How a career break due to motherhood did not deter this CA from building a successful practice & now encourages other women to do so
- Hi! I am Nisha Patel, a Practicing Chartered Accountant by profession and a qualified Company Secretary.
- Hailing from the city of Dhokla and Fafda - Ahmedabad; I always dreamt of having my own office since my childhood.
- Fast forward, circumstances led me to CA and eventually I started my firm Nisha Patel and Associates and became a Senior Partner in a leading firm of Ahmedabad, Pramodkumar Dad & Associates with a 200+ clientele.
- Here is my journey of how I balanced between my work and professional life and how you can too.
Never wanted to become a CA but life had different plans for me
While growing up in Punjab, my parents always emphasized instilling rich values in me, my elder sister, and my brother. However, financial challenges in childhood, made me realize the value of money and hard work.
When I was in the 2nd year of graduation, my mother left me for heavenly abode. Her untimely demise left me devastated. Nevertheless, I did not have an option to stop.
I continued pursuing my dreams as I knew that it would make my mother proud.
I managed the household work and completed my graduation while studying to be a Company Secretary from ICSI (The Institute of Company Secretary of India).
CA was never on my mind. But as destiny would have it, after graduation, I secured a job in a CA firm. Here my boss encouraged me to pursue the Chartered Accountancy from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) and that is how my journey began
As, Norman Vincent Peale said, “It’s always too soon to quit”. So, in spite of facing numerous challenges, I refused to give up on my dreams, and it finally came true when I qualified as a CS in 2000 and CA in 2001.
Quitting the Big 4 & joining a startup CA firm as a Partner
Growing up, I have always craved for my own office, even if it meant a small space with one chair.
So, after qualifying as CA, I made up my mind to begin my own CA practice. However, having zero experience, starting from scratch would not be an easy task. I shortly joined Deloitte to gain some corporate experience which would come in handy when I make it on my own.
As this was my first job, I was high on enthusiasm. Reporting directly to senior partners, I got great exposure in Audits and corporate governance of large Corporates. One life lesson which I learnt as a young CA was that along with putting in hard work, it is equally important to showcase that work.
All was going great but deep down, I knew it was time to start my own practice.
Around the same time, in 2002, I came across a partnership opportunity at Pramodkumar Dad & Associates. Back then it was a small firm but I knew this was the right opportunity for me to grow.
I quit the Big 4 and joined this small firm as a Partner. With vision and teamwork, today it is one of the leading CA firms of Ahmedabad in Direct Tax practice.
After working hard and gathering experience in a few years, I also started my own proprietorship – Nisha Patel and Associates.
Building a name for myself and overcoming various challenges
Since I commenced my career journey at an early age, I needed to learn, relearn and unlearn as so many things in the practical world were quite different from the bookish world!
Initially, I did not let go of any work opportunity and in a short span had exposure in almost all areas- Audit, Income tax, Service tax, Company law, Reconstruction, IPO, Insurance, etc. (It was challenging to accept various assignments but I did.)
In 2004, I was pregnant with my first child. Around the same time, my husband and I jointly bought our dream house and had planned to pay loan installments from my income. But when I got pregnant, the doctor advised me complete bed rest.
Now, this posed a big challenge as no office for a year meant no income. Luckily we managed to make things work and somehow things sailed through. A very important piece of advice for young CA women would be to consider the risk of sudden career breaks before planning pregnancy.
Also, being a woman comes with its own set of challenges. You need to prove yourself on all fronts. So, did I. In the first few years, many clients resisted opening up and accepting a woman as their consultant.
Gradually, ‘my work’ started speaking for itself. I got referrals and my practice blossomed. Since then there has been no turning back.
Balancing motherhood and taking a partial career break
After the birth of my elder daughter in 2004, I rejoined work within 5 months. But at that time, I used to bring work home so that I was able to give my daughter time as well. I recall dandling my daughter on my lap till late at night and working on my computer on the other side.
My husband was always a great help in all those phases. My family, my mother-in-law, friends and even my neighbors supported me through the hectic days.
However, in 2012, my second daughter was born. Responsibilities increased- both at home as well as at work. It was then that I decided to take a partial career break and focus on my kids.
In spite of this being the best phase in my life and I was enjoying making some great memories with my kids, this was not an easy feat as I had invested almost 10 years building up the career of my dreams.
Luckily the decision not to go on a 100% career break helped me as I kept handling few assignments, worked on my networking, attended seminars, and kept in touch with old clients in order to keep myself updated so as to avoid going completely out of touch.
In fact, after this partial break, I shifted my focus on specific areas and now I deal completely with Direct Tax litigations, consultations, and Search and Seizure matters. This decision gave me work satisfaction, specialization and helped in maintaining balance in life and work.
To all women out there - It is okay to take professional pauses as a break, but I believe we shouldn't let this break evolve into a full-fledged stop, especially if we've worked hard to develop this career.
Timeline of my career [2001-Present]
- Years of struggle, balancing being a CA, joining Deloitte, getting married, joining Pramodkumar Dad & Associates, being a Mom, buying a new house, and most importantly, loving the roller coaster journey.
- Whether it was a new profession, marriage, or being a mother, every chapter of this period was fresh and new. These were the years in my career when I was establishing a solid foundation.
- It was a time when I was juggling several tasks and establishing myself.
- Between my personal life, responsibilities for my child and my expanding career, I had to strike a delicate balance.
- Established my firm called Nisha Patel & Associates, as well joined partnership in Ashish Nisha & Associates.
- In 2010, I purchased a new office.
- During this time, I worked on a variety of projects, the most demanding of which was restructuring, revival, and expansion of the firm, which opened up new opportunities for us.
- In 2011, we founded the CA Women Members committee at CA Institute, Ahmedabad.
- Due to the birth of my second daughter, I had to take a partial professional break.
- However, thanks to technology improvements and the steadiness of my profession, I was able to work from home part-time.
- This was a period of intense self-introspection. I took my time, focused upon my priorities, worked upon specialization to maximize my limited time to the best, and created my specialty in Direct Taxes litigation and Search and Seizure cases.
- The Ahmedabad Branch of the ICAI awarded me a "Gem of the CA Profession." I became the Convenor of the ICAI Ahmedabad Branch's Women Members Empowerment Committee.
- I also joined FICCI FLO and am presently a member of the start-up cell.
- During this time of COVID, we accepted and managed a number of large search and seizure jobs.
- Despite the fact that it was a terrible time for most of us, the faceless age of Assessments and Appeals allowed us to acquire projects from all across India, and we were able to cater to a large number of new clients, making it our busiest period.
I have faced innumerable challenges, and in the face of every adversity, I’ve looked for the solution rather than blaming the situation. Make this the mantra to your success, and you’ll see that no matter what life throws at you, you’ll always find yourself emerging victorious.
Adapt to any technological or other innovation. We can do so little on our own, but we can do a great deal when we work together, therefore the attitude of ‘WE' leads to greater heights than the attitude of ‘ME.'
It is not always easy to juggle between your kids and your career. Every woman's life is different. The key is in striking a suitable balance between your family and career. There isn’t a fixed solution to every problem. Just Listen to your inner voice and choose the option which you think will work the best.
Finally, I would like to say, create your own brand by showcasing your individuality.