How this Cost Accountant & CFA Charterholder relaunched his career and got an opportunity in M&A by upskilling himself

  • Hi, I am Priyank Zala, a Cost & Management Accountant and CFA (US) Charter Holder.
  • I believe everyone has a story to tell and like others, my journey has not been easy; yet it has been extremely rewarding.
  • Here is the story of how my continuous pursuit of education has helped me grow in my career.

A series of events made me focus on studies

As a child, I was barely interested in studies. My interests lay outside the classroom! I was fascinated with cricket and dreamt of becoming a cricketer. But alas I found out I was nowhere close to following up on it!

Fast forward to 2001, my family went through a major setback on account of a natural calamity (earthquake). This changed everything for us and was a turning point for me.

I realized it was time to buckle up and focus on my studies as only education would play an important role in helping me support my family later on.

In 2003, after passing the 10th grade, I decided to pursue a career in Finance and hence took up the Commerce Stream.

After my graduation in degree in 2008, I realized that 'just being a graduate' wasn’t enough in an increasingly competitive world...I knew having a professional qualification was the only way ahead!

What next?

The pursuit of Cost and Management Accountancy

I did a lot of research and decided to pursue Cost & Management Accounting (CMA). I enrolled for the course in 2008.

Like any 21-year-old boy, I was eager to start working and join the corporate world. I even got a couple of job opportunities while pursuing my CMA and I was very tempted to join the corporate world but I knew I had to focus on my studies first.

All my efforts paid off when I passed the CMA exams in 2010.

Cost & Management Accounting helped me gain an in-depth understanding of various areas like Costing, Taxation, Business Valuation, Decision Making, etc.

Also Read

How this Cost Accountant & CS went from working at a BPO to running a successful practice

Stepping into the corporate world

After qualifying as a CMA, I got placed with Accenture through campus recruitment.

The induction process was rigorous with an initial group discussion followed by two rounds of interviews. While it was tough getting in, it was worth it as it put me on the right path.

I initially started as a functional consultant for SAP Finance & Controlling modules and later on moved into Finance, Team & Project Management, Client Delivery roles.

(Contrary to popular belief, the role of a CMA is not limited to the manufacturing industry. It is much broader. CMA’s play a vital role in making sense of the data by analyzing it efficiently for management decision making.)

Pursuing CFA (US) well into my work life

I have been always open to exploring different roles since I never wanted to confine myself to only one area of the organization.

I enjoyed the role but I was very keen on a career in M&A. But unfortunately, I was not getting a suitable opportunity. I knew upskilling was the way ahead.

In 2013, after 3 years at Accenture, I decided to pursue CFA (US). Resuming studies after a long gap was definitely challenging.

In order to utilize my time to the fullest, I used to study on my way to work. I also used to find pockets of 30-45 mins during my work hours to read & prepare for exams. All these small things added up, making a big difference.  

Needless to say, my weekends were completely occupied with studies with hardly any personal time left.

Through all of this, my biggest support system was my family. I have to specifically mention my wife, who made all kinds of sacrifices while I prepped for the CFA exams.

In fact, I failed level 2 and level 3 each once but my wife encouraged me every single time. Despite the setback due to my failure, I was not discouraged.

One point that I can’t fail to add is that I had a very supportive supervisor who used let me use the office’s library whenever I had time on my hands.

All the hard work paid off when in 2017, I finally qualified CFA level 3 and was a CFA Charter Holder. That was a great milestone to tick off.

Well apart from adding the much-required knowledge & skills in the finance domain, CFA has provided immense networking opportunities which is priceless, and its global recognition which is very important in today’s globalized work environment.

Also Read

This Cost Accountant qualified as a CA at 34 and later quit his job as Head of Finance to build a thriving CA practice at 42.

Upskilling myself opened doors & gave my career a boost

In 2017, just as I was completing CFA level 3, my organization offered to let me do an 'Executive program in global business management (EPGBM) from IIM-C' as part of the performance recognition for top performers in a particular year.

This was an opportunity that I could not afford to miss!

The one-year distance learning course with two campus visits to IIM-C really broadened my perspective. The learning was more practical with real-life case studies. It also gave me insights into subjects that I had never learned in the past like HR or Marketing. It was a great learning experience overall.

Upon completion of CFA & EPGBM (IIM-C), I came across an opportunity within Accenture in M&A which I decided to pursue relentlessly.

I had to go through a couple of rounds of interviews along with a detailed case study round which lasted for over 2 hours in order to be selected for my current M&A role.

CFA gave me a solid platform to gain an in-depth understanding of the technical skills required to make a career in investment management & finance.

My continued pursuit of education helped me with my current role...but it sure was a tough nut to crack.

Wrapping Up…

I am a firm believer that the need of the hour is to keep learning and adding value to one’s profile unlike earlier times wherein people could navigate their entire career based on a single qualification.

It’s important to realize that the life cycle of any skill is becoming shorter and hence it’s important for everyone to keep broadening their skill sets via continuous learning to remain relevant in the market.

It’s important to have an open mind at the start of your career in order to explore various roles/profiles which will help one evaluate their areas of interest.

Apart from having professional qualifications, your salary and growth to a large extent depend on many other factors like soft skills and on the job skills.

Finally, in today’s world, we can make the most of opportunities only if one is willing to network and invest time in looking out for them!

Now It's Your Turn...

Would like to know your thoughts in the comments section. Are you upskilling yourself?

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