Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From MANIT to Life at a B-school

Are you absolutely sure that you want to study an MBA?

 (This article appeared here in PaGaLGuY.com on Feb 27, 2012)

“Every morning in Africa, when a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up, it knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running.”

You must have read that quote before somewhere on the Internet, attributed variously to everyone from Charles de Gaulle to Abe Gubegna. If there was one line that perfectly described life at a good and rigorous business school, this would be it. Life at b-school is a complete antithesis of life at any engineering college. Just the first week, or even the first day will teach you how much tougher it is going to be compared to anything that most people have done before.

You will have to prepare before attending a lecture, not miss any classes, be on time to classes, meet submission deadlines and — probably the toughest thing for any engineer — do assignments on your own. Without copy-pasting off Google! (Which by the way will land you into so much trouble that you will end up wishing that you’d rather not have submitted anything at all and escaped with a zero.)

General lack of awareness and a lot of media hype have led many starry-eyed MBA applicants to harbour false impressions about how life at a b-school and after it is actually like. Most people begin aspiring for an MBA driven by day-dreams about six-digit monthly salaries, expecting that they will be the stars behind the next The Hindu vs The Times of India advertising war. Many get affected by the average salary figure of Rs 17 lakh at an IIM and can’t wait to be having breakfast with Ratan Tata and dinner with Mukesh Ambani in a matter of a few years. But they overlook the simple math and logic which dictates that for the salary average to be Rs 17 lakh, there must be roughly half the number of students on the other side of the figure as well.

The news media begins and ends with its limelight on the guys who get the best of the jobs and the crore packages. What they don’t tell you is that the student getting such a package would have had a few years of work-experience in a bank before his MBA and a topper both at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and at the b-school as well to boot. The popular obsession with the ‘IIM brand’ at times does not take into account the reality that a tag can only take you so far in life. Beyond that, hard work and what you truly are as a person, MBA or no MBA, only will carry you forward.

Your being a hard worker is taken for granted once you join MBA and in life after that. Considering that we are all used to sleeping 10 hours a day during engineering, it might seem unfathomable to function in a way that takes efficiency to another level. Like one of our professors says, “We all know that you are brilliant, and if given the time to do an assignment, you certainly will do a great job of it. That is why we make sure that you do not get enough time to do an assignment and want to see how good a job you can do when you have multiple things to do, and not enough time. Time management is what we want to 
teach you!”

MBA will be hectic, irrespective of where you do it from and it will require a lot of 
commitment, dedication and certain sacrifices. One should be mentally prepared for a different kind of lifestyle once they join an MBA programme. To get a an estimate of how much of stress it can cause, think of the most stressful day you ever had during engineering college, and imagine living that day for 300 out of the 365 days in a year. That would probably be it.

Taking up an MBA is a choice that will stay with you for life, but you should make that choice only after putting in a lot of thought. The first year of engineering is definitely not the time to make the choice, like many tend to do. Not only should you think through the “Why MBA?” question, you should also give equal consideration to the “Why not MS/MTech or working in a job instead?” question too and hopefully find all the answers you need.

(Added later) All said and done, MBA is not just about the rigour and academics. There is definitely fun and you enjoy a lot too.

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