This is probably the oft repeated question in all the MBA applications and interviews. For some it is an over rated question, for others it is the crux of the change they want to achieve in their lives and again there are others who seek the help of professionals to answer this basic question to the gateway of their future.
But ask this question to a person who is about to enter his 30’s, going to get married soon and working in a Maharatna PSU, that not only pays well but also extends unlimited medical benefit to the entire family of the employee and offers a stable and balanced professional life, the question sheds its symbolic value and holds gigantic repercussions.
I’m one such person and this is my “why MBA” story.
To begin with, I was one of those lakhs of students who after getting their engineering degrees dreams for a direct entry to the big ticket corporate world. There wasn’t much of a thought process involved except that I wanted big bucks and a cool life. I took MBA coaching not once but twice, gave CAT both the years and failed in the attempts. Not only the IIM’s, but all the top management colleges of our country had rejected me! Not to say, I was disappointed but more than that doubtful of my abilities to survive in this cut throat competitive world. I needed a helping hand to boost my confidence and the job, which I valued the least till then, provided me the succor. I worked hard, maybe to make up for the low priority I had given to my professional life. The things that seemed drab a few months before now challenged me and I enjoyed every bit of it. MBA soon seemed a thing of the past even though whenever I read some young guy getting funded for his new venture, it pinched me. This was the first time; I actually enjoyed being in a PSU and my efforts bore fruit as I got recognized within the organization.
By this time, I wanted to get more out of myself. The fact that I was reaching 30’s and hasn’t done much to be proud of, haunted me. I used to be a blogger at that time and as fate would have it, met a girl online sharing common love for literature. We discussed poems and social issues on Facebook and just like that one day decided to write a novel. But unlike the first time when I was preparing for CAT, this time I had learnt how to set my priorities and distribute time among them. It was also during this time I participated in few management contests, just for the fun of it, with mixed success, the peak being selected to the third round of the first ET Young Leaders Campaign. While I was working on the novel, many of my close friends went the MBA route and they also nudged me, but I had decided to stick to my plans where MBA though fascinated me, was at the last of my priority list. I wanted to know myself first, but that wasn’t the only reason. I simply didn’t want to fail appearing for a CAT/GMAT again!
At this stage of my life, I wanted to challenge myself both mentally as well as physically. In spite of being a smoker, I took up running and swimming. Swimming proved tougher to master, though today I’m a decent swimmer. However, running changed the way I view my life completely. I learned the art of patience, perseverance, hard work, preparation and a lot many things but more than everything else I earned my belief in my own abilities. The moment I touched the final line at the Mumbai full marathon, I was a changed man. I realized the true meaning of “nothing is impossible”. A few months later, I had finished writing my first novel, with a girl I had never met in my life. Some painful struggle followed but finally our novel “I was There” was published and it felt great to see your name in a piece of literature. And with it, I learnt the most valuable lesson in my life – There is always time for something extra!
It was at this stage I wanted to derive more out of my life. I tried to write, but couldn’t. Writer’s block as some quote it, but I lost the appetite I would say. I tried to run, but my motivation levels dipped. I needed a new challenge and I felt it was time to face my nemesis. I decided to appear for my GMAT. It was not that I had nothing better to do or I was bored of my job, but it was time I felt I put that feeling to rest that I wasn’t good enough.
One fine day, the first thing I did in the morning was to book my GMAT date keeping a time frame of 3 months in between. This time I had decided against any coaching, partly because I had nothing to lose (other than the bucks of course) but also because I thought there wasn’t much to gain out of those classes. For the first month, I collected as much online materials I could, reorganized them & tried to prepare a routine. By the time the first month was over, I had just knocked off a few pages from the GMAT Official Guide. But importantly, I had settled on a plan – 1.5 to 2 hours every day without fail. But as it happens with plans, I fared terribly the first week. Parties seemed to be happening all around me, girlfriend seemed to be pissed off and office seemed to be hectic more than ever!
I knew I was going the CAT way once again. I took a step back and remembered my marathon preparation. I used to wake up at 5 in the morning without fail, ran miles, did office, worked on the novel at night and also resisted the temptation for parties and all that because I was hungry for that success. Suddenly the choices seemed simple. If evening does not fit your plans, wake up early and so I did. Morning 6 to 8 without fail, switching off my cell and all the troubles of my life. Every Sunday was a test day to gauge my progress (and let me tell you there are many free tests available on the internet, but above that I also bought 5 Kaplan tests) but after three weeks, my results fluctuated heavily particularly in English. I knew there was something wrong in the process. I talked with some of my mates who had went the GMAT route and among the hordes of advice, filtered out the most important one – Keep a notebook and write anything new that you found or any concept that you did wrong in tests and without fail revise it every second day. Soon I found my scores going up. My Mathematics was always within the 48-50 range but my English scores shot from 28’ish to mid-30’s.
The second last week I gave a test every second day but resisted the test temptation for the last week. I read GMAT test experiences and revised my notebook which by now was almost 30 pages thick. Two days before the exam, I gave the official GMAT practice test and scored a 710 (It was the first time I actually crossed the 700 barrier). That felt good. The last day before the exam, I watched two movies, chatted with friends and slept early. But most importantly, bought Snickers and a Red Bull for the exam break (read it from a website and let me say, Red Bull definitely gives you wings).
On test day, I was pretty calm. Being a writer, the argument part wasn’t much of a trouble. I totally rushed through the DI paper without straining myself too much. I started of cautiously with my Maths paper, too cautious I might say, re-checking every answer. The end result, I couldn’t finish off the paper and had to randomly tick two of the last three questions while leaving the last! Total disaster I must say. I rushed to the washroom and calmed myself down. There was no point thinking about what has been done (again an important lesson I learnt from the GMAT experiences I had read). I gorged on the Snickers, gulped my Red Bull and was ready to go. Just as it happens with English, you are never sure. But then it went smoothly.
So at the end of the marathon exam, it was the result time. I took few deep breaths before clicking “yes”. Well a random number flashed, a number I had neither achieved in all my preparations nor targeted. It was a 730!
And that is Part-1 of “my GMAT story”. If you guys who are reading it, find a Part-2 (my journey to IIM-A PGPX) worthy to read, please leave a comment. That would motivate me to tell you more about this incredible journey. Thanking you all for your time.
IIMA PGPX, Class of 2016
Works at NTPC