An MBA was not really on my plan. It was rather an afterthought. After my under-graduation in mechanical engineering, I was focused on a career in public policy and diplomacy. I gave the civil services examination a good shot before I decided to let go and sat for CAT to forge an alternate career path. Meanwhile, before I joined IIM Rohtak, I spent a few months working in public sector consulting on some exciting projects like handicrafts rejuvenation.
Coming off the back of consecutive failures, I was first thrilled and grateful to have had gotten into IIM Rohtak. I don't think I had any expectations or plans or a specific goal. One thing I was sure was that I was lucky to have the opportunity to have gotten into an IIM and I was going to make the most of the experience. I had heard friends mock-warning me about the 18-hour work days and hyperactive culture at the IIMs. Strangely, I was only excited by it.
*One of the unsaid rules of surviving and thriving in b-school is not to try and do everything. We must pick our areas where we want to focus and gleefully abandon FOMO. For me, my priorities were in the following order - course work, campus committee, personal interests, and competitions.
Experience of 2 years
I distinctly remember the first ever case I prepared for class. It was a case on a starch manufacturer. After the long induction programs that often went past 2 in the night, I sat with my friend to read about the dilemma of a certain Mr. Jain. Long pages of text, an industry I was reading about for the first time, and at the end, there were even more pages of exhibits, some charts and what looked to be financial statements of the business under question. It was a maze of information, and I was lost in it.
20 months, 40 courses, and 300 cases later, the story today is entirely different, and thankfully so. One of the aspects I loved about the b-school life is the opportunity to be so many people in so many places. There is a mini-adventure every day. You never know where you’re going to be and whose shoes you’d be stepping into until you open the case. One day you could be a Moroccan perfume maker, the next you could be heading a division in a large company like 3M, on another day you’d be running a mobile dog-washing company, on another, a consultant for a logistics firm, a day later you’d be an investment banking professional.
It has been a rewarding academic experience. Nowhere other than a b-school can one learn about marketing research techniques, finance, systems thinking, digital transformation, Bhagwat Gita, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation in one year. An integral element to my experience was the amazing professors I was fortunate to have. B-School professors are a unique species. Due to the nature of pedagogy, they're some of the best storytellers and performers. We also had some professors who were industry heavyweights. I'm glad that I'll keep in touch with at least some of them.
But more than half of the learning comes from my peers. The people experience in a b-school is qualitatively different from the undergrad experience. While in undergrad most of us are just trying to become ourselves, it is a collective endeavour. In b-school, people come in fully formed. And in that, there is so much to learn from each of them. Working in teams for the courses, and competitions teach one a lot of soft skills. Especially in the first year, much time was spent discussing learning teams. I remember on more than one occasion where our marketing management team discussions have gone well into midnight. So much of what you learn comes from the kind of team you have. Pulling off all-nighters ahead of competition submissions will always remain a sweet memory.
Am I close to be a manager?
Management is a mix of art, craft, and science. And in b-schools, we're mostly taught about the science part of it. What I think I can safely say is that all of us have mastered that art of 'getting things done.' Hundreds of deadlines and the punishing schedule have ensured that we've developed the ability to go, show-up every day, and be sure of ourselves. I think this is what is crucial in most situations in life, including managerial contexts. And of course, there is the analytical rigour that we have developed. The real work of b-school happens in the sub-conscious. The work in the committees and learning teams have helped me grow some of the aspects of art and craft.
B-School schedules are famous for being punishing. Naturally, there was hardly time to pursue interests in the first year. But the second year is more relaxed, and one gets better at managing multiple things. This allowed me to indulge in my interest. I took to writing. Earlier I was a closet writer, in that I just wrote for myself and never put it in public. During my summer internship, I experimented with writing, and it stuck on. In the second year, I kept a daily blog on my learnings and my day at bschool. Other than that, I read. On a side note, I've understood that it is essential to find time to persist with your hobbies and interests even when you're hard-pressed for time. These help your overall functioning, creativity, and your career. B-school is a place where you could start new things and form new personal traditions that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
I heard a talk by an HBS professor. Doctors are trained to save lives and lawyers are prepared to deal with law and safeguard justice. What are the b-school students trained for? A simple answer would be that they're trained to run businesses. But that will be an incomplete answer. We regularly see MBAs in every field of life - in policy making, running non-profits, authors, teachers, social activists. What we are trained to do is to add value to this world. And that is what I wish to do. In the immediate future, I'll look to learn and grow as much as possible and be flexible before I narrow down my goals. For the last few years, I've been feeling a pull towards the education domain; I'll look to do something there. I'll continue to write along the way.