Every student who enters a B-School, dreams to win the Gold Medal towards the end of their MBA journey. Manjula from IIM Indore was no different. During her MBA journey, she imagined herself in the shoes of her seniors who had won the Gold Medal before. She started working towards achieving her dreams. The result, she won the Gold Medal for Rank 1 in the IPM Programme, Gold Medal for Best Women Participant in IIM Indore, and a scholarship of Rs. 1.5 Lacs. Find out her story and experiences during MBA and the advice she wants to give to the incoming batch of MBA students here.
Q1. Please tell us about your educational and professional background, and what drew you to pursue an MBA.
Q2. Please tell us about your journey to IIM Indore.
IPM Aptitude test contains Math and English. Need to be quick at Math, and have a good vocabulary to excel in English. One more important aspect of the selection process is the application form that needs to be filled out before attending the interview. It contains questions on - Why IIM Indore? Why IPM? that also sets the tone of the interview. Apart from that, interview preparation has to be on 4 major aspects - academic curriculum of class XI and XII, current affairs, past academic/extracurricular achievements, and body language, communication skills. I was tested on all of these areas in my interview. An important takeaway for me was, being able to say, "Sorry, I do not know" if required, politely and confidently.
Q3. When you entered IIM Indore, did you expect to win the award? What did you expect from the program?
Honestly, did not expect that I would win these awards. It was amazing to see my seniors win those, I only wished I could, but never thought it would happen. After 2 years into the program, I started imagining myself in their shoes. It definitely was a dream come true for me. My expectation from the program was to try out and enjoy each & everything it had to offer. That's exactly what happened, I tried my hand at everything - academics, being a part of clubs/committees/fests, social work, working with professors and peer to present our research in a conference, foreign exchange to Europe, competitions, etc. Every single activity I engaged in helped me learn new skills/qualities. Traveling around 14 countries in Europe, as a group of friends doing everything on our own in a new continent altogether was a great experience, gave the exposure like nothing else could, and made me confident to face anything. My journey in IIM Indore has given me memories to cherish for a lifetime and surely met all my expectations.
Q4. Given that only the crème de la crème of India makes it to IIM Indore, could you give us an idea of the degree of competitiveness at IIM Indore?
IIM Indore is filled with extremely talented people. Not only from the point of view of academics but there are also really amazing photographers/filmmakers, dancers, singers, people coming up with great business ideas, etc. There is stiff competition in any area that one wants to excel in. But that does not mean, there aren't helping hands. People sit together in groups and study for hours together, work on research/business ideas. Not just peers, seniors and alums are always ready to offer help when needed wrt placements, academics, mentorship, and mental support. It is a perfect mix of competition, people working hard consistently to be a better version of themselves, friends, and seniors to support us through the process. The learning that one would get from such a setup is maximum.
Q5. Please tell us about your Summer Internship Experience. How will that experience help you in the future in your career?
My summer placement process and preparation was probably the most hectic time for me in the 5 years. There are too many things going on at the same time - club/committee selections, pre-placement talks, corporate competitions, the academic rigor of Term 1, MBA. I tried my best to make use of every minute that was available to me. I practiced a few cases, focused a lot on HR questions, and building domain knowledge - at least the basics of each domain. HR questions were the most helpful to me in my interview. I made sure, to be honest in every answer that I gave, and just have a memorable conversation out of it, rather than creating performance pressure for myself. I bagged the internship with Bajaj Auto, in a Sales & Marketing profile. Although I had an initial inclination to finance and consulting, I was always open to other profiles. So, I only focused on giving my best in the internship. I worked on a project that involved conversing with Bajaj Auto customers in the regional language to get some sensitive information and work on the data further to derive insights and recommendations for the organization to implement. Data collection was the biggest challenge, I tackled it then and eventually became my biggest learning from the internship. It was altogether a great experience to work on a live project and see real-time impact of what I was engaged in. Over and beyond that, I was able to understand some of the soft aspects of working in an organization - culture, communication, and thinking about the bigger picture of every business decision.
Q6. What did you do differently and how did you study differently that helped you win the Gold Medal for Rank 1 - IPM, Gold Medal for Best Woman Participant, and a scholarship for Rs. 1.5 Lacs?
Two things that worked for me to achieve these were hard work and consistency. 5 years is a pretty long duration in the same place, it gets easy to lose sight and enthusiasm along the way. But I made sure to give my full efforts for every single term, regardless of what the outcomes were. There could be minor ups and downs, which is normal. What mattered eventually was, to not give up and continue putting in the same level of effort and even more as needed with focus. At some points in time, I calculated what all I could handle, and chose not to take up positions of responsibility so that I could spend more time on academics, certification and research. While it was important for me to try the different avenues, I also made sure to not load my plate with things that I can affect my performance in any of those. All these put together, drove me to achieve those awards.
Q7. How does an MBA student balance studies and extra-curricular activities at b-school? Is it possible to balance the two, or must one be sacrificed for another? How did you bring about a balance?
MBA students' life on a daily basis is to balance studies and extracurricular activities. Some of them can just do it with little to no effort. Some might take a while to adapt, but every single person learns the knack on the way. Everyone becomes efficient at managing their own time, doing multiple things. While on some days, an MBA student might have too many activities going on - case competition presentation, assignment submission, having to do pre-reads for the next day or an exam, over time we learn to prioritize and work accordingly. It is definitely possible to balance extracurriculars and studies, and I have personally seen a lot of them doing this at ease. The way I made sure to balance it, is by being regular in every activity. I was stern on not missing any pre-reads for class and made sure to focus in class with the maximum possible effort, these would help me before the exam even if I had to attend/organize a session as a part of the position of responsibility I had taken up. All this said and done, minor slacks would exist for each one in a B school, we just need to embrace it along the way, learn from that experience, and work better next time.
Q8. What were your, your family's and your friends' reactions when you won the awards? How did you celebrate?
My family and friends were extremely happy and proud. They were my biggest support all throughout my journey. I always had a group of friends who trusted me enough even at times when I didn't. That can do wonders. I still remember the first day of my induction, when my mother said, "I want to see you win the medal at the end of 5 years". That time, I thought it sounds very far-fetched. But my family always stood by me and comforted me whenever I needed their help. I am extremely thankful to them for it. When I told them that I was receiving 2 medals and one scholarship, I could see each one in my family shedding happy tears - my mom, dad, and my grandparents. Those tears explained all the pride and ecstasy. That was more than enough celebration for us to cherish for a lifetime.
Q9. Regarding b-school life and academics, what are three crucial pieces of advice you would like to share with the incoming class of 2023?
1. MBA journey carries its own ups and downs, but there are multiple learnings with each tiny experience, embrace them as they are and move along without worries/pressure.
2. Put in 100% effort in anything that you take up. There is no need to do every single thing that you see, prioritize what you want and focus on those.
3. Don't get overwhelmed with the number of activities going on and the immense talent around you. Each one would take their own time to catch up and it is absolutely fine to do so.