Kannan Arasaratnam, CA/MBA, is a strategic thinker with a quick wit. In our interview he explained how building a personal network, and obtaining his MBA allowed him to advance his finance career. Read the interview below to see the step-by-step process he undertook to get to where he is today.
1. Why did you become a CA?
I have had an interest in business for the longest time. At some point around 12 years of age I lost interest in reading the comics section, and started to reach for the business section of the morning paper. I knew that eventually I was going to go into business, but I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like, or what the best way to get there was. Both my dad and older sister were CA’s, and based on their advice and my own research, I decided that becoming a CA was a good route into business for the following reasons: (1) It would provide me with a solid grounding in accounting and financial analysis, which I believed would provide me with an edge against the competition; and (2) Working with and advising different companies would provide a variety of perspectives on best business practices, and also help me to decide which industry to focus on later in life….based on their advice and my own research, I decided that becoming a CA was a good route into business. For me the CA was a direct route into business. Not only did I gain an edge in accounting and financial analysis relative to other paths, I also gained a sense of job security. The CA was, and is, a prestigious, well-recognized designation and CA’s are viewed as sound business advisors. CA’s are generally in constant demand and it was nice to know that there would always be various alternatives available to me as I progressed in my career. In a nutshell, the CA designation provided me with a substantial foot in the door, either through expanding my network, a critical part of any attempt to accelerate your career, or through opening up interesting professional opportunities. Of course, having a foot in the door doesn’t always equal success, but it certainly makes things easier the CA designation provided me with a substantial foot in the door…
2. How did your decision to become a CA affect your choice of school?
Once I had settled on becoming a CA, the choice of the school became easy. I chose Waterloo University because of its strong School of Accountancy program, which had a high pass rate for graduates writing the UFE, the CA final qualification exam. Also, with Waterloo’s co-op program not only did you earn a paycheque along the way to help fund tuition, you also gained valuable work experience. Typically, most co-op students worked for qualified CA firms and the 16 months spent in co-op employment counted against the 30-month work experience qualification period for new CA’s. Additionally, by the time most students started employment full-time after graduation, they were hired as experienced senior accountants or managers instead of as junior analysts (as would have been the case without co-op experience). For these reasons, Waterloo University was the natural choice. I chose Waterloo University because of its strong School of Accountancy program, which had a high pass rate for graduates writing the UFE…
3. If you hadn’t decided to be a CA what would you have been? Why?
If I hadn’t become a CA I would have pursued an alternative path into business, likely either a Bachelor of Commerce or BBA for undergrad, coupled with an MBA after a few years of full-time employment. Ideally, I would have still pursued consulting as an entry point in my career, because much like a CA designation, I believe it would have provided me with a solid grounding in fundamental business skills and enough variety in order to enhance my experience and resume.
4. What were the key reasons for doing an MBA?
At the time I was a senior manager in a professional services firm and I was on the partner track. That said, I wasn’t 100% sold on becoming a partner and I was looking for something else to differentiate me from the competition, both within the firm and externally. Internally, most of my peers were either CA’s, coupled with a CFA, CBV, or some other technical designation or certificate. There were few MBA’s outside of the consulting practice and I felt this would provide me with an edge relative to my peers. In addition, I felt an MBA would open up opportunities to me that weren’t easily accessible for CA’s, particularly roles in strategy, sales, marketing and investment banking. That said, I wasn’t 100% sold on becoming a partner and I was looking for something else to differentiate me from the competition, both within the firm and externally
Join us Friday when we post Part 2 of Kannan’s interview where he tells you how to build a network and tells us all when we should feel “honored”.