Some unsolicited career advice for those starting out

I have been working for about seventeen years now. My first job was as a part time software developer in my mother's friend's company. Currently, I am a Co-Founder and Director of Patient Services at NephroPlus. As I keep saying, my only qualification for my current job is my GFR! Surprisingly, I have never worked in the area of my primary educational qualification which was in Chemical Engineering.

One thing that I have realised after all these years is that if you want to make yourself count in things that matter in any job, you need to understand the numbers, the financial part of it all. Whether it is software development or healthcare or even in an academic institution, money is one of the most important things in any venture. If you look at for-profit entities, this is pretty obvious. The company has to make money. It has to make surplus cash after accounting for all expenses. While this may not happen immediately, in the long run this has to happen for the company to survive.

Even in the case of not-for-profit entities, it is critical for enough funds to be available for the day-to-day operations to be run smoothly. So, though the entity may not generate surplus cash, it is important for some other balancing mechanism to be in place.

Let's face it: in any entity, cash is king. You need cash to run your entity. You need cash to keep it sustainable. You need cash to oil the machinery.

This is probably the only common thread across all organisations.

Therefore, you need to understand the numbers to be taken seriously in any organisation. You need to understand the various financial terms. You need to be well-versed with accounting principles. You need to be very comfortable with financial statements and how to read them.

Now, you may be content being good at your domain and you may find numbers very boring or worse, intimidating. But then, you must also be content not rising to the very top of your organisation. You must also be content not being involved in the decisions that matter.

The best way to get yourself setup for a position of importance is to do an MBA or an equivalent. An MBA gives you the necessary education to become adept at these things. There are many other ways to gain this knowledge. The important thing is to realise early enough that you need to learn these things and to make a plan to do so.

After all, that famous Bollywood actor of yesteryear, Mahmood had said in one of his films: The WHOLE thing is that, ke bhaiyya sabse bada rupaiyya!


Unknown said…
Hi Kamal,

Aplogies that i put a comment irrelevant to this post. But this comment is for a very old post of yours on "Robert Kiyosaki" book Rich dad/poor dad. I could not update a comment there. Please delete this once you read it...

I too read the book in 2014... Gradually got interested in his thoughts ended up reading some 7-8 books of the author. I too used to wonder if this was possible in Indian context. But rather than thinking like this and creating a mental block i used to affirm myself that "something similar..." must be possible. In his book he has emphasized to learn the "What" and 'Why" part of his books, but the "How" part must be explored and decided by us based on our environment and situation.

I really did benefit in the following wasys after reading his book...

1) The basic being to have a personal finance report card - A accountability of what i earn and what i spend.
2) Understanding that a bank FD and our money in saving account are really not investments...
3) Any one can achieve similar to what he did... But need to have (a) necessary information, like he had learnt about real estate (b) Good networking of people and (c) Willingness to take risk and (d) learn from mistakes made.

So let us see what take aways we could have in our context... I am sure, when you think about, you will find many things that you can implement.

Also i met a professor Rajashekar, who too was inspired by his book and has benefited a lot by implementing in Indian context. He too has written a book "Get rich and retire early" which covers what Rajashekar...( I still believe it is possible, but i have not put sufficient thoughts of what opportunities are around me.