Being Average Part 3: Choosing the right career; my journey after SJMSoM
Three millennials ago, Heraclitus of Ephesus, a famous Greek Philosopher proposed a doctrine, of change being the only constant in this universe. Since then, many of us have heard this saying, without truly understanding the wisdom behind those words. Throughout our lives, we search a sense of permanence, only to realize that nothing ever is. And while I don’t claim to be an expert in deducing complex philosophies stated by ingenious minds, the last year of my life, which has been a complete topsy turvy of events, made me come a little closer to understanding the fact, that instead of looking for the perceived joys of stability and permanence, one should live the present to the fullest. The grand plans of the distant future that we have in our minds, seldom come to pass. It is only by planning better for the near future, and living our dreams in the immediate present, can we truly be happy.
This article is for those who are willing to pursue an alternate career post completion of their MBA (be it in academics or anything else), but are either not sure how to go about it, or lack the courage to make a decision regarding the same. It is also meant for all those who are either about to embark upon their corporate journey by joining a new job post completion of their MBA, or those who have worked in a particular industry post completion of MBA for a considerable amount of time, but are now feeling that corporate jobs aren’t meant for them. In short, this article is for all those who feel that they lack a sense of direction regarding what can be done next and how. I personally know people who have been in the industry for a few years, but aren’t entirely satisfied with either their job profiles or pay packages, and are looking for a change in career opportunities. This article is dedicated to all of them. But before you continue reading any further, you should probably go back and read two of my previously written articles, since this is a continuation of the “Being Average” series of write-ups. It is only then that you’ll be able to completely relate your own experiences with mine. Links:
- Being Average (http://www.pagalguy.com/articles/being-average-my-journey-to-being-a-student-32329151), and
Now that you’ve read my journey till the completion of MBA, let’s continue from there. Exactly 3 years ago, when I wrote the second part of Being Average, I had graduated college with a degree in management, got a great job, and all I could think about was the journey ahead. Just the thought that I would not have to work in the shop floor of a manufacturing plant, like I did after engineering, made me happy. I had an office job in Bangalore, with weekends off, stable work hours, and quite a few friends, both in office and outside. Everything one could ask for. The first 6 months were breezy. The organization that I worked for, PRTM Management Consulting, which later became a part of PwC US Advisory, was a consulting firm, where I worked in the Operations & Supply Chain service delivery center (SDC) based out of Bangalore. However, the projects that I worked on initially, were from different domains. Some from supply chain, others from Pharma or FinTech or Deals (M&As, Separation Planning etc.). Having joined as an Experienced Associate, I mostly worked in teams of three to six. The project durations were mostly in between 4 to 6 weeks, and due to the even distribution of workload among the US and India teams, flexible work hours and the option of working from home, there was ample time for recreational activities even on weekdays post the work hours. Life was good. Given the career path, most individuals would be promoted to Senior Associates in two years’ time, and to Managers in another two years. This seemed like a place where I felt I could easily spend the next five years, before starting to search for better opportunities. My thoughts about my career revolved around this need of permanence in my life, or as I used to tell my friends – I want a well-settled life in a metropolitan city, where I can find both the necessities and the luxuries. I’ll switch to another job only if it offers a similar work-life balance and even higher pay package. And on thinking so, I forgot the basic truth about life, that the things that seem so relevant and so promising today, might seem like a hangman’s noose a few years later. I didn’t have a Plan B because I felt that I didn’t need one.
A year went by, followed by the first appraisal. While no promotions were offered to any of the joinees of my batch, most of us were satisfied, knowing that next year would be crucial. By then, I had worked in some long term projects, some of which extended to three to four months. I had received my first recognition award from the firm, and was appreciated by the US engagement team Partner for my work on one of the projects. With the advent of the second year, I also started taking some firm initiatives in addition to regular project work, some of which were related to new practice development within the SDC India team, while others were related to developing decks for the operations team, and working on new project proposals with US engagement team directors. In addition to that, I started mentoring some new joinees, familiarized them with activities within the firm, and included them in shadowing projects. I wouldn’t say things were as ‘breezy’ as in the first year at work, but I was enjoying the work that I did. Moreover, the fact that I didn’t have to report to a manager at the end of the day’s work, made me own my work, and I also made sure to avoided inconsistencies. It was around the month of October-November ’17 when I first started having a feeling that too many changes had suddenly cropped up within the organizational structure and the way the firm operated. It was as though all of a sudden, the work that one did in projects didn’t matter anymore. Rather, the time spent in ‘networking’ with managers, both during and after work hours, and the amount of time spent in ‘firm reinvestment’ activities had started garnering the attention of managers. Around November’17, I also started having the feeling that quite of few of the projects that I was working on, including the one that I was working on back then, was remotely related to the field of operations. Sure, they were from some really good clients, and kept me ‘utilized’ in terms of monthly target work hours, but I had started getting the feeling that it was only adding to my Excel and PowerPoint skills, and not to my skills as a supply chain consultant. Moreover, I still had limited experience in terms managing projects of my own, or handling end-to-end projects from conceptualization to execution. But the thought of trying for new jobs didn’t occur to me, since I was still caught in the maze of promotions and well-settled life. I took time to express my concerns to the Director of my team, but that hardly helped. I then decided to speak to the Director of another team within SDC, and asked for a switch in team and work profile. However, I soon realized that switching to a new team at that point in time could jeopardize my chances of getting promoted in the next year. Being caught up in 12-14 hours of work in the project, I could spend lesser time in other firm activities, and soon it was time for the year-end break in December. January was no different, as I was still working in short-burst engagements that barely added value to my overall experience. One fine morning in the month of February, I received an urgent call from one of my colleagues summoning me to office immediately. Not understanding the urgency, I nevertheless rushed to office. As it turned out, I had been staffed in a project on strategic sourcing. I was taken aback with this decision from the management since I had been in constant talks with my manager and director to staff me on a full time supply chain engagement. Knowing that little could be done, I started working on the engagement, which by the way had already been continuing since more than a month. With a half-cooked knowledge about the project, and zero experience in sourcing, I was expected to gather all relevant information and start working with immediate effect. And so it started. The very things that I had been proud of my firm started fading before my own eyes. The project required me and the other team members to report back to the project manager(s) not just daily, but on an hourly basis, and often enough due to no mistake of our own, we were made to work extremely long hours, which completely messed up with whatever ‘work-life balance’ that I had before. To top it all was the lack of clarity in directions, and ever changing input data, which essentially made us rework the same thing numerous times. While it seemed to be a problem that existed only in my firm, the more I started talking to people outside of my firm, I eventually realized that this was atypical of any management consulting firm, especially the firms with the “global service delivery model”. Most analysts, or associates such as ourselves were either performing data analysis or preparing fancy decks for the off-shore teams. And while there were some exceptions to this, but mostly the planning and formulation of projects was done by the off-shore teams, and the tedious task of data cleansing and analysis, and preparing the decks was done by the delivery centers. As this understanding of the industry and how it worked dawned upon me, I gradually started looking for opportunities in other industries. Having prior experience in the FMCG was a plus point (or so I felt back then), and therefore, I started looking for opportunities in the supply chain division of FMCG, and other industries such as manufacturing, automobiles, food ordering and delivery companies etc. The next few months at office started getting more hectic with projects coming in as soon as one got over, sometimes even overlapping with the other. Meanwhile, the search for other companies had barely produced any results. Premium accounts in Naukri, IIM jobs, LinkedIn had failed to produce any results whatsoever. Thus, I started reaching out to my LinkedIn connections individually, starting with senior alumni. I prepared a fresh CV updated with latest project experiences, and thought that it looked damn good. However, I realized quite late that the kind of experience that I had was mostly suitable for management consulting firms operating in the global services or the service delivery model. Neither was my CV considered suitable for India-based front-end consulting firms, nor was it deemed fit for FMCG or Manufacturing or other industries, which required focused, specific work experience in one particular field in supply chain, be it demand or supply planning, strategic sourcing, manufacturing, or logistics. I, on the other hand had a CV that made me seem like a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. As desperation started to build, with more rejections and mounting office pressure, I finally accepted an offer from a firm, where I was supposed to start as a fresher (since they deemed my previous experience in supply chain consulting as ‘no experience at all’). The CTC offered by this firm was the same as what I had been offered 2 years back, when I had just graduated. And while my job profile was deputy manager in demand planning, I had to work extensively with the sales team, and gather experience in field sales, since I had limited experience in sales, which was a must for any demand planning role. I made some efforts to switch to the supply planning role, but all in vain. So I had to make peace with the fact that at least I had managed to make a switch in the industry, and the fact that I was getting to learn something new. A few months passed since, and I could feel that this wasn’t something I really wanted to do. It was around that time when I realized that instead of being stuck up in the vicious cycle of switching from one job to another, I could also look at entirely different opportunities.
Academics was something that I never was really good at, but from my past experience of working in projects (both in college and at work), I knew that I was good at data collection and analysis, and presenting my ideas in the form of articles, papers and case studies. I took advice from my father, who’s a professor, and has extensive knowledge and experience of being in the field of academics. He advised me to contact professors from my college, and get an idea from them as well. I initially set up some time with one of my professors to discuss over call the possibility of building a career in academics. I discussed at length regarding the scope of research activities and higher studies (doctoral degree) in India and abroad, and got some valuable inputs regarding the same. Thus began my quest for research topics in the field of operations and supply chain management. I initially came across a topic which I found to be interesting, but upon discussion with some of the professors at college, I realized that the topic I choose for Ph.D. should be something that is of interest to the faculty members. They advised me to look up faculty profiles in the college websites, and read some journal papers that were related to their research interests. I heeded their advice and started reading topics related to the research interests of faculty, and was finally able to find a topic that was of interest to one of our faculty, and to me as well. Most IITs admit students to their Ph.D. programme twice a year, once in December and once in May, unlike the IIMs which admit students only once a year. The process is competitive due to the limited number of seats, and the fact that unlike a regular MBA programme, the professors aren’t obliged to fill in the seats unless they find candidates with excellent academic background and research potential. I decided to try for the December ’18 admissions in IIT Bombay, Delhi, Kharagpur and Madras. Most IITs require Ph.D. applicants to prepare a research proposal consisting of summary, introduction, literature review, research objective and methodology, followed by conclusion and references. With the deadline approaching soon, I managed to complete a single research proposal which I sent across in all four IITs. I was fortunate enough to get an interview call from IIT Bombay and Kharagpur. It was around that time when I decided to quit my job and focus whole heartedly towards academic preparations. It was almost the end of the second week of October by then, and the interviews were scheduled in December. In five weeks’ time, I had scheduled my GMAT exam, which was a must for admission into any B School’s Ph.D. program abroad. I spent the next five weeks the way I prepared for CAT back in 2013. The format for GMAT was different from that of CAT, and I personally found the verbal ability section (critical reasoning, sentence correction and reading comprehension) a lot more difficult. In the initial few practice tests, I couldn’t manage to score above 32 out of a possible 51. I found the quantitative ability section to be much easier. However, since most people fared well in quants, it was essential to score in the range of 50-51 out of a possible 51 to get a good overall score. The overall score in GMAT is awarded out of 800, and is a combination of the scores obtained in both the sections. There are two separate sections on ‘Reasoning’, which has a maximum score of 8 and ‘Essay Writing’, which has a maximum score of 6, and while these scores aren’t added to the total, it is essential to score 6 or above in reasoning and 5 or above in essay, since most B Schools would use the scores as a shortlisting criteria. While the MBA admissions process in the top business schools of US, Europe and Asia require much higher scores (730 and above out of a possible 800), the Ph.D. admissions in top schools require 700+ scores. Although there is no hard and fast rule regarding the scores mentioned, and there have been selections in top B schools even at 650+ scores, the instances are rare, and in most cases the candidate would have an excellent academic/research profile, complemented with co-curricular activities, and of course, a well-written SOP (Statement of Purpose). I knew that selection into Ph.D. requires one to have prior papers published, and an excellent academic background demonstrated by a well-crafted academic CV. While I did have one prior publication, while pursuing MBA and another while pursuing B.Tech., I knew that it wouldn’t be enough to match the profiles and SOPs of students applying across the globe. Therefore, getting an above par GMAT score was absolutely essential for me. After 5 weeks of dedicated preparation, I appeared for the exam. The scores of the exam are revealed as soon as the exam is over. I had an abysmal 670, having flunked the verbal ability section. I scored a 49 in quants and 32 in verbal, 5 in reasoning, and 4.5 in essay writing. Not only had I missed the 700 mark, I had messed up the other two sections as well, which weren’t added to the total. The good thing about GMAT is one can choose to not accept the score. However, it would mean forfeiting the 250$ exam fee. To put it to perspective, that is around 17500 INR. So, I half-heartedly accepted the score. But I knew that I had to reschedule an exam again and try to get a better score this time. I decided to schedule a slot exactly a month later, since I had my interviews of both the IITs before that. I decided that if I manage to convert the interview of either one of the IITs in December, I would take admission into one of them, and then decide whether or not to apply in foreign universities, since that would involve a lot of time in preparing SOPs/Research proposals and considerable amount of money that I would need to invest for the same. December arrived sooner than expected, and I had to skip the IIT Kharagpur interview due to unavoidable family commitments. On the day of IIT Bombay’s interview process, we had an aptitude test at first. Out of 300+ applicants, 150 had been shortlisted for the aptitude test based on the research proposals. There were four sections in the test, each having an individual cutoff. Having prepared for GMAT, I was well-versed with the question types and managed to convert the aptitude round. 20 students including myself converted the interview round. I was the last to face the interview in my panel, which consisted of almost all operations and supply chain faculty members of our college. Since I was previously a student at SJMSoM IIT Bombay, the faculty asked for my mark sheets, and it’s safe to say that they weren’t impressed. I had a degree grade point average (DGPA) of 7.5 out of a possible 10, which made me stand among the top 40-50% of the class, which wasn’t impressive. My grades were indicative that I was an average student, with little promise of being capable of performing higher research. The interview was over in 15 minutes, and I knew then and there that I would not convert it since I wasn’t asked even a single question regarding my research proposal. Let down by the interview, I went back home to plan a future course of action. Half of me wanted to go back into the regular job life, and the other half was still convinced that I could achieve something better.
I needed a plan, and it was simple. First, appear for TOEFL (since quite a few colleges required students to take up the proficiency in English language test), then attempt to get a 700+ score in GMAT, and if I manage to screw up again, then attempt to get a decent score in GRE. So, after preparing for 3 weeks, I took the GMAT exam again in mid-December. I focused on specific areas which needed improvement especially the verbal ability section. Fortunately, I managed to get a 700 score this time, with a 5.5 in essay writing and 7 in reasoning, and felt that I was good to go. I had also managed to score 116 out of a maximum 120 in the TOEFL test. I then started shortlisting colleges in which I wanted to send out applications. The method I followed was suggested to me by one of the professors at Scheller college of Business, Georgia Tech, US. I came to know that he was an alumni of SJMSoM, IIT Bombay, and decided to connect with him to discuss about research topics, shortlisting of colleges, and the approach followed by colleges while shortlisting suitable candidates. So, the steps I followed while shortlisting colleges are: First, I visited the UTD Top 100 Business School Research Rankings website. In the website, the University has a database to track publications in 24 leading business journals. The database contains titles and author affiliations of papers published in these journals since 1990. Since the rankings are entirely based on the number of journal publications in top rated journals, it is more relevant than the usual B-School rankings which are relevant for students seeking admission in the MBA program. In order to select the top B-schools for operations research, I performed a quick research of the top operations management and supply chain journals, and then filtered the search results based on relevant operations and supply chain journals. I selected only those B-schools that appeared both in the overall list of top 100 and in the list of top operations and supply chain management schools. Next, I filtered out all the B-Schools for which the deadline was already over. For the remainder of my shortlisted colleges, I visited the faculty profiles of all operations management faculty in each of these colleges. I had prepared SOPs/Research Statements on three different topics and wanted to pursue research in colleges that had at least some faculty members whose research interests were similar. On doing so, I was able to further shorten my list. Last, I looked at the location of those colleges, and applied in only those colleges which were situated in a fast developing or developed economy, since it would be easier to collect data for research purpose in such countries. Post this, I spend considerable amount of time researching on the three topics I had chosen. I read journal papers and determined the scope of future research in those areas. With that done, I spent time researching what B Schools demand of their statement of purpose or statement of research and how should the answer differ from a regular MBA admission SOP. Since each college required their SOP to focus on some specific areas, the one-size-fits-all approach never works while preparing an SOP. I prepared individual SOPs for all the colleges in which I applied. In addition to this, most colleges required either two or three letters of recommendation (preferably from faculty members of previously attended institutes). I got in touch with three of my professors at IIT Bombay, and requested them to fill the online recommendations, which they were kind enough to fill in before the deadline. This process went on till the first week of February. By then, I had prepared a fresh academic CV, and made sure that I had put in enough detail regarding my previous research work, projects, articles, papers and case studies. I spent the entire month of February revising operations and supply chain courses that I had taken up while pursuing MBA, and also spent considerable amount of time reading the research proposals prepared by me. I was shortlisted by all Indian B Schools, but only 4 out of the 13 foreign B Schools shortlisted me for the interview round, two from the US, and two from Europe. All these interviews were scheduled in March, with the first one being from IE Business School, Spain. IE had been one of my sought not only because I had been able to find faculty members with a research interest similar to mine, but also because they were placed high in both the operations research rankings and the B-School (MBA) rankings. Being the first interview I faced this year, I was nervous, but as soon as the interview started in Skype, I could feel that both the faculty members were genuinely interested in what I had done before, and what I wanted to pursue next. They asked questions related to my interest in research and prior experience, and not related to my past grades, which made it easier to explain it to them. The interview went on for close to 40 minutes, and only when the faculty were satisfied with my answers and had also answered some of my queries, did the interview get over. In the next couple of weeks I faced more online interviews, and finally it was time for me to leave for Kolkata to attend the IIMC interview. On the day of my travel, I received news on my mail that I had converted IE’s Ph.D. program in Business Management, specializing in Operations Management. I had been offered a full tuition fee waiver along with a decent yearly stipend. This entire experience, which had started almost 7-8 months back was entirely different from what I had faced while appearing for CAT and B-School interviews. Since then, I’ve been concentrating on brushing up my concepts of statistics, probability, econometrics, supply chain courses, and research methodology in the meanwhile, and I’m sure I’ll be ready before the classes begin in the month of September this year.
Well folks, that’s it! To those that have had the patience to read this tediously long article, I salute you. But, it also means that you came here looking for a good story that answers some of the doubts you yourself might be facing. My story might seem more relevant for those willing to make a shift into a career of academics, but think about it this way, that just a year ago, when I first started looking for a switch, I didn’t know that this was what I would end up with. All I knew back then was I wanted to switch to another job, and it was only when I managed to do so, that I realized what I truly wanted to pursue in the long run. I gave way to my dreams and desires of permanence and stability in life in order to pursue something challenging, and then made sure that I am prepared enough to face any adversities that might come my way. To those of you willing to pursue a career in academics by doing a doctoral degree either in India or abroad, I hope I’ve answered the doubts you might have had. On the other hand, to those of you who know that a career in academics isn’t what you want, you could still grasp the essence of this blog, and that is ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.
And like I always say, stop questioning your abilities, and limiting yourself due some self-proclaimed fear in your mind. You would never know what you’re capable of unless you give yourself that chance. We don’t know what life has planned for us, so instead of having a rigid mentality, learn to be flexible so that you can grab the opportunities that come your way. The world isn’t just made of the best and the worst, and thus naturally there will be people who will be labelled as ‘Average’. But it’s up to you to prove that ‘Averages’ can make just as much impact as the best in the lot. So shrug off your insecurities and rise, because ‘Average’ is just another word!
- Reeju Guha (SJMSoM, 2014-16)
CAN sombdy tell me what's the cutoff criteria IN SJMSOM....when the procedure starts?
what s the cat percentile required to join mba in iit bombay?
Adding some more fun events details...we had an amazing janmashtmi celebration at our hostels...our whole batch was returning from a briefing session when on reaching our hostels we just realised a dahi handi competition going on....one rallying cry was enough for the whole som14 bacth to come together and winning it became our main target....it was a two way battle between the som guys and the btech guys....we were outnumbered by the btech guys but ur experience came in handy as aftre 5-6 tries in around two hours we finally managed it ...the feeling of winning a team event was simply enthralling ..in the bigger scheme of things it might sound trivial but for me and many of my mates its was pure awesomeness..these are some of the moments we will be remembering forever..cheers to som 14 batch....
For more info on the continuums...
Ahh!! Finally I get to jot down my life so far at sjmsom….its been almost a month since we entered the hallowed portals of iitb and finally I take time out for penning down my experiences …its been crazy hectic since day one and hardly have we ever been free from mba related activities but trust me this is the kind of things people dream about doing…starting from amazing induction week where we got the flavour of industry and what lies in store for us for the next two years by interacting many industry stalwarts and alumnus ….they gave a wonderful account of their stay at iitb…..initial days lots of friends ….the peer group of my batch has been absolutely amazing…during the induction week we also had some amazing team bonding activities including creative ad making short skits and what nots….coming to the iitb campus just one word to describe it…awesomeness…you have to stay in the campus to get a feel of it …right from world class classrooms to lush green football fields to 24 hour canteens you have absolutely everything inside the iit…the iit is very much part of Mumbai as well as a distinct identity of its own…whatever interest you have you get to do that at iitb…I am lucky enough to have started playing football again .I am glad that I am back to hostel life as this is one of the best times we can ever have…having worked after btech I always yearned to be back to hostel life and trust me this has been a hell of a comeback….typical bakar wid friends …nite outs doing assignments ..a 5 minute tea break which extends well beyond an hour birthday celebrations where we thrash one and all …all this bonhomie can never truly be depicted in words ..you have to be here to experience it…..
On the acads side ..the academic rigour is top notch ….there are assignments intresting marketing projects and what not ….we have the honour of sharing the class with jerry rao sir( founder of Mphasis)..after class hours include club sessions, industry talks …on weekends we have the very popular continuum series where all the stalwarts of the industry come and share their company experience which is very enlightening….Being in mumbai has its great Bollywood advantage 😁 … I was lucky enough to be a part of audience for the tv series UTV Bloombergs The outsiderhosted by Tim Sebastian…for those unaware of it ..its a debate series held by world renowned presenter Tim…I was part of the show where the debate was on “Is India no place for a woman” the debate was graced by eminent speakers like shabana azmi and flavia agnes…it was an inspiring experience to say the least…..the stay till date has been pretty amazing to say the least and looking forward to the rest of the journey ..will keep updating …..
So, I heard a lot of aspirants talking about Entrepreneurship during GDPI. So, for the interested ones, read this article on Entrepreneurship at SJMSOM, IIT Bombay -
Entrepreneurship on Campus: SJMSoM students who made copybooks for IIT Bombay students dirt cheap by ad-supporting them
guys, i am looking for project ideas in finance for IT company,can anybody help me providing ideas,thanks
Rajeev Bhadauria, currently Director Group HR of Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. brings with him a rich, diverse and rare experience in his 28 yrs of cherished career as an HR Professional both in the Public and Private Sector. Rajeeev Bhadauria was present at SOM on 14th april to talk on the topic 'The challenges for Busnesses in the post Lehman world'.
Rajeev Bhadauria - Director HR, JSP @SOM ~ Blog@SJMSOM
Jayendra Nayak has been Managing Director and Country Head, Morgan Stanley India, since April 2010. He spoke at length on the topic 'Can Indian Banks Innovate?' at SOM on 13th april, 2012
The summary of the lecture can be found below
Jayendra Nayak- MD, Morgan Stanley @SOM ~ Blog@SJMSOM