Two Point(s) Someone – by Isha Bagga
Today, on March 29, 2010, I finally have the chance to get my act together and write an article for the blog, for the first time since I joined CCAP. This piece has been long due because of many reasons, the top two being:
1. I did not find time (Read: I am plain lazy).
2. I could not think of a topic to write on (Read: Lack of creativity).
We already have articles about life here, about the fun we have had, or the off-sites we have gone for, so before all the topics get exhausted, I resolved to pen down (rather key down) my thoughts about my leanings here.
Coming here directly after graduation, I had no idea about what a regular job meant, what people do sitting at the same desk the entire day (it’s not that I did not know that these people work, but I was still confused). Everyone studies, but how are you supposed to apply what you learn? I know the theory, but who will teach me the applications? And frankly speaking, why would anybody even bother teaching me the ropes? I know that a company derives economies of scale on expanding, but how can I notice those economies and what are we rating? So, with many more questions like these, scepticism in my mind, and a dream to conquer the world, I came to Mumbai and started this journey with CCAP.
The first month in NITIE was knowledgeable and enjoyable, but I was waiting for the ‘real’ work to start, because that was where I felt lay the answers to all my questions. The day I joined CRISIL Ratings as a CCAP intern was a milestone in my life. For someone who had been ignorant enough to have never seen an annual report all her life, the experience was initially a shocker. Was the report something full of numbers and other weird stuff written by auditors only because it was supposed to be written (as I initially thought), or did it tell me something about economics (which it actually was). Initially, I was given the work of understanding financials, tallying numbers, and extracting the hidden meaning in them: this might seem like plain old data entry with absolutely no learning involved to more experienced folks, but for an someone who had lived in the world of ignorance, this was a new challenge, this was something I did not know and had to get the hang of. I had to be proficient, if not excellent, in understanding financial reports if my dream of becoming a financial analyst was to come true (What did they see in me when they took me in, I kept wondering. I was as far from the finance world as one could be. Maybe my urge to learn and prove myself gave them confidence). This was like a mountain of never-ending work, and in the very first semester I got to learn some important lessons:
1. It is not all that difficult to sit in front of that computer all day long when you know that what you learn will stay with you for your life (not very different from school actually).
2. Numbers actually talk, they turn theory into application, and they are the application of economics in the real world.
The first semester went mostly into understanding financial reports and that presentation is as important as analysis. When I looked at other people working around me and the knowledge they had, I felt nervous that I will never be able to be like them or do the kind of superior quality work they produce. These people derived inferences that would not even occur to me. However, these very people showed confidence in me, and reinstated my belief in myself. I worked harder to achieve what I had come to achieve.
With the coming of the second semester the expectations from us at work increased; we were expected to get deeper into analysis. After all, that was the final goalpost for us—to become financial analysts. With the support of our mentors, we were able to move ahead, sometimes stumbling, but still having a protective hand around us to offer support whenever we fell.
This was also the time when we started talking directly with the representatives of the companies we rated. This was for me a huge charge. Even if we spoke with the client representatives for two minutes, for that period, we were the bearers of the CRISIL sword. Depending on our demeanour, a part of the outside world would form impressions about our company. We got to know that this job is not just about the rating, but also about effective communication, about making the clients understand their strengths and weaknesses, and get useful information from them for our work. This is where we had to prove our worth. The two most important learning from this semester were
1. Believe in yourself. Those around you may help you, but you will have to take the first step. It is not wrong to make mistakes, but always take away learning from your experiences.
2. Effective communication takes you a long way, but can only come in handy if you have a good understanding of the underlying principles.
The third semester started on a high note: we were expected not only to offer supportive analysis, but also had to start taking responsibility for our work. It was both exciting and scary at the same time. Our mentors supported us, but we were expected to let go of their supportive hold and stand on our own feet. It felt like eaglets being pushed off by the eagle, sure of their capability to fly but at the same time alert to save them if they fell. We were supposed to understand the financials, analyze, ask intelligent questions, and present all our observations. At first, this seemed difficult, and there were times when the pressure broke us, but we had to get up and spread our wings again. We made blunders, but the system was tolerant of our mistakes, critical only because they wanted us to learn. Everyone understood our constraints and motivated us to move forward. What I got from this semester:
1. I started to believe in myself and felt that maybe I had it in me to become a financial analyst
2. There is nothing more useful than properly done homework. You are allowed to falter, but do not let the fall harm you so much that you become unable to walk again.
The forth and final semester was when we became fully responsible for what we did. Sure, we were allowed to ask for help whenever we needed, but we were on our own when interacting with clients; we were representatives of CRISIL. While presenting the case internally, we had to rely on our discretion. We were the spokesperson for the client and at the same time we were also the ones who have an understanding of their weaknesses. We had still not gone the entire length, but the finish line was visible. We were still making mistakes, but these were not blunders. We had come a long way from where we had started. The best sprinters are those who can take the highest speed around the end of the race. Our writing and presentation skills had come a long way from where we had started and we had confidence in our recommendations. Learning:
1. Detailed analysis gives answers to all your questions.
2. If you have worked hard and have been sincere in your work, you are bound to succeed.
We are nearing the end of this journey. Throughout the journey, our mentors and heads have motivated us, always showing us the final goal we have to reach, paving the path for us, urging us to move ahead, and offering support when we stumble. We have been able to imbibe the CRISIL values without realising it. We believe in rigorous analytics, independence of analysis, working with integrity, achieving innovation in whatever we do, and we are committed towards our work. So to end the article, the final two points I want to make will have to be:
1. You have to get your hands dirty, if you want to achieve something. There are no free lunches.
2. Ask for help and you will receive it. Make the first move, and the people around you will finish your journey.
CCAP Class of 2010