Earning My FateSimmy Ahluwalia | Director, Canadian Federal Public Service
While studying for my Master’s in biochemistry at University of Bombay, in India, I accompanied my friend to see an astrologer (to appease her nagging). Based on palmistry, reading the lines on my palms, the astrologer predicted two things:
1. I would live abroad
2. There would be a break in my studies, following which I would be a lifelong learner.
At that time I scoffed because I had no intention of leaving India or quitting my Master’s. Little did I know the degree to which these predictions would come true…
A year later I was looking back over my shoulder at my Master’s, not having completed the program, to become a stewardess so that I could see the world before I settled down into married life as a housewife. As fate would have it I got married and came to Canada. Did I say I would never ever leave India? Well I had to eat my words – the astrologer’s first prediction came true.
Within a couple of months of arriving in Canada in 1983 I was bored to tears from not having any family or the number of friends I had back in India. After some soul searching I came to the conclusion that for my sanity’s sake I would have to work to meet people. More importantly, to have the same lifestyle that I was accustomed to in India, I needed to get a well-paying job.
This entailed getting Canadian qualifications. A Bachelor of Science from India was (apparently) equivalent to only grade 12 in Canada. I approached the then-named Human Resources Development Canada to get their advice on job market availability and the qualifications I would need to earn a decent salary.
The advice I got; “You don’t have to study, with your experience as a stewardess, you can become a waitress.”
I was amazed by their severe under-appreciation for the duties of stewardesses and respect for my educational experience, and decided waitressing wasn’t an option for me. On the advice of one of my newly-acquired friends, I registered for the Certified Management Accounting program. At that time I only needed to complete 18 courses before becoming a full fledged CMA. The program has since changed, where it requires an undergraduate degree in related field before being eligible to register to apply to the program.
At the same time, I registered for typing speed-building courses and word processing courses, allowing me to get temporary jobs and start acquiring some Canadian experience. After completing the first three courses towards the CMA, I was able to get my first accounting job as a bookkeeper.
I continued studying part-time while working full-time, and along with my studies came the other titles—mother, chief accountant, supervisor, manager and director of finance. By the time I finished my studies six years later, I had another title: Certified Management Accountant (CMA) added to my name.
Throughout this journey, I was motivated because I wanted to do my best and have a good lifestyle. I managed to maintain an A+ average, this wasn’t easy. The days were about 15-16 hours long, with the working, studying and having a little baby. This was only possible because of the support from my husband and family, including the little baby who left me alone when I was studying, as long as he got to play with my calculator.
The astrologer’s second prediction had come true – the CMA designation was the start of the yearning for continuous learning and improvement. In my next post I’ll talk about my other learning opportunities.
Author Perspective: Student