Musical soundwaves.

How music and accounting can work in perfect harmony

25 January 2023

The article at a glance

A Cambridge Judge alumnus has written a light-hearted song about his life-changing decision to switch from a career in music to accounting via the Management Studies Tripos (MST) programme at Cambridge Judge Business School.

A Cambridge Judge alumnus has written a light-hearted song about his life-changing decision to switch from a career in music to accounting via the Management Studies Tripos (MST) programme at Cambridge Judge Business School.

When you are being swept away by a soaring symphony or triumphant march, it’s easy to forget how mathematical music really is given its counting, rhythm, and scales. One person who has seized upon these similarities is Vivek Haria, a musician who has taken the plunge into accounting through the Management Studies Tripos programme (MST) at Cambridge Judge Business School (CJBS).

Now Vivek (MST 2021) has channelled his experience of swapping Baroque for balance sheets into a song that manages to rhyme “MST” with “cryptocurrency”.

What music can bring to the business world

Vivek Haria.
Vivek Haria (photo © Kevin Leighton)

“I suppose that accounting, just like music, is a language in itself,” he says. “The teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills I was able to develop during both my music degree and the MST have certainly helped in my role as a consultant when I’m working with clients” at professional services firm EY, where he began work as a tax advisor in September.

Vivek has captured the song in a video featuring himself as vocalist, standing in a back garden, clad in pinstriped blue suit, white shirt and red tie, as birds chirp away in the background.

The song begins with the sort of delicate and sombre piano one might hear arriving at a church service, as Vivek intones:

“I always thought I was a musician; often writing harmony and melody. That’s why I came to Cambridge after all, but that was before the MST.”

The tune then quickly pivots from ponderous to jaunty, resembling a rollicking chorus from a Gilbert & Sullivan musical:

“The MST, the MST, you got me into cryptocurrency. I don’t know what I’d have done instead (‘an MPhil’, he murmurs in a smiling stage whisper, turning away from the camera while mock-covering his mouth with his hand); so thank you MST.”

The humorous song came from marrying his BA in Music degree with the knowledge Vivek gained from the MST in his final year at the University of Cambridge. It charts his journey composing harmonies and melodies to his time at Cambridge Judge “running Monte Carlo simulations” (a forecasting model) and “cracking NPV (net present value).”

Musical prelude an unusual route to studying at CJBS 

Vivek was always musical and began singing as a small child. He continued his studies at the Royal College of Music Junior Department in London while at secondary school.

“I initially wanted to pursue a career in singing but, after continuing Music at A Level and starting formal composition lessons, I became hooked on the academic side,” he says. “A Music degree seemed like the natural progression, and I was thrilled to be offered a place to study at the University of Cambridge. My most memorable performance is singing the Bass solo in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio as part of the Gonville and Caius College Choir tour of Romania.”  

How the pandemic played a role in changing careers 

Changing career path was a brave decision, but Vivek wanted what he describes as “a more rounded education”. He was tempted to pursue his studies in composition as a masters student, either at Cambridge or a conservatoire, but “I felt a course like the MST in the final year of my degree would give me more strings to my bow (pun intended),” he says. 

The Management Studies Tripos, designed to teach the fundamentals of management, is open to a limited number of University of Cambridge undergraduates as a third or fourth year of their bachelors degree.

In Vivek’s case, global events also played a role. “Pursuing a career in the Arts today, particularly emerging from the pandemic, is still a difficult feat. But I feel that the skills I’ve acquired during my musical studies and training over the years are still useful in my job today.” 

Opportunity to develop new skills  

As well as learning the basis of management practice, including key financial concepts such as Time Value of Money, Vivek forged new connections and friendships at Cambridge Judge. He credits Kamiar Mohaddes, Associate Professor in Economics and Policy, and Juliana Kozak Rogo, Associate Professor in Management Practice, for introducing him to economics in a fun and engaging way. Another inspiration was the negotiations teaching of Mark de Rond, Professor of Organisational Ethnography. “I know how to negotiate effectively now – this also proves useful when arranging fees for the occasional singing gigs”.  

Vivek is training to be a chartered accountant while working in the Tax Technology & Transformation practice at EY in London. He hasn’t left music entirely behind, however, and has just been selected as an Associate for the London Symphony Orchestra’s Soundhub scheme, an extended community of composers who benefit from peer-to-peer networking and support. 

Lasting memories of Cambridge Judge

In the final verse, Vivek’s song contains a special mention for the bright and airy Cambridge Judge Business School café – known as the Common Room – which often serves as a (vocal) interlude for busy students. “I’ll miss bumping into friends and chatting over a coffee between lectures,” Vivek says.