With CAT 17 right around the corner and preparation for CAT 16 underway, Sharanya, an alumnus of CEG as well as a recent graduate of IIM-B sheds some light on what life at a top B-school is like and how it has helped her in the long haul.
GT: Did coaching play an important role in helping you ace CAT? Do you think that students should opt to go for coaching classes?
Sharanya: As with most MBA aspirants, I too enrolled in a coaching class for MBA prep. However with internships happening at the same time, I wasn’t able to attend most of the classes. The mock tests were extremely helpful. During the course of my preparation, I had taken more than 30 mock tests - the final exam felt just like any other mock test. Coming to the question of whether students should take coaching classes, it depends on the student. Students should give at least two mock tests and identify the areas which need improvement. By assessing one’slevel, students should decide if coaching would further their chance of getting a good percentile in the CAT exam.
GT: What other schools did you consider? Why did you choose this school?
Sharanya: Apart from IIM–B, I considered all management schools from IITs, FMS, and private institutions like XLRI. I chose IIM-B was because I had received the admission letter before I could attend an interview for other institutions and had to accept the admission offer.
GT: In your opinion, what type of personality fits a student of IIM-B?
Sharanya: I don’t have a definite answer to this question, but what I can tell you is this- one needs to prioritise in order to survive in IIM-B. IIM-B has so much to offer, be it academics, extra-curricular activities, etc. One needs to choose activities best suited for the individual. At IIMs, your peers are some of the best in the country and it’s crucial that you are assertive and get your point through in group discussions and projects. Time management is essential for survival at IIM-B. The schedule is very hectic, often with no time to eat or sleep. Thus prioritising your assignments and projects play a vital role in coping with the system. At IIMs, you will find people from different backgrounds and fields. Thus having a diverse group of friends will help you learn a lot and helps in the overall development.
GT: What were some of the challenges of the program?
Sharanya: The course has too much to offer. IIMs don’t offer specialization. We get to choose 6 electives each term. Electives are distributed over a wide spectrum ranging from finance, and statistic to marketing. Students should chose electivesdepending on what they like all while keeping in mind how their choice will benefit them in their future ventures. Again, prioritizing plays a key role in helping you manage your extra-curricular activities. Get help from your peers. As an engineering graduate, I found economics and finance to be a nightmare but with help from some of my peers from economics and commerce background, I was able to understand the concepts and ace it. Placements at IIMs begin very early, it’s important to choose your dream job than to go with the hype in campus. Consulting was the most sought after sector but a few quit just a year into it. Thus it’s important to choose the field that best suits you.
GT: I have done my research on IIM-B by reading various publications and current and past students’ blogs, as well asadmission office’s blogs and the one thing that stands out about the school is impact leadership. Could you confirm and elaborate on this? A few anecdotes on personal experience would also be helpful.
Sharanya: It definitely is. I have seen this as a trait of many individuals in IIM-B at various levels-professors, student and alumni. I haven’t seen the kind of relationship that professors maintain with students anywhere else. Once, at 3 am when students were preparing for a case competition in the corridor, a professors walked by and started a discussion with the students. They provide constant support to their students even after college in terms of business ventures, sharing their thoughts at times of crisis, their words etc., and have touched many student’s lives. The same applies for my peers and alumni. They have always stood by me and exhibited the same in their own career and personal lives. I have had friends who quit their corporate careers to start or support NGO’s, start schools in rural areas and help with path breaking innovation that can change lives. The administration also helps by waiving tuitions fees for those who start NGOs after college for a period of at least three years. IIM-B is definitely a place where you can find people who create an impact in society
GT: What resources does the school offer to help students launch ventures?
Sharanya: Like I said, professors and alumni are of great help to offer guidance and support to those who want to start new ventures. Apart from this, the school has NSRCEL-N S Raghavan centre for entrepreneurial learning which support anyone who has interest in starting their own venture. This centre is famous for its 'incubators'. Anyone with an entrepreneurial idea get all the help neededfor a period of time in this incubator-giving a structure to an idea, putting them in touch with relevant people, funding partners, promoting strategy, etc. Not many B-schools have this incubator set up which is unique to IIM-B. Also, it offers courses on entrepreneurship-a recent one is a course for women entrepreneurs to help them launch their ventures. Friends you find in IIM-B will always be a great support to set up ventures-right from being a cofounder, funding partner or the employee who works for you at all levels!
GT: How have the skills learned both from inside and outside of the class translate to your current role?
Sharanya: Classes at IIM-B are mostly case-based. You analyse a case, and try to give a solution. The approach is very structured and helps us think in all possible ways. The same happens in my professional projects. The structured thought process is what gets more importance than the solution itself. In this way, you don’t get tensed with any problem you face in life. The other asset I discovered at IIM-B is the diversity of people you interact with every day. You get to meet people from various sectors, different levels of experience and of coursepeople from different culture, region and languages. The sectoral diversity had helped me interact well with people from different departments and positions in the organizations. I have to travel to different places for my projects and I don’t find it difficult at all because of my interaction with the people in campus. These are great learning experience. Apart from this, time management, act of prioritizing, introspection, consensus building are the skills acquired from my IIM-B days that are very helpful in my day to day life.
GT: How does an MBA from IIM-B set you apart from your colleagues and peers?
Sharanya: The brand ‘IIM-B’ is well known, that sets expectations in the minds of superiors and others; it’s a double edged sword! To live up to that, you tend to go the extra mile to deliver high impact results - the experience from IIM-B will help you find ways to achieve those results. Hence the recommendations and insights provided by an IIM-B graduate are valued. Because of faster and precise decision making, you tend to stand apart from colleagues and peers.IIM-B alumni have proven themselves in all walks of society and that gives the brand its name and fame; that also gives an added aura when you say that you’re an IIMBian.
GT: How have you leveraged IIM-B alumni networking in your professional life?
Sharanya: When I needed expert advice for my project, I did reach out to my alumni and they were definitely of great help. They provided me with latest update in industry trends. In my current job search, they are very supportive in sharing contacts. They also help me prepare for interviews.
GT: Some words of wisdom for the students who are aspiring to crack the CAT and take admission in the elite institutions like IIMs?
Sharanya: CAT is all about time management. With more than two lakh students competing, managing time is essential giving you an edge over the others. Practice is the best way to improve speed and accuracy. I had given many mock tests before appearing for CAT. I would advise students to concentrate on group discussion and interview after they receive their call letters. Doing things one step at a time helps infocussing on the thing at hand and do it to the best of your ability. After receiving call letters, you should regularly read the newspaper and be well-versed with global issues. This helps in the interview stage of the admission process. To sum it up, practise is your key to IIMs.