M Sivakumar is the Chief Executive Officer of ICT Academy. Through his active engagement in the field of higher education, he has made an impact in transforming the perception of the institution in terms of skills development and employability. The academy under his leadership has emerged as a successful social enterprise in the field of skill development.
His three decades of experience in setting up, promoting, and managing companies comprises of strategic planning, financial resource management, human resource management, product development and marketing channel management. He also has extensive experience in technology-enabled education and training industry, implementing large educational initiatives, instructional design and content quality management.
Sivakumar contributes his time and knowledge in multiple panel discussions of industry bodies such as CII and policy making bodies such as AICTE and universities. Sivakumar is a fellow member of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
On his educational background.
I belong to the 1982 batch of BCom from Vivekananda College, University of Madras. Stepping out of the college, I immediately took up CA and, after a brief work stint, completed it in lightning speed in 1989.
For those who oscillate in choosing CA, I would tell them to kill the dilemma. Accountancy is omnipresent; there are many career options, as every industry needs it. If you are dreaming of being a globetrotter, CA shall be your steering wheel.
How has your CA helped you in your corporate life, if at all?
CA seeds you with business acumen and the ability to take calculated risks. Moreover, it inducts you with the need for continuous learning. As a constant learner, I saw what I could do to instil the same spirits in the minds of future generations through skilling and up-skilling.
Further, as a CA, you have an immediate community to connect with professionally. Such connections have helped me in a big way to tread through the corporate world to effectively serve the academic community in my current role as a CEO.
What have been the key learnings from your CA?
It has given me a never-say-no attitude and a keen eye for detail. Moreover, the CA study sharpens your mind as it is regarded as one of the most challenging qualifications. It demands untainted perseverance that can't be bought with money.
If you had to re-visit your CA, what would you have liked to have been part of your course?
I wish there should be more emphasis on IT, systems management, and leadership skills in CA teaching and learning.
Moreover, there is a widespread mistaken belief that accountants should only be concerned about figures. However, communicating efficiently to provide financial guidance is a highly needed skill for every CA. Hence, I would urge aspirant CAs to develop excellent communication skills.
What have been the chief ingredients in your success/road to the top?
I always put my team first. Success is the fruit of team effort. In the early years of my career, I learned that a leader should be a people person. Your team looks for a partner in you than a boss. Hence, sporting situational leadership has always been the primary ingredient of my success.
Every leader should strive to build a well-knit team,well aligned to the organisation's vision. The morale of the team is in the morale of the leader.
My failures in the earlier part of my career have etched a strong person out of me, enabling me to take measured risks and succeed. Another key ingredient is the varied multi-national exposure that I have gained in the initial stages of my career. I cherish my mistakes but always ensure I never repeat them.
What have been your best and worst moments?
I remember the day when the company I worked for in Oman decided to suddenly wind up. I was ‘thanked’ one fine morning and bid adieu following the company's decision. I had no way of communicating the situation to my family that waved me off just a few hours ago to work. Of course, I walked out of the problem later, but it’s the worst moment in my career.
The best moment was when I met Lakshmi Narayanan, the Emeritus Vice-Chairman of Cognizant. I had no idea of him inviting me to meet. It happened at Park Sheraton, Chennai, where I saw an unassuming man shattering my imaginations. At the end of an exhaustive discussion, Lakshmi said, “I have found you.” These motivate me even today.
What would be your advice to young CAs who join the corporate sector?
Have a comprehensive understanding of various industries, domains, and businesses. While accounting and finance are their forte, they should provide the right guidance only if they have a thorough knowledge of various business verticals.
Are you happy with the way the CA is structured/taught today?
In my view, the three years of articles should either be reduced or better utilised. Emphasis on management, technology, and leadership education would add to the various capabilities that CAs develop during the course.
While CAs take to practicing or employment, they have lots of potential to establish and run start-ups. The course should nurture their capabilities to emerge as entrepreneurs.
What would you advice young CAs to read?
This question reminds me of Robert Kiyosaki's words, “When you are young, work to learn, not to earn.” If working to learn is taken care of, working to earn will become effortless. I can personally vouch that cultivating reading as a habit would aid reap significant benefits in any profession. A CA can have broad and in-depth knowledge of various verticals only through voracious reading.
I would recommend reading non-fiction, autobiographies, case studies, annual reports of leading companies worldwide, B-School reviews, and interviews of CA-turned C-level executives. Reading gives you the noose to harness a wider share of professional success.