Hey Harshal, tell us a little about yourself.

Hmm… can I get back to you on that later? No? Ok. Well, ‘myself’ is a topic I find difficult writing about. Here goes the answer I did not give in my MBA interviews. A simple guy, eccentric at times, I don’t have any of those irritating habits that people find interesting. Single, not at all ready to mingle. I prefer to be left alone at times, and when that happens, the best in me emerges. Am a very helpful person, will go out of my way to come to the aid of anyone who needs it. I’m an information junkie and I can’t take it if you’re keeping any secrets from me, especially if it involves me.

Why did you do an MBA? The ‘real’ reason?

An extra confusing post-SSC educational period put me in a royal fix about where my career destination was. During my engineering undergraduate course I realised that it was not meant for me. So I headed towards a BSc, during which I realised that it would be better for me to do something non-technical. MBA presented itself as a good option for a person whose technical training would be useful in a communication based scenario. And as I said, I’m an information junkie, so if I’m able to earn my bread through information, why not? Management presented itself as a good option to do that, so there I was, trying to get into an MBA programme.

How did you prepare for SNAP, the exam that got you into SIBM Pune?

I didn’t. I prepared for CAT. I started my preparation in early August 2005, delayed by a week thanks to the July 26 floods and the (in)famous rains. I worked hard in the coming months when I realised the gap that I had to cross. I continued preparing, taking tests, mocks, sectionals et al right upto November 20. I then took a 10 day break and joined office on a major project on December 1. After that studies went for a toss, and I had only one day of practice each for both the NMAT and SNAP exams. Still, it was a good try, considering that I did get a 3 digit score in SNAP.

How has life been on the SIBM Pune campus?

For us, SIBM has not had a campus per se, as we aren’t a residential B-school yet. Our juniors will be the lucky first batch to have that. Hence, life at SIBM itself has not been a full-fledged work-and-relax-together type of life. We study, attend lectures, goof around for a while, and then go back home.

Most of the batch has taken up flats and paying guest accommodation for themselves. In my case, the group that I live with, the five of us, have become very close. We’ve been together since the beginning of the course. Two of us moved out – one to another B-school for an Executive MBA, and another to a different place, but the other five are fast friends now. Although we have had our own schedules and different study circles, we ensure that we stay together. Once a month is a ‘roomie dinner’ just for the five of us. Girlfriends, teammates, and anyone else, are not allowed.

Studies are not that hard to require continuous group study. Everyone has Internet connections at home, so emails and Instant Messengers suffice for interaction and team work. Coordination is done over telephone. Only for extra important studies do we meet, like for exams or presentations to be elivered as a group.

What’s the best and not-so-great thing about life at a B-School?

The best thing at a B-school is not the studies that you do, nor what you learn inside the classroom. The best thing is what you learn from your friends, class and team-mates. A B-school is one place where the variety of students is more than anywhere else. The backgrounds, the work experience, the creativity and the thought processes, is all diverse. What you can learn from your friends is much, much more than what you can ever learn inside a classroom. One single case or topic of study will generate many different facets of view, which enlarges your own understanding of issues.

And the worst thing? Quite subjective. For me, it has been the ‘teacher attitude’ that many professors have shown. The whole batch of MBA students is above 21 years, and many already have quite a lot of work experience. In such a case, the maturity levels of students is way above normal, and you can expect them to follow decorum inside an ongoing lecture. A good lecturer need not ask for silence again and again. On the other hand, if lecturers are not able to maintain decorum in class, they have to realise that the students are not interested in learning from them, and they have to modify their approach to hold interest. Treating postgraduate students like 17 year old college students doesn’t really help their cause.

Any advice for aspiring B-schoolers?

A B-school is not an end, but a means to an end. Don’t keep stars in your eyes about joining a B-school and then ruling the world. Getting into a B-school is tough, but keeping your spirits high after that is tougher. You might have lots of presumptions about how your life is going to be inside B-school, but expect them to crash. Try not to have any ideas at all. Take things as they come. People find life at X Bschool tough and easy at Y, just because they think that B-schools have to have a certain amount of toughness or activity in them. If you don’t have a benchmark to measure against, you don’t get discontented with your life. Give it your best shot, and take what you get. Trust me, that’s enough.

The ever helpful Harshal Modi, better known as Grondmaster in the PaGaLGuY community completed him MBA from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management (SIBM), Pune in 2008 and is now all set to join Idea Cellular.

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