Four and a half years is a long time, its almost 12% of the 38 years of active career human beings usually pursue (age 22 to 60). Back in 2015, when I was looking for opportunities to further progress my career, I applied at several companies, and found a way into CRISIL after a few rigorous rounds of tests and interviews. CRISIL was a dream company for me. After all, the company has an enviable brand equity in the world of finance, where trust and reliability is almost everything that drives your growth. Brand equity and trust are very closely related. However, the key reason for me to apply at CRISIL was that I had come across a large number of professionals who shaped their careers at CRISIL, and vouched that the company builds you for a career in finance. With a handful of companies that delved in the subject of equity research, CRISIL definitely stood out. With CRISIL came my movement to Chennai, away from my home town Bengaluru. It was a tough decision to make, nevertheless it had to be made.
Beginning with a role of a sell side research associate covering the chemicals sector in EMEA and transportation sector in CEEMEA was quite a challenging move, given I was covering European Technology in my previous role at Copal Amba. Not only was the sector demanding in terms of the rigor involved in understanding the functioning, but also the client was demanding with the quality of output that we produced. There was hardly any time to cope up and things scaled up too quickly for me, with almost every day being 14-16 hours long. As time passed, additional responsibilities in terms of owing the reports provided me a learning experience like no other opportunity did. Typically, the associates are expected to build and maintain models, and contribute to research pieces. However, some analysts provide associates with the bigger responsibility of drafting the entire research notes and valuation (including rating and recommendation), and it is these responsibilities that kept me on my toes throughout the tenure.
Owing to research restructuring in 2017, our coverage was enhanced with the EMEA consumer sector as well (a couple of companies from the chemical sector were dropped to compensate). The EMEA consumer sector was undergoing a large number of changes and the governments in those regions were working on facelifts to their economies, especially in the looming uncertainty around oil prices. From introduction of direct taxes for expats to levying of VAT to internalization policies (eg. Saudization in KSA) to opening up for FDIs to boosting tourism (expansion of the mosque) to cutting bonuses to declining consumer spending to budgetary issues - it had it all. Initiating coverage on a sector at such a point of time was challenging by any standard, and took a huge toll, while on the other hand, I loved the experience and the contentment that came along. Along with client appreciation, I also received one of the CRISIL awards for this effort.
Chennai turned out to be a nice experience, unlike what I had ascertained it to be. My movement in Chennai was limited to five places (1) Office in MRC Nagar - this is perhaps one the most scenic office locations in India, with the Adyar river entering the Bay of Bengal right in front of the office (2) Home in Besant Nagar - a beautiful place with all facilities at a stone's throw (3) Elliots beach (or Besant Nagar beach) - another beautiful part of the city to spend evenings or weekends, and for runs (4) the airport, and (5) the railway station. With this limited exposure, I was very happy and content with my life in Chennai, of course supported by the alternate weekend travels to BLR. In addition, the environment around me was good too - be it at office or home. I had this amazing choice of doing what I wanted to do, including being to myself when I wanted to. Occasional events and outings at work, and participation in CSR and running kept me engaged over weekends.
In 2018, I got married, and life had completely new dimensions all of a sudden. Fortunately, the city did provide a blissful experience to us - especially with the regular drives to the beach and a couple of trips to Pondi and nearby locations. While we were almost about to call Chennai our home for long, a career progression opportunity had come up within CRISIL, and this required me to travel to China. I was looking forward to take up client and people management responsibilities, and this looked very attractive to me. However, I had never imagined that the manager's job would be so tough. Decision making is a seriously difficult activity, and especially, when you are too very process/ technical oriented with little knowledge about organization and people, it becomes furthermore difficult. My formative years as a manager were very tough indeed. Previously in HDFC bank, I had an opportunity to manage a sales team. However, that was a completely different experience as the role was instructions driven, and everyone followed what was being required of them, and hence, it was relatively an easy ask to manage the team - of course caveats around people behavior always exist, especially around taking disadvantage of what is being extended to them.
Towards the end of 2018, we moved to Hangzhou in China and I started managing a large client engagement with my team based across multiple location including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, UK and India. It was a very overwhelming experience to begin with, especially considering that I did not follow the formal process of learning team management, which is to start with a team of 2-3 people and further, expand by taking up more responsibilities and increase the size of team. I began with a full fledged team of 24 persons and each of these persons were unique and excellent in their own ways. Not only did their focus and goals at work vary, but also their language, culture and outlook at work and life in general was different. To strike a note with people who had such diverse culture took a lot of effort, plus considering the fact that I had to now interact with ops, sales, admin, accounts, HR, and other divisions, vs my prior experience of interacting with the client and IRs only on a purely technical basis.
Over the next one year, the nature of work that I did changed considerably and so did my life. Living over 5,000 kms away from home, and where life was so very different and challenging. At work, there were new challenges everyday and the learning curve was vertical. Apart from managing my team, I was also a part of a few projects and other shared responsibilities. The China center was run almost like a start up and this exposed me to learning opportunities from almost every business vertical including finance, HR, admin, IT, training and even entertainment at times. I couldn't have asked for better kick start for a managerial progression than this role, which really put my gut to test every moment. The support, advise and guidance received from my managers during this period is something that I value the most. Towards the end of 2019, I decided to return to India as we were parents now, and parenthood came with new hopes and responsibilities.
The last couple of months in Pune have been no less than an adventure, given the situation around Covid19. I had been frequently flying between BLR and PNQ as my family continued to be in BLR for a while. During one such trip to BLR, the nation went into a lock down mode, and hence my return to Pune didn't happen. While in Pune, I decided to pursue higher education, and resigned from my job. Today, as I sit down to reflect back at the past 4.5 years at CRISIL, everything comes up before me like a flash, and I still can't believe that I have made this move. CRISIL was one company that I thought I will be a part of for a longer period. In fact, it would be surprising to note that I turned down job offers (with a higher pay) while at CRISIL simply because the opportunities that were extended to me at CRISIL were very engaging, inward looking and provided me immense opportunity to learn. While I would have loved to be in the office today to meet all those people who I worked with over the years, the current situation just doesn't warrant that, and hence a few emails are on their way to thank everyone. I remain ever grateful to everyone who trusted in me and helped me expend my energies on something so very valuable and in the process, molded me into a better person in so many ways. Thank you CRISIL !!
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying good bye so hard
- Winnie The Pooh