Connecting the dots – how things go awry, yet work out in the end – My Story

My post here should have come in 2012. It didn’t, and I’m glad it didn’t, as the story wasn’t complete then. It is now

I joined FMS Delhi in 2012. I have graduated now, and when I look back I realize that God has been very kind to me. I always heard people say that everything happens for the best, I realized this in the last week of January 2014, and how! The dots connected backwards so beautifully, it all seemed like a plan. And the moment at which I had this realization was, well, just bliss 😃

Through the story I will refer to the dots numerically, which will all magically connect at the end 😁

Warning: This post is long, very long! But I promise you, it will be interesting.

The beginning

My story begins when I was in class 12. I was, like many others, preparing for the IIT JEE. Somehow I always knew that I wanted to do an MBA from IIM later and so I wanted to get through an IIT to get the ‘tag’! I wasted most of class 11 whiling away time as it was the first time I was in a college of sorts(In Mumbai we have junior college after class 10). Studied hard in class 12 for JEE, but missed getting a rank courtesy a single digit score in Chemistry. I was very disappointed! Did ok at AIEEE, got an AIR 7000 and geared up for an NIT. This is when my dad told me to not go to an NIT but take up Chemical Engineering at UDCT Mumbai(regarded as the best Chemical Engineering Department in Asia). Now as you may have guessed, I absolutely hated chemistry, I totally despised it. The logic my dad gave me here was that since I was going to do an MBA anyway, UDCT was as big a brand as an NIT and I could stay at home in Mumbai and ‘enjoy'(I would come to realize how untrue the brand bit was in the next 6.5 years). He was at his persuasive best and I was sold. He told me to not worry about acads, and have fun at engineering, and then crack the CAT in my final year. It sounded like a plan! This was dot 1.

Oh and btw, I took the boards like they were a joke, assuming “no one ever looks at 12th marks, I’l be going to a top engineering college, that’s what’s going to matter”. Got 72% and I flaunted it to my friends who had better marks but a much worse rank at AIEEE, the brash kid I was.

Engineering days

While at UDCT, I decided to follow my dad’s advice. I had fun! Barely went to classes, fooled around all the time, and studied just enough to pass. I firmly believed that since engineering academics have no connection with management, they would have no bearing on selection to a management school either. On the other hand, extra-curricular activities and positions of responsibility are what B schools value the most. So I got involved with different clubs at college, organized many events and huge fests, and became the General Secretary of the student’s council in my 3rd year. All throughout, my academics were in the early 60s, way below the average of the batch. This was dot 2.

CAT 2010

It was in February of 2010 that I started seriously preparing for the CAT. My term as GS of the college was about to end in a few months and most of the events for the year were done. I had time, a lot of it, and so I joined IMS with some of my college friends. As I had expected, quant came to me naturally. I was good, very good. But as I had not expected, I was struggling in VA, and I mean struggling! I remember getting single digit scores in SimCats and AimCats in VA multiple times(this was the time we had 3 sections, QA, DI-LR and VA). So I wasn’t the most voracious reader around, but I had always believed that my English is good. So why this was happening was just not making any sense. I took more than 25 mocks in 4 months, and not in a single one did I manage to get more than 80%ile in VA.

I had almost lost hope, when I decided to approach things differently. I realized that my preparation in VA had not really matured. I was repeating my mistakes, and with each mock my confidence was sinking. So at the end of September 2010, I decided to not take another mock for a month and focus on VA only. My CAT was scheduled for 9th November. I picked up all my mocks and began to analyse the VA of each and every one of them. I spent almost 3-4 hours per mock, thinking of different ways to reason each question, specially the RCs, to try and frame an argument and jot it down, and then read the explanation to match their reasoning with mine. I could see that with each passing day, my confidence began to grow, my accuracy began to grow, and I my reasoning had begun to replicate the reasoning of the book. I remember taking my next mock on 30th October and scoring 99.xx%ile in VA. Boy was I pumped! This moment was so huge and I was so happy, that my dad decided to take me for a beer with him. In the next 10 days I took 3 more mocks and scored in excess of 98%ile in the VA section of all of them. On the morning of 9th November, 2010, I left home nervous, but confident. I was satisfied as I walked out of the exam centre, hoping that I had done enough.

The only other exam I took was the FMS entrance (those days FMS had their own exam). It was a speed based test, not my style. I did pretty badly. I knew this was one exam I would never be able to crack as its just so not attuned to my skills. Even though this meant that one among the top 5 schools in the country was already out of reach, I wasn’t too concerned as I expected to do well at the CAT and have a clear shot at ABC and have L as back-up. Now if my memory serves me correctly, IIM A and IIM L did not have very stringent acads criteria for calling till CAT 2009. Calls were primarily on your CAT score. I think for A you needed 70+ in 10th and 12th and L was probably similar, or atleast that’s what I was told by some of my seniors. IIM C obviously had no acads criteria for calling students, it was purely on the basis of the CAT acore. So I was under the impression that once I get a good CAT score, I will get multiple calls, and converting these calls will not be hard as my communication skills are good. The CAT 2010 results came on 11th January, my birthday and the day did seem reasonably lucky.

My results were:

OA: 99.66 –> Satisfied

QA: 97.8 –> Surprised/disappointed

DI-LR: 96.65 –> Very surprised/Very disappointed

VA: 99.26 –> Absolutely thrilled

I was satisfied. Now I waited for the calls to come in, which I thought were a formality. And what a surprise I was in for! I would come to realize that all of the extra-currics and PORs were not that important after all, and it was acads that were taken most seriously. Thanks to my wonderful acads(72 in 12th and low 60s in grad till then), the only call I got was IIM C. I felt cheated.
That’s it. One shot to realize my childhood dream. And I said to myself that the one shot is all I need. But again, the overconfident person that I was, I did not prepare very well and was caught off guard during the interview when asked to defend my abysmal acads. As I walked out that door, I knew I had squandered my chance, and I was right. Reject from IIM C, my dream college! This was dot 3.

Life beyond CAT

In the meanwhile, some good and some not so good things happened. India won the world cup and I was at the stadium!! Thanks to my good oratory and analytical skills, I got a job with Ernst & Young in their Climate Change and Sustainability Services practice as an Associate Consultant. And my engineering days were over, and my final aggregate percentage was 60.04%, 3032/5050 in 8 sems to be precise. Had I gotten just 3 marks less across 8 sems, my aggregate would have been below 60%. This was dot 4.

CAT 2011

I started my job in July 2011, and I really enjoyed it, at least initially. I travelled to client site a lot and handled some key projects myself. But I knew that my goal was IIM C and so I began taking mocks again in September. It was about now that I read an article on PG which said “FMS to accept CAT score from 2012 onwards“. I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought to myself that now I have 2 options. However FMS was option 2. Considered making XL option 3 but didn’t. This was dot 5

I knew that with my acads, to have a real shot at C, I must aim for as high a score as possible at CAT, higher than the last time. Took CAT 2011 without much fuss and did ok, but not as well as I had hoped.

The results were:

OA: 99.65 –> A touch disappointed

QA-DI: 99.75 –> Satisfied

VA-LR: 95.15 –> Disappointed

I was lucky to get an IIM C call in spite of the fact that they introduced 10% weightage to 10th and 12th marks this year for calling. A few days later, I also got a call from IIM L(abm) and FMS.

This time I was not going to repeat my mistakes. I joined a reputed gdpi class in Mumbai and attended the sessions religiously. I wasn’t really interested in ABM, so was going to give L a miss, but went for it for practice. Did well, and it gave me a lot of confidence. Next was C, and after the interview I had a strange feeling. I answered most of what they asked me and the discussion was smooth, but something was wrong, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. As the say, “Feel nahi aayi”. And not to my surprise, I was rejected by IIM C again! Now I had begun to doubt myself all over again, but for different reasons. I was supposed to have great communication skills, so why was I getting rejected by IIM C again and again? This is a question I have not been able to answer till today, but in hind sight, I’m glad this happened. This was dot 6.

Next the IIM L(abm) results came and I was in. This was reassuring, as I knew that I did have it in me to clear interviews. It gave me a lot of confidence for the FMS process later that month.

A day before the FMS process, I realized that FMS has a minimum graduation score criteria, and it is 60% for engineers(it was 60% for engineers, was relaxed to 50% for all streams from 2013). My score was 60.04! 3 marks lesser across 8 semesters of engineering, and I would not even be eligible to apply to FMS! Before the process I thought to myself, “this seems like this it is meant to be, its destiny“. And the process was smooth, and I was selected! 

It was a mixed feeling. On one hand I was very happy that I had converted a top 5 B school, but on the other hand I knew that this was the end of my IIM C dream!

Life at FMS 🙂 

When I was joining FMS, my dream job was Tata Administrative Services(TAS), which is one of the most coveted jobs in the Indian B school fraternity. I genuinely believed I could make it to TAS. But it was only during the summer internship process when I realized that if with my profile, if getting into FMS was a big deal, getting out with a top job is next to impossible. The first 3 lines of my CV had 2 lines which read 72% and 60%! And contrary to what I had believed, no one outside Mumbai knew UDCT, no one!

I was still hoping to get some shortlists from general management or marketing profiles with my barrage of extra-curriculars and PORs. However, I did not get shortlists from any but one consulting company(my workex was consulting so they shortlisted me but didn’t select me) among the first 35-40 companies on campus. It was only after this that I got my next shortlist from a small niche consulting firm and was selected. By this time, close to 60% of the batch had been placed. My friends were worried for me, but I held up a brave face saying its only an internship, but I knew that the problem was grave. If I would not get shortlist, I would never be able to show the companies that I was actually pretty good. So I knew that my CV needed some serious ramping up, as in the finals too I was not going to get shortlists easily. I would have to earn them.

I was holding a POR at FMS in my first year, I decided to not contest for any position the next year. FMS is pretty relaxed post summers so I had a lot of free time to build my skills and CV, and still have all the fun in the world. I focused my energies on corporate competitions and live projects to bring in some academic flavor to my profile. I worked hard, very hard. One after another, I won the campus championship of 4 major corporate competitions. I also maintained good academics at FMS, being among the top 25% of the batch. In the summers, I got to work on strategy formation for a fortune 25 client. I was also one of two people to be selected to represent FMS and India at an event in South Korea. So come finals, my CV had started to look a lot better, but I was still unsure if I would get any major shortlists in the finals with my way below average 12th and grad scores.

Edit: One of the competitions that I won was organized by a major Indian conglomerate who used to offer PPIs to the winners from every campus. This year however, they decided to not offer PPIs as they were “over-hired”. I was extremely disappointed. It was a general management role which I would have happily accepted if given the chance. This was dot 7.

P.S. A PPI is a Pre-Placement Interview which if you convert, you have to accept the job and you are signed out of the finals process at FMS.

The dots connecting

Owing to the small batch size of FMS, and the fact that many students had PPOs and many were placed in the laterals process, the number of people competing in the finals was a lot lesser than in the summers. And with my improved profile to go with the reduced competition, I was one of the 40 people shortlisted for the process of TAS, one of my 3 shortlists on day 0. I knew that this was my chance to make it big! And as luck would have it, the final interview was with three directors of Tata companies, all three of whom were from Mumbai. When I said I was a chemical engineer from UDCT, I could see how their eyes lit up, they knew!! I clinched my fist under the table. We then had a 5 minute discussion on what makes the UDCT stand out globally etc etc, and they spoke more than me!! They absolutely loved the college, and almost completely overlooked what had been my Achilles heel forever, my past acads. Then one of them asked me, “how have you managed to maintain reasonable acads in spite of doing so many things?

It was an “ab rulaoge kya” moment! 

I guess he was referring only to my FMS acads, like he was not concerned with my past acads at all!

I had a great time in that interview room, and sometime later I was told that I had made it!

This was the moment of realization! My choice of which engineering school to attend, FMS accepting CAT score, my being eligible for FMS so narrowly, my consecutive rejects from IIM C where I may have never gotten this shortlist with the large batch size, my not getting that PPI which I would have happily accepted, suddenly all of this made perfect sense! And as I said at the beginning, this moment was bliss 😃

God’s ways are strange and the dots always connect backwards! Everything happens for a reason, everything happens for the best 👼

Thank you FMS Delhi! You truly are the Red Building of Dreams

Vineet Jain

FMS Delhi 2012-2014

TAS batch of 2014

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