The Elusive MBA Degree – The Rose Among The Thorns

Precautionary warning : For prospects, reading this article may heavily impact your upcoming decision of opting for an MBA or not. Reader’s discretion advised – be wary of sample bias! 

My views regarding an MBA degree have fluctuated more than most politician’s election alliances over the years. In a country like ours, where career choices are more affected by what “Sharmaji ka ladka” is doing, or what our “Bua ki Canada wali friend k padosi” think is the global trend, we tend to get swayed by external factors and others’ opinions more often than not.

In a country where “iitiimshaadi.com” is a real website (Don’t believe me? Click on it for a whole new self actualisation journey. And no, I’m not paid to advertise them, it’s just out of my sheer sense of amusement that I mentioned them) and a country where we first become engineers (or MBAs) and then look up to what we actually want in life – how do you decide whether an MBA is essential for your existence and growth? How drastically do your views change if I take the average CTC figures away from your sight?

Through the course of this article, I’ve tried to present a not-so-glamorous side of the MBA programme. I clearly had no such idea before joining this course and spending an year at HelL (IIM Lucknow).

Hence, I hope this article helps some of you fellow ignorants (oh wait, that sounds harsh, let me put my euphemism cap on – which essentially comes down to thesaurus-ing it) – the poor “benighted” souls out there who’ve been diverted on this MBA-is-the-one-stop-solution-to-everything path, in making a significantly more informed decision.

Abstract

Looking outside at the blissful afternoons of spring-filled March, makes me ponder how weather perfectly fits as an analogy. Our life as MBA students is best described by the dynamic seasons in the North. Most of it is the scorching heat accompanied by sweaty turmoil – just like our never ending quizzes, submissions and exams. On a few days we feel like everything’s falling apart – like leaves in autumn, but it’s only the build up to an even harsher winter. But how do we still manage to survive? How do IIMs still get the best of the lot around the country?

The answer, lies in the perspective of what you intend to gain from an MBA degree.

For you, what makes blossoming spring days like this possible? What makes the struggle worthwhile at the end of your course?

For a closer look (and to make it look like I’ve sat down and thought this through), let’s break down the MBA journey into 3 parts (See what I did there? The magic of numbers and chronology?

This is how you do well in GDs and WATs – take note, suckers!)

Part 0 : The Decision Making

For freshers, especially the ones who hold good placement offers from their respective institutes, it’s a tough choice between beginning to earn 20+ Lakhs in the next 2 years or spend the same amount for a degree! For those without such offers, and a shot at any good MBA college, the choice is much simpler, so to speak. Nevertheless, all freshers face a dilemma of drifting away from their core engineering learnings (Still more than 70% engineers here!) into the world of managerial “globe”.

For working people, taking a break from work and looking forward to 2 years of rigorous academia is a thought they can’t fathom. It essentially boils down to looking short term v/s long term. If they don’t see themselves progressing well enough the way they are right now, most of them end up thinking of this degree as the one stop solution to all their future problems. Sadly, that isn’t the case.

Once you join the workforce back after two years, the office politics will still be there, the nagging bosses will still be there, the rat race will still be there. As someone wise once said – “Same sh#t, different day!”

Part 1 : The First Year

Sadly, expecting a similar-to-graduation experience, I came here with high hopes of chilling with friends, having “bulla” sessions (that’s what they call random endless conversations in UP), exploring the city (Lucknawi food and heritage), etc.

What I ended up doing for most of my first year was submitting assignments and projects at 23:59:59 (Yes, that’s how time works here), attending pre-placement talks, rushing for CV reviews & HR answers, preparing for internship interviews, screwing up my sleep schedules, ignoring family for days, giving 6-7 exams in 3 days, not going home for more than a week in the entire year, and the list goes on. These are the thorns which we choose to overlook while admiring the rosy picture of an MBA degree.

I did end up making great friends, getting a reputed internship offer, and passing all my courses (maybe learning a few things too on the side), but was the immense stress I went through, worth it? Were the classes on Sundays really needed? Was there really a necessity to schedule an exam the next day of Diwali, Holi, etc? We’ll find out soon enough.

Interval : The Internship

This is just like the work experience you had (or wish to have), only significantly less paid, and hopefully less stressing. This is the part where they extract the max out of you – like shearing a sheep, at the same time feeding it well enough to come back later.

Part 2 : The Final Year

Before I try to generalize the life of a 2nd year student, please allow me to showcase this beautiful flow chart I just hand crafted (this is what MBA courses are all about – structures, matrices, and jargon):

For the “Prepare to Burn in Hell” category, life is the most depressing and extremely difficult over the 2nd year. They end up spending most of the time worrying and envying (read : abusing on a daily basis) the “Party like there’s no tomorrow” category. The coursework does no help. On one hand they try to handle their dwindling academic performances, on the other trying to glorify their CV as much as they can, alongside preparing all there is to prepare for any and every firm that’s going to visit the campus – that’s right, most of us are not as fortunate to have a clear goal (read : guaranteed shortlists).

They end up jumping through hoops they didn’t even know existed. The struggle to not end up in mediocrity is real.

The Conclusion

Final placements happen in January and every institute somehow manages to achieve 100% results and fairy tale packages. Let’s not get into the realities of that.

Let’s not look at happiness or the content %age of these students with their offers. Let’s not ask questions we can’t handle the answers to – like do you think this MBA degree served you good in achieving the goals you wanted to achieve before coming here? Are you happy with how your life has shaped up?

There’s a scare in my heart. I can hear the loud thumpings even as I write these questions – for I am a mere mortal, preparing for the interval, and wishing for a gratifying ending (I wrote “happy ending” and deleted it for obvious reasons).

P.S. There won’t be a proper ending to this article, because I’m still figuring out how life will shape up for me! For those who seek a definitive answer, it simply doesn’t exist.

It’s like answering how many thorns will you let cut through your fingers, to enjoy the aesthetic delights of the rose you desired; or perhaps everyone in your surroundings hyped up, which made it seem desirable to you too.

Anuj Kukreja

1st year MBA student at IIM Lucknow. Will be interning at Bain & Company in the summer of 2019. Has previously worked with EXL for 3 years in data consulting before this. Graduated from IIT Kanpur in 2015. Schooling from Delhi. Adventurous, adrenaline seeking enthusiast.

Comments

109 comments

Anuj Kukreja

Thanks My Lord. You do see how you still manage to break the flowchart and create your own line?
#SomeMenJustWantToWatchTheWorldBurn #MeToo

Apoorva Singh

Impressive ! Your article is so amzing and well written. You’re doing a great job man 🙂 Keep it up

Anuj Kukreja

And you’re doing the best job in bringing immense support! I’m truly indebted. Thanks!

Rakesh Kukreja

I think everyone should read this once before considering for MBA. Some harsh truths well covered!

AKASH AGARWAL

What a article…Such a beautiful piece of writing and i can very my relate it to my thoughts. Thanks Anuj for highlighting stereotype.

Anita Kukreja

This is indeed helpful to make an informed choice for the MBA aspirant readers of insideiim. Must read.

Nikita Kukreja

Great work !! I think every student pursuing MBA can relate his or her life with each and every line written in this article. Moreover, this article will open the mind gates of MBA aspirants and will help them in setting right goal of life which is reality based. Keep up the good work! Waiting for your next input too

Anuj Kukreja

Thanks so much for the best comment I’ve received on here! Glad to help people in any way I can.

Vimi Gogna

Absolete mere facts, which can also be aligned with overall Indian Education System. Looking forward to read your next blog.

Vibhuti Sharma

Having completed my MBA I’d say it doesn’t get any better. It’s just a rat race society wants you to be a part of.
Well for your writing, I’ve never seen a better structured article with perfect element of humor.

Monika Upneja

I must say, this is one good article. Everything Realistic nothing dreamy. Straight head on. Rare people have the courage to write such piece, most people write what others want to listen, all that gloomy shit.
Also, I would say this will really help many, though I know it doesn’t have that end, but it still answers many questions. It did answer my questions.

Anuj Kukreja

Most of the times reality is harsh, and some things needed to be said. I’m glad it struck a chord somewhere with you and answered some of your concerns. Thanks for the detailed opinion.

Agnese Kindo

It was a great and brutally honest article. It’s totally relatable….. Considering the amount of sacrifices you have to make to get to the top 😛

Anuj Kukreja

Thanks Agnese! I’m glad it felt relatable to the brilliant performing, most sacrificing senior at HelL :p

Amandeep Singh

I hope you soon route yourself to the category of “Party like there’s no tomorrow” and then will add one more flow to the diagram “Khe k lunga (to life)”

Great efforts and writing!!

Anuj Kukreja

Hahaha I wish the same man! Nice perspective coming from you. Thank you so much Amandeep.

Anuj Kukreja

Thanks a lot Chirag. You were right, you should’ve co-authored this with me. Maybe next time!

Arghadeep Saha

I guess the iitiimshaadi website is where like minded people who went through this “burn in hell” connect and relate to. Just another perspective

Anuj Kukreja

I’ve worked for 3 years at EXL, as I mentioned in my bio. Happy to take any questions around that.

Khushboo Chopra

Loved the article!!!
Somehow have put me back to questioning myself if mba is worth my 2 years and 20 lacs.
Ps: I have already taken the admission. And ur article have put me in major dilemma and deep thinking 🙁

Poushali Nandi

Doing MBA from a low ranking college (Christ University) but nevertheless we feel it too. I can only imagine how much harder it will be in IIMs. God bless you for the final year. Well on the brighter side, you guys will be earning so well so soon that at the end it will be fine. Real struggle for us though 😛