This is the first in a series of articles I will write about my experience at IIM-L - life at campus and my experience after that. A brief introduction about me. I did my engineering in 1999, worked for two years in TCS and then did my PGDM from IIM-Lucknow from 2001 to 2003.
On hindsight today, the decision to take up Engineering as a career was not entirely mine. I do not regret this choice; however there is always that question - could I have been a better something else, something not an Engineer? Guess we all have our share of 'roads not taken'.
One career decision that I can identify with more closely was that of doing a Masters in Business. My first attempt to take the CAT in 1998 was messed up by some fool who decided to get married on the same day & a bigger fool who let him do so on the grounds of the examination center with a whole load of fanfare. After a 2 year wait, I tried my luck again & boy! was I lucky this time! Calls from all the 6 IIMs (ABCLKI), 3 IITs and IISc, Bangalore!!! The picture still appears clearly before my eyes – me sitting at my desk at TCS where I worked then hoping that my boss was elsewhere while I waited for the web page containing the list of qualified students at each IIM to come up and each of them had my name! Could it be true? Was I dreaming? Just to make sure, I asked my father to check the results from his office. And they were true! Wow! Round 1 in my favor!
I will not go into the details of my different GD / PI sessions, after all that is not the aim of this article. Suffice to say that I managed to convert the Indore and Kozikhode rounds while I was put on the wait list at Lucknow. A brief mention of the Lucknow interview – I was interviewed by Prof. Anadi Pandey (who I would later meet as the Professor of Strategic Management) and Prof. B.K. Mohanty (who taught Quantitative Analysis for Management). They were both more than eager to set me at ease & ensure that my nervousness did not wreck my chances of entering their school. Questions mostly centered around my work experience at TCS. This is something that I would understand to a greater depth later – the fact that IIMs and most business schools lay a great deal of weightage to past work experience of prospective students & aim for a good mix of those who have bitten into the corporate pie and those who have not. For a student with past work experience, this works out great. They are not only able to easily grasp the concepts taught in the classroom & relate it to their past organization, but also able to identify with and analyze some of the situations discussed, if not all, thus also adding to their personal development. The management course is after all supposed to equip you to make your mark in the corporate world; prior experience will give you the “been there done that” edge. So for those of you who are in two minds about which way to go, I would definitely recommend a 1 – 2 year stint in an organization before joining a B school.
The wait list at Lucknow paid off and I finally entered the hallowed portals on a hot & humid June afternoon. We were lucky that our seniors had chalked out a reception plan for all the important trains that they knew the first years would be arriving in. Lucky because else it would be difficult for us to get there on our own the first time. The IIM Lucknow Campus is pretty far from the railway station, the city and almost everything else. From Sitapur Road, there is a further 3.4 km path that one needs to negotiate before reaching the campus. This road not only lends its name to the insti rock band but also would serve as the setting for many interesting incidents later. My parents were accompanying me and a room was booked for them at the Executive Enclave. We had been asked to meet Mr. Pandey who was in charge of allocating us rooms in the hostel. I was alloted Room No. 130 – the last room available in the first Ladies Hostel H1. This room would be my haven for the coming 2 years.
H1 is bang opposite the Mess and so very conveniently located. Unfortunately my room was on the second floor and I was faced with the prospect of lugging my huge suitcase up two flights of stairs. Luckily there were a few guys just outside the hostel playing cricket and they chivalrously offered to carry my bags for me – one of the small mercies of being a woman. I would later meet Abhishek & Kaustubh as my classmates and would tease them about this for many days to come.
The reason that these guys were already so comfortably settled on campus was that they had come in early as part of the REMs. REMs is a 2 week short course that IIM L offers to its prospective students who come from a non science background. During these two weeks, they are familiarized with some basic concepts in mathematics to equip them to understand the course topics later.
Coming up: Part II: In & beyond the curricuLum