Cool job, right?
As a Train Ticket Examiner in the Indian Railways, Priyank Shrivastava did that (along with several other roles) for over 6 years. Then he thought it was time to move on to a more mainstream role.
Among the hurdles that stood in his way, was an exam that was notoriously tough to clear.
Priyank shares his phenomenal career change story which starts in a small town and ends in a big city – with plenty of action in between.
First of all, I would like to thank Careerizma for finding me eligible for this opportunity, Sometimes destiny plays its game with all of us which results in lifetime memories. For me, this article would surely be one of them.
I belong to Talbehat, a very small town in western Uttar Pradesh with a population of less than 15,000 according to the 2011 Census. When I was completing my basic studies way back in 2000, there was only one college in the town which had classes up to the 12th standard.
Modestly, I can say that God has bestowed on me an above-average intelligence. I was one of the best students during my childhood. I always used to be the topper in all my classes and was a leader in extracurricular activities too. On the day of annual function, after the prize distribution ceremony, I always found it difficult to carry all the trophies and prizes in my small hands.
My father was a Senior Accountant in the UP Health Department and my mother is a Principal in a Government school. Despite all odds, they always kept my studies on first priority and ensured that we get all the necessary activities to complete our studies and my elder brother and I never disappointed them with the results.
It was year 2001 and I was preparing for class 10th board exams when I came to know about the Vocational Course in Railway Commercial (VCRC) conducted by the Indian Railways for students appearing in class 10th.
The Railways organise an all India entrance exam for this course. Selected students are trained for two years where they study for the 11th and 12th exams along with railway training. After successfully completing the 2-years of training, they are taken into system as Train Ticket Examiner (TTE) or Commercial Clerks.
The entrance exam was conducted in Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh). Since I had never visited Bhopal alone, I decided to go for the exam along with my friends. I asked my parents for permission. But they thought I was too young to think about getting a job and that I should concentrate on the 10th board. With a lot of difficulty, I convinced them and wrote the RRB exam.
In May 2002, when I was waiting for result of the 10th board exams, another result also came out without much fanfare. We did not have the luxury of internet then and were dependent on ‘Employment News – Newspaper‘ to get the results.
The postman came home and told my father – “Aapke ladke ki to sarkari naukri lag gayi hai, pahle mithai do fir letter milega.” [“Your son has got a government job. I’ll hand over the letter only after you give me sweets.”]
This was the biggest turn my life could take. I had cleared the VCRC exam with 58th AIR (All India Rank) and was called to attend the two-year course in Mumbai. My parents were not ready for it as they wanted me to study further. After considering all the aspects (including financials), I decided to go for this course.
My elder brother had already cleared engineering exam and was doing his engineering course in Bhopal and it would have been bit difficult (financially) for family to handle the costs of two engineering courses. I convinced my family and promised them to continue with my studies with the job.
Meanwhile, my 10th results were also announced. I had cleared the board exam with 5th rank in the district.
I took the train to Mumbai – The City of Dreams. This was the first time I sat in a reservation coach with proper reservation.
After joining the course in Mumbai, I got my first shock. It was compulsory to take the commerce stream in the vocational course. That meant I had to say good bye to my favorite subjects – Maths and Physics. I took it as another challenge and started developing a love for Accounts.
During the course, I used to stay in a hostel along with 7 other roommates. This is where I saw the practical implementation of the theory – “Survival of the Fittest”
I used to attend the classes in morning and have fun after the classes. The most memorable day of vocational course was when we were deputed at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai station (Zonal Headquarter of Central Railway) to take practical training.
In 2004, I completed the vocational course with second rank in college surprising all batch mates. I was a Hindi medium student till 10th where I was taught in a vernacular language. But I decided to opt for English medium in the vocational course.
Initially it was very difficult to study in new medium. But the strong grammar and vocabulary help I got from my English medium friends (thank you Rajit, Lokendra and Rahul!) helped me in sailing through.
I was given the first posting at Betul Railway Station (District place in Madhya Pradesh) as Ticket Examiner and was promoted as Senior Ticket Examiner in 2 years.
I joined the flying squad (you must have often seen TTEs in Civil Uniform coming suddenly in train and checking your ticket). My job primarily included checking the station platforms and trains to catch passengers travelling without a ticket or with an improper ticket.
After being caught, most of the excuses people gave used to be fake. As we had experience in dealing with people, we knew who was lying. A few of the common excuses were:
In one instance, the passenger who tried to prove he was not well started to act as if he was going to puke!
People with improper tickets used to blame railway employees saying that enquiry clerk / TTE at the starting station himself told them that it is fine to travel in this train/coach with this ticket.
Most of the times, people were very courteous and we also always tried to help them as much as possible
Along with my job, I continued with my studies and completed my B.Com as College Topper in Betul.
Since, work pressure in government job was not high and squad duty provided me the flexibility of working hours, I used to attend the classes in day time and performed duty in evening/night time.
Since I was always good at numbers, I always wanted to go ahead in the field of Finance. Hence I chose to go for chartered accountancy course in 2009.
Along with my friend, Surya Prakash (he is also a Chartered Accountant today), I started preparing for CA. Both of us cleared the foundation level without much preparation as we had the conceptual clarity on subjects.
Clearing the second level i.e. IPCC was a bit difficult as I had to manage classes and jobs together. I used to perform my duty in night trains and attend classes in the morning. I cleared the IPCC in the first attempt in 2010.
This was the time when we had to take one of the most crucial decision of our life. In CA course, each candidate has to go through the compulsory 3-year full time articleship training under a practicing CA.
I tried to get 3 years leave from Railway but it did not work out. Now I was left with only one option and that was to quit my Railways job and join the articleship training.
Leaving a secured government job was always a difficult decision to take. I was sure that I would be able to crack the CA finals and hence on March 16th, 2011, I resigned from the Railways with my friend Surya.
Some of the railway peers called this decision as impulsive and warned us of unfavorable consequences. However our true friends encouraged us and motivated us to go for the decision we took.
I got married when I was in Railways. That made it more challenging for me to quit the job and go for articleship.
Fortunately, both of us got selected for articleship in Financial Services team of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Mumbai – a big 4 company in the world of consultancy.
I remember one of the simple questions asked by HR professional to which I gave a unique answer. She asked – “Why should we hire you?”
I replied – “Ma’am, you must have heard about the concept of opportunity cost, where other candidates are undergraduates and have nothing to lose, I already hold a decent job and will have to quit to join articleship with no guarantee of clearing CA finals, that shows the level of determination I have to get into this field.”
Both of us were selected for the articleship.
After joining in PwC, I witnessed the toughest phase of life. Intense work pressure, classes, studies and family, it was very difficult to handle all of them together. The day used to start at 4.30 AM in the morning, catching the 5.40 local from Kalyan to Dadar to attend morning classes. Classes would get over at 10 AM and we’d head directly to office.
During the busy seasons, work pressure at office was always high and sitting late was normal. I’d reach home late in the night and started the next day again at 4.30 AM.
This routine was the toughest challenge of my life I ever faced. Many a times I felt like giving up. But anyhow continued to work hard.
However, my wife always encouraged me and supported me during entire training period. My family and friends also helped in all the possible ways.
Then came the climax, I had my CA final attempt in November 2013. All the seniors at PwC helped and ensured that we got 5 months leave to prepare for the exams.
Surya and I studied together for the exam and appeared in November 2013. Despite all preparations, in every single paper it seemed like most of the questions were not from the syllabus (99.99% of CA candidates feel that way!). We were thoroughly depressed.
January 15, 2014 – The Result Day – Day which was the happiest day for me. ICAI had declared the result for CA finals. Over all the pass percentage was only 2.5% and I was one of the very few lucky students who had cleared the exam. I was on cloud nine.
I had finally achieved what I always wanted to achieve. I had the degree for which I was toiling for the last 4 years. Now I was a proud member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. Those two golden characters “CA” were prefixed before my name.
This has been an exceptional journey which has given me the varied experience.
On the one side, I worked in the Indian Railways dealing with the people from each and every section of society.
On the other, I saw the attractive and posh culture at PwC and the clients’ offices during articleship. Needless to mention that PwC has one of the best clientele in financial services.
Throughout the entire journey, I have believed in only one motto:
Life is one, so why think twice?
If you feel that you are capable of achieving something, you should definitely strive for it. However, there is no substitute for hard work.
Currently, I am working in PwC – Financial Services team as Senior Associate and dealing with new responsibilities given to me as senior team member on the assignments.
I will continue to work hard on a few more targets in life which I have set for myself.
In my free time, I love to teach, and do social activities with my VCRC friends. Candidates who’ve passed through the Indian Railway’s vocational course have set up a welfare society through which we help other VCRCians, conduct get together, sports tournaments and participate in charity events.
CA Priyank Shrivastava