Every aspiring corporate professional’s dream is to be knowledgeable enough to be the best in their field while making strides in their personal career development. Harshita Banthia, a student of the 2023 Batch of the Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) at the Goa Institute of Management (GIM), recently saw her hard work come to fruition. Receiving the highest placement offer of Rs. 55 lakh per annum, Harshita has been placed with Microsoft. In her interview with Pagalguy, she elaborated on the journey towards this placement, her feeling of accomplishment, and her enthusiasm to apply her learnings from GIM in the professional sphere. 

The Beginning

Harshita Banthia, a native of Raipur, Chhattisgarh, spent most of her formative years in the city where she completed her schooling. Later, she pursued a degree in Computer Science & Engineering at Shri Shankaracharya Technical Campus in Bhilai, Chhatisgarh, which allowed her to hone her technical skills and gain knowledge about the latest advancements in the field.

After graduating, Harshita joined HSBC as a software engineer, where she spent 23 months working on the back-end of applications based on received instructions. However, her inquisitiveness regarding the reasons behind the requested changes and their impact on the business model inspired her to think from the perspective of business analysts and project managers. She began to wonder how her technical skills could be combined with an understanding of business operations and management principles.

The Road to MBA

Upon conducting her research on business schools, Harshita narrowed down her options to a few leading MBA colleges, one of which was GIM. This institute was not only recommended to her by her peers who were preparing for CAT, but also stood out to her due to a serendipitous moment. While applying to various colleges, Harshita saw the display picture of a friend who was pursuing his MBA from GIM. The institute’s logo against the red brick wall instantly appealed to her and made her decision feel like a natural fit.

However, Harshita’s choice to join GIM was not solely based on intuition and referrals. She was motivated by the fact that it is a student-driven campus that offers a plethora of academic benefits and boasts a top-class faculty. GIM gives students the opportunity to apply classroom learning in real-world situations, which Harshita witnessed firsthand while managing various stakeholders and negotiating with vendors on campus while working on the Health Club. Along with the various campus initiatives, the Summer Internship Program also actively encourages experiential learning, which was another aspect that drew Harshita towards GIM.

The Internship Program at GIM 

Achieving success is seldom a linear path. Initially, Harshita encountered difficulties on her way to securing a Summer Internship Program. However, she persevered and eventually applied to Microsoft, where the selection process involved four rounds. The first round consisted of a submission based on a given case study. Selected students made it to the second round, which was a group discussion of case studies. This included a thirty-minute discussion within groups of five to six students, along with a panellist. Thereafter, the further shortlisted students were called for an interview. For Harshita, the discussion at this stage revolved utterly around her Curriculum Vitae. She thus suggests that all interviewees must be thoroughly aware of their CV. 

The last and final round with the selected few was a technical interview. Harshita’s interview at this stage comprised of questions from the field of product design. After the selection was completed, students had to work as interns for a duration of eight weeks. Harshita also shed light on her internship life at Microsoft, where interns are allotted a project, a mentor, a manager and a buddy. Given the fact that interns are new to the industry and do not have enough time to acquaint themselves with the nitty-gritty of the field, managers and mentors are always ready to clarify doubts.

Recollecting the inclusive work culture at Microsoft – Harshita said,

“I was trained according to my level of expertise during my internship. The seniors made time from their packed schedules to respond to my queries, and I specifically noted that my team was very cooperative and helpful. As an individual stuck in a limbo, where I was not exactly a student and neither a full-time employee, I found the environment very conducive to learning.”

The process of the Summer Internship Program required the interns to quickly learn about the product and deliver results within a short time frame. Harshita managed to handle this by maintaining effective communication with her mentors and managers, and by eagerly incorporating their feedback. As per Harshita’s observation, in such a program, having a can-do attitude and being adaptable to the company’s work culture is more important than just producing results. 

The Pre-Placement Offer

After Harshita finished her internship, she presented her work to the leadership team, who arranged a pre-placement interview (PPI) for her after determining that her work was satisfactory. Once she successfully cleared the interview, she received a pre-placement offer. 

During her discussion on PPI preparation, Harshita suggested that YouTube channels like ‘Exponent’ and ‘PM School’ were helpful resources for product management questions. These videos aided her in comprehending the fundamentals of product design and how to approach questions in the field.

Interview: Jitters and the Journey

On the day of the interview for the Summer Internship Program, Harshita experienced nervousness, which was not unfounded, given that securing an internship would considerably reduce the workload of her first year of study. This would provide ample time to focus on academics, according to her.

She explained that the interview was conducted online due to Covid-19, and emphasized the importance of honesty, as experienced professionals would be on the panel, who should not be misled.

Harshita also mentioned that candidates should not be intimidated into changing their answers, and should instead demonstrate their ability to think deeply about a solution. It was more important to show one’s thinking process than to give a right or wrong answer, she noted.

The defining advice for the interview process form Harshita is, “there is-…no right or wrong answer. It’s always the approach that matters.”

The Moment of Acceptance 

Receiving the pre-placement offer letter from Microsoft left Harshita in a state of disbelief, for she had to get the mail re-read by her parents and get further confirmation from HR to trust her selection completely. 

To her, this was the culmination of a lot of hard work. She recounted how through the preparation process, there was a lot of work but no concrete results. For her the acceptance felt like an overdue result of all the rigorous academic and extracurricular work. 

Advice for Future Management Students 

Harshita Banthia’s success story makes her eligible to give sound advice to aspiring management students. Having switched from a non-commerce engineering background to a management background, Harshita says that it is imperative to find a community. For the right group of people can facilitate rewarding brainstorming sessions and inculcate a culture of sharing unique individual perspectives. Harshita firmly holds the belief that management is not a discipline to be pursued in isolation or solitude. 

She also encourages future aspirants to give proper time and attention to learning outside the classroom, Along with classroom resources, it is important to acquaint oneself with self-learning tools and also to learn the process of practical application.  

Tips on Self-Care 

Harshita notes that it’s important to have faith in one’s abilities throughout the arduous process of getting an MBA degree. She notes that it was very hectic to shift from corporate life to academia and that the course load and anticipation of securing a summer internship can start to weigh heavy, giving rise to self-doubt. According to her, it’s essential to have faith and also have the support of friends and family in this process. 

Speaking from her own personal experience as a gym-goer, Harshita also emphasises the importance of physical movement and activity that helps release stress-relieving hormones and boosts confidence.  

The GIM Experience 

Speaking fondly of her time at GIM, Harshita says that the name itself has an emotional connotation for her. Calling GIM her second home, she credits the institution with her process of self-discovery. In her own words, GIM helped “unfold the unseen her”. 

She recollects how she was able to gain confidence by being part of the various college activities and events. Finding friends like family is also something that is inextricable for Harshita’s GIM experience. She credits the college for opening up a world of possibilities for her and her friends. More than just pushing for academic rigour, the PGDM experience pushed them to come out of their comfort zone through the organization of and participation in various college festivals. 

More than an MBA 

Beyond academic and professional success, she shared with us her motto to live life by. A strong believer of karma, she has been taught since childhood to be kind to everyone. According to Harshita, an important exercise towards being successful is to be kind to each kind. 

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