curious and keep exploring to keep evolving in different ways, which in my humble opinion is a mindset that has kept me going.
I hope my little story gave you an optimistic glimpse of what lies on the other side. It took some soul searching and courage and an incredible amount of luck that you shall find too but only if you take the first step. There are worlds to conquer.
I sincerely hope you give this philosophy a thought and see if this can work for you.
Today if you’d ask me what the one thing, I look for a lot is. rejection. I crave rejection because I am convinced that it will only make me more resilient and more explorative which is what I wanna do and want to be, all my life. My purpose today, just like one of my favorite writers, the German Poet Rilke said, is “to be defeated by greater and greater things”. And I do realize that to be defeated by greater things, you are going to face defeat by much smaller and insignificant things first. Let those defeats shake you.
I think I am still quite foolish and naïve about so many things but this keeps me aware of my limitations and it keeps me curious to seek better and greater things to defeat those limitations. I hope you stay foolish too. Laugh in times of adversities and when your time comes, look back at those bad(defining) times and be grateful for them.
Go out and enjoy these exams. Go write your stories. Be proud of your stories.
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