Kala Krishnan recently caught up with Ami Mehta,alumna of JBIMS, Mumbai. She works as Manager - Financial Planning & Analysis - New Categories at Cadbury India Ltd. She was kind enough to talk about a few aspects around a career in Corporate Finance. She also gives us some perspective around how life in the corporate world is a couple of years after graduation.
1) Firstly, do you think theoretical knowledge you attain in a management school has an application in the practical work life or is there still a gap between academia and the industry?
Theory forms a part of our basics. Our basic ideas, concepts and principles are formed on the basis of the theory we learn in a management school. They are very necessary but at the same time the theory cannot be directly applied in practical areas, it always requires some modification and additional knowledge. So, there is a gap between industry and academia but the gap can be easily bridged through various techniques and experiences like training, peer interaction, work environment and work culture.
2)Today almost every other person has multiple academic degrees. Is it the need of the day or just a trend? How do you differentiate yourself in the crowd?
Basically it does help in getting the best paid jobs in the industry in most cases; but the bigger factor remains the opportunity for role changes which get restricted because of a single degree. For e.g., a single degree like a C.A may restrict your role while adding an MBA will give you a better platform along with a wider perspective to things. Areas like planning, analysis require candidates with a wider perspective and undoubtedly management skills.
However to differentiate yourself in a crowd multiple degrees are not the only thing, softer skills are also given importance. Aspects like how an individual approaches a problem, how he presents himself etc. helps him to stand out amongst the rest.
3) As an ambitious woman professional how do you maintain your work life balance? What suggestions can you give to young budding professionals?
It is not very difficult to maintain the right work life balance when you are clear from the beginning about your priorities. Companies today respect work life balance and help women allowing them flexible working hours. At many places this may depend on your rapport with the superiors but it can be achieved. I have also seen companies which encourage working from home 2 or 3 times a month which is extremely beneficial. The basic principle lies in making yourself clear from day 1 on your working hours and limitations and at the same time women can adopt means like working from home after a certain time or working while travelling so that you can leave your workplace early, thus various arrangement are possible without compromising on both your priorities.
4) Between a multinational and a small firm with greater responsibilities, which would you consider to be a better option for a starter?
It has to be an individual decision based on the benefits offered in a multinational or in a small firm with greater responsibilities. However there is no doubt that a multinational can be the best place to begin. It has all the best processes, best systems, and best compensation and also adds value to your profile. On the other hand in case of a small firm you learn to work from the grass root level and understand various functions. You grow and develop with the firm. Also in smaller firms there are no definite superior subordinate designations and hence everyone gets an opportunity to learn and grow together.
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5) Since you have experience in the field of corporate finance, what skills according to you are necessary to succeed and perform well in the area of corporate finance?
According to me analytical skills and an aptitude is important. Corporate finance requires professionals to be disciplined and structured in their thoughts. At the same time, however theoretical it may sound ethics play a very important role. Passion for learning is of utmost importance, if you have the drive to learn something new and have a basic aptitude then it is not difficult to enhance your technical skills.
6) How would you describe a normal day in the life of a corporate finance professional?
There is no fixed routine that we follow as corporate finance professionals. Also the practice of submitting daily reports does not exist. We handle different projects and work according to the circumstances. There is a new problem waiting to be solved each day and deadlines are extremely important. We have our daily work priorities and anything related to that which comes our way needs to be done.
7) Any piece of advice for the new batch of professionals or any experience you would like to share with them?
My only advice to young professionals would be not to enter any field with an exit option planned in advance. Your selection criteria should not be based on a fool proof exit plan in mind. What I mean is that at the entry level one must not be very choosy w.r.t a particular profile as pre-formed notions about an industry or role can be detrimental to the work output in a role.
As told to Kala Krishnan
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