My Experience at Great Lakes – Could not have asked for more at Business School

A choice that turned out to be bliss!

It was the year 2009 – I was two and a half years into my first job when I got an admission into Great Lakes, Chennai. I was convinced that a career in IT was not my long term calling and so without any doubts I quit my job to join the one year PGPM at Great Lakes. Having turned down some calls from American B-Schools due to personal constraints, I strongly believed Great Lakes was the closest I would get to a global B-School experience. One robust reason for this belief was the reputation of the faculty at Great Lakes – most of them were seasoned professors from not only US/UK based B-schools but also from some of the finest institutions in India.

When I joined Great Lakes, my mindset was mostly like typical B-School aspirants – wanting an “MBA” and not really knowing where I wanted the program to take me. I simply chose to believe that this program would give me everything I ever wanted – Self-discovery, organizational perspective while helping me figure out my strengths. Little did I know that I would learn and gain things beyond that.

Ours was the first batch to have studied from the ECR campus, (current campus of Great Lakes located on the East Coast Road, near the heritage town of Mahabalipuram) – on a lighter note, we all still have the feeling that the campus belongs more to us than anybody else since we were the first occupants to enjoy the sprawling lush green campus.

Having lived in Tamil Nadu all my life, the first thing I enjoyed about Great Lakes was the diverse peer group. We were 260 in number – all from different backgrounds and cultures. Thanks to the mandatory two year work experience entry criterion, I found myself amidst a diverse and mature peer group. In retrospect, I realize that a B-school experience is as much about your peers as it is about academics; probably even more, since you end up spending most of your time in different work groups.

During the first half of the course, a myriad of subjects were introduced.  I chose marketing major and finance minor, but ended up sitting through a lot more of finance courses – even the ones I had not signed up for. This is when I realized the importance of an inspiring teacher. A good teacher can generate interest in subjects you never thought you would be interested in.  As someone who enjoys sitting through lectures in topics of interest, I had a great time in classes.

The campus was the perfect setting – sea breeze, lawns, large open spaces, the huge amphitheater, private rooms, fantastic classrooms and more. From late night group studies, online exams, marathon badminton and basketball matches to hurried assignments, long stretches of pre-reading, conferences, guest lecturers from industry experts, the schedule was neck breaking, but fun nevertheless. I have visited the campus umpteen numbers of times since my graduation and each time the campus looks only more beautiful than before.

My biggest takeaways, though, came from my share of mistakes during the course. To narrate one such incident, I was once co-organizing a conference and erred in the co-ordination.  I went back to my professor-in-charge (who I look up to as a mentor till date) and apologized. While I anticipated reprimand, he thoughtfully said, “I am happy you make mistakes here. It will help you avoid the same mistakes at your workplace”.  Moments such as these helped me become the person I am today and it is these experiences that I value the most.

Great Lakes helped me in breaking the whole “Finance is not for women” notion. As someone from IT, I had the option of going back to the same sector, but I chanced upon a placement opportunity in a wealth management company I had not heard of before (not that I knew all the big ones either, having had no financial services experience whatsoever). I honestly entered with doubts, with just the mindset of giving a shot at exploring something new. Today, after six years, I am with the same company – a place that is entrepreneurial, ethical top down and gives freedom to learn and grow – pretty much all I had ever wanted from a company where I would work.

Like they say, for a real traveler, the contentment is the journey in itself – not so much the destination.  The one year Great Lakes journey is one of the most memorable periods of my life and I have enjoyed every bit of it. A few months back, during a visit to my alma mater, I met my mentor professor (from my goof-up incident narrated earlier). During my conversation, I mentioned to him that I have to thank Great Lakes for my career. As always, he profoundly said “It’s Darwinian, you search for something you really want and it finds you”.  The Great Lakes experience, I feel, is something I had been searching for and it led me to so many other things, including a satisfying career. Any opportunity is what we make of it. I don’t know if I made the best use of my time at Great Lakes, but I clearly could not have asked for more.

Sangeetha Deiveegarajan

Senior Wealth Manager at Wealth Advisors (India) Pvt. Ltd.

PGPM Class of 2010

Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai