From being bullied for her complexion to working at a Fortune 500 company this CA shares how she thrived despite all the challenges
- Hi, I am Nidhi Nagori. I am a chartered accountant from India.
- It was not a breeze growing up with ‘zero self-confidence’ and being bullied all through my teenage years but ultimately I changed the course of my life and found peace all because I dared to become a CA.
- Having an immense fascination with audit and the urge to do what my heart wants have taken me to places I never imagined I would go.
- From getting rejected for the articleship from a Big 4 to in the US and Canada, this is my journey of how I became my own hero and never let my gender or looks stop me from achieving my goals.
My Journey Becoming a Chartered Accountant
My story is truly that of 21st Century Ugly Duckling- from growing up with ‘zero self-confidence’ and being bullied all through my teenage years, to finding love, respect, confidence, personality and most importantly, PEACE, for being who I am! All because I dared to be a CA and go through the struggle.
I started my Chartered Accountancy journey in 2009 right after high school. I come from a family of doctors and engineers and hence, no one really understood what CA is all about.
I was a brilliant student my entire school life but when it came to CA, I saw myself slacking.
I missed out on rank and got rejected from a Big 4 when applying for articleship.
It felt like nothing in life could be more devastating than not having secured a ‘prestigious’ articleship. I did not know why I was rejected after all we all hear that – Big 4’s want articles who have cleared in their 1st attempt!
While growing I was deemed ‘DARK & UGLY’ by society and hence I took all those views personally and considered myself ugly and dark losing my self-confidence. In fact, when I was rejected from a Big 4 (when applied for articleship) I was devastated as I always felt academics were the only doors for me to succeed, losing out on that killed me.
I was sad and upset but I decided – To become my own hero and I did so – I did my articleship from – K. S. Aiyar & Co. a mid-size firm in Kolkata. My mentor always believed my gender should never stop me from doing anything in my professional life so I traveled extensively! While managing studies and a college with a 75% attendance requirement, my social life became zero.
I lost touch with most of my friends. Or as I see it now- I kept in touch with who was really important to me.
I found my love for audit and travel. I am very grateful to the CA course for this!
Qualifying as a CA…against all odds
Coming to my CA Final journey, as mentioned above I worked hard both while working and studying.
I gave my best and prepared for my CA Final exams and cleared in my 1st attempt. However personally, I hit a complete low when I lost my father 16 days before my CA Final results came out.
My life changed overnight, it wasn’t easy in fact really tough. Losing a parent is like losing half of your world and all of this happened when I was barely 22.
But as they say, when you hit rock bottom, the only place you can go is up, up and up. Losing him made me think of planning my life around priorities and taking positives from all situations. None of us can win each day; it is not the success or the failure but the courage to continue that matters. So I picked myself up and moved ahead.
I gave my best and cleared my CA Final exams in the first attempt.
Paving my own path in Auditing
Like any CA fresher it was time to look out for a job opportunity.
I fell in love with audit during my articleship and wanted to continue in the same field.
I went completely unprepared for my first campus placement and got no job offers. I was upset but then I attended another interview and got the job.
Post qualification, I worked with a Big 4 for 5 months and realized how difficult it was to be a working woman. However, I quit when a manager raised a question on the length of my skirt and moved to a Corporate Finance role in a new city, Hyderabad.
In a new city, I finally found myself coming to terms with my father’s absence and started earning to support my mother (who stopped working after my father passed away).
In fact, there were a lot of glamour options like IB, M&A, private equity – but I was happy doing Audit. When I moved to the industry for a corporate finance role, the thrill was gone, so I came back to audit.
Less money (not literally but ya!), longer hours, but that is where my heart was.
Starting all over in the US
I fell in love with someone in the USA. Being the ambitious mettle that I was, I wasn’t sure if leaving everything back was right.
My husband is a cardiologist and had no idea how audit worked in the USA. But I did research on opportunities for CA here and moved here in mid-2016. Leaving my world and my mother behind was the toughest decision I took.
The Difficulties I faced while in the US and How I worked on it:
- I was unable to follow accents everywhere I went. Even ordering food at a restaurant was a task for me!
- My first interview in the US had me in tears. It was a moment of failure again, this time worse than losing my father. I felt like I was losing myself!
After this incident – I did my research and learned interviews in the USA are less formal and more about casual conversations to get to know the candidate better.
Somehow I landed an opportunity with a Big 5 (since I was a CA) and worked an entire 1.5 years in Public Accounting.
It was during this time that I learned – How to dress up, how to accept a different culture, I started to get comfortable with accents and business meals and made sure that the only thing that stands out about me is my HARD WORK and not where I come from or what I look like.
I worked on my personality and appearance – Observing what other women dress up like, learning to walk and drive in heels (if I need to), watching videos to understand formal makeup, figuring what hairstyle suited me the best, integrating myself into American culture, sports, comedy, and food.
I was lucky to have a work permit in the USA but having no background here made me a complete outsider. It took an entire metamorphosis of both mental and physical self to be a part of the workforce here.
Some would disagree by saying – You do not have to integrate yourself into American culture, well when in America (or any new country) you have to, I am not saying change your values, I am just saying one has to blend in when in a new country and be aware of its culture etc. For that, one would have to learn to speak and conduct oneself in a particular way, keeping one’s values intact!
All I can say is – I put in a lot of effort to work on myself and I did all of this ‘FOR ME’.
How I built my self-confidence
When it comes to my personal life, if you look at all my pictures right now you might just feel – Wow, she is really all so confident and living her life to the fullest. But let me tell you I worked on it!
Yes, I grew up with broken self-confidence and almost no friends and hence, was convinced of my failure in life.
In fact, during my articleship phase, I started working on my self-confidence a little every day!
It has not been an easy ride, but it was never supposed to be. My parents always emphasized the value of good communication skills. In a sense, I was lucky to be an avid reader and fluent in English.
I always find time to read- World news every day and 2 books a month (fiction/ non-fiction). In fact, I started campus recruiting for my employer and interviewed many candidates myself!
Today, I work for a Fortune 500 company and travel to a new country every month and love myself for who I am and this has all been possible because of CA!
And as I write my story from the city of Cleveland in Ohio today, I wonder ‘HOW’ much has changed in the last 5 years of being a CA. If I can, ANYONE CAN!
It has been a tough journey. I gave up a lot of times. I lost some valuable relationships that never came back and went through a phase of wondering what am I trying to do with my life. But one has to keep pushing and growing!
I owe a lot of gratitude to the tough journey of CA. It is not the exams but those 3.5 years that mold you.
So make your choices right, do what you want to do, and dare to be in love with yourself.
I have always believed in following my heart, come what may.