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McKinsey Q&A: Akash

– Our Johannesburg office was recently accredited by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), which means students graduating with a degree in finance or accounting can join McKinsey as a business analyst and pursue their CA concurrently. Our program will be a TOPP program – a financial management training route that offers an alternative to the conventional Training Inside Public Practice (TIPP) required to qualify as a CA (SA).

Akash

To learn more about what this means for our firm and potential hires in South Africa, we sat down with Akash, an associate principal in Johannesburg who joined McKinsey after earning his honours degree and C.T.A. from the University of Kwa Zulu-Natal and working as an auditor with Deloitte for a couple of years:

Interviewer: What brought you to McKinsey?

Akash: I studied accounting, finance, and management in university to become a chartered accountant (CA) because most of the really successful CEOs in South Africa were CAs. However, spending three years auditing taught me that I wasn’t really learning what I needed to know to help companies make the strategic changes they needed to succeed. That is when, as fortune would have it, a McKinsey recruiter called me. Prior to that conversation, I knew little about the firm. I did my research, though, and then I was hooked. McKinsey was exactly the place I had been looking for – somewhere I could make a difference and help to shape companies’ futures.

Interviewer: What excites you about starting a CA program at McKinsey?

Akash: Many people see becoming a CA as a launching pad to do greater things. I did when I started my career. However, audit firms provide only specialised training; there is so much more needed to be successful in business. Most CAs become financial managers – they start as accountants and work their way up, possibly becoming a CFO one day. At that point, they are thrust into making strategic decisions and managing change; their choices profoundly impact their businesses and their employees. McKinsey offers you all of the training you need from the time you start at the firm. Now that we have a CA program, we can help tomorrow’s leaders develop deep expertise in accounting and a broader strategic business acumen.

Interviewer: Did your CA certification help you when you joined McKinsey?

Akash: There are many elements of consulting and accounting that are similar. Both tend to have project-based work. Both rely on strong relationship-building skills; your ability to get information is linked to how well you understand and relate to your clients. Being able to read financial statements and understand the implications of key ratios have also helped me identify important opportunities for my clients.

Interviewer: What advice would you give to CA students considering McKinsey?

Akash: I am a big believer in following your passions, so I suggest you first decide what you’d like to be doing in 10 or 15 years. If you’re yearning to make a difference and you’re really passionate about leading innovation, come to McKinsey.

The easiest way for you to find out if you will enjoy consulting is to review some of our practice cases. They’ll give you a feel for the type of problems we tackle and help you to prepare for interviews. We provide a tremendous number of resources to help succeed in your interviews – use them.

Interviewer: What has been the best part of your McKinsey experience?

Akash: Definitely the people. I have the most amazing conversations with my colleagues that help broaden my thinking. We’ve discussed everything from quantum physics (which I know nothing about) to artificial intelligence, theology, and anthropology. I’m grateful to be part of this community.

Interviewer: What are you passionate about outside of work?

Akash: My wife and I recently welcomed a baby girl, so spending as much time with her as possible is my biggest passion right now. I also love cars. I often read about the latest launches, specifications, etc. and I’m beginning a small collection of die-cast models of cars I’ve owned (plus a few on my wish list).