From clearing CA-CPT in the second attempt to Industrial Training at Unilever. Here is my story.
- Hi, I am Ajit Reddy, a CA Final student.
- Early in life, I decided to pursue CA and soon realized I wanted a career in the corporate sector (not a CA firm).
- After completing 2 years of articles at a CA Firm, I decided to go for industrial training, a gateway to the industry! Finally, in 2017, I got selected at Unilever.
- But what is special about me? Nothing except that I come from a small city, failed in my CPT first attempt, and still managed to get into Unilever for my Industrial Training.
- In 2020 while working at Unilever on a contract basis I qualified as a Chartered Accountant...it again wasn't easy but I made it.
- The reason I am able to smile every day even after multiple failures is - 'My job, and never giving up attitude'.
Behind the scenes of my CA journey
I come from a small city called Bidar, which is in Karnataka, India.
I decided to pursue CA when I was in my 10th grade seeing the respect CAs are accorded in society and of course the opportunity to do well financially as well.
While I was above-average in studies, I knew that academic excellence is not a prerequisite for pursuing CA.
I completed my Schooling till Class 10th in my hometown and later moved to Bangalore in 11th grade for my further studies and enrolled for the CA course from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) and here started my journey.
My initial journey in this CA course was not much of a struggle but the completion of CA Final is still a struggle.
CPT – CA Foundation level exam
- This exam is relatively easy and large nos of students appearing for it pass...however, I failed just short of 4 marks!
- Being my first academic failure, it was very tough to get accept the failure!
- After two days of moaning over this, I started analyzing why this happened - 'Was I overconfident or did I consider CPT exams just like any other exams?'
- Then I realized my flaws...I had not revised the subjects and was confident in the first reading itself. To add, I didn't give write mock tests or solve any previous papers.
- Having understood what I had done wrongly, I planned properly for the second attempt and cleared the same!
IPCC – the second level of CA
- Next, I had to clear the second level exams – IPCC.
- I gave it my best, studied hard (and smart), and cleared both groups in the first attempt.
- The best part is, I scored exactly 350 out of 700 marks, it was a near miss. So, it was a combination of hard work and luck both.
Articles from a mid-sized firm (not a Big 4)
- After clearing IPCC, I spoke to many of my seniors to get suggestions on articleship.
- Here they shared the pros and cons of mid-size firms versus Big 4 firms!
- Taking all the pointers into consideration - I decided to do my articleship from a mid-size as I wanted to understand the work from the very basic level which, in my opinion, was possible only in mid-size firms.
- I applied to Guru & Jana Chartered Accountants for articles, cleared the interview, and started my training with them.
- I soon realized that my decision of joining this firm was correct. They laid the foundation for my career and transformed me into a professional!
- To add, I was interested in Audit, so my Principal and managing audit partner respected my choice and gave me Internal & Statutory audits to work on for completely 2 years!
Applying for industrial training
- After performing many internal & statutory audits, I wanted to work in the financial reporting and analysis team during my industrial training.
- I started applying for Industrial training 3 months before my second year of articles was about to end.
- I applied to around 10-15 companies but got no response from many of them.
- Finally, I got an interview call from 5-6 companies, but I could clear interview rounds at only Bosch, Wipro & Unilever's interview. (Not bad at all!)
- Among all 3, Financial reporting and analysis work was in Unilever’s job description, so I took the offer!
- The challenges I have been facing in my CA journey is at my CA Final level as I could clear only CA Final Group 1, the second one is still pending.
- However, I am confident that I will clear group 2 exams soon and become a Chartered Accountant.
Industrial Training at Unilever
I joined Unilever in March 2017 and was there to replace an Industrial Trainee who was finishing his tenure in Unilever.
In the first 15 days, I was given a Knowledge transfer, was being trained, while performing several mock activities!
Everyone in the team was so humble and tried their best to clear my doubts. I asked every single doubt I had to the trainee and other members of the team, (it was very important for me to get all my doubts cleared during the training or else I wouldn’t have understood the activities and the process.)
As soon as the knowledge transfer was done, there was Quarter end pressure, i.e March 2017 end. Quarter ends are hectic, and I was just getting to know things.
I gave my best every day and fortunately, was able to deliver remarkable performance during my first quarter-end. My manager was very impressed by my skills and hard work and after this quarter-end, I was being given more quality work which they normally don’t expect trainees to work on.
The work timings were 10 AM to 6 PM normally (exceptions being Quarter ends and month ends).
I was not limiting myself to only activities that I was expected to perform but used to speak to people from different teams about their work, their experiences, and all...which helped in my overall growth.
Questions I get asked most often.
“How did you apply for industrial training?”
I had decided to get into Industrial Training even before I started articles. So, I started applying for Industrial training 3 months before the second year of my articles was about to end.
I applied through the Bangalore ICAI job portal website where companies post their vacancies.
But for students who are searching for Industrial training, I would suggest searching for vacancies on LinkedIn as well as ICAI portals of the particular region you are looking for.
The time lag between applying to companies and getting a final offer letter was around 2 months.
Frankly, I was not sure which particular company I wanted to work in, my goal was to work in 'Financial reporting and analysis' during my industrial training.
“How did you prepare for Unilever's interview?”
I got to know about the job description during my first call with the Interviewer which was a telephonic round; it helped a lot in preparing for the next round.
(Always ask for the job description, you will get to know which topics to brush up on for the interview.)
I had just finished my Financial reporting classes a week before the interview, so the topics were still fresh in my mind, and I brushed up on my complete Accounting knowledge before going for the interview.
I downloaded the Annual reports of Unilever for the previous 2 years. I went through the reports to know about the company completely. Trust me, this was one of the reasons I could ace my interview.
Unilever doesn’t have a formal dress code but since I was attending an interview, I wore Formals.
“What was the interview process like? Do share the specs.”
Unilever took around 5-6 days to give a call back after sending my CV.
- The first round of interview was a telephonic round.
- The telephonic round was more on the basic details and my availability for a face to face interview.
- I was briefed a bit on the job description. I was excited to hear it because this was exactly what I wanted to do in Industrial Training.
Face to face
The second and final round was a Face to Face interview at the Unilever office, Bangalore
Two senior Managers interviewed me and went on for an hour.
Firstly, they briefed me about the team I was going to work in and then. We had a discussion on the terms of the industrial training, like –
- When I would appear for Final exams
- Study Leave (I was offered 3 months of study leave)
- Working days (5 working days in a week)
- The subjects for which coaching was still pending
After all this, I was tested on all major accounting concepts, many situation-based questions. They did ask me why I chose to do Industrial training and why I chose Unilever.
(Guys, you should be well prepared to answer this. This will impact your overall interview.)
I was well prepared to answer these questions. The interview went really well.
And I received the confirmation from Unilever after 10 days of the interview since they were continuously interviewing many others for this role.
“Did you decide which team you would join?”
Yes, it was my desire to join a team that works on Financial reporting and analysis. And yes, it got fulfilled on joining Unilever.
During my first call with the interviewer, I got to know the job description briefly. When I attended the face to face interview too, I told them that I was looking for this work.
Key activities of my role:
• Automating the process of Monthly & Quarterly Reporting requirements
• Ownership of entity Balance Sheets, preparing balance sheet and identification and management of any potential risks
• Ownership of entity P&L, ensuring adequate analysis and reviews, exercise judgment
• Performing Month-end close accounting & reporting including variance analysis and preparation of supporting commentary
• Identification of areas of risk, under-performance, improvement and opportunity and development of an action plan to resolve
• Involvement in Reporting requirements including Variance Reporting, KPI Reporting, Cash flow analysis, P&L, and Balance sheet reviews
• Inter-company Accounts reconciliation
• Supporting on-site business teams (Accounts Executives, Accounts Directors, Finance Managers and Directors)
“What made you stand out among all the applicants?”
I think I was selected among many others because of the following reasons:
- I could answer almost all the technical questions. This was possible since I focused on the topics which I thought I would be tested in the interview.
- I could properly answer the question: “Why Industrial Training” and “Why Unilever” as I was prepared well in advance to answer these questions.
- I studied the company completely before going for the interview. I could impress the interviewer with the things I knew about Unilever. It had a positive impact on the interviewer.
- I was confident during the interview. The reason I do not get nervous in interviews is that I always remind myself before going for the interview “This is not the only option I have”. This has helped me stay confident always.
“Why the delay in clearing CA final?”
I made the wrong decision to write the first attempt without adequate preparation. As expected, I could not clear the exams.
In the second attempt, I was in such a hurry to clear the exams that I appeared for both the groups without having prepared either group well.
Now the question arises why I did not prepare well - After my Industrial training, I just had 1.5 months to prepare and that was hardly sufficient for both the groups.
In the third attempt, I wrote Group 1 exams alone and cleared them with exemptions in Financial Reporting and Strategic Financial Management.
The repeated failures made me depressed and I was no more ready to sit at home and just study.
Luckily, I got an offer from Unilever again to join them again in Dec 2018 after giving my 3rd attempt exams.
Have clear goals. If your goals are clear, then you can make some good decisions.
Do not follow the crowd. If you are thinking to join Industrial Training, you should be able to justify to yourself not anyone else, why you feel you should go for Industrial Training.
For those who have plans of starting a CA Firm, the best suggestion is to continue Articleship at a good firm and get exposure in every work done in a CA Firm.
The companies don’t expect you to have passed your CPT/IPCC in the first attempt. They are rather interested to know your conceptual clarity. So, if you have good knowledge and you are conceptually clear on what you have learnt, this will help you in getting selected.
Now It's Your Turn...
Are you looking for Industrial Training if yes happy to answer your questions?
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