CA Archana Jain, Chief Finance and Accounts Officer (CFAO), Jagran Lakecity University (JLU)

Ambitions do not turn into magic overnight but require lots of hard work, passion, grit and determination to come to fruition. This statement’s perfect quintessence is the journey of CA Archana Jain, Chief Finance and Accounts Officer (CFAO), Jagran Lakecity University (JLU), Bhopal. Since her childhood days, Archana had this ambition to do something in life so that she is known for who she was and her work. To achieve this ambition, she knew that she had to work hard and create her own identity in the field she plunged into.

A Journey Par Excellence

All through her education in Chennai, Archana always stood out as the topper in school, college, and professional studies. She graduated as a deft finance professional from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India in 2009. Her professional journey kickstarted at Khicha & Prabhu Kesavan as an Audit Assistant way back in 2006, and then she worked with Scope International Private Limited as their Senior Finance Analyst. At the latter firm, which is a 100% subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), she was responsible for the preparation of MIS reports, finalization and consolidation of various reports, reconciliation of balances between various reporting tools like PSGL, CUBE, PSF Essbase, and PIPELINE amongst many other important duties. She was also a part of “Best Team” for Budget 2011 among a group of 700+ employees.

Since 2013, Archana has been working as the CFAO at JLU, heading all facets of Accounts Management and Reporting, Budgeting, Financial Controlling, and Strategic Decision Making. She handles taxes, loan negotiations, compliance filings, policy drafting, and several important portfolios on the university’s behalf. Today, she outclasses as a Certified Finance and Accounts professional and a Chartered Accountant, with over 15 years of experience in Internal Audit, Management, Management Information Systems (MIS), Microsoft Excel, and Consolidation. Recounting her journey so far, Archana says, “Education proved to be the tool I needed to mould my dreams into reality. My teachers at school and college have been my biggest pillars of inspiration in my journey”.

Always A Leader

At JLU, Archana has always been looked upon as a leader and not just a boss. Breathing extreme passion and love for her job, she takes up each challenge or problem and resolves it with full honesty, sincerity and most importantly, by adding fun and laughter to it. She believes that only when the leader is dedicated to the job, others feel inspired and aim to present their best. She also strives to deliver quality in execution and integrity in her conduct by being an inspiration for JLU. In a nutshell, empathetic communication skills clubbed with financial acumen make her an ideal professional for all verticals of any organization.

Spearheading a super strong team at JLU, Archana adheres to a simple formula to inspire them and create a healthy work atmosphere that is nurturing and encouraging. She ensures that every person who is inquisitive to learn and work hard gets appreciated for their excellent work. As a leader, she is well-known for the team that she leads and their work towards reaching the organizational goals. Not just this, Archana has experienced a lot of milestones since the beginning of her education, right from clearing all levels of CA in the very first attempt.

Her most significant milestone as a woman leader has been that she was the youngest and the only woman in university’s strategic core committee in 2013. It took her a lot of effort, patience, and dedication to reach this position amongst 100s of colleagues vying for the same position. She was also awarded as the ‘Outstanding Performer in the Year 2016’ by JLU.

On the other hand, Archana also had her fair share of bad days. At times, her strength became her own threat. She articulates, “TRUST is an imperative part of my work. It is important to understand people around me before I trust them, especially in the field of finance”. To sum up, her two important lessons were – To evaluate or understand people but have systems in place as organizations work on systems and nobody is indispensable. The other lesson that time has taught her is to be more humble as she climbed the ladder of success. It is easy to find the ladder but difficult to climb, and the most challenging part is to sustain it.

The COVID-19 Era

Especially during the COVID-19 era, most administrators in the education space faced a ton of grave challenges. Financial distress due to delayed fee collection was one of the major challenges that Archana and her team had to tackle during this period. They managed the daily operations by choosing an ad hoc team that went through professional training to work with COVID protocols. They ensured to be liberal with fee collection and introduced an easy EMI facility for fee payments, along with a 100% waiver for late charges or penalties. In fact, JLU was the first university in Central India to introduce an end-to-end digital platform for admissions inbuilt in its ERP. Yet, it was constant appreciation and support from both parents and the academic populace of the state country that made JLU survive this era successfully.

Currently, Archana is striving to transform JLU into a 100% cashless campus with end-to-end digital receipts and payment systems for all sorts of transactions. Her primordial goal has always been to uplift JLU into a world-renowned university for its high-tech, financially ethical practices. Speaking about her immediate plans, Archana is focused on strengthening JLU and making it resourceful enough to impart quality education to all. She adds, “We plan to reach out to PAN India by deploying our blended learning approach. Our four pillars – Student Centric Approach, Interdisciplinary Skill Development, Intensive Industry Exposure, and Global Network Connect, are the right guidance we have that help us move in the right direction and motivate us to take JLU to new heights”.

On a bigger note, Archana believes that two important changes should be inculcated in the current education structure, firstly, an increased exposure to the international education system and learning by practice. She takes pride in the fact that JLU is making these changes already while staying a step ahead with its inbuilt international student exchange programmes. Students at JLU are also exposed to a one-month learning experience with international faculties, summer internships/ short programmes at recognized foreign universities, and internships at the end of every year with leading corporates to help them apply their learnings at the workplace.

On the personal front, Archana’s typical workday has never been a 9 to 5 show but rather round the clock work. She is an individual who believes in exploring her own self in times of pressure and giving her best shot every time. She ensures to stay calm at work, especially during the admission seasons, through a simple 5-minute meditation break and a cutting chai.

To the Budding Women Leaders!

Archana believes that the number of women in top leadership and management roles is increasing over the past years, and all institutions and firms must focus on creating an empathetic workspace for women. At any workplace and not just in the education sector, women need to receive appreciation, recognition, acceptance, and better opportunities to undertake challenging tasks. She adds, “I was fortunate to have found it for myself at JLU”. For the budding women leaders out there, she advises, “Don’t give up! Each one of us has the potential to achieve something BIG. It is only YOU and YOU who can shrug the failure off and get back to work against all odds. Do not ever expect sympathy for being a woman, stop feeling sorry and stand up for yourself, and stand strong with all due self-respect.”

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