Starting all over in the USA: This CA took a short career break and made a comeback with Meta; credits her effective job search skills

  • Priya Agarwal wanted a seat at the corporate table & CA was her ticket to travel and learn new tasks.
  • Her family was the biggest support in helping her find her dreams after college and even in the USA.
  • She worked in a startup when she first moved to the USA and learnt so much about the life in Silicon Valley.
  • She is now the Finance Manager at Meta’s Reality Labs Product Operations & Accessories division.


The Corporate Dream

I was kind of a nerdy student back in my school days, that is what nowadays people call it right?

My dad himself is a chartered accountant, so I always had the influence that it is a very respectable profession.

But what really drove me to pursue CA was the dream to work in the corporate world.

Like most students, I did CA and B. Com together. I qualified as a CA in 2013 and here started another journey. A journey of finding my place in this big corporate world.

After doing CA, and three years of articleship I was very clear about one thing; I did not want to do audit and tax work.

I started reaching out to a lot of different recruiters at that time and that is when Goldman Sachs popped up. However, I had no idea what Goldman Sachs was at that time.

Anyway, I read a little bit of their history, prepped myself, and went in for the interview that was taking place in Kolkata.

The interview happened so naturally.  But, I still went to the campus interview at Pune as well. I interviewed with companies like Credit Suisse, and Coca-Cola.

I was very clear when I chose my job - "I do not want to do it if things are simple".

I think that is when I took the decision of going with Goldman Sachs.

At Goldman Sachs, I was really lucky to have been exposed to the world of FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis). It kind of gives you a 10,000ft view of what a company is doing, its finances, and most importantly, its future strategy and future plans.

While working with the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)  financial reporting team I got the opportunity to go to London as well. There I learnt how to work with cross-functional teams.  

Starting all over in the US – unexpected change

My husband is a software engineer at PayPal. Out of the blue, he got an opportunity to move to the US from Bangalore.

I had just gotten married, so my first reaction was "Should I just continue at Goldman Sachs?" I did try for an internal transfer but that did not work out. 

But I felt like "This is a very natural course of change that is coming for me, so let me take advantage of that".

With that, we came to the US in 2017 and relocated to California.

If you are in the Engineering field you might have a headstart - your spouse and his network. But what if you are a non-engineer Bay area newbie? A fish out of the water? Where do you start?

Yes, that is my story. 

By now I had completed 2 levels of CFA (US) and had one more level to go! 

Now I am thinking - Okay, how do I do to get a job in the US?

My brother and husband were great mentors to me and they told me one thing "Nobody is going to notice a small career break after ten years of working, It is okay to take a pause".

So until June 2017, my focus was to stay at home and study for my CFA exams. The break from my job search helped me.

I gave my CFA exams in June 2017. And right after the day of my exam, I said "Right, let's start searching for jobs"

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When the dream of living in the USA seemed unachievable this CA turned the tide in his favour with his never give up attitude

Job search in a new country... where do I start?

I remember applying to about 50 plus companies at that time, whether it was uploading on their sites or following recruiters on LinkedIn.

I got the first line of response from ten plus companies, which included both MNCs as well as companies whom I had never heard of before. 

When I went in for an interview at Katerra and Visa I already had two offers in hand.

The job at Visa was very similar to Goldman Sachs. They were giving me exposure to just expenses in the P&L.

Whereas Katerra was a construction start-up; a very different industry indeed.

And I remember how my brother and my husband, told me “It is Silicon Valley, and trying out new jobs is alright”. That is how my first job in the USA happened. 

So the entire job search process lasted a quarter... It was long, uncertain and stressful but also came with a lot of learnings. 

Entering the world of Meta

After spending a good amount of time in the construction industry, I was kind of getting to a saturation point. It was relatively slow-moving and I wanted a change.

Again, Silicon Valley is full of companies like Twitter, Apple and you name it.  

I knew I wanted to get into something which was more complicated and more diverse.

So, I started applying to different companies, and thanks to LinkedIn I got lucky. On LinkedIn, some of the recruiters had reshared posts of an opening at Meta (Facebook).

I reached out to them and said, “Hey, I worked at Goldman in the past. I saw your team has some open roles. Can I apply?"

And it worked out. I joined them in 2019 and that is when my career at Facebook, now Meta started.   

At Meta, I am part of the Reality Labs Division in an R&D segment which is a hyper-growth area where Meta is making a lot of investments. 

I specifically look at the cost side of the new hardware products and help them set targets. I also try to understand P&L, profitability and look after the Reality Labs accessories business.

If you think about it from a CA's perspective, it is about costing, analysis, and FP&A kind of role.

So I want to say to the CA community, that it is not something that you cannot do. It is about understanding the industry, the business, and the terminology.

I think the CA course gives you a good understanding of operations. This role is just embedded in cost analysis.

Also Read

How this Indian CA started his accounting career from scratch after Immigrating to Canada

Settling down in a new country?

To all the people who are moving to a new country, I would like to share some advice.

One - you need to have a mindset  of “What I know is good, but that might not be the way here.”  

Please do understand what is different in the new place and mold yourself accordingly. It will go a long way.

The other thing I would like to say is, that you have to be clear on what you do not want to do.

Let’s say you have been trying to find a job for two months and have not received a call from them yet. And one day you get a call for a contract-based job. Everybody faces a dilemma in this situation - “Should I just do it? I am tired of searching for a job”

That is when you ask yourself  “Is it something that I have always wanted to do or am I accepting the offer out of stress?" 

Stay true to yourself and have patience. 

One of the questions that I get a lot from people on LinkedIn is: “I am in India, can I apply to a company in the US ?” And I always answer that with a heavy heart.

I know how tough immigration rules are in North America. That is why you cannot apply for a company in the North American region unless you have a work permit in hand.

I would still say that should not stop you from thinking big. There are a lot of different countries now opening up with more relaxed immigration rules. So do not lose heart.  

Wrapping up…

I usually take one day at a time. Multi-tasking does not work when multiple life-changing situations are going on. Stay focused.

I want to say yet again that Linkedin is a powerful tool. I wish I had known more about it when I started my job hunting process.

Soft skills and networking are very important.  

Why? Because pretty much every company, including Meta hires folks who are collaborative.

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