From just 65% in 10th grade to getting selected at Microsoft for CA industrial training
- Hi, I am Abhishek Shekhawat, a CA Final student from New Delhi.
- When I started my CA journey, I always wanted to associate myself with Big4 and the top 20 firms.
- I started my CA articles at TR Chadha & Co. LLP and shortly, after 6 months, I switched to Grant Thornton India.
- In early 2020, out of many applicants I was selected to do my industrial training at Microsoft.
- So, what is special about me? Nothing except I scored only 65% in the 10th grade and cleared my IPCC (CA Intermediate) in the third attempt.
- Here is my story of how I did not let my past academics define my future.
Only 65% in 10th grade and decided to be a CA
I wasn’t a brilliant student while at school. I always engaged in sports, dance & extra-curricular activities.
My teachers always used to tell my parents during PTA, "Dimag toh hai isme lekin padta nhi hai" (which when translated means - He is quite intelligent, but does not work hard at studies.)
Fast forward to 10th grade where I scored only 65% and you know as per Indian standards this score was not great at all!
I was very keen to have a career in dance and my parents encouraged me to pursue a career of my choice, however, I realized that my family needs my support and it was time I focus.
So, I dropped the idea of pursuing a career in dance and worked hard in grade 12 and scored 85%. This was a turning point in my life.
What next now? I knew just pursuing B.Com would not add much value so I started to research (my teachers helped me a lot by guiding me) and finally realized that Chartered Accountancy would be the ideal career for me. And thus, started my CA journey.
Did I ever think I would study to be a CA? Not at all. I chose CA because this was the only course that required "only me" and "not my marks".
First attempt CPT to third attempt IPCC – hurdles in my journey
Like most Indian students who pursue CA, I too started my CA journey right after the 12th grade. This was in late 2014.
I started preparing for the foundation level of CA exams, the Common Proficiency Test, otherwise known as CPT.
Luckily, I cleared my CPT in May 2015 (most students clear CPT easily!) in the first attempt.
Now it was time to prepare for CA- IPCC - the second level of CA exams. I had to prepare for 8 papers in total that are divided into 2 groups of 4 papers each.
I appeared for both groups of IPCC in Nov’16. Unfortunately, due to lack of preparation in a particular subject, I was only able to clear group 1 alone but not group 2. As with all professional exams of the Commerce stream, a CA student has to get 40% in all the papers of a group and 50% in aggregate.
In May’17, I wasn’t able to write all the exams due to ill health and so I failed again. It was not easy but I stayed positive and started to prepare for my IPCC attempt 3.
I wrote my IPCC exams again in Nov'17. Soon, a friend urged me to apply to one of the top 20 firms - TR Chadha & Co LLP for my CA articles. And guess what, I got selected.
I soon started my articles and in one month my IPCC results were out. I had finally passed IPCC in my third attempt.
Taking a transfer to Grant Thornton – the next step in my learning process
I loved my time at TR Chadha & Co LLP. The experience and learnings were fabulous but I realized I was attracted to larger MNC firms.
I started applying to larger firms and the major challenge that I faced was getting an interview call.
Finally, after almost 6 months, I got an opportunity with Grant Thornton, my technical skills and knowledge got me through in the interview.
I have to add that I got this role without any reference and it was a big achievement.
My experience at GT was amazing, I was in the risk advisory team and the learning was amazing.
Getting to know about Industrial Training – the groundwork I did
I always wanted to be a part of large International CA firms and learn their culture and after joining Grant Thornton, I felt that I had achieved my goal.
However, I soon got to know about Industrial Training.
So, after the first year of my articles, I started looking into Industrial Training (IT). My reason to choose industrial training was to get into the industry, helping me become a quick learner, spontaneous, and agile.
I also wanted to work beyond auditing/ taxation and I knew industrial training would give me that opportunity.
I did a little bit of research and towards the end of September’19 that I started looking for opportunities.
Quitting articles firm before getting selected for IT – a huge risk taken
One other factor which I had to take into consideration was if I want to pursue IT, then I will have to resign from GT because as per Grant Thornton’s Policy, we have to serve 2 months notice period before leaving.
So, I served my notice on 1st Oct 2019. It was a tough time for me since I had nothing but just a dream and a goal to do Industrial training.
(I would recommend you not to leave an organization until you have some backup plan. The stress is a lot!)
I applied to various reputed organizations including Investment Banks through LinkedIn and also by directly applying on the company’s website.
I kept searching for the right fit. For almost 1.5 months, I attended several interviews.
My only focus at this time was not to be a part of a group of people with a pre-conditioned mindset. It was important that I wanted to join a company where I had ample opportunity to explore and learn from the best minds out there.
Getting selected at Microsoft – much looked for an opportunity
Fortunately, after applying to several companies, I was shortlisted for interviews in 4-5 good organizations.
To my surprise, one of them was "Microsoft." I was beyond thrilled (and shocked) as I never heard of any CA who has ever interned in Microsoft.
Along with Microsoft, I attended the interview at several other companies. (Of course, I always hoped that Microsoft would select me so that I could be a part of one of the world's largest companies.)
After waiting for almost one month after the Microsoft interview, I decided to take up another opportunity where I was selected - it was an Investment Bank for the Consolidation profile.
As destiny may have it, just as when I was about to accept the offer, I finally received an acceptance call from Microsoft for Industrial Trainee. Woohoo!
The learning experience at Microsoft
I have always wanted to be a part of a leading organization.
Being from a commerce background I did not have much exposure to many IT tools. Initially, the only challenge I faced was in understanding the various tools & technology. I wasn’t so tech-savvy before joining MS but now I get the opportunity to work on various Power BI apps and other software.
All the details regarding the department and job description are very specific. They told me, in the beginning, itself that they were hiring me for Finance Control & Compliance and what the scope of my work was.
Microsoft treats its interns as part of their organization. It is a great learning experience.
I’ve learnt a lot here. My learning curve is going upward due to daily new challenges.
“How did you prepare for the interview?”
Well, I had prepared a summary & notes of the work during the two years of my articles. I did study some of the major concepts of Ind AS and Strategic Financial Management.
It is very crucial to have knowledge about day to day business, I preferred ET.
Market analysis and industry-specific details are musts.
Before appearing in any interview, one should have a good knowledge of the said company and industry as most of the interviewers expect that candidates have a reasonable knowledge of their business and industry.
"What was the Interview Process like at Microsoft?"
There were 3 rounds of interviews.
The first was a telephonic interview and the other 2 were detailed technical rounds.
They asked about my articles' experience by involving different case studies and scenarios. They also asked some questions on the boom in the IT sector.
"How long did it take for Microsoft to get back to you?"
It takes around 20-30 days to get a response from any company. The same happened in my case. I waited for almost a month to get a call from MS.
And MS has a very strong background verification process which takes around 10 more days to get an offer letter.
If anyone wants to apply for industrial training at Microsoft, then he/she can apply through LinkedIn. MS generally hires 2-3 CA interns in a year.
“Why were you chosen out of so many applicants at Microsoft?”
I have wondered about this and asked about this to one of my teammates after my selection. They said that - "I was spontaneous while answering the questions posed to me in the interview."
I did answer most of the questions correctly. When case study questions were asked, I took around 3-4 seconds and then answered very confidently.
While appearing in an interview, the candidate should be able to sense the room, which will help them to articulate their answers correctly.
My CA journey has been very ambitious, as after achieving every milestone, the new one is waiting for me. I kept making myself better than earlier.
I should say that all of these obstacles and milestones have helped me become more agile and spontaneous.
There’s a saying, “Don’t call it a dream, call it a Plan”. I am fortunate enough to be a part of such a well-reputed and well-trusted organization.
Be proactive in whatever you do, be it technology or knowledge. It will definitely lead you to be a better version of yourself.
Now It's Your Turn...
Do you want to do your Industrial Training or articles at a nice firm but thinking about how? Be confident and apply.