An Interview with IIMC-PGPEX Alumna and a Successful Author- Part II

Q1. Please describe your career before the MBA and your transition to product management.

I had no clue till I did my Engineering as to what direction I wanted to give my career. Like everyone else, my mom wanted me to get good marks. When I topped in Delhi in Class 12th, everyone told me children like me go to engineering or medical. I was scared of surgeries. So medical was out. Y2K had just hit (I entered Engineering in 2001), so ECE was a choice again made by my parents. After Engineering, companies were coming into campus. All that mattered was to make money. So I got into a good paying job not knowing if that was what I really wanted. It was only a few years into the job that I started feeling unhappy with the way my career was shaping. Despite all the money, status and success, I was not really enjoying. And that is when I started asking myself what I wanted to do, introspected on what my strengths were and what I would want as a long-term career. I saw PMs around me and I liked what they were doing. I did a lot of introspection in marrying my strengths as a professional with the choices available to me. I then saw what it would take to get here and decided to take a break to do my MBA and get into product management.

On the IIM Campus, I did not take up any job offers even though they were paying me well, simply because they were not aligned with my long-term career goals. Eventually, I got into as Product Manager, Holidays. Since then, there has been no looking back.

Q2. So, what does a product manager do?

A product manager (PM) is someone who sits between business and technology and helps draw the fine balance. The PM owns the customer experience of a product. Every time, you experience a product, be it physical or digital, the PM has gone through enough hurdles to ensure your experience is the best in terms of user flows and the product is intuitive enough for you to adapt to.

I am now with Amazon Home Services, building a product to help customers avail Amazon’s services at home. So, I talk to customers, understand what would make them comfortable with people coming into their homes, how they would select a service partner and so on. I then design the tech-product to come up with the product tactical and strategical roadmap and plan its execution. As part of Paytm, I worked as Head of Seller Products. I met a lot of sellers and asked them what features could I provide them for making selling easier for them. I then worked backward and executed on the product strategy with the goal of making selling easy for vendors.

Q3. How does an MBA help in a product manager’s role?

An MBA helped me bridge the gap between technical skills and business understanding. My MBA sharpened my skills in stakeholder management and time management. It made my thinking more structured, which helped in writing product documents as part of my job.

Q4. What do you think you would have lacked if you moved into product management without an MBA?

As an engineer, I was given a task which I completed without understanding the impact of my work on the overall business. As a product manager, I now ensure all my engineers just don’t think of ‘how’ to solve a problem but even why is that problem important to be solved over all the other problems.

Q5. How did IIMC help you find a job in product management?

I found my job post-MBA off campus. There were not too many product management openings on campus. And I had a location preference. Having IIM-C on my resume helped me gather recruiter’s attention offline. And then, it was up to an individual to take it ahead. An institute’s stamp is important but not the only thing which makes a difference.

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An Interview with IIMC-PGPEX Alumna and a Successful Author- Part I

Several years ago, Disha Chabra had reached out to us to write a blog for us. At that time, she was fresh out of her IIMC-PGPEX course and had just published her first book. Since then, Disha has worked as Product Manager at Yatra Online, Paytm and now Amazon. In due course, she has also successfully run a parallel career as a book author.

In this 4-part series, Disha talks about her journey as an author, as a product manager and about her time at IIM Calcutta.

Disha, welcome back to MBA Decoder. Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am a corporate professional by profession and a writer by passion. I work as a senior leader with Amazon India and have over 12 years of experience with companies like Paytm, and Mentor Graphics. I have authored three books: Corporate Avatars, Because Life Is A Gift, My Beloved’s MBA Plans.

What is your journey as an author like?
I started writing blogs and poetry at an early age. I aspired to be a writer at some stage of my life but did not know when. I met real-life couples at the IIM-Calcutta campus while doing my one year MBA. Their love stories were practical and spoke a lot about relationships when it comes to balancing professional commitments and personal responsibilities. I decided to write a book on them. That’s how My Beloved’s MBA Plans was born.

On campus, I also met a blind boy who graduated from of IIM-C. His determination overpowered the odds of his disability. When I met a man who was on bed for 28 years of his life, crippled throughout his body with movement only in one hand, paralyzed neck down and yet smiling and giving back to the society, it changed my perspective towards life. When I met a woman without arms who paints through her feet, when I met a guy who cannot walk but sky-dived 15000 feet, when I met an army man who was declared dead but who now runs on artificial legs, life changed its meaning. Because Life Is A Gift was my second baby.

Over 12 years of corporate life, I met many difficult personalities at the workplace. Working with these people drained and took more energy than the actual work itself. I decided to bring together my learnings on this journey and share with the world my experiences of working with different personality types. Corporate Avatars is my third child.

What has inspired each of your books?
Each of my books has been inspired by real people and events that have touched, moved and inspired me. They are based on my learnings in life and experiences which I felt were worth sharing with the world.

How has an MBA been helpful in your writing career?
An MBA at IIM-Calcutta teaches you great time management skills. This has been my biggest asset because of which I have been able to strike balance between my professional commitments and passion for writing.

What do you do when you face the writer’s block?
I don’t stress too much. I just let it pass.

What writing tips can you leave for people who have to write essays?
Being an IIM-C alumna, I have reviewed many essays and I am sharing insider’s view. As a reviewer, we get so many applications that we end up spending not more than 5 minutes per application. In those 5 minutes, we look for:

A).  Clarity of thought, especially on “Why MBA?” ;
B). How is this profile different from the thousand other similar profiles;
C). Structured thinking. The first line of every paragraph should be strong enough for the reviewer to read it. The story should come out. Put yourself in a reviewer’s shoes. Would you select this candidate (yourself) if the application came your way


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How Much GMAT Should I Score?

“How much GMAT score should I get for XYZ school?”  I have heard this question being asked consistently over the past six years, since MBA Decoder came into being.  Now that b-schools have started accepting GRE, applicants have added GRE to that same question.

For the “cent percent” marks obsessed Indians, the answer could not be more different than an 800 on 800 (GMAT) or a 340 on 340 (GRE). Logically, you can only score the GMAT / GRE as per your capability to perform on the test. A few other factors can influence your performance- your preparedness and you luck on test day. In reality, a target score defined by a third person is not going to help much.

A better approach is to look at the average scores of target b-schools. An ideal score is several points above that. For example, if ISB’s average score is 704, its advisable that you get 710 or above. Having said this, we are aware of applicants who scored a 760 GMAT and were not invited for interview and we have also helped a few applicants with low scores of 660, who were admitted. The point is,  your admission chances depend upon the overall strength of your application. The GMAT is an extremely important criterion, but it is still one among many others.

If you are applying to foreign universities, the situation becomes a little different. Admission spots for the Indian applicants are much smaller here as compared to ISB or IIMs, where the demographic is entirely Indian. This intensifies the competition manifold.  It would be rare to find an Indian with a score of less than 720 at the top 20 US colleges.  For these colleges, class average of GMAT score are not very indicative for Indian applicants, you should aim for atleast a 20-30 point jump over those.  Another guiding factor is being closer to the top end range of the class GMAT (b-schools publish 20th to 80th percentile range of GMAT in their class profile summary). For colleges that rank beyond the top 20, a GMAT score close to 700 will still keep you in the game, although higher scores and competitiveness on other criteria will help you race up to scholarships.


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ISB’s Early Entry Option: Q&A with the ISB Admissions Team

Recently. we had a chance to chat up with Sanjay Dhingra, Senior Manager in the admissions team at ISB and incharge of the Early Entry Option 2015. He gave us some sound inputs that will help Early Entry Option applicants make their application stronger.

Here is the interview:

1. Who should apply to the Early Entry Option? What qualities do you look for in an applicant who applies to Early Entry Option?

Graduates with less than 24 months of work experience by March 31, 2016 are eligible to apply to the ISB PGP through the Early Entry Option 2015. The Early Entry Option is not a separate programme at ISB, but just a deferred admission to the PGP. Consequently, we judge a candidate applying through the Early Entry Option on the same parameters as we judge the regular PGP applicants – Academic & Analytical Ability, Leadership Potential and other Personal Attributes.

To know more about what ISB looks for in applicants, click here

2. Other than knowing that he/she will definitely study at ISB, what is the advantage for a candidate to apply to Early Entry Option?

While there is no additional incentive to apply through the Early Entry Option, the benefit of early career clarity is tremendous. With their PGP admission secure, admitted candidates can completely concentrate on their job and enhance their learning from the work they do.

3. As in the case of YLP, are Early Entry Option candidates mentored by ISB before they start their course at ISB?

Early Entry Option is not a separately run programme, but just a deferred admission offer to the PGP for high potential candidates who do not have the 24 months of minimum work-experience required for enrolling in the next starting PGP Class. Such admits will join the PGP class after completing their 24 months of work-experience, which is a standard for the PGP and hence no additional mentorship is provided.

4. What is the selection criterion? Is any factor such as GMAT, GPA, extra curricula activities that has more importance than the others?

Early Entry Option applicants are evaluated on the same criteria as the regular PGP applicants. No factor has enhanced importance. However, since Early Entry Option applicants have less than 24 months of work-experience at the time of application, many may not have significant achievements at work to showcase in the application. Consequently, they may focus on highlighting their Leadership Potential and Personality strengths through examples from other (non-work) areas like extracurricular initiatives at or outside of work or at college level.

5. Is the academic component, comprising GPA and GMAT more important for the EEO applicants than it is for the regular cycle applicants?

As mentioned earlier, academic credentials and GMAT are an important component of the overall evaluation but not the sole criteria that would decide the final selection. Whether it is an Early Entry Option or the regular PGP application, the application evaluation is holistic in nature. However, given the competitive nature of selection, it is advisable that Early Entry Option applicants aspire to do well in the GMAT to enhance their prospects.

6. As the EEO applicants don’t have enough work experience, from where can they draw their examples for the essays?

Early Entry Option applicants can quote examples from their college, internship or volunteer work. The essay questions are structured in such a manner that the examples from workplace are not necessary. For example, one of the topics this year asks for a defining moment in the applicant’s personal or professional life when the applicant had to make a risky decision.

7. Anything else you would like to mention about the Early Entry option?

Early Entry Option is a great opportunity for fresh graduates to secure their admission to the ISB PGP well in advance. It is an answer to frequently asked questions like “Shall I accept an admission offer from a lower ranked B-school or wait to apply to ISB”, “Shall I go for a MS programme without work-experience or wait to apply to ISB after getting work-experience”.

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Factors to Consider When Selecting Business Schools

We recently wrote a blog on ways to research business schools. But before that you need to know which factors should you take to account when zeroing in on your perfect list of b-schools.

Here are some criteria that can bring method to your research:

Job related Factors:

1. Employment opportunities: The main reason why people do an MBA is to increase their employability skills. Therefore going through the employment reports of business schools is a key step in your research. These reports will provide you a lot of data: percentage wise breakups of the industries and functions where students got a job; names of recruiters; figures for internship recruitments and some hard facts on how many students found employment in the first three months of graduation, how many students made use of on-campus recruiting and how many converted their summer internships into full fledged jobs. If your post MBA interests lie in energy and utilities for example, and a particular b-school’s employment report shows a chunk of people getting jobs in that industry, you know you would want to apply to that b-school.

Another way of identifying business schools is by finding out about target employers who visit there and the roles they hire students for.

Its also worthwhile to find out about the resourcefulness of the career services of your target b-schools. Niche industries like media, energy, real estate, government may be hiring only a tiny percentage of the class population, but don’t let this deter you from applying. Most often, the career services teams and the industry related clubs will go out of their way to help you network with the right recruiters.

2. Industry hubs – Some regions are hubs for particular industries and studying in those regions may just as well increase your chances of finding the right recruiters. For instance the Texas based programs such as McCombs, Jones School of Business (Rice) and Texas A&M are located in the largest energy hub of USA and getting a job with a Chevron or Exxon is going to be relatively easier in this region. Canada is another energy hub and B-schools like Schulich will help you target the right employers. Similarly, New York, Paris and London are the places to be if you have your eyes fixed on fashion to going to Stern, LBS or HEC Paris/ INSEAD will offer you the right opportunities in luxury. Check out our previous blog on the research triangle park which houses b-schools like Duke (also an energy industry filler) and UNC Kenen Flagler.

3. Clubs and other resources- Most clubs at any business school are student led. Its therefore in students’ interest to keep these really active. Industry (real estate/ media and entertainment/ private equity etc) and function (consulting/marketing/operations) focused clubs hold career treks, seminars, competitions and talks by industry bigwigs, all of which go in adding to your MBA experience. Typically every club has its own website – trawl through this and reach out to the Club leaders to know more about the club’s activities.

Academics Related Factors:

4. Electives and Concentrations– A specialization/major/concentration basically means the minimum required electives/credits you are required to take in a subject to make it a concentration. Although its not mandatory to take concentrations/specializations, if you want to deep dive in a subject, they can be a good way to do it. At business schools like Harvard, Stanford, Yale and Ross, you can only take electives and not a “specialization”.

Most business schools allow you to take two or more concentrations in subjects as diverse as strategy, marketing, data analytics, finance and leadership, to name a few. Some b-schools also have a tie up with the CFA institute, so you have the option of completing your CFA along with the MBA.

In general, different b-schools have different formats for electives/ concentrations and certifications, so closely look at what your target b-schools have on offer.

5. Star faculty on campus- Some b-schools have management gurus, some have research mavericks and some others have Nobel laureates as their faculty. They may be the single-most reason you want to go to a particular b-schools. However, we are not talking about an awe-struck, starry eyed you applying to a program, because a marketing guru you have heard about is teaching there. Nobody wants a teenager-like gushing about a faculty member! There has to be a more intense reason for you to study there – you may have a deep interest in his subject or the research he is doing and think it will help you in your career.

Some b-schools allow graduate/research assistantship, where you can work with a particular professor to assist his class or his research work. Also, you may want to take an independent project under a faculty member and gain from his insights.

6. Flexibility in curriculum – Do you want to go to Harvard because you study a fixed curriculum for your entire first year, or would you rather prefer Chicago Booth, where you can select all your courses save one, and completely customize your curriculum? B-schools vary in the flexibility they offer on the course content, although all of them allow you to take electives in the second half of the program.

The bigger MBA programs that are associated with universities also let you to select electives outside the business school. So you may land up taking a few electives in technology or in law or in public policy from another college affiliated to the same university as your target business school. This flexibility is great if you want to study offbeat subjects that don’t typically come under the ambit of an MBA education.

7. Mode of curriculum delivery– Some b-schools are known as the case method b-schools. Examples are HBS, Darden, Tuck (to an extent), Richard Ivey (Canada) and IE (Spain). Some b-schools are known for their experiential learning approach- MIT, Ross and UCLA come to mind immediately. Although most b-schools have a mixed format curriculum, yet some of them, such as those listed above are famously known for their approach. If you are not a case study enthusiast, joining a b-schools that uses almost 500 cases in the two years curricula may wreck your MBA experience. Its important to find out the b-school’s pre-dominant style of teaching and whether that fits your learning requirements.

Admissions related factors:

8. Eligibility criteria- double MBA/ 3 year education/ TOEFL requirement – Indian applicants sometimes face challenges regarding their eligibility. European programs accept a three year undergrad degree. While most US b-schools also consider it as an equivalent to the US four year undergrad degree, some b-schools like Berkeley Haas don’t. If you have not done an MS or another degree course, there is no point applying.

Some b-schools do not allow a previous MBA; however this criterion is best checked with the schools themselves, as the Indian programs offer a diploma (PGDBM), which is technically not an MBA.

Similarly, some b-schools, particularly the European ones, require a TOEFL/ IELTS score and you may want to take either of the two tests to make it to the target b-school, ask them for a waiver (on account of your good English, and “convent educated” background) or just swap that b-school for another one.

Having GMAT and GPA scores above the b-school’s average figures is another benchmark for the Indian applicants.

9. Financial aspects (Fee, scholarships, financial aid)- Not all b-schools are made equal and they definitely don’t cost equal. B-school fee can cost you anywhere from INR 25 lakhs as in the case of the top Indian MBA programs (ISB & IIMs) to upward of INR 1 crore as is the case with HBS, Wharton and the likes. Other hidden costs only take these figures up north! While there is always an option to take loan from your own country, some b-schools offer loans to Indian applicants. What you need to find out is whether the credit agency requires a US based co-signer or not. Unability to arrange loans has been a party pooper for many Indian applicants, despite getting admission.

Scholarships exist, but not in abundance. Some b-schools have more scholarship money to give out as compared to others. It will be worth the effort to find this out from the school website, current students and alums and apply for a scholarship where you need to submit a separate application.

And then there are others:

FIT : This is the most used word in the MBA circles. How exactly do you determine your fit with a b-school? While all of the above factors play their roles to establish your fit with a b-school, there are some other uncategorizable ones that matter.

10. Small size v/s big size classroom– You may feel lost if you have 750+ students in the same class as you, as in the case of Wharton. And when you double this number to make room for second year MBAs then its definitely a big party. Do you find your place in this big party or a cozy get together, which you can find at, say Tuck, which has a class strength of 280. The size of the class also matters from the perspective of your alumni network- smaller classes will have smaller networks. For you as an international student, there may be still lesser alumni back home.

11. Big city v/s small city- Studying in a fast paced city like New York may be among the biggest lure for you to select b-schools based in New York. Or as a first time international student, you may want to soak in the experience of a small town school, where your life is centered around the b-school, students and campus activities. Plenty options abound.

12. Network- Building a strong network is among the most important reasons for a person to go to business school. A lot of job finding happens through your alumni network, with alumni arranging for job interviews in their companies (off campus recruiting) or alumni coming for the off campus recruiting. From this perspective, its important to figure out if your target school’s alums work in your target companies.
You will have access to your b-school’s network for life. Hence try to understand how strongly bonded the community is.

13. Personal development- The one/two years spent at business school will help you develop your softer side. While a large part of the curriculum will help you build your leadership capabilities, negotiation, communication and time management skills, there are features like experiential learning programs, trips to global destinations and activities & events held by the social and diversity clubs that will have a huge impact on your personal development within a short two years. Attending business school is not called a transformative experience for nothing!

All of the are mentioned on b-school websites, and you will learn a lot more about these experiences by reading up student blogs.

Most important! No Indian can leave this one out…..

14. The quintessential Indian relatives– last but not the least is the  Indian relatives, who are omnipresent, no matter where you do your MBA from. While some are happy with the arrangement of having guardians within the same city, others may not apply to the business school, just because their extended family stays in the vicinity. You take your pick!

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Top Eight Reasons to do an MBA

Are you at a stage in your career where you are clueless as to what the next stage should be? Need a boost but unsure about how to get it? You might not know it yet, but an MBA might be the answer, if any of the following problems bother you:

1. You have hit the glass ceiling: Despite all the hullabaloo about gender equality in the workplace, most women feel the presence of a glass ceiling that restricts their further growth. Fortunately B-schools are aware of this and are making concerted efforts to correct the gender gap on campus. Once you get in, there are diversity groups such as “Women in Business” almost on every campus that will create a supportive community to make your MBA experience fruitful.

2. You are stuck in a Rut: You have had a steep learning curve in your job but the growth has slowed down now. Even if you stay on for another year, there would be the same agenda points, same clients, same operations. You’re itching to take up new challenges, diversify, learn and play in a bigger arena, but can’t find the right opportunity. An MBA will expose you to a range of professional opportunities and help you broaden your horizon.

3. You need Skills 2.0: You are ready to move into a higher managerial position, but need a different skill set to justify your next position. The best MBA programs are designed for just that. They’ll smoothen the transition from functional to managerial and equip you with an upgraded repertoire of skills need to fuel the next stage of your professional growth.

4. Your first MBA came with an expiry date: You completed an MBA in the early part of your career and took what you got. Although you’ve got valuable work experience now, yet you are ready for better opportunities that require higher managerial skills. A second MBA from a top college can be the best key to opening shut doors.

5. An MBA is your mandatory path to growth: If you’re working in an industry such as consulting or banking where an MBA is required for career progression beyond a certain point, not getting one is probably not an option.

6. A Chance to Re-Align your career: Many people are already finished with their bachelors’ and are two years into a job by the time they begin to understand their own preferences, strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities ahead. At this point, many look to change profile or switch companies, but some wish to move to a different industry altogether. Depending upon what you have in mind, an MBA is a foolproof way to re-align yourself in a new direction.

7. You are a Philomath: You love to study! You are a CPA and FRM already and have taken 10 MOOC certifications in the past two years. Yes, studying perennially is your thing. Go ahead and apply for the MBA, only just be sure to convince the b-schools that your learnings will be put to test in a real world business scenario. Shortly put, you will go back to work and not another course.

8. You are start-up material but need some grooming: You may have launched a start-up which never really take off. Or maybe you’re fed up of working for someone else and dream of starting your own company. Or maybe you’ve got an idea which you want to refine and are looking for like-minded partners for your venture. In all cases, joining a good MBA program will be a good bet. Over the recent years, entrepreneurship has gained a lot of traction at business schools, and they are going all out to give you the right ecosystem to start your venture. And you’re sure to come across some very talented people on the same wavelength as you.

So, as we said, these are some of the most common reasons given by applicants for pursuing MBA. If one or more of them strike a chord with you, you know the path you have to take.

Go ahead and dig deeper into this blog for more about how to get started, schools and admission procedures, or contact us!

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Submitting an Application That Shows Maturity

“Making the best use of my resources and circumstances always is my passion. It helped me get several opportunities to display my personality as a self-starter, team player and multi-tasker.

After engineering, I got a job in IT which was a new field for me; I decided to give it my best. My resolution led me to be among the top three performers in our batch. While working in IT, getting certified on the skills is a major achievement. I was awarded with certificates on my skills and also on new technologies”.

Every year, we get several essays like this one, which go on a never ending, mindless banter! Can this essay impress?  Not really!

The essay not only does not impress, but also tells another thing about the applicant: that his ideas and thoughts lack maturity. He does not have the ability to analyze a situation and serve the reader information after assimilating and filtering it. The result is a salvo of thoughts flying in all directions, but making no impression at all.

Why does your maturity level matter to a business school?

Because, the level of discussion in an MBA class is of very high quality. You will have students with as much as ten years of work experience. How is the level of discussion that you engage in, adding to their experience? What are others getting to learn from you during class and project discussions? Unless the insights that you have drawn from your work are of high quality, there is little knowledge that you will contribute to the class. And this is also likely to get reflected in your essays.

Even if you do write solid essays with help from friends, family or admissions consultants, the interview can be another place where you can give yourself away. Many of the MBA interviews have behavioral questions that test you on specific experiences. If you are asked what was your biggest achievement, and your answer revolves around earning an IT certification, it will not be a very powerful example.  Rejection could be on the cards!

The good thing is that you can work on your professional maturity.  Become aware of what you speak and how you speak on a day-to-day basis.  Make your communication with people around you more meaningful.  And when you write your essays for the business schools, give better insights than the example above.

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How to Showcase Your Leadership Capabilities to a Business School

Leadership is one of the most sought out traits in b-school applicants. As an aspiring b-schooler, you must demonstrate your leadership capability through the resume, essays or recommendations.

In this post, we will list down some of the leadership characteristics that matter. Even if the essay questions do not explicitly ask you write a story based on these characteristics, you must try to include the relevant ones into your narrative.

Problem solving- As a business leader you will always be faced with a myriad of problems.  As the operations manager of your manufacturing plant, you could wake up one morning to find that a tiny machine is not working, jamming the assembly line.  Or  the software product that you recently delivered to a fuming client,  may have a bug in it, creating a face hiding situation for you.

Problems don’t come in isolation- typically one problem has a set of smaller problems interlinked to it and requires you to use many skills in solving it. You are required to take a structured approach in analyzing problems, find out the corrective course of actions and implement them.  For example, as a team leader in a financial services company, you could be told to downsize your team. You will have to solve the problem of not just determining which people to let go by analyzing previous performance records, but also of communicating your decision to them, and possibly finding them another suitable position internally.

Essay questions in the application often ask about process that you adopted in solving a problem.  Remember, b-schools care to know not just what the problem was, but what was your thought process in solving it process by which you solved it and why!

Related skills: creativity, analytical ability, out-of-the-box thinking, working in ambiguity


Decision making – Decision making and problem solving go hand in hand. Once you have analysed the problem, you would evaluate the options and take the right decision to implement the solution. Carrying forward the examples from above, your decision to let go of a certain people has to be a sound one as you are going to affect many people’s livelihood. Moreover you would need to take a just decision, so as not to let go of any real talent but only the non performers.

Decisions can be based on factual analysis or intuitive. In the application, make sure that you do not just say “ I took X decision”. Go a step ahead and explain what factors drove you to take that decision. B-schools are concerned about the thought process that goes in your problem solving and decision making, so do not leave these important elements out of your storyline.

Related skills: critical thinking, assertiveness, dealing with ambiguity,


Motivating and influencing others– We recently worked with a client who had joined an IT organization along with thirty other first time recruits. The team was asked to transition thousands of customer service requests to the Indian office within a short period and with no supervisor to guide them. In the absence of any senior leadership, our client stepped up to the occasion, learned the new technology himself and then mentored the rest of the team to complete the transition on time. He was self motivated and also had the capability to motivate others.

This is a common situation MBA applicants face at the work place. Motivating oneself and others leads to the team achieving their business objectives, personal gratification, and a desire to continue outperforming onself.

In the application, do not make your example too centered around yourself (your greatness). Explain how your actions led to the larger purpose being accomplished – which is meeting your end goal.

Related skills- persuading, taking initiatives, team building, managing, mentoring,


Adaptability- We are living in a dynamic world where ideas and processes change every few days. Are you able to change with this changing environment? Adaptability is a must have skill for a leader today. You have to walk out of your comfort zone and learn the new processes and enact the new ideas.

In the b-school application, there is another way to showcase adaptability. Applicants working in multinational companies often work in geographically spread teams. Good communication is the crux of a smooth working environment.  You may find yourself in a team which has people from Argentina, Spain and China – all culturally diverse, and with a different interpretation of small work processes. Working in such teams help you to adapt to other people’s styles and learn a thing or two from their cultures.

At business schools, you will have term or year-long learning teams of 5-6 people. To maximize your exposure to different perspectives, these teams are comprised in a way that you will have team members representing different industries, functions and countries as compared to yours. Having an open mind and the ability to adapt to your team member’s perspectives are crucial attributes required to sustain in a b-school.

Related attributes- flexibility, cultural sensitivity, managing change


Listening and communicating –  Being an effective manager you will require excellent oral and written communication skills. Whether you are dealing with blue collar workers on the shop floor or you are assisting your boss on a high profile M&A deal, you will need to communicate in a clear and precise way. A leader with good communication skills is also able to manage discord, thereby improving team relationships and enhancing work productivity.

Moreover, you must be able to listen to what the others are saying. Communication is a two way channel. Listening to others and incorporating their feedback are just as important in the process of communication.

In the application, your recommenders are the right individuals who can speak to your communication skills.

Challenging the status quo – Every organization follows processes that help it to function smoothly on a day to day basis. However, sometimes, these processes become out dated or cease to be relevant with constantly changing work dynamics/ technology. But they are already so ingrained in a firm’s structure that it requires a leap of faith to change them.  Your idea may face resistance, initially in being accepted and later, in being implemented. You will also face the risk of failure, and a real failure may lead to your negative growth in the company.

Despite the drawbacks, challenging the status quo demonstrates your gutsy attitude, your initiative taking capability and your penchant for innovation and process improvement. This is among the most important traits in a leader’s arsenal. Most b-schools value this very highly.

In the application, paint a picture of what you were staking, both personally and professionally by challenging the status quo. Demonstrate your risk taking capacity!

Related skills- risk taking, assertiveness, initiation, innovation, motivation





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School is cool. But which B-school is the coolest for you?

If you are just getting started with the MBA application process, this is a question that could be tormenting you like none other. Which 5-7 b-schools should I apply to?  If you have trawled any admissions related forums, you would already have picked up buzz words like “fit” when collating your “target b-schools” list.

Essentially this means how well do you fit into these b-schools’ environment. Will the teaching method suit your learning needs? Will you thrive in a small class size and a college town environment? Will you perform better if the programs emphasize on hand-on learning as opposed to theoretical learning? Do you have any geographic preferences for the post- MBA job?

These are just some of the questions you can ask yourself.

We always recommend applicants to conduct a primary research by reaching out to the stakeholders- students, business school representatives and alumni. The insights you get from these resources will not only bring clarity about your “fit” with business schools, but also help you write more convincing essays explaining the same.

Here are some ways that you should use to conduct your research:

1. Campus Visit– Every B-school encourages you to visit its campus. There is nothing like sitting through a case study class at Harvard or Darden to understand whether you like the case method and can live with it for two years (500+ case studies). You can attend a class, workshops, open houses to really get a feel for the school, besides getting a tour of the campus.

Some b-schools such as Tuck, Kellogg and UNC Kenan Flagler give you the option clubbing your interview with the on-campus visit.

2. Register for online events – Attending school hosted webinars and chat sessions is among the simplest ways to get to know b-schools. Most have a school briefing followed by a Q&A round, where school representatives will answer your questions. The topic of discussion could be general MBA admissions queries or specific to a department (e.g. marketing) or an industry (e.g. private equity).  Chicago Booth for instance regularly hosts regular online chats while Wharton has a long list of archived webinars uploaded on their website.  Previous Booth chats are also available for your reading.

3. Register for off line events– Just like the online chats, almost every school out there hosts coffee chats, receptions and .  These are small events held regionally by alums or student ambassadors. Hearing the experiences of these people is as close to the MBA experience you will get before joining it yourself. You may be so impressed by the story of one alum during this session, that you may upgrade the school on top of your target list.

Wharton has Summer Coffee chats, Haas has the Winter Break Coffee and Tuck simply has Tuck Coffee.  Yale hosts Summer Socials where current students travel across the world for information sessions on the SOM.

Booth’s Chicago Conversation aims to get the applicants interested in a specific industry together in a city where that industry thrives.  Industry experts and alumni join the discussion and share their perspectives. Past conversations have included ‘Infrastructure’ in Dubai, ‘Media Entertainment and Technology’ in Los Angeles and Entrepreneurship in Asia at Hong Kong.

The top b-schools also conduct tours across the major cities of the world, where some visiting members from the admissions team make their presentation.

Take note that these events can sometimes accommodate only a small number of people, so book your slot as soon as the registrations open. Never miss these!

4. MBA fairs : These fairs, held at major cities across the world, give participating b-schools and applicants a chance to congregate under one roof. Many business schools do not undertake individual tours, but do come as part of the tour. Some tours to watch out for are The MBA Tour, QS World MBA Tour and Access MBA’s One-to-One MBA event. Some events available exclusively to US applicants are the Forte Forum and Inside the MBA.

5. Subscribe to mailers from b-schools’ admissions teams and set Google Alerts.

6. Read blogs and watch vlogs– There is a wealth of information you will find in the blog section of every b-school. Blogs can be written by a number of people- the admissions team, faculty, students and also the Director of admissions. At Booth, you will hear from the admissions team through the Booth Insider. The Admissions Director at Ross, Soojin Kwon, and Dee Leopold, Admission’s Director at Harvard have their regularly updated blogs. Sarah Neher, Director of Admissions at Darden, gives application advice through her video blog. Infact a lot of crucial information about the admission process such as the deadlines, the essays or the interview process are first revealed by the admission directors, on their blogs. Stay tuned to these!

Kellogg’s blog which is called The Inside Perspective  is shared by both  the admissions team and students. Wharton’s student blog is called the Student Diaries, whereas Fuqua’s informative blog is called the Duke MBA blog.

Every b-school that you could want to apply to will have atleast a few students blogging their experiences- read them and become informed.

7. You can also reach out to b-school students and alumni through Linked In.

8. Admissions Ambassadors: Many b-schools have second year students designated as ambassadors that you can directly email to. Wharton calls them Admissions Fellows and UCLA calls them Admissions Ambassador Corps; at Ross and Columbia Business School, they are simply called student ambassadors. MIT has the MBA Ambassadors Program where current students host sessions during the spring semester. According to Wharton, the Admission Fellows play a key role in the admissions process by conducting on-campus information sessions where they provide their perspective on the Wharton experience.

9. Videos and podcasts: Many b-schools have regularly updated YouTube channels. Stern has a “Day in Life of a Stern MBA” series and virtual tours of the campus and surrounding areas.

10. Interactive platforms: B-schools like Ross and Columbia Business School have superbly interactive features such as Ross’ “What interests you” prompt. Once you select the career path that interests you (such as entrepreneurship, consulting, technology etc.) you are guided to the next page which lists out information about the school’s resources in that career path. For example, if you select consulting, you will find employment figures, companies that hire in consulting, specific curricula, related clubs and even students you can contact to figure out more – and all this information is on one page!

CBS has a very interesting concept- Notes to the next class.  Students and alumni can add small notes about their experiences on various subjects such as academics, student life, career, admissions, orientation, graduation and many more. Although, there are several informative notes and quotes from alumni who graduated between 1900 and 2010, it was a pleasant surprise to see a note on teamwork from an alum who graduated in the class of 1971.

11. Don’t underestimate the good ol’ way of reaching out to your friend’s friend who had been to business school two years ago. Your network built from college mates and work colleagues is just as important.

In today’s time and age, its difficult to not conduct any research before applying . With 11 ways to deploy laid out before you, you can no longer be short of ideas.

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Fall 2015 is approaching, What are you waiting for?

Have you heard the latest Ellie Goulding song which has the line- What are you waiting for? Well, the similarity between the song and this blog post ends with the following question: if you have already decided that you will apply for an MBA program this year, then what are you waiting for?

Now is the time for you to get your act together and work towards getting admission into the best MBA programs that you can manage. If there are any creases in your profile, they should be ironed out now, in the months before the admissions cycle starts. To do this, you should evaluate every part of your profile, judge where you can make improvements and get on the task without further ado.

Here are the few things you can do:

1. GMAT- Aim for a GMAT which is closer to the 80th percentile of the GMAT range published by your target b-schools. If you have already taken the GMAT and your scores are subpar, then hit the GMAT road again. The GMAT is among the most important selection criterion, so leave no stone unturned in getting your best score. A high score will also enable you to apply to better ranked programs.

2. Work experience: B-schools, just like employers love applicants with exceptional career graphs. You needn’t have become a marketing director within three years of joining a corporate (though this would be possible in a startup), but there must be something on the resume that makes you shine. Think about it along two lines:

a. the impact you have made on your organization or on the client’s business

b. your personal career growth.

Building the quality of your work experience is a process for life. But for now, if you think you are lacking somewhere, look out for opportunities where you get a chance to shine. It could be a promotion, a crucial project or just excellence in your current role. You may have to work hard to acquire these, but the dividends will be great- for your career and for your MBA application.

3. Leadership experience: Business schools groom students for future leadership roles. Think that you are preparing to be the CEO/CFO/COO et al. Early signs of leadership are indicators that you will reach the CXO spot and your target MBA programs are going to value this trait in the evaluation process.

How can you demonstrate your leadership? The obvious answer is the times when you have led people. How did you motivate them to get desired results? How did you manage conflict? How well did you delegate? How did you ensure the team’s personal growth and learning on the job?

The other ways you can show leadership skills are by demonstrating the following personality characteristics: innovating, initiating, team building, motivating others, problem solving and decision making, risk taking and communicating well.

Being involved in activities outside the work sphere also gives you a chance to develop your leadership skills. Therefore get involved in your community or with a non-profit organization (read about them here).

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