InsideIIM conducted a telephonic interview with Rohan Dhall where he shared his experiences at NMIMS. He tries to guide aspirants by giving them an all round perspective right from getting into a b-school to summer internships to preparing for final interviews to entrepreneurship. Here's what he has to say-
Tell us about yourself, your educational and professional background.
A highly motivated and goal-oriented Business Professional with proven ability to work in teams - both in formal as well as informal organizations (NGOs, Corporations and Institutions). I am currently working with ICICI Bank as a Management Trainee (Corporate & Investment Banking team) jointly responsible with senior relationship manager for maintaining relationship of USD 16.9 billion conglomerate – Mahindra & Mahindra Group and it's subsidiaries.
I have completed my MBA (Finance) - (Gold Medalist) at School of Business Management, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in 2015. I have been awarded Chancellor's Gold Medal for best all round student performance for academic year 2014-15 at NMIMS, Mumbai. Also, I was the National winner of Bombay Management Association (BMA) awards in the category of 'Best Management Student' awarded by Hon. Mr. Ratan Tata in 2015.I have been a consistent top academic performer in school, graduation and post-graduation and have won various awards in corporate competitions and extra-curricular activities. My hobbies include Cricket, Badminton and travelling.
When should an aspirant decide to do an MBA? What according to you are important aspects must an aspirant keep in mind while choosing a b-school?
For someone to do an MBA, it’s all about their liking whether they want to pursue their career in technical field or aspire from some management positions in fields like finance, marketing, operations etc.. Those have a really good technical background, they can try and do an MS in US or ME/M.Tech from premier engineering institutes like IIT/NIT/BITS .
The important aspects that you must consider while deciding to go for MBA program are -
You must have leadership qualities in you. A leader is someone who aspires, who can lead and who can communicate. Placement should not be the only factor for doing an MBA. Only if you have leadership qualities or you want to develop one during the two year program of MBA you should choose to do an MBA.
You should try and focus on the top 10-15 b-schools like IIMs, XLRI, MDI, JBIMS, NMIMS etc. because they matter. Their alumni matters. You should check out their mentorship programmes. Also check the companies that are coming in.
The second important parameter is the Faculty of the top b-school. The teaching provided in that institution is important. You can learn a lot from Cases/Applications. Coming from engineering background I had a one sided perspective. But doing an MBA gave me an all rounded perspective while analysing problems.
The third parameter would be the corporate competitions which opens only for certain top b-schools. Whether you make it to the final round or not, there will be lot of learning that you will get by participating and solving these real time case problems and not to mention if you happen to nail them it comes with lot of rewards in form of PPO/PPI and cash prizes. You will have a lot of talkative points. You will get to learn a lot in the War-rooms. All these things really help you once you get into your corporate life. When you have to give a presentation in front of 150-200 people in audience and top executives from corporates judging your solutions and presentation, it will give you a lot of confidence. It is a testing ground for people before heading to corporate.
The fourth parameter would be the peer set. The average batch strength of a top b-school is normally 400-450 which results in stiff competition. People from diversified background enter a b-school with hopes. Hence there will be intense competition, day in and day out. Everyone aspires to be the best which gives rise to a lot of competition that ultimately brings the best out of you. And to be the best you will always have to be on your toes and keep pushing yourself to maximum limit.
I was not able to crack the entrance exam of my dream b-school. What should I do next?
Everyone’s dream b-school is 99% IIM A or IIM B. But always be realistic about your dreams. It’s good to dream but wise to be realistic. I would suggest you do research and be comfortable at your level. Try and have some real thought process. Every b-school has its forte. So why aspire for a certain b-school only? You must have clarity in place. No one will take you just because it’s your dream b-school. There are various factors on which you are judged. You need to have that profile and justify yourself for it.
There are two parts to selecting a b-school. One is what you dream for and the other is the reality. You must aspire for something that you are good at specialization you want to go for during MBA.
IF you don’t get your dream b-school, continue what you are doing. You need to be street smart as well. You must understand how much effort you have put in and gauge what that exam is all about. SNAP will be different than CAT. CET will be different than CMAT. Cracking NMAT would require a different strategy.
Once you are done with your CAT prep, by July end or August 2nd week, you should be done with your entire syllabus – quant verbal etc. go through every single point. Start solving the basic questions first. Put in 8-10 hours a day.. This much time is enough. You can’t study entire portion in a day. Practice 3 sections (Quant, Verbal , DI&LR) - every single day. Then start giving mocks.
Learn to customize your preparation. Give other mock exams as well. Do it simultaneously. If you fail in the CAT and don’t prepare for other exams, everything will end for you. Even coaching classes start telling you to prepare for other exams instead of focusing one exam.
If you are a working professional, you need lot of self-introspection on the day you give the exam. Not on the day of results. You may think you didn’t have time so you did bad. Or if you had time you didn’t prepare well enough. So be true to yourself. If you fall in the second category, then carry on with your work. If you didn’t prepare well because of your job then take a 6 month break - getting a good b-school call will shape up your career for the next 30-40 years, so it will be worth it.
The third possibility is you might be doing really well in your job or might be expecting a promotion. Then it’s left up to the individual to do an MBA or not.
What is the typical day like for an MBA student? How can the student derive maximum out of 2 years at a b-school?
An ideal day involves 12-14 hours of work. Even on weekends. There is always a lot of pressure. You can be on the placement committee, participate in competitions, prepare for presentations etc. hence you will hardly have time to breathe.
Typically, the day spans from 9 to 6 having sessions of 1.5hrs each.
Coming from a typical engineering background, after 5pm you are done. But here you have to work even after the lectures get over. You have 50 things to prepare for the next day. Case, notes completion, lectures, placement-committee, alumni committee, finance/marketing committee etc.
The weekends are used to clear your backlog of the previous week.
You can think of life at a b-school like cricket. It starts in a T20 mode. Classes and all start, cases, CV preparation for summers, mock GDPIs, then trimester exam, presentations, a 3 week CSR programme (at NMIMS), summer internship. Again you have competitions, final placements etc. The intensity builds up. You are placed. Then people packing bags. They plan a trip to Goa or somewhere to celebrate and enjoy two year journey of intense completion, friendship, excitement and finally proud feeling of convocating in front of your loved ones from a top B-school.
In short you’ll have - summer internship, final placements, competitions (corporate or inter b-school competitions), Corporate projects/live projects, Case studies, CGPA, extra curriculars and different committees. Your MBA life will revolve around these 8 main sub sets of MBA..
How to derive maximum benefit?
NETWORKING & TEAM PLAYER. You can’t sit aloof in a b-school. You can survive this way in an undergrad college. But here it’s not a one man show. You can’t be an introvert. You need to be a good team player. This is a very important point since it’s completely applicable in corporate life as well.
PARTICIPATION. You need to participate in competitions and classrooms as well. This can really help you to impart as well as gain a lot of knowledge. This is especially true for someone with a lot of work ex. They can share real life challenges and how to solve them. And there are some companies that value this. It may sound small but goes a long way. You have to be able to speak in front of an audience as this will really help in facing GD/PI for your summer and final placement with lot of confidence.
INQUISITIVE NATURE You have to have an inquisitive nature and ask questions. You need to analyse cases , participate in lectures and keep innovating yourself by thinking out of the box.
How must a student prepare for an internship? Any check list that he/she should remember?
For the Summer Internship, you have around 3 month’s time. It’s a very short time. Ideally the strategy should be to get your CV in place. It must include the competitions you participated in and all.
For the interview preparation, focus on basics of the subjects that are done in the first semester or trimester . The recruiters will ask you your basics. Not difficult questions. People think and prepare for difficult questions. But in fact you should stick to the basics.
The seniors/alumni who would have come to your campus to share their experiences - ask them questions. Pay a lot of attention. It’s not a waste of time. It will solve all your queries and remember to ask as many questions as possible. It will then help you gain a lot of clarity.
Whatever you have done previously should be thorough. For example - Why you joined finance (or whatever stream)? Why you chose to join my company? Why do an MBA?
Get all these answers thorough.
Additionally, remember to be properly dressed. The first impression is last impression. Ensure that your CV is structured well. Do thorough homework for the company that is coming on campus. Get maximum information about the company. Do lot of research. Talk to seniors. Read on the current affairs of that company.
Also read the Mint/Economic Times. Start reading from Day 1. At the start you’ll understand only 1-2 paragraphs. But after 2-3 months you’ll see a big difference in yourself. It will really help in putting across examples and points during summers and finals GD/PI.
Can you throw some light on preparation for interviews?
The first question they will ask you is ‘Tell me something about yourself’. The person sitting on the other side is meeting you for the first time. He wants to understand about your profile, so be natural while explaining about yourself and it’s not necessary that it should be exactly in same order in which it is written in your CV.
Remember to add some leadership aspect to it. Don’t make it boring. Don’t repeat your CV in front of the recruiter. Instead try and restructure the same in better words. Share practical experiences about projects and other achievements and try to create an impact. You might be an achiever but if you can’t portray it then that’s just half the work done.
Remember, the person who is interviewing you has 50 other candidates to choose from. So you should have that unique X factor. Be appealing to the recruiter.
Have your basics in place. If you have work ex, expect questions on that. For a fresher, prepare for questions like ‘Tell me something about yourself or what are activities you have done at a b-school since joining MBA programme’. Give good valuable inputs. You can also take inputs from alumni about the companys work culture and opportunities to grow there.
Also, if you have changed your education or career, prepare to answer questions like - Why change of career? Why are you jumping from IT to Finance? Defend that. The first 8-9 mins of the interview sets your tone.
Finally expect few technical questions as well if you have work-ex.
How do you prepare for final placements? What if I’m placed at a company I am not too sure about?
Preparation for final placements:
The only one good thing from a recruiter’s perspective is your Summer Internship. He is bothered mainly with what you have done in your summer internship even though you have a lot of work ex. So prepare very well for your summer internship. Along with the ‘tell me something about yourself’, speak on it for 3-4 minutes and lay a lot of emphasis on your summer internship.
Remember, reading the Mint/Economic Times plays an important role. Once you’re done with your summer internship, continue to follow that sector till your final placements. Have current knowledge in that sector till the final interview.
80% interest from the recruiter’s point of view is on your CV. 20% on the ‘tell me something…’ part. Out that 80%, 50% will be about your summer internship.. If you can really perceive the mind of the person sitting on the other side then you can crack the interview.
On not being happy with your current company:
You have a 30-35 years career. Always respect the 1st job you have got. Post MBA you should have 1-2 year experience always. It may not be your dream company but your experience in it will matter. Ideally, stick to that job for atleast a year. Explore positives and negatives and then take a wise jump.
Organisations even value for your loyalty. People should not keep hopping companies at the initial stage. Even if you have not landed your dream profile it’s okay. You can try for it in the 2-3rd attempt. Understand your current jobs pros and cons and find out what is good for you.
How do I prepare my CV? What are recruiters looking for in today’s world?
It’s really simple. You must have a well-rounded CV. It must have your summer internship, corporate competitions, skills sets, key modules in MBA, hobbies, social work, work-ex, academic scores etc.
This is generally taken care of by the placement committee. How many tabs you can fill depends how much of work you have done.
A well rounded CV would generally have a good mix of acads and extra-curricular activities.
Talk about everything. Be well rounded.
Focus on ticking as many points as you can on your CV. And this will start right from Day 1. And you should be firm that you have to put hard work from first day itself so that by the end your CV looks really good and gives a holistic picture of your achievements and hard work. Make it good to present it in front of the recruiter.
I am not from a top tier b-school. Should I pursue entrepreneurship?
This is a myth that entrepreneurship can be taken only with top tier b-schools.
People from any b-school who have a good idea can build a startup. It should be your passion since this is your age to take the risk. Later on you can always get back to working. Maybe 10 years later your risk appetite and passion may be different.
Remember even if u fail it will be your call. No one else to blame. Or else you will regret it later. Therefore have no regrets. Be confident in your idea and test it in the market to find out how good it was.
VC’s have confidence level in entrepreneurs from top tier b-schools. But if your idea is good enough, they will have confidence in you as well. Therefore be confident and believe in yourself and take the risk to face the loss/gains.
You can connect with Rohan Dhall on LinkedIn here.