Being Average Part 2: My Journey At SJMSoM, IIT Bombay
Have you ever thought as an MBA aspirant, how life would be at a B School, what to expect out of the 2 years and whether you would be an able fit? After joining your MBA programme, having completed a year, do you feel you do not belong there because you are an average student? If yes, then this article is dedicated to you, my friend!
Someone once said, “If you want your story to be known and appreciated by all, try narrating it without being a narcissist”. So, I’m going to try and do exactly the same.
Before I begin, I urge all readers to read the first part of “Being Average”, since you wouldn’t be able to relate unless you’ve read the previous part. The link of the same is: insideiim.com/being-average/
So now that you’ve read the earlier part you know that I joined SJMSoM, IIT Bombay in the year 2014, and like every other student, I was excited to be finally doing an MBA after putting in months of hard work and perseverance. The torrential July rains greeted me once I reached Mumbai. Having reached IIT, I was allotted a hostel, H15 to be precise. The first week at SJMSoM, known as the ‘Induction Week’, was hectic. Most of the activities involved students getting to know each other better by working together in various group activities. This was coupled well with some faculty members delivering an introductory lecture or two on certain topics. It wasn’t until the first weekend, that we found some leisure time.
Even though the incessant rains kept us from going out much, we still explored the nearby areas of Powai, Mumbai. Soon enough Monday arrived, and the first couple of lectures began. We were supposed to have two lectures of 2 hours each, five days a week. The class of 120 was divided into two sections of 60 students each. One section would be having classes from 9AM to 1PM, while the other section would be having it from 2PM to 6PM. We all were amused at the thought of how much free time we would be having. I wondered why the seniors during our induction told us that life would be busy from the first day itself. The answer came soon enough.
At half past six, on Monday, we had a batch address by our seniors, where various clubs and teams of the college would come and introduce themselves. The introductions began at the scheduled time and went on for an hour or two. And just when we thought it was all over, came the surprise element. A certain team, known as the ‘PlaceCom’, which was the student placement committee came in, and things were never the same any more. Little did we know then, that this would be the beginning of nearly three months of tireless days and sleepless nights.
Even the first semester courses seemed to have gained a sudden momentum, and soon enough we were struggling simply to keep up with the pace of studies, and at the same time attend the industry interaction sessions, alumni interactions, rolling seminar series and batch addresses organized by the placement team. To add to the already overburdened schedule, I was made a CV point-of-contact (CV POC) for the batch, along with 12 other students. And hence, began the CV preparation and evaluation sessions.
Apart from these ‘regular’ activities, preparations had begun for the B-School festival of SJMSoM, to be organized in the month of October. At IIT, the curriculum is divided in a semester format, but at SJMSoM, we had two terms in each semester, each term having 5 or 6 completely different subjects. Soon the first week of September arrived, and brought with it the first term examinations. The exams were over soon enough, and we had a batch address where the dates of Summer Placements were announced. We made a mental list of companies which we wanted to target for summers.
Being interested in the field of Supply Chain and Operations, I targeted all companies offering those roles. The Pre-Placement talks were particularly useful in identifying such companies. I knew it was important for me at that stage to identify my strengths and weaknesses. I knew that Finance wasn’t my strong point, and neither did I have any interest in the IT sector. I therefore decided, not to apply in any company offering such roles. Soon enough the placement season began. I faced my first rejection, in an FMCG company, after having qualified for the interview round. I felt somewhat dejected, but kept my spirits up.
The next company I appeared for was Asian Paints. I successfully cleared all rounds of group discussion and interview to make it through. A couple of friends from my previous college and my colleagues from ITC questioned my decision to join Asian Paints (AP) as it had nothing to do with food. However, I reasoned out that since my CV had nothing apart from an experience in the food industry, it might be difficult for me to switch to other industries in the future. Therefore, AP would be a welcome change. Moreover, I wanted to specialize in SCM and Operations Management, and since AP was one of the pioneers in the field of Supply Chain Management, it would provide me with a firsthand experience of working with a top-notch company.
The happiness of being among the first few to be placed within the batch was immense, though it was short-lived. Since most of the batch was yet to be placed, we didn’t actually get any time to party. Soon enough by the end of the first week of October, most of the batch got placed, and we finally got a breather.
The second term of the first semester, which had started in the 2nd week of September, had gained momentum by then, and soon we had our mid-term examinations. This was shortly followed by ‘Avenues’, the B School festival of SJMSoM. It was around this time that a group of 19 students from our college were selected for a study tour in Telecom Ecole de Management, Paris. For the first time since coming to IIT, I was actually excited about something. The travel plans were made and soon we applied for our Visa. Amongst all this, the end-term examinations begun and before we could realize, end-terms were over and so was the first semester at IIT. The day approached when we finally took off for our first international trip.
Right from the first day at Amsterdam till the last day in Rome, we had many countless experiences and fun, whether it be in Brussels, Paris, Venice or Vatican City. Like all good things, the study tour came to an end, and after a short stay at home, we were back for the 2nd semester of Master of Management.
The second semester started off with us taking charge of various teams and clubs. I got selected as a member of the Public Relations Team of SJMSoM, and was also selected as a Media Coordinator of Mood Indigo, which is Asia’s largest cultural festival, organized by IIT Bombay. Soon enough, the newly elected PlaceCom of our batch also took charge and industry interaction sessions began in full swing along with regular classes. After the term-end examinations were over in the last week of February, the admissions for the upcoming junior batch started. The process reminded me of my interview days after CAT. The four day tedious process ended, and a new term began. The second term of the semester was the shortest of all, as our internships were due to start from 1st of April.
The end-terms got over on the first day of April and I along with two of my classmates who had been selected at AP, began our internship on the same day. The first three days the induction programme happened. It was great for multiple reasons. First, the interns got to stay at Taj Land’s End, Mumbai for three days. To add to that was the parties that we had, and the sumptuous meals which followed. The last day of induction was the best though, where we were all taken for some fun bonding activities to a sea beach close to Mumbai. Soon thereafter, the real internship began.
I had been allotted a project in which I had to work from the Head Office at Mumbai, while some others were assigned certain plants (manufacturing units) of AP. Being in Mumbai was an advantage as I could travel from my hostel. It was during those 8 weeks of internship that I really got to explore the entire campus of IIT. I gradually began working on my project after an initial briefing from my project sponsor (mentor). This was followed by a short stint in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh, where I had to visit a manufacturing plant and also some of the suppliers. The stint at Baddi helped me understand the project better, and soon I started working on the model which I was supposed to develop for the completion of the project. At the end of 8 weeks, my review happened with my sponsor as well as the GM. The results as to whether I would be offered a PPO/PPI or nothing were not announced immediately and I had to wait for nearly two months, till our second year, 3rd semester started.
The 3rd semester was quite similar to our 1st semester, apart from the fact that we had switched gears. The teams and clubs introduced happened, and we knew what fate awaited the juniors. However, we didn’t find much peace ourselves. Apart from regular courses, the industry interaction sessions, we had to assist in taking mock interviews and GDs for juniors in addition to reviewing and verifying their CVs.
Soon enough, the PPOs and PPIs of various companies started coming in. It was August when the results of Asian Paints were declared. Only one among the three of us, who interned at AP had received a PPI, and that wasn’t me.
I was disappointed to say the least. And the reason wasn’t that I didn’t receive an offer. The reason for my disappointment was that I couldn’t figure out what had I done wrong to not receive any offer. I thought my effort was sufficient, but clearly, it wasn’t. The horrors of sitting through multiple rounds during final placements haunted me and my confidence was clearly shattered. I had no plans ahead. I knew that my current CV would be no match as compared to my batch mates. My CGPA after the 2nd semester results was merely 6.7, and I wondered whether I would even be shortlisted for companies. I hadn’t won any major Corporate Competitions, which is a huge plus point for anyone’s CV. I just had a single B School competition win, which again was nothing compared to what my friends had.
The new CV format was sent to us and I hardly managed to fill 60 percent of the 1 page CV. I needed a plan that would make my CV look decent enough. I started applying for live project opportunities on various platforms such as OysterConnect, Internshala and likewise. I was selected for a two week live project through one such platform, and successfully completed it.
However, it wasn’t good enough for my CV. It was around that time, that a Live Project opportunity came in through our Placement Team. It was a project on Supply Chain Management at Kraft Heinz. Coming from the FMCG and Food Tech. background, I was immediately interested in it and applied for the same. After a telephonic interview of the applicants, I was selected for the project. I had to work for two days at the head office of Heinz, while the rest of the work was to be completed at home. The project was somewhat similar to what I had in AP, and I started the work with considerable ease. Managing time between classes, work and pre-placement talks was tough, but gradually I adjusted to it. After the first term of the 3rd semester was over, the subjects of the 2nd term, which I had opted for, were easier to manage. In the meantime, the B School festival also happened and my work in the respective teams also increased.
However, by the end of the second week of November, with the 3rd semester finally over, I found more time to focus on studies. Apart from studies, there was the need to brush up with all current affairs and economic news, which would be useful for GDs during final placements. My CV was ready, and my preparation for finals, which included a thorough review of all important subjects was almost complete, and I waited for the dates of the final placements to be announced. The dates were announced and the final placements were to begin from the second week of December.
I once again shortlisted companies based on my areas of interest and avoided applying in any IT or BFSI sector firms. I was also informed that Kraft Heinz had offered a PPI to me, once I was done with the implementation part of the project. However, due to paucity of time, I couldn’t complete the implementation part as I had to focus on preparations for final placements. This time, I didn’t have a plethora of choices like I did during the summer placements. I was worried since I was shortlisted for just three companies on Day 0 of the placement season, on the basis of relevant work experience and other factors.
The day of final placements arrived soon enough. The first company I was shortlisted for was PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) US Advisory (Formerly known as PRTM Management Consultants), which offered a role in Management Consulting. After having cleared the first round of interview which was conducted previously, I waited for my call. Soon shortlists from other companies started coming in, and all I could do was wait with bated breath and await my turn.
Some people who went in before me came back after having interviews for nearly an hour and a half. I was worried stiff whether I would even last that long in an interview. My turn finally came for the second round of interview with PwC. The interview went on for about an hour and I was asked to wait outside. The discussion went on for a while for whether I should be sent in for the next round or not, and I finally got a call for the third round. The third round was the toughest and longest interview I had faced till date. It continued for more than an hour, and when it was finally over, I was asked to wait outside again. The HR person called me in for a final (fourth) round of interview to make a final call.
Meanwhile, all sorts of thoughts kept coming to me. What if the other companies have had their first couple of rounds? What if they don’t call me for the interview at all now? It seemed to be the longest wait of my life. At long last, the results were announced. Two candidates were finally selected, and I was one of them. I didn’t know how to react. I could only smile as I knew the ordeal was finally over! With placements finally over, it was time for Mood Indigo.
The four days were truly worth it! It was as though IITB had become one small city, where the world was. Soon thereafter, the final semester of Master of Management (M.Mgmt.) at SJMSoM began. I had managed to reach a 7 point CGPA after the 3rd semester results were declared. Not that I cared any more. The final semester project work and courses started, and so did our tours. First a trip to Goa, followed by another in Himachal. The fun and frolic continued till the end of April, when the final term examinations happened, and M.Mgmt. was over.
I would miss my days at IIT. I remember, during my leisure time, I would either get along with a group of friends to shoot a short film or to tour some nearby destinations. I would miss the night outs, the parties and of course my friends here! The final semester results were out and I had managed to score a 9 point SGPA. My final CGPA became 7.5, which was seemed unassailable after an abysmal 6.4 SGPA post my first semester. With the results out, MBA or Master of Management as we call it was officially over.
I started off MBA at a high point, being among the top few candidates with the highest CAT percentiles. However, MBA isn’t just about how good you were. It is the two years that you spend here that shapes you into the person you want to be. My story may not be inspiring to many, especially those, who have been brilliant students right from the start.
However, there are many like me, who have been average students. To them, I say, if you are pursuing your MBA or any other degree currently, and wonder whether you actually belong there and whether you deserve to be amongst the people you are, don’t give up just because of a few failures such as not getting good grades or converting a PPO/PPI.
Take some time to think, what you should do extra in order to get yourself shortlisted for the interviews. And once you’ve done that, work that extra bit that would take you a step closer to achieve your dreams. And when the D-Day comes, forget about the world. I can speak for myself, that whenever I went inside an interview or a GD panel, I didn’t care if I was competing with the topper of the batch. I just had to build that confidence to convince myself that I had it in me, and then perform when the final hour arrives.
The only reason why I wrote the second part of Being Average was that, the first part might give you a rosy picture of things. However, the life here at MBA was different and it took every ounce of hard work and complete dedication to achieve what I did. And while doing so, never compromised upon my hobbies and interests. And as I have said previously, it is upto you to decide what you want to achieve in your life, and then work towards it without being bogged down by the hurdles that come your way, because ‘Average’ is just another word!
Read more about SJMSoM here.