This CA took 11 attempts to pass CA Final exams & is now the Financial Controller at PayPal India. What is stopping you?

The Finance Story

 

  • Hello! My name is Mohit Kapoor; a Chartered Accountant and finance leader.
  • Would you believe me if I told you that it took me 11 attempts to clear CA Final exams? Whew! What a worthwhile journey.
  • I constantly find strength in Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone’s words: "Going on one more round when you don’t think you can, that’s what makes all the difference in your life!”
  • Even though the journey was long and rocky, I developed professional acumen.
  • I am currently working with PayPal, a global payments technology company, as India Finance Controller, based out of Mumbai. My eleven attempts were definitely worth it all.
  • Here is my story.

Deciding to pursue Chartered Accountancy

I grew up in the beautiful city of Nawabs, Lucknow (India).

Upon realizing my affinity for numbers and gaining inspiration from my CA uncle, I was encouraged to take up Chartered Accountancy as a profession.

After securing good merit in senior secondary, I gained admission at Hindu College, University of Delhi to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons).

This was my first exposure to the external world; staying away from home and stepping into the real competitive environment, where all my peers were merit-holders in their respective fields of study.

Like most CA students in India, I started off with CA Foundation while still in college.  (To pursue CA from ICAI one needs to clear 3 levels of exams: CA Foundation (CPT), CA Intermediate (IPCC), and CA Finals along with 3 years of articles training.)

When I cleared the CA Foundation, life was great! All my hard work and dedication paid off – I was sure nothing can ever stand in my way. This was in 1998.

Simultaneous handling of CA Final exams and articles ‘The Big Struggle’

Soon after clearing CA Foundation, I migrated to the correspondence B.Com program and moved back to my home town, intending to pursue full-time articled training along with CA Intermediate.

Clearing CA Intermediate exams was a challenge as I failed multiple times. With perseverance, I was eventually able to conquer it. 

Now, I only had CA Final exams to qualify as a CA!

I made a thorough study plan and was so confident and convinced that nothing was going to stop me from succeeding. 

However, destiny had other plans as I missed clearing the Finals by a small margin a good number of attempts.

In 2004, after a few failed attempts, I moved from my home town, Lucknow to Delhi, and took up a job at a CA firm.

What next?

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After 11 attempts at CA Final exams, ‘The Big Struggle’ was no more

Being a person who has always respected ‘time’, I was stressed and embarrassed by years that went by without progress.

My confidence got shaken for the first time and I started to think of an alternative career path. However, the fact that I was so close kept pushing me.

My ‘never give up’ attitude, burning desire to qualify and encouragement from family helped me get back to fighting it out and continue with my pursuit of the CA profession.

Meanwhile, I was also able to secure a job in the assurance team at a Big 4 (Deloitte) consulting firm. (I have to mention, that throughout my CA Final attempts I continued working full time!)

During my tenure with Deloitte, I finally qualified as a CA in the 11th attempt. This was in 2007. 

Whew! The beast had fallen and my hard work had paid off...I regained so much of my lost confidence.

Multiple attempts did not stop me from applying to MNCs

During my pre-qualification days, my interactions with peers and professionals in the fraternity helped me plan for long term career prospects.

I made up my mind to join the industry instead of a consulting firm as a job in a consulting firm is highly demanding not leaving much room for personal time.

Like any newly qualified CA, I was very excited to take a plunge into the corporate world.

However; considering my number of attempts, getting opportunities was not easy. Whew! Not ready for struggles again.

My first few interviews were eye-openers for me.

Certain companies laid down expectations for the number of attempts on CA Final exams, while others looked down on me as soon as they knew about my 11 attempts!

(Based on internal policies and talent benchmarking, I am sure those companies had reasons for hiring early qualifiers. However, it was frustrating to discover that knowledge was not a primary consideration.)

Fortunately, Becton Dickinson and hiring managers were strong believers of talent, maturity and knowledge, apart from academics.

They made me an offer and I joined their internal controls team.

Also Read

This small town girl pursued CA against all odds and started her own firm when 3-months pregnant

Growing in my corporate career

I have been fortunate to have worked with great organizations and colleagues.

While my principal during articleship was my first inspiration, the Big4 stint allowed me to manage large corporate clients.

With my experience at Becton Dickinson and guidance from my mentor, I developed the managerial skills needed to succeed in the industry.

I made horizontal movements from Internal Controls to Controllership and then into Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) within a span of a few years.

Managing multiple functions developed my all-round abilities and gave me the confidence to lead the independently lead the finance function of a medical instrument company that was setting up operations for the South Asia region.

My way up the ladder to Finance Controller

Fast forward to July 2014; I got an opportunity at PayPal.

A business partner attitude along-with diverse functional knowledge allowed me to take up this role! The timing seemed perfect as the payments industry was all set to start off in the billion+ market, with other exciting startups and huge investments flowing in.

To sum it up, my attitude (of course with technical knowledge) has helped me grow in my career.

(I always looked up to the professionals in the industry on how they took challenging decisions and owned business responsibilities.)

Also Read

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Challenges

When I started my career post qualifying as a CA, I tried to make up for the lost time by working long hours. 

To compete with peers and succeed, there was always a temptation to put in that extra effort, which did take a toll on my health.

After a few years of work-life imbalance, I realized that there are matters as (if not more) important than my career.

I knew I needed to make peace with the pace of life and maintain a work-life balance for me and my family.

Initially, it was a challenge to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Fortunately; with the support of my wife, I was able to rework my priorities and get back to maintaining good health.

Wrapping Up…

My career path has not moved as planned. This does not take away from the fact that it has been an exciting and fruitful journey.

I have to mention that, in spite of having a rich post-qualification experience of over 14 years, I still face similar concerns of being a CA with multiple attempts.

However, all my challenges and failures have taught me to make the best of any situation, with an endeavor to keep moving towards higher goals.

I am so grateful for all my failures as they made me who I am.

As Steve Jobs said: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

(Article edited by Dida Copiso and image by Ankit Lodhi)

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