An exclusive interview with Mahesh Ramasubramanian, who is currently pursuing MBA at IIM Lucknow, reveals how the life at IIM is and gives some interesting facts to MBA aspirants.
B.E Electronics & Telecommunications.
2 years as a Database Administrator at Lehman Brothers/Nomura.
Which institute are you doing your MBA/MMS from?
Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow
What does an MBA mean to you? Why do you want to pursue it?
MBA to me was not only a chance to just get to know the business side, but also get to know it quickly and effectively within a period of 2 years. It was also offering me a chance to go back to college, and interact and network with people from really diverse backgrounds.
Did you enrol for any special coaching? Did it help?
I had attended a coaching class during my final year of graduation, and my first CAT attempt. CAT 2008 was my third attempt. I enrolled only for the test series of a couple of leading institutes. Over time I guess I’ve realized that it’s more about the temperament you maintain through your preparation in the run up to C-day. No offence to anyone, but drowning two Red Bulls before the CAT, getting hand-holding parents to wait outside the test centre through the length of the exam or last minute revision of formulae aren’t really going to boost scores. Consistent preparation is what would really help though. So would group studying. Working/studying in teams is an integral and critical part of B-school life, and it would be ideal if one could form a close knit group of 4-5 people with the sole purpose of helping each other. Ego should be thrown out of the window, and the aim should be to maximize learning from one’s own and other group members’ mistakes. Working in groups increases efficiency, reduces time spent on daydreaming and provides for healthy competition.
What’s your educational background? How did it help you secure your seat in your B-School?
I’ve done my B.E. in Electronics & Telecommunications from Mumbai University. My academics were decent but not exceptional. The number of engineers at any of the top b-schools is around 90% of the batch. I suppose most of the CAT applicants are engineers as well. Quite frankly I don’t think background matters at all. I’ve met some math geniuses here who haven’t had much exposure to mathematics as they were non-engineering students. Many engineers aren’t very comfortable with mathematics and I guess that’s fine. Ultimately CAT is about how much practise you put in before the exam – irrespective of your background. If you think IITians have it easy, then that’s because they worked hard to crack the JEE – and that helps them now. Everyone who is successful would have put in the effort – the only difference is ‘when’. For the GD-PI rounds, candidates with non-engineering backgrounds are usually so less that they are great additions to any class from the perspective of diversity. But 90% of a batch being engineers perhaps means that they stand a great chance as well. I think it all boils down to this - focus on improving your confidence. That’s the key to cracking the GD-PI rounds. That’s something I’ve found to be common across all admitted students.
Did you have any work experience before joining the course? If yes, did it help you gain an edge over your peers?
I worked for close to 2 years as a Database Administrator in Lehman Brothers which was later taken over by Nomura. It wasn’t the typical software coding or testing job but it wasn’t non-IT either. Considering most people are from a software background, I don’t think my job would have mattered much in the final selection. Like I’d mentioned self-confidence matters a lot, apart from that panellists probably look for some consistency in personal achievements and a decent performance in the GD/PI. My suggestion is for every aspirant to keep an open mind at all times. Do your best, and leave the rest.
What’s a typical day like in your b-school?
Certainly a whole lot of fun!
Do read my blog for all the details though!
What area of specialisation are you more likely to opt for in your second year?
I haven’t decided that yet – but there is ample scope for flexibility. Marketing and Strategy, Marketing and Finance, Finance and Economics, Operations and Systems – the permutations and combinations are entirely student-dependent, and the list of electives (which decides specialization) is huge to say the least.
What, according to you, is the USP of your B-School?
The IIM brand, an awesome 200 acre campus, state-of-the-art infrastructure, some truly amazing professors, alumni who are doing exceptionally well and a curriculum that will make the rest of your life seem like a piece of cake.
Where do you see yourself a few years down the line?
Right now I’m taking things one step at a time. It’s the best feeling in the world to forget the past and the future and just enjoy the present. Also, an MBA offers so many career paths that I’d be silly to wear horse blinders at this stage.
A word of advice for future MBA aspirants.
Don’t come to a B-school thinking that once you’re in, everything’s going to take care of itself. Life here is tough. The competition is insane. Emotions run high and time is always at a premium. But an MBA at one of the top B-schools will teach/force you to handle all this and more. Keep an open mind and be ready to work hard and smart - that should do the trick.