First Attempt: Yes
Please tell us something about your profile and background.
I did my engineering from Panjab University, Chandigarh in computer science. I have been a software engineer at Adobe Systems for the past 5 years. I am working for Acrobat Security and am leading a small team. As we work with security projects, we deal with vulnerability and hackers. The projects usually have a very short turn-around time and there is large money at stake. And because we deal with security, we come across different people and companies beyond Adobe. As security can be a problem with anyone, a lot of cross-geographical work and co-ordination is required. I have also worked with my team at San Jose, where the Head Office of Adobe is situated.
And how did MBA become a part of the plan?
When I joined Adobe, it was dealing with recession. I saw Adobe changing its strategies and its product line. In fact, Adobe has been re-running its business for the past 4 years. This experience gave me a lot exposure and I was inspired to move towards Product Management whether at Adobe, Google, Apple or Microsoft. But to get into such companies I realized that an MBA is important. Also, an MBA would help me develop some good habits like preparing for tests and reading the Economic Times every day. On the whole, I wanted to learn a wide spectrum of things!
When did you start with your GMAT prep?
I took my GMAT on 7th August 2010. I prepared for my GMAT for around three months, beginning by late April 2010.
Could you share with us your GMAT score and how you prepared for your GMAT?
Sure! My GMAT score was 730. My break up was 49 and 41. Initially I studied only from – OG 12. As far as GMAT books are concerned, I personally believe that you should begin your preparation from OG, as it gives you an insight into the fundamentals of GMAT test. You will be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and work towards those. Though my Quant was strong, I needed to work on Verbal.
This is because in GMAT, Verbal is more analytical and logical, almost like mathematics. I started studying seriously around mid of May. I studied for 2-3 hours every day and took two GMAT mock tests every weekend. I do believe that “Consistency” helps a lot.
Candidly speaking, GMAT preparation is not that tough, if you are consistent and patient in your preparation. Sitting for 3.5 hours for a test requires a lot of stamina and practice! It is futile to study 8-9 hours a day for GMAT, like we usually do for CAT. I never took a break for more than 2 days while preparing for my GMAT.
Towards the end, I took a week off from my work, and started taking GMAT mock tests. Actually, I was looking for a serious, real-test like environment, as we usually tend to be relaxed at home. For the initial 2-3 days, I gave two tests per day and for rest of the days, one test per day. The test series helped me out greatly.
Is there something you wished you knew before to ease your GMAT preparation?
Yes, as I was over-confident in Quant, I didn’t practice it as much as I should have. Had I had done it in the initial part of my preparation; it would have helped me a little more to build my stamina.
And how did your actual GMAT go?
The evening before the test, I practically did nothing. I was at home with family. I went to the Test centre a day before to get aware of the surroundings. I remembered having an ice-cream on my way back! On a whole, I was quite relaxed! On the Test day, I got up early and I brushed up my basic formulas. I had made some notes out of the mistakes I made during my mock tests. Sometimes you answer some questions very confidently, but surprisingly they turn out to be wrong. So I had made a 4-5 page word document. That is all that I revised early morning.
I had my breakfast. My test slot was at 10:30. Even during my test, I was very patient and relaxed. It was when I reached the Reading Comprehension section that I realized I was running out of time. After comprehension, there were some Sentence Correction questions. So for that comprehension, I attempted 2-3 questions and I did guesswork for the other two, so that I could move to Sentence Correction, followed by Critical Reasoning. Apart from this, everything else went pretty smoothly, including the essay part.
What about your recommendations?
I got my first recommendation from one of my managers who had left Adobe in 2010 to pursue an MBA himself. I got the second recommendation from my cross team manager with whom I had worked. I realized from my experience that it is very important to get recommendations from a person who is working very closely with you, though going and informing him that you might leave soon sounds like a risk.
How was your interview process?
Mock interviews helped me a lot. During my IIM-C interview, it was one of the professors who took it. But in U.S. it is quite different. Sometimes alumni will take the interview or sometimes even a history graduate!
I took a couple of mock interviews from CrackVerbal and another mock from a manager in Microsoft U.S. The idea was to take multiple mock interviews from different kinds of people. That really helped me because apart from my career I had several extra-curricular activities that I regularly participate in.
For instance, I go for Jazz lessons regularly and have performed shows in Delhi. Reading is also on my list of activities, and I write regularly on my blogs. Thus, there is so much stuff to talk about, but I never got the chance of talking about it. I usually end up talking about my work which is too technical. This is where mock interviews helped me profoundly!
When Aruna and Arun from CrackVerbal took my mock interview, it lasted for 1.5 hours and Arun asked me whether I enjoyed the interview. I told him I enjoyed the later part of it but not the earlier. Then Arun told me that for the first part I was a different person and for the latter part, totally a different one. That really helped me to rearrange the stuff I have to talk about during my interviews. Mock interviews also helped me to recall and highlight important factors of my career and my life during the actual interview process.
So, which schools did you apply to?
Initially, in 2010, I was looking only at ISB. However, 31st August was the deadline for ISB that year. I did it in a rush because I took my GMAT on 7th August and there was little time for my application. I got an interview call after the application. I was even wait-listed, but couldn’t make it through. The next year, I applied to IIM Calcutta and got through. But as I was very satisfied with my job at Adobe Systems, I was reluctant to resign. I was also not sure whether I would get the work I was looking for, post IIM C.
During that time I was getting engaged and my fiancé was trying for U.S. and European B-Schools. That’s how I too made up my mind to apply in U.S. B-schools. But because I applied late, I had very little time to do justice to my application forms and missed most of the B-schools in Round 1. I applied at Carnegie Mellon and Duke Business School in the first round where I was waitlisted at Duke but called for interview at Carnegie. In Round 2, I applied to Ross, Darden, and Haas and got admission to Darden Business School.
Why did you decide upon joining Darden School of Business?
As getting admission into U.S. B-school calls for a lot of investment, a good school is of prime importance. I wanted to go into either technology or general management consulting that gives you a wide exposure to all the industries post MBA.
I was not getting into any specific sector like finance or something like that, so I wanted to go for a B-school which is more case-based, more on general management. Since I decided quite late on B-schools, I picked up some from top 10 and some from the top 20-30. Darden comes within the top 5-10 B-Schools and focuses 100% on case-based studies. So it was my obvious choice.
Could you give us some insight into financing your MBA program?
Initially financing was my biggest concern. So, I opted for colleges that provided loan arrangements. Secondly, in India there are some private lenders, such as HDFC Credila, which gives loans to Indian students without collateral. Thirdly, applicants should try for scholarships. For instance, I initially got an 8000 USD scholarship from Carnegie-Mellon.
In fact, I would also say that negotiating is a good idea. Remember, B-schools need you as much as you need them! If they are offering you admission, it means they want you too. So, try negotiating the scholarship in the end. I negotiated with Carnegie Mellon on merit as I had got a promotion this March. My scholarship increased from 5,000 to 8,000 USD!
How did CrackVerbal help you?
CrackVerbal helped me a lot during my mock interviews. I was given a list of questions from which I would prepare for my interview. The list was very exhaustive. It laid the foundation of my preparation. It helped me to sort out the stuff I am good at and also highlighted key factors in my profile. As my actual interviews lasted for hardly 20-25 minutes, I had very limited time to talk about my entire life. CrackVerbal helped me to zero in on what exactly I should share with my interviewer.