Back To A B-School After 13 Years | Munmun Goswami – IIM Ahmedabad Graduate & FPM Student At XLRI Jamshedpur
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston S. Churchill
The beauty of life is that it connects you with amazing people most of the time. One such amazing soul is Munmun Goswami. An IIM Ahmedabad graduate from the 2005 batch, Munmun decided to continue her education 13 years later as she joined the FPM program at XLRI in 2018. For more than a decade, she had been playing the roles of a manager, an entrepreneur, a daughter, a wife and also a mother. We bring her story to you today.
Q. So Munmun, tell us a little about yourself. What is your background? How did an MBA come into the picture?
Munmun: So I finished my B.tech in Electronics & Communication in 2003. I actually wanted to be a Doctor but somehow that didn’t happen. So, I just went with whatever my parents said. Then in my final year, I gave CAT and converted a call from IIM-A. After that, there was no looking back! Proud alumna, I must say. And now I am here at XL pursuing my fellowship. Coming back to a B-School again is unbelievable. It still hasn’t sunk in for me. 13 years and not much has changed.
Q. You have graduated from IIM Ahmedabad, but as far as I know, you have worked in the HR domain for almost a decade. How did that happen?
Munmun: So my summers were with Castrol. That was my first corporate stint as I was a fresher. Castrol gave me an HR role and I had successfully applied six-sigma methodology in two of their processes – settlement of medical reimbursements and settlement of death claims. I had a lot of exposure there. My final presentation happened during one of their annual Asia-Pacific meets and I thoroughly loved all the work I had done. However, when I came back to college, we didn’t have any HR courses floated to us as the number of people interested in HR back then was really low. So, I begrudgingly took finance electives and majored in Finance. When the final placements came, I got through 3-4 companies. But I selected Air India because they were in the aviation sector which was growing back then and also because they were offering me an HR role. After that, I haven’t looked back! HR has been my first love always.
Q. You have more than 7 years of work experience. Can you tell us where you have worked and what kind of roles they were?
Munmun: I joined Air India in 2005 in a corporate HR role. I worked there for 5 years and 8 months. I worked in Industrial Relations for the first 3.5 years. I handled a lot of interesting things during that time starting from going to the labour commissioner’s office for negotiating with the unions to handling multiple court cases in the Bombay High Court. My biggest achievement was one particular case where I saved the company around 46 crore rupees.
After that, I was switched to corporate HR in the corporate strategy and planning department. This happened because of two reasons- first was that Air India was getting merged with Indian Airlines and secondly, Air India was gearing up to join the Star Alliance. So, I was responsible for the compliance part for some 3-4 departments of AI. I was also a part of the training team that had to train all the employees about the Star Alliance and how to operate keeping it in mind.
After this, I took a break to start my family. I got married and had my son. Some 3.5 years later I decided to work again and joined the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in 2014. I was in corporate HR again but this time I was working on HR as a centre of excellence, working mostly on implementation (post customization) of global HR policies in India.
Q. So when you decided to work after a gap of 3 years, did you face any problems?
Munmun: There were problems definitely. It took me more than 6 months to get a job that I liked. No one was ready to offer me the kind of position I wanted. Although the salary was not an issue, I didn’t want to move out of Mumbai as my son was really small. That is why I joined the Bank of Tokyo. They offered me a good role in Mumbai and I took it. I could only work there for a year because I had a terrible work-life balance in that firm. My son used to stay sick a lot and we weren’t allowed to work from home. So, I decided to switch again. The next role I got into was of an HR head of two companies – Gilpin and Shachihata. The MD was the same for both the companies and so I was leading the HR programs for both of them.
But yeah, it was difficult managing my career with my family. I was having some problems and hence I left that job as well. So, from 2015 onwards I started my own education startup which created online modules and mocks for various competitive exams.
Q. Wow, so where did doctorate come into picture among all this?
Munmun: I actually separated from my husband in 2017 and came home to Kolkata with my son. During that time, I was looking for something to do. I wasn’t getting the kind of roles I wanted because Kolkata doesn’t have many companies. Someone suggested me to take up a teaching role in the meantime. I joined a college as an assistant professor and for a year I enjoyed doing that. So I realized if this is what I intend to continue doing, I need a doctoral degree.
Also, I wanted a formalized HR education to be a professor in the HR domain.
Q. So as compared to B-Schools in 2005, how different are B-Schools now in your opinion?
Munmun: I think the pressure on you guys has increased, especially the committees and the work related to them. I feel like we had a slightly lesser workload compared to you. Also, a lot of people are into extra-curriculars these days- committees, sports and all such things. We used to give them less priority in our day.
Q. Any Advice for the aspirants reading this?
Munmun: First and foremost, I believe that anyone aspiring to have a career in management should have some form of work experience before joining any B-School. Being a fresher myself, I think I took a long time adjusting to the mode of life and maybe I would have done better if I had a little bit of exposure before joining IIM-A. If you are studying for any exams, try to be regular and focus more on the areas where you are weak.
For people already in B-Schools I only have one thing to say. Keep your cool because this too shall pass. After these two years are over you will fondly remember the bonds you created during those sleepless nights and not the stress you had to deal with. B-Schools don’t teach you how to score marks. B-Schools give you the confidence to deliver the impossible within a given deadline.
The bonds you forge in a B-School are the bonds that stay with you forever. That should be your biggest takeaway.