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“Although I was good at technical stuff, it wasn’t something I could visualise myself making a career in”. Following her heart, this IT gal rejected offers from Aricent and Samsung Engineering labs and chose IIM Indore instead. Read on to know her success mantra.
1. When did you realize that you wanted to go for an MBA? What was the thinking process behind it?
Towards the end of my second year at NSIT, I started considering the option of pursuing MBA after engineering primarily because of the realisation that “although I was good at technical stuff, it wasn’t something I could visualise myself making a career in”. Owing to my involvement in college festivals and initiatives like www.onlinesem.in, I was developing an inclination towards a career in management. Also, another reason behind my coming to IIM Indore was my ability to make it to this place. As is the case with many students, joining a CAT coaching institute (as it helps during placements as well), taking the CAT and then making it to a good institute eventually leads them to the MBA path because it’s difficult to forgo the “IIM Brand”. So, as a piece of advice to my juniors, I would like to mention that if you have decided to make a career in the technical domain, do stick to your decision.
2. Why did you choose to go for IIM instead of some good B-School abroad?
Honestly speaking, I always wanted to study at an IIM and hence was never too keen on going abroad. Also, since good institutes abroad require one to first work for some years, it wasn’t something I was considering.
3. In your opinion what are the skills that are essential in a CAT aspirant?
In my opinion, the biggest ingredient of a CAT aspirant is the motivation to perform well in CAT and make it to a good B-school (because it generally fizzles out once the placement season at NSIT begins). An exam like CAT depends more on a person’s state of mind than on his/her preparation. But yes, some basic amount of preparation is a must (considering that the person has good conceptual understanding of Maths topics studied in school). Also, one cannot overemphasize the need to regularly read newspapers and take mock tests and also analyse them with an aim to improve speed and accuracy and work on one’s weak areas.
4. According to you what is the ideal time to start preparing for MBA?
Considering that the preparation happens parallely with college, beginning of third year is a good time to start preparing for CAT.
5. What are the various rounds of CAT selection procedure? Kindly brief us a little on each of them.
Round-1: Taking the CAT
This is the stage for which we all prepare the hardest. It requires us to take an online aptitude test which comprises of two sections focusing on verbal ability, quantitative ability and logical reasoning. As mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to start preparing for this in the beginning of third year, preferably by joining some CAT coaching institute. Also, whether or not one joins an institute, one should make it a point to read the newspaper regularly and look up the meanings of difficult words. I would like to recommend a paper like The Hindu and if possible, a financial daily such as The Economic Times as well.
The exam needs to be taken some time in October or November and its result is declared in January.
Round-2: Filling out application forms of individual institutes
This is a very important stage of the selection procedure and if done properly, contributes a lot to the preparation for subsequent stages.
It involves filling out forms for individual institutes from which the applicant has received calls. In addition to personal and family details, the forms include questions about the applicant such as his/her strengths and weaknesses, reason behind the decision to pursue a career in management etc. These questions must be answered truthfully and after sufficient introspection. They are generally discussed during personal interviews.
Also, for students preparing on their own, it would be a good idea for them to first discuss their answers with friends who have joined a coaching institute.
Round-3 (a): Group Discussion (GD) or Written Ability Test (WAT)
Once a student’s CAT result is declared, depending on his/her percentile, he/she gets calls from various B-schools applied to. As a part of round-2, a student is required to participate in a group discussion or a written ability test. Since a GD generally involves a lot of argument, it does not provide a very clean way to evaluate all the participants, hence, some b-schools have now replaced it with WAT, which is an individual exercise.
One who has joined a coaching institute need not worry about how to prepare for a GD and WAT as sufficient guidance would be provided. So, do listen to and follow what you are being told to. Also, regular newspaper reading would be extremely helpful in preparing for this stage.
For the ones preparing on their own, I would like to reiterate the importance of reading the newspaper regularly and staying abreast with the current happenings in India and the world. Don’t just read stuff, also try to form your opinion. Secondly, try to take part in some mock GDs (preferably moderated ones) if you are not very comfortable with a GD. Do talk to a friend who has joined a coaching institute to know the basic rules of a GD.
Round-3 (b): Personal Interview (PI)
This is a crucial part of the selection process and must be prepared for well.
Some key areas that need to be focused on are- communication skills, confidence level, ability to handle stress/pressure (especially for stress interviews), knowledge of current affairs, knowledge of engineering subjects, good understanding of oneself with justification (like strengths and weaknesses, why MBA, why MBA from our institute, your most significant accomplishment so far etc.)
I would advise everyone to undergo some mock PIs before appearing for your actual PI, even if you haven’t joined any coaching institute.
6. For an undergrad doing B.Tech, what are the major areas, academically and non-academically where one must work upon to excel in CAT screening?
• Read the newspaper regularly; a national daily is a must and if possible, read a financial daily as well.
• Participate in extra-curricular activities.
• If you are looking at the top three IIMs, maintain an aggregate percentage above 80. But even for other good institutes, maintain as high a percentage as possible (and also keep the previous point in mind) as your under graduation percentage/ CGPA holds a lot of value both during selection to a B-school and for summer internships once you enter a B-school.
• Try to hold at least two good positions of responsibility. E.g. coordinator of a college fest or head of a society. Also, try to be as sincere in your role as possible, you will definitely learn something out of it and it will add to your personality. So, don’t do it just to earn a CV point- interviewers are smart enough to tell the difference.
• Similarly, it would be a good idea to take your projects and internships seriously.
• Lastly, do follow religiously whatever is being told at your CAT coaching institute and don’t forget to start taking mock tests a couple of months before the actual exam.
7. MBA has been always cliched with experience requirement tag, you definitely beat that with your pioneering achievement, in your opinion, how much is the role of work experience in the selection process?
One does get brownie points during the selection process for having worked for at least a couple of years before pursuing an MBA programme.
However, in my opinion, if one is able to make it to a good B-school immediately after graduation and one doesn't have a very good job offer in hand and one is sure of pursuing a career in management, then one must grab the opportunity with both hands because my experience so far suggests that people with work experience don’t have a significant advantage over freshers after entering the B-school. They have an upper hand if they have relevant work experience such as that in consulting or marketing but considering that most B. Tech students take up IT jobs, the advantage is not great.
8. What are the types of activities you indulged in during your time at NSIT that in your opinion charted you towards your goal?
I was actively involved in all college festivals- whether it be organising events or being part of teams like sponsorship and publicity. I also participated in and won a few events.
Secondly, I was an active member of The Neighbourhood Society of NSIT and co-founded www.onlinesem.in. In addition, I did a marketing internship after my first year at NSIT.
9. The popular perception in NSIT is that an external help/CAT coaching is mandatory. What are your views on the same?
Although joining a CAT coaching institute is not mandatory, doing so is extremely helpful because it helps one stay motivated till the end. Considering that the placement season at NSIT clashes with CAT, it is a good idea to join an institute because it becomes a little difficult to manage both the things on one’s own. Also, it is quite helpful for placement preparation as well and considering that most students join an institute, not joining one might make one lose out on certain things.
10. How did you manage things in your final year, sitting for company interviews alongside your exhaustive CAT preparations?
It was a little difficult since I had not faced anything of that sort earlier, but timely preparation makes it very easy to manage.
A word of caution: Please be confident of your choice and don’t get swayed by what your peers tell you. If you have decided to focus on your CAT preparation, kindly do that and don’t change your decision when you see your friends getting placed in good companies.
Half the pressure faced by students is because of this very reason.
11. Give us an insight into your life at IIM. How is it different from the time spent at NSIT?
Life at an IIM, and at any B-school for that matter, is quite different from that in an engineering college. Firstly, students are involved in a number of activities in addition to academics and hence need to manage their time very well. The very purpose of MBA education is to make students stretch themselves as much as possible.
Quizzes and assignments are a regular feature and studying just before an exam does not help. Also, there are numerous projects, competitions, clubs, festivals and committees which students can, and should be a part of as it significantly adds to their personality and enriches their B-school experience.
All in all, it is a great learning experience to be studying at an IIM. And it’s also fun!
12. Which department are you associated with and what kind of projects do you get to work upon?
I am a member of the Entrepreneurship Club of IIM Indore and the team of Utsaha, which is the rural market research festival of IIM, Indore. In addition, I am involved in the Corporate Involvement Team of IIM Indore’s Annual Management Festival- Ahvan.
Students get a variety of opportunities in a B-school. There are inter B-school competitions which they can participate then. In addition, there are live projects given by various companies and college clubs and also many events organised by the college clubs themselves.
13. Getting a call from one of the most prestigious MBA Colleges in India, would you like to reminisce the incredible moment with us?
I just can’t forget the moment when I checked my result. I was sitting at the admin and got a call saying that the result was out. My hands were literally trembling as I had not been able to convert any of my other calls and IIM Indore was my last hope. The moment I logged into my account and read “Congratulations!” I was incredulous! It took me a few minutes to accept the fact that I had finally made it to an IIM and once I did, I couldn't help being overjoyed.