Warning: Reading this interview may induce vocabulary-anxiety in you.
Hi Ankush, what are you upto these days?
I am now a manager at TAS, which basically means that I am a multi-functional, multi-industry resource for the Tata Group. In simple language, I am a Marketing Planner/Product-Category-Segment-brand manager/Media Buyer/Sales person. The work has been bewilderingly different. In one year, I have been part of an Incubator/Venture Capitalist setup, sold advertising space on TV, done Community initiatives (in Lonavala) and been part of a team implementing a strategic management tool. Sorry if it sounds so dull, I’d like nothing better than to say that I am usually practicing my putt on the ninth tee at Augusta between peach schnapps, but that’d be stretching it.
How has life changed since you graduated from FMS Delhi?
1. I have a job. A full-time paying one at that.
2. I have a frequent flier membership.
3. I’ve been to Taj Coffee shops more than I’ve been to Barista (that’s because it was free)
4. Other miscellaneous stuff.
Have I flashed the lifestyle bit enough?
On a serious note, nothing much has changed except maybe a little less time to spend on things I’d like to spend some more time on. Activities like reading, listening to music or watching movies, which used to be my standard pastime now are irregular. Apart from that, it’s quite a relief to be able to do things at your time and pace. Not be bound by classes or submissions but rather by work deadlines. The working bit though – honestly – seems will go on forever and that’s definitely not cool.
What was your biggest apprehension about joining a business school? And, did your perception change after joining FMS?
There are plenty of myths floating around about MBA – the awesome quotient of having the three letters after your name, the sleepless nights, the terrifying professors, the dollar gazillion salaries, etc. Some of them can be rejected outright – to paraphrase a popular quote, ‘three letters maketh not the man’. To be worried if all these super-crazy things would happen, would be a little too over the top. I was – and apprehension is probably too strong a word for it – really looking forward to the people I would be with at b-school, rather than which academics or which courses I would study. It’s a bit like that Ray Charles album – Genius Loves Company. I was hoping that I would get to meet similar people with tastes as eclectic as mine, people with whom I could relate to, who like listening to music, gaming, quizzing and all that and more. This isn’t quite associated with studying and yet is an indelible part of student life. In other words, I didn’t want to be with diligent, 150 plus IQ monkeys. I just wanted to see some smart individuals around me.
After joining FMS, I met and made friends with people whose sheer talent at anything that they do was so pronounced that they made me look like a shoeshine boy in comparison. These guys taught me all that I needed to learn, and didn’t. That was my money in the bank from an MBA degree!
What’s the best and not-so-great thing about life at a B-School?
The Best things would be…
1. The Power of the PPT – This has never ceased to amaze me. People who get through some of the toughest exams in the country, eventually end up making PowerPoint Presentations for a living. It’s overwhelming!
2. Group Assignments – this is your introduction to the 80/20 principle in action – 80 pc work of all team project work is done by 20 pc people. Personally, I always managed to be on the 80 pc side (the people one). Even then, the projects kept getting submitted mysteriously. I guess the thought of losing marks is much more persuasive to some people than getting on a moral high horse.
3. Meeting Geniuses at work, daily – Some people are just effortlessly and amazingly brilliant at what they do. Sadly, that statistic does not include the person in my mirror. Even then, it was worth my while to be working/studying/getting beaten by peers like these.
4. ’11:59:59′ – Yes, you guessed it right, deadlines! Got to love these things. And also got to love all the extensions that we used to inveigle from faculty.
5. B-school competitions – Better known as the allegorical pots under the rainbow, the amount of money some folks are willing to fork out for your lousy Googled paper is astounding. Come to think of it, even your salary is a bit like that. If you are a diligent participant in these competitions, the taxman may come knocking.
The Not-so-great things would be…
1. You can’t claim to be an un-MBA, like the way many engineers are conveniently un-engineers – do MBA once and you are mated for life. In come the Chardonnays and out goes your local brew, never mind the fact that you used to be a former champion beer guzzler in Chinatown.
2. You always use more than twelve words where three will do (talk a lot) – Saying ‘Goal!’ isn’t enough – you just have to butt in with – oh! That sensational cross from the center-forward to the backward-center leaves the defenders stymied for… – oh gosh! I hate football anyway.
3. You DO become another brick in the wall, and you have to deal with it.
4. Forget about standing up against the man. You are THE man now. Got to burn those Che Guevera t-shirts and get rid of the Skinhead tattoos. You are actually worried that Bear Sterns got sold for $2 a pop.
5. Your social life is ruined – when you meet old friends; the only flames that get kindled are the ones of Tax, Budget and stock-spreads. The time of giggling over girls is quite behind you. I can’t speak for my female friends, but I haven’t seen them giggle for quite some time now.
Five things you can’t do without at a B-school.
1. One site, Google: for course material, questions, answers, CP points, competitions, movie quizzes etc.
2. One Laptop: for viewing Educational material.
3. The Surly Professor (warning: could be many of them) – for putting you to sleep or taking up arms or teaching arbitrary concepts in the most befuddled way possible and making a fool out of you 21 times out of 21.
4. One Command: Copy-Paste – Used primarily for cross-referencing or indexing or research purposes. Strictly an educational tool. Not to be confused with the cut-copy-paste of IT programmers the world-over. Used with love, care and absolutely no discrimination by toppers down to people at the bottom of the class rank totem pole.
5. A Piece of Paper: The CV – Not to be confused with your earlier efforts in the genre. This is your literary tour-de-force; the major work of fiction which you are expected to author at a B-school. It’s the culmination of your studies and competitions; Advertising, Market research, Business Law, Consumer Behavior, Asset Management etc. into one package.
Any advice for ’em aspiring B-schoolers?
There is more to being an MBA than a superb CAT score, regardless of whether you’ve got it or not. Try to figure out your dislikes, be it a person or professors or course or function, and don’t waste your energy on them. Be in touch with as many folks as you humanly can, and that includes offline friends too. It’s usually not a smooth ride; you might end up as the bottom statistic in a much vaunted placement programme. That’s what it’s all about really: to be ready for anything. Whence concludes the monologue, there is nothing more soporific than a senior giving gyaan anyway. Good Luck.
Ankush Trakru, a PaGaLGuY.com member (user-ID: Quintessence) joined the prestigious Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi in 2005. He now works at Tata Administrative Services (TAS).