This engineer turned Chartered Accountant reveals how finance and tech as a combination gave him a leap in the world of crypto and blockchain
Arun initially pursued engineering but later opted for CA. While working in Canada, he decided to move from Deloitte to BlockZero, a firm specializing in digital asset infrastructure
- Do not drop the ball because things go against you.
- Mechanical Engineer, Arun Pazhayannur took inspiration from his father to take up Chartered Accountancy.
- Understanding a client's needs is far more important to succeed.
- Digital assets are the future and every corporation is getting into it.
My dreams were completely shattered
Growing up in Chennai, in a conservative setting made me study hard to get an admission into the MBBS programme in India. In fact, ever since class 7, I was clear that I wanted to be a medical doctor.
I even attained a ranking of 729 in the Tamil Nadu State Board exam. But, when I went for medical counseling, I could not secure a medical seat. I was off by just one rank.
Engineering was my backup plan. Despite how heartbreaking it was to take that decision, I went ahead with it.
Turns out Mechanical Engineering was not my cup of tea. I was contemplating dropping out of the course and exploring different options.
My mother however suggested that I should at least complete my graduation and finish what I had started. I did not want to disobey her and went with the flow.
Though after qualifying as a mechanical engineer from The College of Engineering, Guindy I wanted to move away from the field of engineering and thus my hunt for other career options started once again!
Changing lanes: CA after 4 years of engineering
My father was a practicing Chartered Accountant and had an audit and a consulting firm.
So I did not have to look any further for inspiration as my dad told me “Chartered Accountancy is a really wonderful space to work in.”
It was his infectious encouragement that made me interested in the world of finance.
The transition from Engineering to CA is anything but plain sailing.
For instance, accounting and tax were completely new concepts for me and at times it was overwhelming. But when I realized that the CA concepts were completely logic-based I started enjoying a bit of it.
I cleared my CA CPT exam fairly easily, thanks to my dad. He taught me about the double-entry system, the golden rules of accounting, etc.
The biggest challenge was preparing for the CA Intermediate and CA Final exams. To help me with the exams, late CA Srinivas became my tutor and never took any kind of tuition fees from me.
By the time I started my CA articleship most of my peers had gotten a job after graduation. They were all earning good salaries.
To make the situation even more unpleasant in the articleship firm I was to report to the people that were four years younger than me.
There was a whole emotional battle going on within myself.
But in hindsight it kept me grounded and made me understand that clients’ work matters more than these petty things.
Owing to my family and late CA Srinivas's huge support, I qualified as a chartered accountant in 2013. In fact, I got an all-India rank in two of the CA levels.
Finally, a leap in the world of finance!
I seemed all set to take a plunge in the corporate world, more so in the world of finance!
As a fresher I got an opportunity to work with one of the leading banks in the world; Citibank.
I started in their retail banking division, and to be honest it never felt like work. Every day was full of fun and good energy. Most of the people that have worked at Citibank also say the same thing.
One such colleague was working for a leading bank in Canada. While chitchatting he casually revealed how good the Canadian banking sector was. “There are plenty of opportunities for you in this sector,” he said.
That sort of piqued my interest.
He told me, that completing an MBA program in Canada would be the best way to enter the sector. He recommended me to one of the best MBA Colleges in Canada: Ivey Business School at Western University.
Although my parents especially my mother did not like the fact that I keep on studying however I enjoy studying.
Thus after working 5 years in Citibank across the retail and corporate banking verticals I took the leap to advance my career in Canada.
It was a one-year MBA program, which fit my requirements perfectly.
Halfway through the program, they organised their campus placement program.
Consequently, after finishing my MBA, Deloitte recruited me as a strategy consultant in their financial services vertical. I started overseeing the payment modernization team.
Quitting the Big 4 to enter the space of digital assets
I met Laurent Féral-Pierssens (founder of BlockZero) while working at Deloitte Canada. He was the leader of the Blockchain and Digital Assets practice of Deloitte Canada at that time.
One day when we met outside of work, he explained to me what his startup was all about.
I could see how passionate he was when he started discussing digital assets, and Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).
This made me want to join him in this digital journey.
Noticing my interest he recommended a few books and papers on CBDC and Digital Assets. Soon I started working for him pro-bono but the moment he got his first big client, I jumped ship.
In June 2020 I officially joined BlockZero as a management consultant and there has been no turning back ever since.
BlockZero is a Canadian consulting firm specializing in digital asset infrastructure. We help companies transition into the digital asset space.
I am in charge of building the financial model, the pitch deck, and advising them on their vision. This space is evolving at an incomparable rate and a lot of changes are taking place every day. It is pretty exciting to work in this space.
I do not understand why Crypto has some sort of negative undertone, considering it basically means cryptography.
It enables secure communication through the use of codes. You kind of protect your digital currencies with cryptography.
Nevertheless, we use the word digital assets instead of crypto assets.
And if you are considering investing in those crypto-assets, please consult an investment professional or an investment manager before you make the decision.
There are a number of cryptocurrencies in the world, but according to me, the key cryptocurrency that has proven its value and stability, in the long run, is Bitcoin. The remaining cryptocurrencies such as ether and Cardano referred to as alternate coins also exist and have their own unique value propositions
Many people ask me “What is the true value of Bitcoin if the central government is not monitoring it?”
For me, the true value of Bitcoin lies in its trustless nature.
Let me give you an analogy.
If you convert your money to US Dollars, you are technically betting on the government, the economy, and the geopolitical activities for that particular currency’s growth.
But Bitcoin is a completely decentralized digital currency.
You do not need to trust a single authority for the way this currency is governed. Because there are millions of computers working nonstop to ensure the sanctity of this system.
I believe Bitcoin has certain characteristics that make it more valuable than gold.
The big question - Should Engineers do Chartered Accountancy?
I think CA was the best thing that ever happened to me because it taught me a lot.
The engineering degree has paid off for me as well. Otherwise, it would have been difficult for me to understand the terms of Bitcoin mining or digital assets in general.
And my MBA taught me how to combine my accounting and engineering skills and think from a strategic point of view on businesses.
The learnings from three of the most elite degrees Engineering, MBA, and CA have helped me advance my career and it continues to do so.
Maybe if I had known about MBA finance during my high school years I would have taken that route way earlier. But that said, if you are in the 6th or 7th semester of engineering and thinking about finance, I think it is a great place to look at.
You should be very careful though because you are changing your complete path from engineering to finance.
Ask yourself these questions before taking the leap; “Why do I want to build a career in finance?” “ Is this something I want to do for the foreseeable future?” “What is the thing that is motivating me?"
Answer these questions honestly. It might help you.
And one thing I would like to say is that you should not take life too seriously. You need to enjoy the moments that you have and enjoy the decisions that you are taking.
(Video editor Subhankar Dutta)