How I cleared CA after multiple attempts and now working in Dubai

  • Who will be more successful someone who cleared CA in the first attempt and has zero soft skills or someone who has cleared CA in a  number of attempts but has soft skills? 
  • Hi, I am Farzan Husain a qualified Chartered Accountant from India.
  • I took almost 4 attempts to pass my CA Final exams. It was depressing back then but that did not stop me.
  • In spite of clearing CA in the fourth attempt, I got a good profile because what matters is your technical skills and soft skills not just clearing in the first attempt!
  • Here is my story of how I cleared CA after multiple attempts and still doing well for myself.

How Did I Land Into CA?

I clearly remember bringing while still in class 12 I randomly told all my extended family members that 'I wanted to become a Chartered Accountant!'

However, I was discouraged because they remembered their friends who pursued CA and never made it due to very low passing percentages!

Fast forward to 12th standard results day, where I casually asked this close friend of mine what he intends to do. And he said ' Chartered Accountancy'.

I was inquisitive and enquired about all the relevant details and within a few days, I had applied for the CA course from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India).

To put it simply, I chose CA because I saw a close friend was pursuing it - I thought to myself 'if he can do it, why can’t I'.

And here started my amazing journey.

Extra tip: In hindsight, it was quite a fluke decision but quite a crucial and good decision. I must point out that career guidance at the right time is key to a student’s success and I still feel very little is done on this front.

Timeline of my 6 years long CA journey

My CA journey experience has been gold. It taught me so much about myself.

To help you understand, CA from ICAI has three levels: CPT (PE-1), IPCC (PE-2) and CA Final. It also includes 2.5-3 years of articles training.

Failing PE-1 in the first attempt 

  • I had failed my PE-1 exam (1st level CA exam, earlier CPT was known as PE-1/ Foundation course).
  • It came as a big shock to me since I had never failed an exam before. Also, I failed PE- 1 which was considered the easiest level. So the failure was even more impactful.
  • I did not give up. I worked hard and started preparing to study again for my PE-1 exams.
  • I cleared CA PE-1 exams in my second attempt with really good results. This made me very confident and started to believe in myself.

Passing PE-2 in the first attempt 

  • I kept the same momentum going, I studied hard and cleared CA PE-2 exams in my first attempt (PE-2 is 2nd level CA exam, now known as IPCC which consists of 2 groups – Group 1 and Group 2).
  • Now after PE-2 I had to start with my internship of three years at a Chartered Accounting firm. This is known as articles.
  • After completing 3 years of articles I was eligible to give the last level of CA exams from ICAI - CA Final exams.
  • Once I cleared CA Final I would be a qualified Chartered Accountant from ICAI.

Starting my 3-year articles at a CA Firm 

  • Fortunately, I was able to begin articles after finishing TYB.Com so I didn’t have any college-related responsibilities.
  • Articleship is a great journey in itself since we are very young in age and this training molds us.
  • I would highly recommend working on Soft-skills early on.
  • As CA students, our studies will definitely make our technical skills good but in order to get ahead in Corporate life, soft-skills will take you a long way.
  • To Understand more about articles read here.

Tackling Challenges in CA Final 

  • After my articles, I got very complacent and casual with studies and it showed - I cleared my CA Final in my 4th attempt.
  • Failing exams is a very negative phase and it takes a lot of energy to remain positive and motivated.
  • Support of family and friends is key to get through the rough patch.
  • Identifying weak areas and strengthening the strong areas will be good.
  • Solve and understand past question papers of ICAI, time yourself as if one would solve in the exams.
  • Surround yourself with strongly motivated CA students, eliminate distractions while studying.

Did I join any coaching class?

  • Yes! I joined the most famous class back then. I took coaching for all the three CA exams - PE-1, PE-2, and CA Final. It was a huge help in my studies. Their notes were very well explained.
  • Coaching vs. Self-Study? I would say that it depends on the student. Coaching classes definitely shorten the learning curve and quickly get you up to speed, Self-study will surely get you there but it may take some more time.
  • However, I believe it largely depends on the student’s preference as both choices have one thing in common i.e. Discipline.

Starting my career as a CA Fresher and later moving to Dubai

After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I started my career at Deutsche Bank as an Analyst. I worked there for almost 3 years and later moved to Dubai.

Why Dubai? Since I am from Mumbai (India), Dubai is only 2.5 hours by flight making it very close to home. It is convenient and easy to travel to Mumbai multiple times in the year to meet parents and friends! At the same time, I am able to get international exposure. Also, the good part is that you will always end up knowing someone in UAE and they will be happy to guide during the settling process.

In Dubai, I started off as a Sales Analyst and later moved to the Corporate Banking segment.

My role involved making 'Business Proposals for Corporates' intending to obtain finance and a huge component involves Credit Analysis. (I would say that I’m able to take advantage of the Financial Management and Accounting knowledge that was learned in the CA Curriculum.)

"How to find a job in the UAE as a young accountant?"

There is no definitive way of saying how to land a job in the UAE. Here are a few tips:

  • The UAE job market tends to work more on references rather than a simple online job application process.
  • If you intend to move to the UAE, try to speak to as many people you can, in India and in the UAE. People are generally helpful in pushing CVs.
  • Also, try and do some research on the expected salary levels for the job role and seniority.
  • A lower salary in the UAE can be very frustrating because everything like rental, transportation, food, and lifestyle-related expenses get expensive. Interestingly, salaries in India have increased substantially in the past 5 years and I feel that it is fast bridging the gap when it comes to international salaries (keeping in mind the savings aspect)
  • UAE is an expensive place mainly because of the world-class infrastructure and high quality of living.
  • One suggestion - If you are getting interviewed for a specialist role, ask the interviewer what is the future scope of the job role i.e. how will it help you grow in career.   
  • People in general, move to the UAE primarily for the money but as a CA, also keep in mind future career options and career growth possibilities.

"UAE after VAT?"

  • Any new tax regime will bring new opportunities for CA’s. Work for tax firms has definitely increased in the UAE.
  • Keep in mind that the VAT is a very simple tax structure unlike India’s complicated Tax regime so it’s not necessary that only CA’s can do work related to VAT, even a B.Com graduate or an equivalent can do the same job. So even they can consider finding a job in the UAE in a VAT profile.
  • Fintech firms are also big beneficiaries of the new VAT regime.
  • Having said that, VAT is still very new to the UAE so be on the lookout for opportunities related to VAT.

"Think beyond typical roles for CA."

  • Audit and Tax are good career choices too, but there are a lot of other specialist roles like mine.
  • As a Chartered Accountant, one becomes flexible by qualification and can branch out into various complex job roles because these days corporates have become quite complex with their organizational structure and their product offerings.

"Seek guidance before deciding what qualification to pursue."

  • Before taking up CA or any professional qualification, I would suggest students - Take career guidance from the right and relevant people.
  • Do CA or any other qualification because it will help you achieve your career goals in the future not because everyone is doing it.
  • Company Secretary with a Law degree is powerful especially in the current climate regulations being imposed by Governments all over the world.
  • CA tends to become a default career choice in the Commerce stream mainly because a student ends up specializing in many aspects of commercial studies.
  • MBA Finance is also a good alternative to CA for those who do not intend to work in Taxation and Statutory Audit areas, however, with the plethora of MBA institutes, it becomes all the more important to pursue MBA from reputed institutes who offer placement options.
  • Having said that, I would like to reiterate that guidance is key, so try to speak to or reaching out to as many relevant people when it comes to making a career choice, don’t just follow one person’s advice.

"Network with other CAs to understand the opportunities."

  • After taking up CA or any professional qualification, speak to other qualified and working CA’s. Try to understand what kind of job roles people hold.
  • This will help one understand what kind of career path to take in order to grow in the future.

"Work on your soft skills."

  • Most importantly work on Soft-skills. I cannot emphasize enough on this. 
  • They’re harder to quantify than hard skills like programming, writing, or accounting, and they’re also more difficult to learn formally.
  • Many students think that getting a job is all about qualifications and technical skills. Those don’t hurt (indeed, they’re essential), but things like how well you work in a team, how well you communicate, and how well you understand other people’s emotions are just as important.
  • So work on your soft skills greatly.

Now It's Your Turn!!!

Do you have any questions for Farzan Husain?

Are you planning on moving to the UAE?

Leave your comment below and share your thoughts / ask questions.

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