The long hustle of writing the CAT to getting a call, preparing for the GDPI and finally making it to the college of your dreams is a wild wild ride. But what happens after?
What rewards await you in your 2 year B-School journey that make all this hard-work seem “worth it”?
We reached out to Mohit Shah, a pass-out from the outgoing batch of IIM Bangalore (2018-2020) who has been kind enough to answer some of these questions for us!
To give you some background, Mohit is a CA rank holder, has cleared all levels of the CFA and is an incoming Senior Associate at BCG. If that wasn’t enough, Mohit was also the captain of the IIMB Cricket team! During his time at IIMB, Mohit also attended the prestigious Copenhagen Business School for an exchange semester abroad.
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Without digressing further, let’s just jump into it!
Q1. How did the CA + MBA combination add value to you?
Make no mistake, CA, by itself, is a very comprehensive course and can get you entry into some of the most popular domains like consulting and finance. An MBA from a top tier institute contributes to your holistic development as a professional.
CA being a distance learning course, students miss the personality development that happens due to hostel life. Most of the learning in an MBA happens through peers. You learn from people from different backgrounds about their knowledge and experiences and how they manage themselves under pressure which is very different from what CA students do. You gain from their experience and they gain from yours. Also, the friendship and network you develop go a long way in building your career.
To sum it up, I think CA plus MBA is a deadly combination with CA giving you an immense depth of knowledge and MBA giving you the polishing required for putting that knowledge into good use and being a future leader.
Q2. What should CAs do before starting their B school journey?
CAs should spend sufficient time preparing for CAT, especially in a few sections like Quantitative aptitude and DILR because I feel people from engineering background have an initial advantage over CAs, but after working on these areas CAs can definitely score well in these sections as well. I know of my CA friends who have scored upwards of 99.5 percentile and therefore it is definitely possible for CAs to ace the CAT. It only requires dedication and practice.
One thing that helped me perform well in these sections is preparing with a friend from an engineering background who was good at QA and DILR. On the other hand, since I was good at verbal, we both learned tips and tricks from each other. Coincidentally, we also managed to get into IIMB together!
Q3. How do CAs fare in B-school? What should we work on compared to our engineering peers?
2 aspects of MBA life could be discussed here- Academics and Placements.
Firstly for academics, there will be subjects like Decision Sciences, Economics, Supply Chain Management, etc. which will involve some bit of calculus and other math concepts which our engineering peers are quicker to grasp. Then there are other subjects like Accounting, Financial Management, Cost Management, etc. which CAs will grasp more easily than engineers.
In this sense, it is all even for people from all the different backgrounds.
We have to focus our efforts specifically to ace these subjects as sometimes it can get intimidating when you are not able to understand anything in the lecture. At the same time, for your engineering peers, it's a cakewalk, but this is where your network of friends on campus and peer learning will come into play. You should try and learn from your friends that are good at subjects where you are not and you should try and help people in subjects where you are good.
I remember the CAs of my batch before the accounts exam used to take doubt solving sessions for their section mates late through the night and similar was the case for us during the DS exam.
Also, the working style of CA students, in general, is very different from people from an engineering background. CAs are used to studying every day and revise before the exams while engineering students generally try to study everything before the exam day.
This difference in work-style also comes up while doing class projects. Here is where CAs need to learn to adjust. The MBA teaches you not only how to work with people from diverse backgrounds but also how to efficiently get your work done as well.
Now for the placements, in my batch of about 430 students, there were 14 CAs. In summer placements, 6 people got into top Consulting firms and 8 people got into top finance roles like Investment Banking and Markets. In the final placements, 9 people got into top Consulting firms and 5 people into top finance roles. As CAs are a very small number of the total batch, they do enjoy a certain advantage of being in the minority. That said, you still have to prepare well for the interviews.
Q4. Any electives at IIMB that should not be missed?
Since the list of electives at IIMB changes every year wherein new and interesting courses keep on getting added, it won't be right to specify particular electives that one should definitely take.
The point of an MBA is to expand your horizons, not restrict them. Therefore, CAs should take non-finance courses because the value add in finance courses will not be as much to CAs as it would be for people with non-finance backgrounds. I suggest taking up popular courses in Marketing, Operations, Technology, Strategy, etc. Courses in these domains are where CAs will gain the most.
Q5. What is process of selecting a foreign B-school for the exchange term? What was the value add of a semester abroad at Copenhagen Business School?
During our term, the term 1 ranks were used to bid for exchange B-schools, and people with a higher rank got to prefer which school they wanted to go to.
For example, suppose XYZ University is the most popular among the batch and it has 5 seats. Students with the first 5 ranks will have the option to select that University. If they do, then the seats of that University will be considered full. Like this, there are many exchange B-schools to choose from and about 50% of my batch went for the exchange term.
Getting to the value add, an exchange term helps you understand the academic environment in foreign B-schools. While working with foreign students, you get a flavor of how to work with people from vastly different cultures and manage people from different geographies. There’s also the added advantage of getting to see different places and if you happen to be going to an European B-school, you typically travel to about 20 countries with your friends. You get to experience unique culture and form memories that you will cherish for a lifetime! Q6. Should a CA wait for 2 years and get experience as well as financial resources to be able to pay the fees of MBA program or join immediately?
In my opinion, a CA student right after becoming a Chartered Accountant (of course after celebrating this tremendous achievement!) should start appearing for CAT. Even if he is not fully prepared in the first attempt, he will get an experience of giving CAT because it is totally different from CA exams.
For a Chartered Accountant, coming as a fresher or with experience doesn't make much difference academically or during placements.
As far as fees go, I took a 100% loan for the MBA program. Fees shouldn't be a consideration for deciding to an MBA from Indian premier institutes since education loans are easily available at attractive interest rates with minimal documents and without collateral. Also, scholarships are available for students from economically weaker sections of society. So finance should never be a consideration for deciding to do an MBA!
Wishing everyone all the very best for CAT 2020!
IIM Bangalore (Batch of 2020)
A huge shout-out of thank you to Mohit for his time & inputs! A lot of these pointers are usually what we realise in hindsight and we are super grateful for people like Mohit who pass on their experience as nuggets of knowledge for us!
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Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!
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