CFA @ 23!!! Interview with CFA Wizkid - Folashade Odejayi
This is the part where I get to famz. I and Shade (Flash as she is popularly called) were in the same graduating set in Unilag and we also worked together at Vetiva for a while. We also took our first CFA exams at the same time but while I went on to fail, she has gone on blazing the trail and now gives us clues to lead us in our quest for the revered CFA designation. In August 2015, she passed the final level of the CFA exams and in this interview, she tells us how she was able to do it at 23 and also shares some useful insights - DA.
Tell us about yourself (Education & Work background) – Thank you David. I studied Finance in the University of Lagos…finished with a good degree too. Since then, I have worked as a research intern at Vetiva Capital Management. I did this for 3 months after which I had to serve at a private school in Festac, Lagos. Once I was done with this, I decided to further my education and just generally build on my knowledge base, so I enrolled in the CFA program. Shortly after this, I got an offer to work with the corporate finance team of PricewaterhouseCoopers, my current place of work. Whilst there (about 2 and a half years), I have worked on engagements providing financial advisory services to clients in several industries in and outside of the country.
How did you get to know about CFA & why CFA? – I heard about CFA while I was in the University and I’ll add that this information didn't just come to me…let’s just say I went around asking what professional courses I could take to further my knowledge in Finance. This should come as no news to you, but I totally enjoyed what I was studying at the time and I was bent on practising and also learning a lot more in this field. I knew about most of the popular professional exams like ICAN, ACCA etc. but I really wasn't interested in accounting. So I just thought to myself that there had to be something similar for Finance.
I went around asking what professional courses I could take to further my knowledge in Finance.
How did you prepare for CFA – Well, I studied! Lol yeah…that quite sums it up, but I guess I can give a little more detail which may be helpful to a few people. My early stages of preparation were driven by fear…I must be honest…and this had everything to do with what people were saying about the exam and nothing to do with any personal experience. Of course, I had to get myself out of that phase (basically this fear had me postponing my exam date for the level 1 exam several times…hahaha!), register for the exam …everything fell into place after that. I got serious, decided to attend CFA classes and I would read every time I had the opportunity to. I read straight out of the curriculum (I always found this to be much more enlightening, interesting and practical…especially because I was more concerned with learning and knowing rather than just passing), practised a lot of questions and tried to make it as practical as possible. That’s the only way it sticks for me. My level II and III exams were a lot more practical because I had the opportunity to use a lot of what I was learning in the office…that for me was the high point of this experience…I just always appeared to be more knowledgeable than my peers in the office *laughs*. It was a difficult experience I must say, and this was primarily attributable to the nature of my work…I work long hours so my sleep had to suffer because I was determined my exams wouldn't.
Notes: for those who do not already know, Curriculum refers to CFA's official study books. There are also several other study materials which you can use asides the Curriculum.
How were you able to manage a demanding finance job and preparing for CFA exams? – OK, so I touched on that a bit with the last question. I basically had to create a mental time table. There were a lot of times when I really didn't adhere to this (needless to say, it was really difficult), but I always made sure that I made up for lost time. So this was my trick, I tried to leave the office by 9pm on the average, sleep once I was home…this was usually about 10/11pm depending on all I needed to do before going to bed, wake up by 2am and study till about 5/6am depending on my strength. On some days it was a struggle, on others, I did pretty well. My level 3 prep was the most difficult, it was always a struggle to be up and I really don’t know why that was the case. Anyway, I always used my weekends to make up…my weekends were totally sold out to CFA. In between classes and personal study, I really did nothing else…well…a few occasional hangouts with my babe and of course, church on Sundays. My office also gives 2 weeks study leave for the exam, so I always made the most of that too.
...leave the office by 9pm ...wake up by 2am and study till about 5/6am ...my weekends were totally sold out to CFA. In between classes and personal study, I really did nothing else
Now that you are done, do you have any special preparation secrets you might want to share? – Well, I don’t know about secrets but like I always say everyone needs to find what works for them. I know of a few friends who say they never looked at the curriculum and they have passed all 3 levels. That would definitely not have worked for me and I know this because I tried this in level 2 and I really didn't feel like I was learning anything concrete…there were always some loose ends and I had to go back to the curriculum to perfect my understanding…but then again, that’s probably because I started out my CFA journey with the curriculum. I practised a lot of questions especially during my level 1 and 2 prep, I really didn't have a lot of time to do this in level 3. The mock exams at New Frontiers (my CFA prep class) also helped a lot, the feedback was always a good tool to judge my preparation level at each phase. All said, perhaps my biggest secret was the fact that I read to understand and not to pass, so nothing ever seemed strange on the exams. And of course once this is the case, time is never a problem…except on the level 3 exam…lol.
What advice do you have for people currently writing CFA exams or planning to write sometime in the future?
- Have a plan, don’t just join the band wagon. Write it because you believe you may have use for it in the future. There are already a lot of demotivating factors associated with the exam…you really don’t want to put in all that energy into something you do not need or may never use. Also, that feeling of need creates a strong motivation which basically keeps you fuelled during the prep…there is a lot of burnout I must say, especially as you climb higher and of course, if you are combining this with a full time job.
- Make up your mind, find your motivation and prepare smart (preparing hard doesn't always give you success on the exam).
- For those who have started the journey, when you feel overwhelmed, take a break (and not just sleep…do something that relieves you of stress). I did this a lot when I had bad feedback from tests, or when I had studied for a long stretch of hours (especially during my study leaves); In fact, I would download movies while studying, just to make sure I had something exciting to watch when I needed the distraction.
How do you feel achieving this feat at such a young age? – Elated! To say the least. I started out not really knowing what or when the end would be. I had too many doubts, especially on result day…lol. It felt and still feels really good, especially because of the kind of knowledge I have been exposed to. I need to keep studying to retain and build on this of course, but I can confidently speak about finance now than when I had just graduated from University.
After this, what next? – I am still finding out. I am open to taking on roles in different fields in finance to put into use what I have been taught on the program and also see the practical side of things (I have my top areas of interest certainly). I intend to pursue an MBA and possibly, a few international roles. I am also currently working on a few entrepreneurial ideas I've had for a while.
Any extras for our readers? – There is nothing more rewarding than seeing ‘We are pleased to inform you….’ on result day after all those months of hard work. Give it your best shot, commit it to God and stay confident. Do not procrastinate, now is always the best time. More importantly…do not form an opinion of this exam or your success on it based on other peoples’ experiences, sometimes they do not give the full picture and their experience does not have to be yours…You are in charge of your time, you know what this means to you and you are the only one that can make it happen!
Do not form an opinion of this exam or your success on it based on other peoples’ experiences
P.S. If you need a prep class, New Frontiers is the place! It’s unbelievable how many intelligent people you have in one place.