First Attempt: No
Before applying, what was your educational background and work experience like?
I have been working for more than 5 years. My profile was fairly typical; I joined Accenture, then Headstrong in May, 2010 and worked for 1.5 years there. I had 4.5 years of experience in total; I thought it was a good time to go for an MBA. I also wanted a switch from IT Development to Management.
You had earlier applied in 2009 to some colleges, tell us about that.
Yes, when in Accenture, I applied to some of the top colleges, I had a GMAT of 680 at the time and I had written the GMAT for the first time. I did not have enough information on the application process. I did it on my own without clear application strategies and so I got rejects from all of the colleges. This time around I corrected my mistakes. It was a learning experience for me.
From the first time to this time, what was different? What aspects did you majorly improve on?
The first time I applied, I did not know that when you’re applying for an MBA to America, you need to have a clear reason behind your career shift. I mentioned in my previous application that I wanted to move to something creative like Marketing or FMCG. I didn’t realize that moving from IT to Marketing is considered something bizarre. At that point in time, I wasn’t sure about how to portray myself and what goals I need to focus on.
The other thing was my GMAT – the first time was a bit low for the schools I had applied to. I was being a bit too ambitious back then. I think the right exposure wasn’t there. This time I felt I had better exposure and that helped me a great deal.
Compared to 2009 and now, how did you choose the B-Schools especially since you are changing your industry completely?
When I had applied in 2009, I wanted to move into Marketing so I chose colleges which were good at Marketing or what I thought was good for Marketing. I applied to Ross, Duke, Kellogg and Emory because of my cousin who had done his MBA at Emory.
This time however, I went about it a bit more analytically. I thought of the viable career options which I can have, and that is how I went about it. This time around my approach was a bit better.
You had written your GMAT in 2009 and again in 2010, how did you go about balancing your work and GMAT?
I think the motivation was there. First of all, I wasn’t too satisfied with my job which was the major factor to give the GMAT. As far as GMAT was concerned, I wasn’t so dedicated that I would spend 3 hours a day, but without fail I would study for about 1 – 1.5 hours and focus on a set of questions. I had joined CrackVerbal as well, so there was a structure to my preparation.
I had to do Sentence Correction then move to Critical Reasoning the following week. I closely followed the OG and so I didn’t get confused with other material. Arun kept saying OG is the best source, so I just followed that and gave my time judicially to OG and I think consistency was a big factor as I would spend about half an hour each day on the questions. That’s how I went about balancing it.
As you mentioned, you were in IT and you wanted to shift to another stream, what aspects of your profile did you think helped you get an admit and what was different from your last set of applications back in 2009?
I think this time my GMAT score was good. Apart from that the extracurricular roles too played a significant role in my profile. Outside office and within office, I was into extracurriculars a lot. At work, I lead the “fun at work” initiative, which was on a large scale, i.e. at an organizational level. They had asked me how I impacted the organization so I always gave this as an example. Even the recommenders mentioned this so it was validated and it was at a large scale so there was definitely an impact.
Even outside the office, I was into theatre for almost 2 years in Bangalore so that too helped me differentiate myself. I have done some stand-up comedy as well so these things helped me get noticed. I would host events and I had performed at IIM Bangalore as well. Even during the interview people asked me what I did outside of work and I would narrate these experiences. You know how the IT Indian Male is an overdone profile? These things really helped me differentiate myself for them to notice me from the pool of applicants.
Which school are you finally opting for?
I had applied to 6 -7 colleges this year. My plan was to choose some ambitious, some practical, and some safe. My dream college was Kellogg and out of all the 7 colleges, it was the only one I got a reject from. The next choice was Tepper (CMU) and I got an admit from there, then Kenan-Flagler, USC Marshall, ISB, and Simon.
All these were my 2nd round of applications. My 1st round was Kellogg and Tepper, I wanted to get into either of them. I was not sure I would get into Kellogg or Tepper, these are a league above the rest. Of course ISB too is a class above, but while applying there, I knew that I wanted to go to the US.
ISB was just a safe option?
Yes it was. I’m going with Tepper finally, I think it is a very good school and is a small program so it is close knit, the kind I like. Although I got scholarships, I’m not taking it up because I feel that scholarships were just around 20-50% so I should not compromise on my goal. I had also applied to Booth but I was waitlisted. I have kind of accepted that Booth might be too far-fetched.
Just one final piece of advice you would want to give to MBA aspirants, especially from the IT background who begin considering an MBA when 3 or 4 years into their career.
First is to choose a goal which is a bit practical, it should be logical and believable and not something fancy. What I think we feel in India is that if it is not fancy it might not seem lucrative to the panel, which is not really true. If your goal is logical and believable and you show that you believe in it through your essays, I think that works far better than having a goal which sounds great but is really disconnected from your personality. So the goal should be particular to your profile.
Secondly around 3-4 years in IT, almost all of us work as a Team Lead or Senior Developer so if you can differentiate yourself that would work well. Like one guy at ISB – I had a talk with him and had asked him how should I differentiate myself from the rest of the applicants?
He said that you should always speak of a role which showcases your managerial capability – whether a Project Management related project or extracurricular, technical or non-technical, even if you had done some Event Management, you should tie that into your leadership capabilities as well, through your essays.
I think some examples we can bring in from our daily life which had some impact can be helpful. It’s not necessary that we all have big examples as everyone who is preparing for an MBA has a leadership ability of some sort, so everyone must have had an experience they can talk about. They need to think that there will be thousands of applicants and how they can differentiate themselves from others is important, they need to ponder over that. This advice I always give everyone.