WHY MBA – PART 2
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who has read, shared & appreciated the part-1 of “my MBA journey”. There is no better feeling than to touch upon someone’s life, give them hope and if possible, through your own experience, make someone see their own goal in life. But coming to me, for most part of my life, I didn’t know what my goals were. It was rather a shifting goal post scenario where the only constant was to surprise myself.
Anyways going back to where I left at part-1, after scoring 730 in GMAT, I was in a soup. It was a score where I knew I could fetch a ticket to a good business school, but was it something I really wanted. I was going to get married in six months to the girl I have dated for 10 years and had promised the moon (my advice, plan early and keep a check on promises!), my father was retired and there was nothing better than the unlimited medical benefit NTPC offers, I had a huge home loan to repay, my promotion was due (which made matters complicated further) and then there was the job stability of a PSU. Was it worth to be selfish, leave everything and move to uncertain shores? I mean how much can a one year course change you after all, that all of a sudden you become a gold mine for all the companies and they pay you wads of cash? What if it is all an illusion and you are left behind without a job?
The thoughts never died but then support was near too. My wife agreed to lead a vagabond life with me and my father simply said, “If you think you are good enough for life after MBA, well we are also good enough to support you”. It felt my batteries were recharged and I was ready to take the leap forward. A small point here, though not as a rule, but it helps if your family is on-board with your decision.
With 730 marks and a zero bank balance in my kitty, foreign colleges though seemed exciting, wasn’t a good value proposition. Also with a PSU background, I felt my fit in Indian economy was better. Added to it was the euphoria of a stable government at Centre. I chose to apply to IIM A, IIM B & ISB. Now ISB was always after GMAT option, but IIM A & B, were schools I didn’t even target during my CAT days and the very feeling of filling the application was exciting. I tried to speak my heart out in all the essays but most importantly got them reviewed from as many people I could. The process was irksome but it also helped me know myself better. And here is an advice to all future applicants, please write your essays yourself. No one in this whole world can know you better than yourself. And try to get it reviewed from different people and be open to criticism. It will give you different perspectives about the person you are.
However one question where I invariably got stuck was “Why MBA”. It was not about that answer, but convincing yourself of your future goals and the path you choose for it. Frankly speaking, career wise it was the most important decision of my life. I studied science as everyone said it is good, went to NIT Silchar because that was the only NIT I got selected to (however in hindsight, it couldn’t have been any better), chose civil engineering because it was the only choice I had (never regretted that choice too) and went to NTPC as it was the highest paid campus job in our college that year. So this was my first big decision for myself, which not only affected me but my entire family. I gave it a long thought. This question is actually of three parts – who you are, who you want to be and how you join these two points in life. The second part of this question is very crucial as no one is a fortune teller. Yes, you can desire to be rich and famous, nothing wrong in that, but that is a corollary to the actual theorem. You can be doing engineering like me and would like to do marketing and that is acceptable. You can wish to be an entrepreneur or work for someone else and that too is alright. In fact you can today write something and after MBA can go a different way too. But what’s important is, on today’s date you have a clarity of thought about what you can be (with your existing skill set) and is MBA the only way to reach it. Remember, MBA is expensive, needs a year of ruthless dedication and a break from your career where you could have achieved a lot (both professionally as well as financially), compromise on family responsibilities and can only add on to your skill set giving you an insight to a well-researched thought process. It cannot change you as a person. It will only propel you to a more competitive world. And if you are doing it for the wrong reasons, has all the chances to disappoint you.
As a PSU employee, for me I could actually gauge my growth rate in the organization, which was not something I was satisfied with. I didn’t want to quit my job and go to the private sector and join with my engineering background. And I was so much used to the money I got that it was difficult for me to start from the scratch. So, I decided MBA is the only way through which I can convince myself to quit NTPC and test uncertain shores with the benefit of some added skills. I might be wrong, but I believe in it and if you do, you can convince others about it. And so I got interview calls from all the three premier business schools. It is to be mentioned that during this time, I also tried my luck at a startup. We were a good team but unfortunately for each of us; it was less about the business and more about what we can gain out of the experience. The end result, the venture never took off. And I learnt another lesson in life; never do something towards which you are not fully committed, not only you ruin your dreams, you ruin that of others too.
Coming back, my first interview was that of IIM B. Now I was giving an interview after a span of 7 odd years and felt jittery, even though I had my preparations in order. I had some punch lines to impress, some numbers to back it and a whole lot of humour to top it all. But then what I had forgotten was there was a thin line between being humorous and being over smart. There were loud laughs from me and the panelists, during the interview, and I thought I had impressed them. To seal the deal, I also spoke about my non-existent startup and as it happens, got ripped off by the management gurus. Never speak of something you do not know. It’s a sure recipe for disaster (I didn’t convert IIM B and promised to myself never to discuss something that was never there). Next was ISB. This time I read a lot of interview experiences on Pagalguy and discussed with my MBA friends. I was also ready with more numbers to answer their guestimates. Before the interview I had an informal chat with the applicants present there and my first interview question was to talk in detail about the applicants I met. I was prepared for this and hit the right chords from the word go. The interview went wonderful and I converted ISB. And then was the time for the mother of all business schools in India – IIM A. Thanks to Pagalguy, I had already networked with some of the applicants and it was a nice experience to meet them in person during the interview. The interview was surprisingly calm. We discussed issues ranging from AFSPA to how to turn over a sick company. We discussed about my priorities in life to what I can bring to the table at IIM A PGPX. And also got the chance to sneak in a punchline – I’m still sitting here because you believe I can convince you about my candidature at IIM A. Well as it goes, the rest is history and what a glorious history it is!
But then historical facts, though can carve the path for the future, cannot determine its end result. It is bad not to get a platform in life but worse not to utilize it. I chose IIM A over ISB. Mind it both the schools are great, but considering my 7.5 years of work experience and what I desired out of this course, I chose the former (This was my personal choice and I request everyone to make their own). After much mulling, I decided not to take the study leave option but to quit NTPC. I felt bad as I had earned a lot out of this organization, but as someone said, to create something new you have to write off the past. I decided to embrace freedom and it feels great. Yes, it’s risky, as my father says, but what’s fun without some element of risk. A few days from now, I will embark upon another journey and however I end it, I want to look back and be proud of it.
Yes, I’m 30 and I’ve just been born!
N.B. – If you like it, please leave your comments. They are the reason that gives me the desire to write more.
IIM A PGPX, 2016