The Leap from St. Xavier's to IIM Calcutta - ft. Rohan Daga
An MBA in Finance HAS TO BE the most popular pick among B.Com graduates. Combine that with work experience at J.P.Morgan and the tag of a CFA and I’d be describing the dream journey of a finance aficionado to IIM Calcutta.
Today, we cover the story of how Rohan Daga, a pass out of St. Xaviers’ College, Kolkata (Batch of 2019) made it to IIM Calcutta (2020-2022). He has taken the CFA exams and has previously worked at J.P. Morgan as a Junior Analyst.
In this article, he describes how he found his true calling in Finance and scored a whopping 99.93 percentile in CAT 2019 along with an IB job.
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10th- 89.5% | 12th- 93.17% (Commerce)
B.Com(H)- St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata: 8.5 CGPA
IIM Calcutta Class of 2022
Worked at JP Morgan & Chase Co (Corporate & Investment Banking) for 12 months
How did you figure out that finance was your true calling?
Right from high school, I felt that numbers spoke to me more than they did to others as I went on to ace every Mathematics and Accountancy test while scoring terribly in English. That’s how I identified my inclination towards Finance.
During college, I was offered a plethora of opportunities to explore my interest in Finance. I actively participated in Finance events and being a member of the Xaviers’ Commerce Society gave me the chance to organize and conduct a few. Finally, it was in my third year of college, and when I went on to become the Finance Head of my society that I knew, I was meant to be in Finance. It isn’t very easy to know what one’s true calling is but I was lucky enough to never face that dilemma.
Why did you choose to join J.P.Morgan instead of a B-school in 2019?
CAT 2018 was the first time I was going to compete against the best minds of our country and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. After sailing through the first two sections of the paper, I could almost see myself with an amazing CAT score but the subject that I enjoyed the most decided to let me down.
Though I did manage to score 97 percentile overall and got calls from SP Jain, MDI and IIM K, I couldn’t make peace with my scorecard. So, when I secured a job at JP Morgan and had a choice in front of me, all I could think of was the fact that I could do much better in QA and aim for a better result next year. The thought of facing the uncertainty of CAT again did send chills down my spine but I never let that affect my sense of self-belief.
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Times like these bring our faith in our abilities and our risk-taking capacity into question. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who bolstered my confidence and never let me lose sight of what I am capable of.
What was handling an IB job along with preparing for CAT again like?
New job, new city but the same old CAT.
That was what I had to battle and initially, the thrill of exploring Mumbai and performing well at my competitive job did take over me, until one day when I got a wake-up call.
The day the registration dates were announced, it struck me that time was running out and there was only one way out of this. Instead of constantly cribbing about the struggles of balancing work and study, I decided to see my work as a break from my CAT preparation and not the other way around. In doing so, I realized that working out of a chair isn’t as exhausting as we make it seem and this helped me save a lot of hours of ‘just relaxing’ after the job.
I never went back to revising concepts but rather just jumped directly to give sectionals and mocks because I thought that this was the best way to brush up my concepts. Another trick I used was that every day at work whenever I could find even 10-15 minutes, I used to utilize that time to analyze the sectionals and mocks I had taken the previous night. Such small hacks went a long way in improving my CAT score.
The workload never got lighter and as the exams drew near, I began to take two mocks almost every day. I won't lie by saying “it gets easier”, but in hindsight, the toil seems like a small price to pay to get into one of the best B-schools of the country.
Will Smith said it in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’,
“You got a dream, you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they’re gonna tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period.”
How did you prepare yourself for the interviews once the CAT results were out?
I had already cultivated the habit of reading the newspaper for an hour daily to help me with VARC and I continued this as part of my interview preparation.
To build and brush up basic general knowledge, I had purchased the Manorama Yearbook. However, as the book is very voluminous, I was very selective about what I studied from it and made no attempt to become Mr. Know-it-all.
I had always preferred an animated form of learning to studying from textbooks. So, to revise my past academics, I leveraged peer learning among my friends and colleagues. I was lucky enough to have a good network of seniors from top B-schools who acted as my mentors and conducted mock interviews with me on weekends. Their honest feedback helped me greatly in improving and molding my answers.
What do you think students in colleges need to do to build a strong profile for finance?
I believe academics is given a lot of weight by Finance companies, so one should try to have the best possible grades in their undergrad degree or professional courses.
Participating in finance-related simulations and competitions not only helps one gain knowledge and perspective but also shows one’s intent to delve deeper into the field.
Having a strong internship in the domain can be a good positive too, but academics are uncompromisable!
Any final piece of advice for CAT aspirants?
Quite a few actually and I will try to answer this from my experience and keep them to a simple 3.
One should always believe in themselves and aim higher. I have seen how easily commerce or economics grads just accept that they are not good enough compared to IITians or BITSian. This proved to be a big differentiating factor for me between CAT 2018 vs CAT 2019. From targeting any one of the Top 10 B-schools in India to just targeting the Top 3 made a huge difference in me achieving my goal. Throughout my journey, I had to believe in the fact that I can make it to the Top 3 because thinking less of oneself often leads to one being less than what they are capable of.
2. Have your support systems in place:
Obviously, there were days when I thought I couldn’t do it but I was blessed to have a great friend circle and a supportive family who always had my back whenever I felt low. My family always made me feel that I was meant for great things. To put in words how important having a set of people who believe in you more than you do yourself is almost impossible. But suffice it to say that it acts as the greatest morale booster and pushes you to limits you thought weren’t reachable.
3. Be optimistic:
Having a negative mindset has never helped anyone and it never will. However, having a positive one can be a game-changer and bring about unimaginable feats. Doing well in CAT is as much about preparing your concepts as it is about developing the right mindset. It is important to know where you are lagging behind and work hard on it but taking too much stress for the same is not advisable. Focus on the positives and try to keep your spirits high, cracking CAT wouldn’t feel like a burden then.
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