What an MBA from IIM-L after CA looks like!
A lot of CAs aspire to do an MBA but many are clueless about the 'why' aspect.
We have covered Sai Teja Ramanujam's story, a CA and a second-year student at IIM-Lucknow (2019-2020), detailing his 'why' and 'how' of the journey to B-school. He chose to go for it despite having a coveted CA title and a great job.
He struggled with hardships such as language barriers and limited exposure owing to his small-town upbringing but that couldn't standstill his CA dream. It was the same perseverance that took him through the CAT, reappearing for it while maintaining his demanding job.
Today, he is a Chartered Accountant, a CMA rank holder, a Placecommer at IIM Lucknow with internship experience at a front end Investment Bank.
In Sai’s words, it all starts with a dream and courage to chase and protect it.
Let us look at how he overcame these challenges and what are his key learnings throughout the rugged journey.
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My CA journey and failures
It all started during Class 7 when my cousin became a CA. I changed my career goal from Doctor to Chartered Accountant, at the age of 12. I was the only one from my class to go down this rocky road, without much support from mentors or relatives.
I come from a small town and did most of my schooling there. I always had that fire to learn and improve myself, and thus decided to leave for Chennai to pursue my CA.
No matter how challenging it felt, I never let my vernacular based studies restrict my capabilities. I had to work on my soft skills to clear the examinations and excel during the articleship.
Fast forward to 2015, I was a CA at the age of 21 with splendid marks. In addition to this, I qualified CMA with AIRs in both intermediate and final levels.
This achievement taught me the value of risk-taking and commitment as pillars to success in any chosen field.
September 2015 - CA Campus placements
Clearing CA final, however hard it may be, is where the battle truly starts.
I realized this when I sat for the small center interviews in Pune and participated in the placement process of every company. I got rejected by every single one of them.
I was heartbroken but did not lose confidence. I pulled myself together and asked for feedback surrounding the rejection. The reason quoted again and again was my soft skills. I was not able to manage group discussions or articulate my thoughts well. My grammar was poor at best.
I had 25 days in hand for main campus placements to be held in Chennai.
I started writing about random stuff and then sharing it with some friends for evaluation. At the same time, I relied on friends to conduct mock interviews as well. I made a list of all my problems and did loads of practice before the mirror.
I got all possible shortlists on the campus due to my CA final percentage. However this time, I converted all of them and chose BPCL.
You need to face failure and to realize what you are lacking. Work upon those drawbacks and get back in the race.
BPCL mostly selects CA final All India Rankers for their corporate finance roles with two to three “non-ranker students.” I was one of those non-rankers at BPCL.
My CA+MBA story - The why, when and how
Although my job was interesting, I felt as though my work had limited impact. I always used to read articles on Yourstory, A Junior VC (Aviral Bhatnagar), Stratechery, The Ken, etc. I have never shied away from observing great people and learning from them.
As you can imagine, I developed an immense liking towards entrepreneurship.
Suddenly, Venture Capital, Private Equity Investors and Investment Banking spaces were all I could see.
I figured that when CA and BPCL had given me some basic business acumen, then why couldn’t I evaluate businesses and decide which one is a winner? I knew it was not going to be easy, but I also knew it could be done with time and experience.
And that led to the biggest realization yet- I wanted to study further and do an MBA.
While I could have directly tried entering into these profiles after my CA, I understood and accepted that an MBA provides a much more sophisticated mode of entry.
An MBA would also mean a college life with individuals from different walks of life through peer-learning, something that I lacked during my CA days. Trust me, the non-textbook knowledge is immense, all it needs one to tap into it.
Availability of diverse opportunities and a strong alumni network lured me to pursue an MBA.
In 2017, I finally took the leap and gave CAT with minimum preparation, assuming that it can be done with speed and some rudimentary knowledge.
Ah, I failed, miserably!
So I tried again and finally, in 2018, I managed to secure a decent percentile and converted IIM Lucknow, Kozhikode, FMS and a few other B-schools.
I joined IIM-Lucknow as a student of the 2019-2021 batch!
A CA at IIM-Lucknow!
People say that CA+MBA is a deadly combination. I used to think the same.
After a year at IIM Lucknow, I have come to the conclusion that stand-alone the CA certificate or the MBA degree also have equal value in the long term.
I have seen CAs being some of the best Investment Bankers and investors. At the same time,
MBAs with engineering backgrounds also get selected in top PE/VC firms and end up performing exceptionally well!
However, what truly makes this a deadly combination to me, is how we can use an MBA to refine our learnings in CA.
For example, a CA can analyze the financial health of the company well but his output might not interest audience. This is where whole peer-learning comes into play! A CA can observe others presenting their findings and incorporate that style into his/her presentations. This best of both worlds creates the deadly combination.
What are some of the advantages that accrue to CAs in a B-School?
CAs are a rare breed on-campus. IIM Lucknow has 13 CAs out of 480+ students.
● Preference during placements
CAs are considered for some of the best profiles on campus for their in-depth business understanding and reputation associated with the CA certification.
CAs are mostly placed in profiles (in the order of priority) such as Investment banking, Consulting, Private Equity or Venture Capital, FP&A etc.
Most of the CAs on-campus come with work ex and are typically rank holders. Competition amongst CAs is not very high since everyone bags some absolutely coveted roles. CA fraternity in IIMs is closely knit.
● Easy entry into clubs and committees
It’s the bitter truth that the star clubs and committees look for strong profiles in any B-School and hence CAs find themselves better placed.
I am part of the Placement Committee, IIM Lucknow.
The pre-requisites for a Pcommer are the desire to help students and ability to work round the clock in the interest of the batch – add that to the existing grind of the first year of MBA!
Even the selection process at IIM Lucknow Placecomm is a once in a lifetime learning opportunity and an enriching experience.
CAs do have a slight edge in academics since some of the subjects are already covered in the CA curriculum. It’s not completely new for us.
However, subjects such as Economics, Quants and Supply Chain Management were tough nuts to crack for me.
IIM Lucknow is known for its Academic rigour with stringent grading criteria and cut-throat competition.
In order to attain top grades, it is essential to regularly revise and this possessed a challenge for me because of my PCom commitments.
What would be your advice to CAs and Commerce Background CAT aspirants?
● Get a head start on CAT preparation - at least 9 months before the D-day.
Pay special attention towards Quant and DI-LR sections, especially if you have been out of touch with the quantitative subjects for some time.
● The CAT and the interview preparation will take the same amount of effort. No B-school wants a person who cannot carry himself/herself well.
● Just like clearing CA did not end the struggle, neither will the CAT exam. Be ready to face bigger challenges on campus and prepare yourself to sail through MBA and life, in general.
And of course, have fun!
Placement Coordinator at IIM Lucknow
MBA (Batch of 2021)
Former Intern at Avendus Capital (IB), Ex-BPCL, CA & CMA
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