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As I sat down on the rusty old swing in my balcony with a cup of coffee brewed to perfection, the chill of the cold winter’s air stirred me. It carried me four years back in time to an evening that had been equally damp with the cold penetrating deep. However, a more unsettling part of that evening had been something else, or I shall say someone else. I still remember every little detail of that one and a half hours, that seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.

The day had been quite uneventful and seemed like it would end like in the most usual way with me reviewing that day’s performance and planning the next day’s projects. Almost all my staff had called it a day and I was just sitting in my cabin with my stuff packed, ready to call it a day as well. Then all of a sudden, a knock on the door woke me from my stupor and a stranger stood before me. Without asking for my permission, he had stormed inside my cabin and before I could utter a word, he broke the ice.

“I am here for the appointment that we scheduled on the evening of day before yesterday.” he said. Oh in heavens name! How could I possibly forget this appointment, the meeting that I was pretty excited about?

Before moving ahead, let me tell you a little about two days before the meeting. I had received an e-mail from an unknown person, the same person who had knocked on the door. He said in his mail that despite being technically unqualified, he had some great financial skills and that he was looking forward to become a part my firm. I opened his resume and believe me, it was the most depressing resume a manager ever hopes to see. Presumably, a candidate who left his studies after twelfth grade and had been working in his father’s grocery store for over 3 years simply does not qualify as someone who would be of any assistance to my firm.

Then, just as I was about to junk his mail, my eyes fell upon another attachment that was titled ‘before deleting, go through it’. I decided to open the attachment with a thought that it would do no harm just to look at the file. What I read in the file was mind numbing. The amateur hailing from a grocery store had done his detailed research on the 2007 financial collapse and damn! The guy was totally spot on. In the light of the dazzling effect that the research had on me, I took out my phone and called the guy in an attempt to fix an appointment with him for day after tomorrow. The guy happily agreed.

“Oh! Forgive me. I almost forgot about the meeting. Have a seat and we will talk.” I replied to make up for the guilt that was filling inside me for letting this appointment schedule slip out of my mind. “I must admit that I am fascinated by your work on the 2007 financial collapse. I just want to ask you one thing – without any educational background, how did you manage to get such brilliant insight on the whole thing?”

The answer was gripping and mind-blowing. I wish to share every bit of his answer but it would be a bit too much. Rather I shall take the liberty of summarizing his reply and present it in a rather concise form. The following points that formed his reply are a small guide to how you can train yourself to be a financial manager without burning a hole in your pocket.

Step 1: Don’t just be observant. Be vigilant

When you look at the changes around yourself, don’t just see them from the outside. Rather try and go deep into the matter. It is said that one should not judge a book by its cover. It holds true when you are talking about finance. For instance, when talking about the change in a portfolio of shares, don’t just track how it changed with time, rather expand your vision and go deeper. Carry out an elaborate study of reasons causing every change. This way you can develop some understanding of the variables of the market.

Step 2: Internet – open source your knowledge

A student of mine asked me a few days ago about what book would be the most inexpensive if he were to understand the dynamics of financial governance. I knew what to say and quickly replied saying that the best source would be the internet. There is no point in detailing the vast reaches of the internet. All you need is to make sure that you are a vivid reader and you will end up soaking up all sorts of information at practically no expense.

Step 3: Pinpoint the specialty

Take up a few courses that do not lighten the weight of your wallet and yet increase the domains of your mind. There are short duration courses that will be your perfect accomplice in the scenario.

1) Financial modeling: The course will introduce you to and make you familiar with the art of making and analyzing financial models. All there is to be learnt and told about a firm will be in a cluster of spreadsheets. Once the course is done with, the art is yours.

2) Business analytics: It focuses on the development of business insights and understanding of business agendas. It focuses on the use and implementation of analytics in various fields like finance.

3) Operational risk modeling: it helps in regulating and forecasting direct or indirect losses by use advanced level of statistics.

Step 4: Profile building and adding points to your resume

I must admit the stranger guy from the story above was exactly at this stage in his financial career. Having learnt adequately, all he needed was the professional environment to bloom. And that’s the way it should be processed. Once you believe that you have some skill set, enter the market and take on the world head on. The worst that will come out of this would be rejection, the thing I personally call as a blessing in disguise. More importantly, with a few rejections and a few offers, you will have a lot more experience and your unexpected resume will indeed catch someone’s eye.

Step 5: Learn as you grow

It is said there is no limit to the sky. I believe that every subject is the sky having no limits to the extent that you can learn about it. When you are finally in the financial world, the volatile nature of monetary services will leave you with a new lesson on every turn. It is always in the best of your self-interest to accept what time throws at you with complete humility.

You might wonder what happened to the strange guy. Well, it’s like all other good stories with the perfect ending.

As a matter of fiction, the guy worked for me for some time, contributed heavily to the firm and in the process, he learnt vast amounts of finance. At present, he is doing his own business and is rocking the field of finance.

He never measured his success in monetary terms. His success was that he conquered himself and the limitations that were thrust upon him due to reasons unknown.

But as a matter of reality, there was no guy till date and I am still hoping to meet the guy. That guy can very well be you.