I cleared CA-PCC in the first attempt but quit CA to join a startup & later pursued CPA Australia. Did the risk pay off?
- Hi there! My name is Shishir Chowkse. I hold CPA Australia designation and a master’s degree from Macquarie University.
- Like most commerce students in India, I decided to pursue CA from the prestigious Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
- However, mid-way through my CA journey (I cleared CPT and PCC), I dropped out and joined the finance team of a startup.
- After a few years working in the startup world, I decided to pursue the CPA Australia Program to further my career.
- Since then I have had the opportunity to expand my career in three markets – India, Australia, and Canada.
- Here is my journey.
Realization struck midway through my CA journey
My father who is a businessman always asked me to reconcile his books and that inspired my knack for Accounting.
As expected, I did Commerce in high school and after Grade 12 I sat for the CA Entrance exams.
I was privileged to clear the entrance exams (CPT) on my first attempt. However, as a 17-year-old, I was not clear whether to go for undergraduate or continue pursuing a professional course like CA.
So, I found a middle path - I decided to take a year off from college and join the corporate world. Here I gained practical insight into the roles undertaken by CAs, which gave me some clarity.
The following year, I joined Shri Ram College of Commerce.
In the meanwhile, I cleared the Professional Competence Course (PCC) alongside college and started working as an Associate with Grant Thornton in Delhi, India. This was in Aug 2011.
Like any 20-year-old, I was thrilled at first to be working at a Big Accounting firm. However, just a few months into my job, I realized I wanted to learn about different aspects of a business and not just accounting and taxation!
Quitting a Big Accounting firm to join a startup
By now the startup industry was booming in India, and I knew being a part of the startup world would give me an all-rounded exposure.
I quit my job at Grant Thornton and joined a startup as a Financial Controller. (People were surprised, but that did not stop me from continuing with the decision I had taken!)
I understood the intricacies of business only because of my time working at startups - I learnt everything from the product, marketing, fundraising, tech to sales and operations.
I did not want myself to get stereotyped as an Accountant or Finance guy and exposure in startups helped me achieve that.
I needed a professional qualification to grow at the startup
Fast forward, after working at various startups, in 2014, I got an opportunity at Shiprocket (a VC-funded startup).
Here again, I got some great exposure and by 2016, I was promoted to Associate Vice President of Finance.
I was looking for a long-term career at this startup and I decided to speak with one of the investors in the company about my growth prospects.
It was clearly laid out that obtaining a master’s degree or a professional qualification in Finance would really contribute to my growth and would make me stand out.
After doing research, I decided to pursue my master’s abroad and Australia was a viable choice due to its vibrant culture, course curriculum, people, living conditions and relaxed visa regulations.
There I was, headed for Macquarie University after having collected enough savings, and student loans, and after having bagged a part-time job in Sydney, Australia.
Whew! I was relieved and content with the decision I had taken.
CPA Australia lingered in my mind
While pursuing my Masters, I realized that if I needed a solid career in Finance having a professional qualification would be a big value add.
After another extensive research, I discovered that CPA Australia could help me gain the expert professional knowledge to do my job better and stand out in the crowd!
It also offered all the subjects I was keen to pursue and more so the flexibility I needed.
I jumped at this opportunity and enrolled for CPA Australia in 2017 while just starting my full-time work.
In fact, the first full-time job I landed in Australia was because I was pursuing CPA Australia. Speaks volume about the importance and impact CPA Australia has on an employer’s mind!
CPA Program paid off
The CPA program structure is well defined and articulated such that I never felt pressured or overworked while studying and working full-time.
After completing the CPA program, I took the opportunity to move to Canada as being a CPA Australia landed me a job there. More doors were opening!
You might wonder how being a CPA Australia landed me a job in Canada, right? Membership in good standing with CPA Australia may qualify you for membership with CPA Ontario, Canada. Is that not cool?
I was well on my way to self-discovering in the global arena.
“My experience pursuing CPA Australia.”
Frankly speaking, pursuing CPA Australia with a full-time job never made me feel pressured or overworked.
The coursework offers more practical rather than bookish knowledge which you can easily apply to real-world scenarios. I have used this at my work ever since I started CPA Australia.
I have to add that the CPA Program helped me to develop a global business mindset and gave me the opportunity to expand my career in three countries – India, Australia, and Canada.
Everywhere I have been CPA Australia has supported me with its international network.
One important aspect to point out is the CPA Australia team. It is one of the best teams I have interacted with. They are student-centered and more than willing to answer all queries swiftly.
“How different the CPA Australia curriculum is compared to other bodies?”
I must say it is their promotion of choice above everything! The program gave me the ability to choose from various subjects in the form of electives.
The coursework is more practical than theoretical and that is outstanding!
I know many reading this would be in a similar situation I was once in. However, what can help you is - trying to genuinely figure out what are your long-term goals. Think long term, think about what you eventually want to do in life, and align your path accordingly.
Now, do you think my unconventional path was easy and the right one? There is no telling which is the right path for you, choose wisely, do it because you want to, not for others but for yourself.
In today’s evolving world, a finance professional is more than just a degree.
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