I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey during my undergraduate university studies, turning my passion for graphic design and sales into a thriving design and sales studio business. From collaborating with printing firms and colleges to undertaking individual graphic design and Photoshop projects, I always aimed to go above and beyond for stakeholders.


My Path to Work at Professional Associations


After graduating with a bachelor of commerce degree, I seized the opportunity to volunteer at St. Elizabeth’s Centre, a charitable organization in the U.K. This experience away from my family and immersed in a different culture and language taught me valuable lessons in communication, independence, and the importance of saving for my future studies. After successfully completing my master of business administration degree from Christ University, a prestigious college in Bangalore, I delved into the world of stockbroking, gaining extensive experience in sales, marketing, building relationships, and fostering trust with clients and customers.



Fenil Vadakken


When I relocated from my hometown, Thrissur, in the state of Kerala, to Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, I faced initial rejections in job interviews due to the effect of Malayalam—my regional language and one of the 22 scheduled languages in India—on my pronunciation and accent, known as mother tongue influence. The call center positions I applied for were predominantly night shifts, and now I’m grateful for those rejections, as they steered me toward a different career path. Discovering my passion for assisting individuals and businesses in achieving success, I embarked on a 15-year journey in business development, management, strategy, relationship building, team management, and market expansion primarily at professional associations, culminating in my current role at IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants).


I owe a debt of gratitude to a recruitment agency that guided me to reflect on my career journey, interests, values, and aspirations. This invaluable advice led me to transition into the professional development and education industry. Throughout my career, certain principles have guided me: upholding ethics in all aspects of life and work, working for both myself and my employer, creating a personal brand, and making a lasting impact on organizational growth.


Identifying and Closing Skills Gaps


Conquering my fear of presenting to groups, I implemented effective steps that boosted my confidence to speak to anyone.

  • Listening to good presentations and imitating different presentation styles.
  • Practicing presentations by recording yourself and analyzing them.
  • Reading aloud with varying tones of voice to improve speech delivery.
  • Building confidence by doing sufficient research, acknowledging your own expertise, and engaging with others’ perspectives.
  • Sharing thoughts, seeking opportunities for collaboration, and appreciating others’ contributions.
  • Elevate yourself by telling yourself, “I can definitely do this.”
  • Practice emphasizing the main concept throughout your presentation, relate it to real-life situations, and break it down into simpler components.


I’ve consistently chosen the road less traveled, supporting and mentoring those who seek guidance and encouraging their professional and personal growth. Every organization I’ve been a part of has contributed to my knowledge and skills, and I’m grateful for the exceptional leaders who have guided and empowered me. I’ve been fortunate to work for leaders who provided support and challenges that facilitated my growth, and it’s important to pay it forward by mentoring less-experienced colleagues.


Prior to my tenure at IMA, I worked at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) then had the privilege of building a sustainable and extensive ecosystem for Miles Education, a prominent professional certification training provider aiming for pan-India expansion. Through the launch of integrated and value-added programs, my team and I successfully established around 30 university and college segments for the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification.


The Typical Recruitment, Interviewing, and Hiring Processes


1. Academic qualifications and credentials carry significant weight in the hiring process. Employers often prioritize candidates who have graduated with prestigious degrees from renowned institutions and those with certifications such as the CMA and CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) from respected professional associations.


2. Social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, have become powerful tools for job seekers and recruiters. Self-branding plays a vital role in positioning oneself as a strong candidate while applying for jobs.


3. Many companies have realized the significance of employer branding to attract top talent. Companies actively showcase their work culture, employee testimonials, and career growth opportunities on their websites and social media channels to appeal to potential candidates.


4. References hold significant value as a reliable source of information on a candidate’s skills, work ethic, and cultural fit, emphasizing the importance for job seekers to build networks, establish connections, and maintain professional relationships with former bosses and colleagues.


5. Focus on cultural fit and hierarchy: Indian companies often place a high value on cultural fit within the organization. They consider factors such as interpersonal skills, communication skills, adaptability, and alignment with the company’s values and work culture.


6. Focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I): Indian companies are placing increased emphasis on DE&I in their recruitment efforts.


7. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of virtual recruitment processes in India and worldwide. Video interviews and online assessments have become more common, so participants should possess the skills to shine in virtual interviews.


The experience I gained during these periods laid a strong foundation for my role at IMA, which I joined as strategic consultant, country head, India, initially leading a small team and eventually focusing on driving market growth and expansion through strategic partnerships and collaborations with universities. The exceptional leaders at IMA have enabled me to drive transformative changes in the market and position India as a global leader in the accounting and finance profession.


Career Lessons Learned


Some of the great lessons I’ve learned and practiced throughout my career include:

  • Focus on a sustainable long-term growth strategy while keeping short-term goals in mind.
  • Even in challenging situations, uphold ethics and integrity to build long-term trust with managers, colleagues, and the members or clients in the market or profession you support.
  • Approach people and businesses with an open mind and a friendly attitude.
  • Foster relationships that benefit both parties, aiming for mutual growth.
  • Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of others, encouraging diversity of thought and collaborative work processes and providing guidance when needed.
  • Emphasize the collective “we” when representing your organization, supporting and standing with your team to achieve success. You can’t achieve organizational objectives alone.
  • Master the art of effective communication, adapting to your audience’s level of knowledge while maintaining active listening skills.
  • Cultivate your personal brand through commitment, work ethic, support, and strategic thinking, aiming to make a positive impact within your organization.
  • Stand firm in your convictions when you’re 100% convinced of what’s right, and, once you give your word, uphold it steadfastly.

My greatest learnings have come from engaging directly with people in the field, actively listening to their perspectives and empathizing with their wants and needs. It’s essential to cultivate an approachable demeanor while still maintaining the ability to think independently and disagree when necessary. During any conversation, it’s crucial to exude confidence and adopt a mindset focused on nurturing long-term relationships.


When starting your career, prioritize the experience you can gain over a high salary that may come with short-term rewards but limited opportunities to gain the skills necessary to build a successful career. Foster a thirst for learning and exploration, which will contribute to your long-term growth. Cultivate patience and carefully choose your career path while remaining flexible, keeping your overall professional goals in mind. The journey is just as important as the destination.


I’m impressed by the remarkable presentation skills and creativity that many of today’s students and early-career professionals demonstrate. As you embark on your professional journey, I advise you to cultivate patience and consistency. Take the time to understand the market, the profession in which you’re aspiring to establish yourself, and the specific requirements of the organizations with which you interview. While navigating your career path, always hold steadfast to your values, seek out different types of experiences, and work to expand your skills, as they’re what set you apart and contribute to your long-term success.

About the Authors