Lauded as the 3rd Indian b-school to get an accreditation from AMBA, ISB is one of the most aspirational b-schools in India. So how does one make? What are the ins and out of getting into a b-school like ISB? In this article, we bring you Abhishek Nair, ISB alum and an engineer who studied computer science and chemistry from BITS Pilani Goa. With 92.76% in 10th and 91.33 % in 12th, Abhishek has also co-founded 2 startups. Everything from Abhishek's journey, to GMAT prep, essay prompts at ISB, Interview experience more has been captured in this article. Read to know more!
Please give us a brief introduction about yourself and your profile.
I am Abhishek Nair, currently working as a Product Manager at Zeta. I graduated from ISB in 2019. I worked as a software developer at a mid-stage and early-stage startup in Bangalore respectively for 3 years, before joining ISB. During my time at BITS-Pilani Goa, I also co-founded 2 companies as an undergrad. I ended up spending the last year of my undergrad working on my second startup, Cubito.in, a cab sharing portal.
How did you prepare for the GMAT/GRE? What resources did you use?
There are a few rules I followed when it came to mt GMAT prep.
- Primarily, I relied on the Official GMAT guide. Solved it end to end. I think this is the best source for understanding and learning the pattern as well as the flow of the exam, timing, sectional divisions, etc.
- I used the 2 free sample mocks judiciously. I studied for 2 weeks and attempted the first one, which gave me an idea of where my current level is. Then I planned to write the 2nd one, once I finished my preparation, right at the end, to see which sections needed fine-tuning.
- In between, I attempted a test every 1-2 weeks, and mostly used the free tests of all different GMAT programs (most offer at-least 1 free mock).
- Verbal was the section which required the most effort from me. Improving this led to the greatest improvement in my GMAT scores.
- I wrote the GMAT twice, scored 690 in the first, 710 in the second.
Could you tell us how you went about answering the essay prompts at ISB?
The key to writing the essays was trying to tell a good story in each essay. The approach I stuck to was: tie a few personal stories from the past, my own and ones I’d learnt/read from others, describe the future I see for myself or want to pursue and then plug the gap by describing how ISB will help me achieve the same. The aim is to cover all 3 bases: Why should ISB be interested in you (Why are you interesting), Why ISB, How will ISB help achieve your career ambitions.
Additionally, I did not use an admission consultant either. I did request a couple of friends and family to review my application initially though. I described my goals from the essays (the ones shared above) and asked them to review it as harshly as possible. Post this, I started sharing it with people who had cleared the ISB process. I shared my application essay with 5 people who I knew well enough to trust their judgement and had a similar background as me. This helped me fine tune my application and put my best foot forward
What made you choose ISB? Did you apply to other institutes?
So, there are a few reasons as to why I chose ISB:
- I wanted to stay in India and work for the near future. I feel that if I'd gone to an international b-school, it would be more relevant if I was aiming for an international career.
- I wanted to do an MBA with a cohort who had real-life work experience.
- I additionally believed that I would learn the most from my batchmates and the network formed would be more diverse and productive.
- ISB checked all these boxes and had the best ROI, compared to foreign b-schools.
How was your ISB interview experience? What questions/type of questions were you asked?
The ISB interview for me was more focused on my learning as a startup founder. I shared anecdotes, tough situations faced by the company, our failures and my learnings from them during the interview as a result. I was also grilled on my career goals, why did I choose the specific path that I had written in my essay, etc. I had to justify my 2 startups, my work experience until that point and paint a coherent story for the interviewers.
What is your opinion makes up an ideal candidate for the PGP program at ISB? What kind of stand out qualities is ISB looking for in candidates? Why do you think you made it?
An ideal candidate for ISB would be someone who can demonstrate through past achievements that they would have a successful career and ISB would be proud to call you their alum. Basically someone who can show an interesting initiative, an interesting past and tie it to how ISB specifically can help him/her achieve their career goals is also highly desirable. Besides, ensure your resume highlights points such that it fits the above narrative. Make sure that your story is tight and you know the future goals written by you aren't just mere words and you have thought it through. That I think lends authenticity to your interview answers as well as your learning experience if you do get selected.
In retrospect, what do you think of your decision to join ISB? What were your learnings, and what will you take away from the one year spent at the institute? Is it worth joining one of India's most expensive business schools?
Although it hasn't been very long since I graduated and the true effects will only start to appear 3-5 years down the line, I am very happy with my decision to join ISB. Here's a list of my takeaways:
1. Network: A very helpful network with a lot of job opportunities and introductions possible across industries and government bodies
2. Batch: The batch diversity plays a big role in what you take out of ISB. Hearing differing perspectives in class, in study group discussions and while interacting with folks outside the classroom does help gain a well-rounded outlook on the world
3. Professors: The professors (in-house and visiting) are absolutely world-class in their domains and treat you, the students as their peers, ready to share and compound learnings in class and outside.
4. Industry Interaction: CEOs, VCs, Government Officials, Hedge fund managers, these are all regular interactions you'll get while on campus and even post-graduation.
5. Campus Life and Culture: ISB has a vibrant campus life and a culture passed down from batch to batch, formally and informally. Even if you're in the 1 year batch, the interaction with the previous batches is very easy and formalized. The alumni are really helpful in guiding you to shape your 1 year at ISB and your career post it.
If you are looking for an MBA that does not just focus on rote learning, and want to learn from your peers who have vastly different backgrounds, ISB is an amazing choice. You will walk out a different person compared to who you were, walking in
Any suggestions to the aspirants who are vying for a seat at ISB?
I would say, focus on what you want your career to look like. Have a probability distribution of different career outcomes you find preferable and how ISB will help you get there. If you understand what you want to transition into post ISB, it'll keep you ahead of 90% of your batch already and help you navigate the ISB life the way you want to rather than giving into FOMO (Fear of missing out).
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