Please tell us about yourself

Kala Krishnan, of Mumbai, was 17 when she was told by the Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics that she secured the first rank in Commerce in Mumbai city. Suddenly, she was a star who was being interviewed by local newspapers.

Krishnan was a girl who knew exactly what she wanted at a very young age. She once told a reporter from the prestigious website “I want to follow in my father’s footsteps as a legal advisor and a corporate communication executive. ”

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But Krishnan’s plan for her life is bigger than that.

“I want to have my own book,” she says, “a mix of fiction, self-help and philosophy. I want to open a publishing house to support young writers. I chose to study Commerce for my undergraduate degree because my country has too many talented writers. Commerce would give me a unique competitiveness in the job market.”

Kala Krishnan was born on Sept. 13, 1990, in Mumbai city, and her family originally came from southwestern India near the border of two states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. She grew up with her parents, L.N. Krishnan, a Chartered Accountant in Mumbai and Latha Krishnan, a yoga teacher.

Krishnan says her parents are often more like encouraging friends, and her family shaped her character, giving her confidence, self-motivation, ability to be reflective and her maturity.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?

While she was studying commerce at the Narsee Monjee College, which has a reputation worldwide for being demanding academically and strict when it comes to discipline, she never lost the desire to write. Krishnan was a deputy editor of the school’s magazine and also wrote for financial websites.

She also insisted on taking a course at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam). The exam is grueling with more than half of those taking it – including finance professionals – failing it, according to the AICPA (The American Institute of CPAs). Krishnan was just 21 when she passed the exam and started working at Ernst & Young as an associate in the firm’s transaction advisory department.

After working as a financial professional for almost two years, she decided it was time to take the journey to a strange country. She talked with her father and uncle about making a big change in her career, studying abroad, pursuing her life-long love of writing. They showed nothing but support, giving her the strength and courage to explore and adventure.

Now a 24-year-old graduate student, Krishnan is studying public relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, the top PR program in the United States. She has taken the first big step toward completing her plan.

How was the experience at Syracuse?

Alone in Syracuse, she began to feel overmatched.

“When I got my place in Syracuse, I was frightened. “Krishnan says. “I wouldn’t go out of my house by myself, or at night. It is so quiet here. I worried that some dangerous things would happen.”

She refuses to compromise her interests because of a demanding study load. “I loved writing and communications from the beginning and I want to make sure I end up in a job that lets me do what I enjoy the most,” she says.

And now she is writing blogs for the Newhouse Insider Blog and joined a writing workshop and other interest groups, including the Toast Masters club, dance class, sports club, choir group, cultural group and spirituality class. She also looked for internship opportunities and headed out for movie nights.

Being an international student at the Newhouse School, adjusting to new surroundings and a different teaching method can be challenging. With those challenges, however, come great experiences. As a public relation’s master’s student at Newhouse, when I am not writing press releases, news stories or media kits, I am expected to network and the Social Commerce Days proved to be a great chance to do just that.

As a chartered accountant from India, I have studied finance and business for most of my life. I love communication, which is why I decided to pursue a degree in public relations and pursue what I am most passionate about. I was looking forward to the Social Commerce Days at Newhouse because of the event’s reputation as a great networking opportunity. I was hoping to make contacts and learn a few strategies that I could use as a beginner in the field.

Tell us about a few important takeaways during your course

After three days of seminars and workshops, here are a few key points that stood out for me:

  • Good public relations are the byproduct of companies doing the right thing.
  • As communicators, we are master articulators of a company’s strategies.
  • You want to tell one story five different ways.
  • Tactics can be replicated; it is your point of view that sets you apart.
  • Have the courage to deviate at any point in life and follow your passion.

“Relevance over reputation,” says Gary Grates, leader of the corporate and strategy practices at the W2O Group, during a panel discussion he moderated during Social Commerce Days. The W2O Group, the driving force behind Social Commerce Days, established the Center for Social Commerce in collaboration with the Newhouse School in 2012. The Center’s purpose is to educate students about social commerce, social media, technology and analytics, and the influence they have on society and industry.

A primary theme of this year’s Social Commerce Days was social media. Many speakers and experts talked about the power of social media and how it has affected the industry.

More than 50 students from Newhouse, the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and the Martin J. Whitman School of Management attended an analytics workshop as part of the event. Attendees learned how companies use social media to track users and customers and how those companies devise strategies from that information. As students we understand and use social media but we don’t always realize how it’s used in business. The analytics workshop got us to study consumers and market trends from a corporation’s perspective and it introduced tools that help us make decisions when a company is going through a crisis.

Another event I participated in and enjoyed was a networking opportunity with W2O Group. I met with a representative who reviewed and critiqued my resume, listened to my goals and suggested prospective future employers. This was a great opportunity because I got a chance to engage with professionals. It is rare for students to get enough time to engage with professionals. Their advice was insightful and it gave us a chance to add a few names to our contact list.

I thought the panel discussion event of Social Commerce Days was the best event since it gave us a chance to ask direct questions of industry leaders. Panelists included vice presidents of communication from companies including Johnson & Johnson and Delphi Automotive and W2O Group executives. They explained the relationship between a communication director and a CEO, which was extremely helpful. They also cited examples from their own careers, which made their advice more relatable.

Social Commerce Days were a valuable experience for me as I was able to learn a lot and celebrate a field that I really enjoy. And I’m more convinced now that I made the right choice to leave a well-paying finance job to pursue a job in the field I love – communications.

Kala Krishnan is currently working at Finsbury as an Associate.