Life of Pai | From Accountant to Academic

Courtesy of Nishchinth Pai

Although students at Emory are no strangers to balancing many activities at once, few can say they have worked a full-time job while taking university courses like Nishchinth Pai, a second-year Australian exchange student at the Goizueta Business School for the 2017-2018 academic year.

“I would rock up to the office at about 8 a.m,” Pai said. “[At] 5 p.m., I would get on the shuttle [and at] 5:30 p.m., I was back at [University of Wollongong (UOW)]. I would study again from 5:30 p.m. till about 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. I would go home and sleep, then wake up and do this again about seven days a week.”

Pai was fresh out of high school when he took on the responsibilities of a full-time employee for HLB Mann Judd in Wollongong, Australia. While working for the company, he studied commerce part time at the University of Wollongong, adopting a routine that forced him to maximize every minute of his day.

His plan would have had him graduate in six years rather than in three, but would still provide him with enough time in a week to get through his course material.

Although Pai ultimately left the company in June 2017, the busy schedule he had adopted gave him a discipline that makes his choice of words careful and his demeanor calm and cool. Even as he sipped his coffee and jokingly ranted about a miserable delivery experience with Amazon, he could quickly change his dynamic and become firm and clear when talking about working full-time.

“What I did was completely crazy,” said Pai, giggling. “To be honest, if I went back home tomorrow I don’t think I could do it again.”

Working full-time at the age of 18 is a difficult task for anyone, and Pai — still uncertain about his occupational goals — was no different. He hated his first month, during which he worked for the firm’s accounting department.

“There [are] people who like accounting,” Pai said. “It’s very structured, and it’s very certain … [but] If there’s one thing you don’t like about it, you will hate. I hated it.”

Driven by the core tenet of doing “good work,” Pai refused to allow himself to work dispassionately and made it clear to his employer that he needed a change. After he requested a switch to a team that he found interesting, he was moved to a small team that focused on money management for “very wealthy clients,” according to Pai.

However, Pai made some costly mistakes during his first weeks on the job.

“[The company] did once buy $250,000 worth of shares for the wrong dude,” Pai said. “The dude [we] bought it for didn’t have enough cash to settle it. I had to get on the phone and tell a bunch of people to pretend it never happened. All in all, we only lost like $500 though … but it was still a bad mistake.”

While Pai had to trudge through the occasional misstep, he became better at his job through making mistakes. As a result, his work was at times handsomely rewarded.

“During Brexit — the actual day of the vote — we made $2 million in one hour … we had lucky bets in, and it worked out,” Pai said.

Pai eventually realized that he wanted to work with companies rather than having individual clients because working with businesses would allow him to “think in a completely different way,” he said.

He also chose to leave his job to study abroad at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, citing its strong finance department and reputation. Pai strives to one day become a part of the United States’ booming finance industry, a daunting task that he is propelled toward by his strict work ethic.

“[Pai] is very diligent and hardworking,” his friend Manishka Daryanani (20C) said. “He always puts his work before me. It’s a good thing [because] he won’t say that [he’s] going to give up time studying to hang out with me, and I admire that.”

Though cultivated discipline and diligence is associated with a compromised social life, Pai has found an equilibrium between his work and his personal life, projecting himself as driven and motivated without seeming artificial.

“I would say he has a good mix of professionalism and personality,” Pai’s friend and fellow Goizueta Business School exchange student Joshua Kothe said. “He is a pragmatic thinker who is laid back in stressful situations, but at the same time dedicated to getting the job done.”.

With a significant amount of experience under his belt at such a young age, Pai said his philosophy is simple: Do a good job at whatever it is that he chooses to do.

“It’s just doing good work,” Pai said. “If you’re doing really good work … success will follow.”

CORRECTION (11/8/17 at 6:17 p.m.): Nishchinth Pai was incorrectly stated as studying mechanical engineering. He actually studies commerce.

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