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‘To thrive as a manager, people skills are more important than technical expertise’

Himank Harjai, an alumnus of Apeejay College of Fine Arts Jalandhar and Assistant Manager, Statutory audit, KPMG, says soft skills position you to act as an effective leader, an able communicator and a problem-solver who can bring clarity in chaos

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Himank, a Chartered Accountant, completed his class 11 and 12 from Apeejay School, Jalandhar before pursuing B. Com from ACFA. He has worked with KPMG performing end to end Statutory Audit of Hedge Funds and Asset Management Companies based out of Cayman Islands and United States. The 29-year-old also has a passion for teaching and has taught at the Jindal School of Banking & Finance, O.P. Jindal Global University. In an informal chat, Himank shares his journey, explains the key qualities of a good manager, gives crucial tips to freshers, and more. Edited excerpts:

Tell us how you got into teaching?

Soon after I cracked the CA exam in 2018, I bagged the role of an Audit Executive in KPMG where I worked for around 2-and-a-half-years. I left KPMG after I got an offer from O.P. Jindal Global University as a lecturer and a CA mentor. I took up teaching because I was always good with explaining and clearing doubts. A lot of my friends and others used to seek my advice on clearing the CA exam. I used to allay all their doubts and queries. That’s how I realised I had a knack for teaching. When I got a good teaching offer I couldn’t resist myself to take the plunge. You must be wondering, then why did I quit teaching? The reason being as a lecturer you are required to do heavy research and I didn’t find that part interesting.  Hence, I taught for a year or so before quitting the profession and re-joining KPMG as an Assistant Manager, Statutory audit. 

What are your key takeaways from your time at Apeejay and ACFA?

I joined Apeejay in class 11 before picking ACFA from my higher education. I will be forever grateful to Apeejay for honing my leadership skills which came handy in my corporate career. I was the Class Representative (CR) in classes 11 and 12, and in B.com first year. In B.com third year, I was made the Head Boy. As a professional, I have realised that your success as a manager primarily depends on ‘soft skills’ that are easy to take for granted. For instance, in my role as CR I had to serve as a bridge between the teacher and class. I had to take into account the opinion and expectations of every student. I applied the same managerial skills in my current role as well.

According to you, what are the key qualities of a good manager?

To thrive as a manager, people skills are more important than technical expertise. As a manager you need to have excellent communication skills to better understand people and situations. It helps build trust and create conditions for sharing creative ideas and solving problems. Secondly, providing regular feedback to employees based on their behaviour and performance. Regular constructive feedback helps guide everyone in the same direction and can significantly increase employees’ productivity. Thirdly, a manager must emphasise with employees. It’s one of the core competencies of emotional intelligence and a critical leadership skill. To sum it up, a good manager is an effective leader, an able communicator who can inspire a team, and a problem-solver who can bring clarity in chaos.

Does one need to be over a certain age to be considered a leader?

I believe there really is no “perfect” age to acquire leadership roles. It’s partially true that wisdom and experience only comes with maturity, but if a young person through exposure has acquired a good amount of wisdom, then I don’t see any problem. Those working around or under you know very well whether or not you have acquired a position based on merit. If a person has the right qualities not many will oppose him. Also, leadership is not a skill that you can develop overnight. It takes time. That’s why, I am thankful for Apeejay for providing me a platform to lead in school and college. 

Your advice to freshers?

Don’t fear criticism as constructive feedback gives you a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. If you shut down when people try to approach you, you will not be able to iron out your inefficiencies.  Secondly, upskill yourself continuously as it’s a sure shot way to future-proof your career. Also, never get complacent.

Dheeraj Sharma is Asst. Editor (Newsroom). He covers events, webinars, conducts interviews and brings you exciting news snippets. He has over 10 years' of experience in prominent media organizations. He takes pleasure in the small things in life and believes a healthy work-life balance is key to happiness. You can reach him at [email protected]

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