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  • Writer's pictureSimran Somani

What an MBA from ISB after CA looks like!

All CA aspirants know the toil and hard work that goes into clearing the three levels of this coveted course. But after all this, is it really worth the time and money to pursue an MBA?

As part of our CA+MBA series, we reached out to Shreyas Gupta, a pass out from the outgoing batch of ISB (2019-2020), who was kind enough to answer some pertinent questions for us. We believe these insights will be invaluable to all those struggling with the decision of doing an MBA after CA.

A CA and a CFA, Shreyas’ accolades are as intimidating as inspiring. An ISB Torchbearer, he was awarded the Merit Scholarship at the time of joining ISB and also featured on the Dean’s list there. He has been a campus champion for competitions ranging from the CFA Institute Research Challenge to the J&J Quest Case Competition. Having previously worked at Goldman Sachs for more than 2 years, he is an incoming Junior Consultant at Bain & Co.

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1. How did a CA + MBA add value to your profile?

CA and MBA are two very different degrees, offering a different set of complementary skills. While CA equipped me with in-depth theoretical expertise in subjects ranging from Accountancy to Taxation, MBA honed those other missing chinks in my.personality.

CA was a foundation and a stepping stone for me. Foundation because it was one of the first things (right after school and along with college) that set me off on my quest. Stepping stone because it introduced me to this whole gamut of options to explore and choose from

MBA on the other hand widened my horizon. Everything I had done in my life pre-MBA was centered around the field of finance. My CFA degree, my stint with Goldman Sachs, all these had helped me cement my understanding of finance. But it was my time at ISB that forced me to take a step back and look at business and the world through a new sieve. Concepts in the field of marketing, operations, and technology were things that I had either taken for granted or ignored unconsciously. My time doing MBA made me aware of the wider implications and joys of knowing the yet unknown.

Along with this, another major take away from this journey was the peers and faculty I interacted with on a daily basis. I was fortunate to have been surrounded by some of the brightest minds and the most renowned professors globally, while at ISB.

So finally, combining the two, I would say a CA + MBA made me a more well-rounded person and contributed to my holistic development.

2. What should CAs do before starting their B school journey? – Both GMAT takers and Incoming PGPs

ISB requires all its candidates to have a minimum of 2 years of work experience before joining. At the same time, there are options for deferred admissions (Early Entry Option as well as Young Leaders Program) which allow you to get admission into a future batch, complete your 2 years of work experience and then join. A GMAT score, a letter of recommendation from your employer and 2/3 essays (on the given topics) are the basic pre-requisites for an ISB application. All of these are regularly updated and must be checked from the website along with the application deadline windows.

Since there is a high chance of taking GMAT while being employed, my advice would be:

1. Focus on taking mocks and analyzing them:

Try taking mocks in as real an environment as possible (which means attempting the first two sections as well). Lay equal emphasis on both the Verbal and the Quant sections.

2. Attempt timed practice:

There is a severe penalty for unattempted questions in the exam so utilize your time effectively and be disciplined in your approach.

3. Smart work is key:

People taking GMAT generally do not have the benefit of unlimited time to prepare. So, try to find out your weak areas as soon as possible in your prep journey (again through mocks) and work diligently on ironing those issues out one by one.

4. Aim for the highest score possible:

Although the average score for an incoming batch at ISB is 700-710, the range generally goes from the early 600s to the late 700s. Though no set rule, try to aim for as high a score as possible. The higher, the better (for ISB admission and beyond)!

For CAs, irrespective of the stage you are at, some time would have passed before you embark on your MBA journey. So, it will be good to revise some of the basic finance, accounting and costing concepts from your CA curriculum.

Additionally, while the very purpose of your MBA program shall be to acquaint you better with these fields, it will help to revise high school mathematics, statistics and economics so that you are ready to grasp the more advanced concepts. These basic brush-ups and just a hunger to know more, learn and excel should bode you well for the start of your MBA journey.

3. ISB specifics! – How many CAs are the general intake at ISB, what sort of profiles do they usually have before coming in (Audit/Corp fin), & what sort of roles they end up in?

Out of a batch of approximately 890 students (both campuses combined), there were a total of 40 CAs roughly (evenly distributed across the campuses). Profiles ranged from Finance profiles (similar to mine) from banks and investment banks to audit and taxation profiles. Some people also had short stints in the FMCG space and other allied fields such as M&A advisory and due diligence from a big 4 firm, etc.

Outgoing roles varied greatly with the varying aspirations. A sample check would indicate a lot of CA folks gunning for consulting and bagging the top offers from campus from Mckinsey, Bain, BCG, and the like. I myself am fortunate to be joining Bain & Co. in their management consultancy profile. Apart from these, some aspire for management trainee profiles in the FMCG space (HUL, Marico, etc.) while some others join the finance functions of top organizations in their Corp Finance, M&A roles, etc. Investment Banking/Private Equity/Venture Capital and Investment management profiles amongst others in the domain of Finance found a few takers as well.

4. How do CAs fare / what should they work on compared to their engineering peers?

I personally found the structure of the curriculum pretty favorable for CAs in the cohort. The first 3 core terms of the year had approximately 30-40% of the subjects in and around the fields of finance/commerce, etc. So, that could give a leg up as far as academics are concerned since more than half the batch comprises students from engineering and allied disciplines.

On the other hand, there are areas that would require a bit more effort on the part of CAs/ commerce graduates such as statistics/marketing/operations. While you may be familiar with the basic concepts (advise you to go through these pre-MBA if not familiar), it still requires you to compete with others, some of whom are much better versed in these. But with a bit of dedicated effort in these subjects, these are very manageable I feel. Besides, at the end of your curriculum, you might just call these your biggest takeaways academically. So it makes a lot of sense to invest time and effort here!

5. How did you decide if an MBA would be “worth it”! (Especially RoI)

There is no exact calculation that I based my decision on. I was pretty satisfied with my time at Goldman as well. While I felt it was a very good profile to start my career with, it was not something that I would want to continue doing in the long term. This set in motion a chain of thoughts that ultimately led me to pursue my MBA from ISB.

Yes, the fees is something that should definitely be considered. And yes, there is always the risk of you not landing your dream job off campus. But this is where the other non-monetary factors come into play. The network that you build, the perspectives that you get, and just the entire ambiance of learning and fun. These were some things I was willing to bet on! You obviously need to work hard at the same time and try your best to get the opportunity you want. But there is just so much to explore that you might not even realize the opportunities present, before embarking on the journey.

If you get a B-school you admire, go for it! At the end of the day, you are the one who can make that decision as rewarding as you want.

6. Any electives at ISB that should not be missed? (this could be general or CA perspective)

The curriculum keeps getting revised so there is no pre-set list. From my time at ISB, I personally really liked the courses on Fintech, marketing, etc. Even though a CA is generally well versed with most of the finance concepts, a few of the finance courses here were still very much worth it. The case study based approach, the real-life learnings, and the faculty were some of the factors that never failed to enrich me.

7. How has your life changed after an MBA from ISB?

Professionally, I got the job I aspired for. So that was one major positive. Right since I joined ISB, I was driven towards the management consultancy profile. So, joining Bain and company was one of the biggest changes for me work-wise.

While at ISB, I got a chance to be the lead coordinator for our flagship annual finance conclave, Artha 2019. Experiences like these and the numerous others molded me into a much better professional I believe.

I started taking a keener interest in the fields I had very little idea about pre-ISB. Besides helping me look at business from a more holistic angle, my time at ISB greatly helped me harness the power of networking.

This year-long journey was nothing short of magical for me. Every day was replete with new activities, fun, and challenges. I got a chance to explore new sports and started becoming much more cognizant of my hobbies and valuing them!

In a nutshell, time at B-school just showed me how to balance stuff much better. How to enjoy, create meaningful relationships, and keep learning at the same time. The value of time management cannot be taught in a better environment.

I am happy to say that in hindsight, it was all well worth the time, effort, and resources and I shall always have the fondest memories of my time at ISB.


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