How this English teacher dared to reinvent herself & turn CA at the age of 51
- Hi, I am Uma Krishna, a Chartered Accountant from India who dared to pursue CA at age 46.
- Being a bright student, I did my graduation in Chemistry, later did my Master's in English Language and Literature in Madurai, and eventually joined a reputed school as an English teacher.
- Even after being a teacher for more than 20 years, I was always a restless ambitious soul, who wanted to have a 'professional career.
- Luckily, a few changes in circumstances pushed me to pursue CS at 45 and then CA at the age of 46.
- In 2019, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant at the age of 51.
- Apart from my having a CA practice of my own, I also mentor and guide other aspirants.
- Here is my story of how I dared to reinvent myself in my late forties.
From a teacher to a student
I hail from a simple middle-class family; born and brought up in the small town of Kollam, Kerala (India).
Even though I was a graduate in Chemistry and had a Masters in English Literature, without any second thought, I joined a reputed school as a teacher of English in Madurai. (Back in 1991, women did not think twice before choosing to take up teaching as a career.)
Fast forward to 2007, a chance transfer of my husband took us to Chennai for 5 years. However, once we moved back to Madurai in 2011, I was at loggerheads as to what to do next.
As per my husband’s suggestion, I took up the Company Secretaryship course from The Institute of Company Secretary of India (ICSI).
As naive as it may sound, I was not aware then that it was a Professional course meant for the Commerce stream students.
I clearly remember going to the Madurai ICSI Chapter and when the assistant there handed over the voluminous books, that's when I became a little frantic about what I was getting into.
Then he said, “Ma'am don't worry. We are starting coaching classes in a few days". I sighed in relief. After a long period of 16 years, I started my journey as a student again.
Once I started attending classes for Taxation and Costing, I rediscovered my passion for studies. I was hooked.
I even cleared the first CS executive module scoring above 60 percent in all the papers (for the layperson who is reading this, 60 % is a big deal in these professional courses).
CA happened by chance when I was 46
By now, I was on a roll and started dreaming of starting a successful career in the finance field.
After some more research, I understood how a CA degree could empower me even further.
As luck would have it, around this time, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) announced the direct entry scheme for graduates enabling them to register for intermediate directly without doing Foundation.
Considering how old I was then (I was all of 46), I felt the CA course was the right fit for me since there was good scope for practice, no matter where I lived. (Though others around me thought I was crazy, after all, who dreams of a career that is too as tough as CA in their late forties!)
In Jan 2013, I summoned up courage and registered for the CA course.
In the meanwhile, I continued with my preparation for Company Secretary and even cleared CS executive all in the first attempt all through self-study. This made me more confident to conquer the CA mountain.
Family and studies – a balancing act that was akin to walking the tightrope
Yes, it was pretty tough managing the home as well as studies.
My kids were in their 8th and 11th grades. So, I used to wake up at 4 am to manage my studies and mom duties.
In the midst of all this, I realized that I had very little accounting knowledge.
So, I took coaching in the two Accounts papers, and in the same 9 months of preparation as the other BCom and CA Foundation pass students - I cleared CA inter both groups in the first attempt, standing second in the District.
I did get an award for the highest marks in Advanced Accounting as well.
I remember this conversation with my dad (he was an accountant at a private firm) when he said to me, “Isn’t CA tough? Will you be able to do it?” Fortunately, he was alive when my inter results were declared and was very proud of me!
Starting with my CA articles
It was now time to start my CA articles of 3 years.
I did my articles at a small firm in Madurai. Work-wise, I got good exposure in taxation and audit.
As ironic as it may sound, during article training, I was able to grasp everything better than the young kids, perhaps due to my life experience that had given me a lot of practical knowledge.
Yes, initially, I did find it a different experience studying and working with young kids in their early 20s. Luckily, we got along so well that they used to include me to hang out. It made me feel young.
On the personal front, it was very hectic as I had to cook for the family, keep the house neat, attend classes and go for articled training as well...but I kept going.
Struggling in CA Final and finally qualifying as a CA
After 3 years of articled training, it was time for the CA Final exams.
It was here that I made a strategic mistake. Since I cleared 7 papers of CA inter (it was 7 back then) in 9 months, I thought I could easily prepare 8 papers of CA final in 12 months. I did not realize that CA Final was a different ball game. The syllabus is very vast.
Yet, I began my preparation in earnest. My focus was on clearing CA Final also in the first attempt.
Again, another twist of fate happened in my life that prevented me from studying. Added to that was my dad’s death that shook me.
I did not even look at my books for more than a year. I went through extreme emotional trauma. I was in a financial crisis as well. There were times when people around me asked me to take up a teaching job and put CA on the back burner. But I was not ready for that.
Quitting CA was not an option for me at all. I did not think through it before I took up this challenge but I was determined to see it through.
I did write Group 1 of the CA Final a few times and faced failure due to my lack of preparation.
Then in May 2018, I decided that it was high time that I took charge of my life and started focusing on my studies again with full dedication.
Finally, in the 4th attempt, I cleared Group 1 in the Nov 2018 attempt, and in May 2019 attempt I cleared CA Final Group 2 in the first attempt.
Against all odds, I became a Chartered Accountant on August 14, 2019, at the end of 51.
I always had the regret that I could not do a professional course due to my own mistake when I was young. So when I became a CA and added the two letters before my name, I was exhilarated.
My family and kids were so proud of me. But I knew this was just the beginning of a long journey...not the end!
Life as a CA at 51
Beyond the praises, recognition, and media coverage, my life has undergone a dramatic change after becoming a CA.
Immediately after I qualified as a CA, I got a chance to be a team leader for the audit of the electricity department of the nearby Union Territory. It was a great learning experience.
I have gained the financial independence I was looking for. Also, this achievement at this later stage of life has given me the confidence and courage that I can do anything in life.
I am not exaggerating when I say that I have been given a fresh lease of life. Yaaay to me and all the women out there who are making it on their own.
Mentoring and coaching students - another twist of fate happened
When I took up CA, all I wanted to do was practice. I had no intention of getting back to teaching. My school teaching days were all in the distant past.
Man proposes, God disposes, right? After my Inter exams, a girl approached me asking me to coach her Financial Management exams. I guess even when I wanted to give up teaching and become a CA, teaching was not ready to give me up. I am, after all, a teacher at heart so I agreed.
Within no time, there were 7 students in total who wanted me to tutor them. So, I started tutoring them in my free time from August 3, 2014. (My own inter results were declared only on August 21, 2014. Now I wonder how I had the guts to start tutoring when my own results were not yet declared.)
Once I qualified as a CA, a few students started approaching me for classes again. As of now, I am a Chartered Accountant in practice but I do teach CA aspirants and mentor them Yes, it is another balancing act made easy by the fact that my kids are away at college and don’t need my attention so much.
As a person, I am the same with the same moral principles and integrity.
Though an extrovert, I was a little timid earlier. However, these 2 letters before my name have given me more courage and confidence than I did not have earlier.
I have to mention that in Jan'2020 after I attended my CA convocation, I posted the photo on my LinkedIn profile mentioning that I had become a CA at 51. To my surprise, the post went viral garnering more than 33 lakh views and around 1 lakh reactions. I received heartwarming messages from so many women and men alike telling me that after reading my story they are determined to pursue their dreams. This really helped me notice the impact I created and the people I inspired to pursue their dreams.
To men and women out there who are aspiring professionals, remember this:
- Age is just a number. It may sound cliched. But that is the truth. I am living proof of that.
- When I, with all my age-related memory issues could clear CA, so can you do anything at any stage of your life.
- You can reinvent yourself at any time. Just be dedicated and persistent.
- Make your life count. Leave a legacy.
- Your age on the day when you achieve your goal is of less importance than your reasons for pursuing it.
- Lastly, Be Bold.
CA Uma Krishna mentors quite a few CA aspirants, both young and old. She has mentees pan India and even a few from the Middle East. You can easily find her on YouTube and other social media channels or firstname.lastname@example.org!
Have questions for Uma? Comment below and let her know.
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