Please give us a background on your educational qualifications till now and what your professional background was before you applied to ISB?
I had done a B.E. from Delhi College of Engineering, after that my work experience was largely tech based. I was in Infosys for 1 year and 5 years with Adobe and the last job was with VM ware in Bangalore.
So you had quite a lot of experience before applying then?
Yes almost 7.5 years
How did you return to studying? What was your plan like?
It wasn’t easy I took the GMAT 3 times; the last one was when I took help from CrackVerbal that is when I scored the highest. I gave my GMAT in August last year.
What was the difference between the final time and the previous 2 attempts? How did it get to a 700+?
Verbal was difficult. I chatted with Vijay and Arun and told them verbal was my weak area. I knew I had to work on verbal because quant was not a problem. I knew I had to specifically work on verbal. Verbal prep the last 2 times was good, but at the time of the exam verbal didn’t click. So I thought I will start with verbal prep as I felt the practice exams in my prep is what was lacking.
After your exam, how did you go about preparing the rest of the profile? Because the essays and videos are also important.
I gave it in August 2012. I didn’t apply in Round 1 as I was busy with some office work, so I couldn’t make the Round 1 deadline. Round 2 I took help from CrackVerbal for the essays and was sent the brainstorming sheet, and then I discussed it with my mentor. It went through a couple of iterations. For the video I made the script and got it reviewed once again. So that was the difference.
The other thing was I didn’t apply to any other college. I only applied to ISB as the US colleges had their Rounds 2 or 3 in process and it was too late. The only other college I applied to was NUS.
After 7.5 years of work ex in the industry and especially in the tech side, what inspired you to do an MBA at this stage of your career?
It is majorly influenced by the next level of opportunities. I wanted to get into Product Management. In my current role it was more of coding and an individual contribution role. I worked as a member but I wanted to lead those things which organically being in the company it would take longer to happen. So I thought it would be good to get into an MBA and get into Product Management.
So you looked at ISB because of it being in the IT hub of India?
Yes, because I wanted to stay in the Indian tech centre. The USA is not as good as ISB, as the companies and profiles I wanted only come to ISB. That is why I targeted ISB.
What was the interview like? Was it a stress interview?
I had a 3 member panel, it was on a Sunday so it was pretty relaxed and being in Bangalore going there wasn’t a problem. The first question was – being an Indian IT male, you’re the most common profile, what can you bring to the class? How your goals are different and what you did to achieve those goals? You have to distinguish yourself so I spoke of the work which I had done with some start-ups in Product Management while at these (employers’) companies. I explained it and they asked for details. Probably they got convinced which is why I’m going there.They also asked me – why an MBA and why now?
When I mentioned Product Management, they asked for details of the profile. They said you are a Product Manager, hypothetically, you have these tasks, and how will you do it? They asked me to come up with some features say for a Gmail or Google search or an Android phone. They asked for 3 new features for 3 new IT products. That was on the spot thinking which they were trying to test.
It is very interesting!
Yes, those were the 2 major questions which took most of the time. Lots of questions on my current Cloud and Virtualization role at VM ware which they asked me to explain in lay man terms. They also asked me – what caused the shift to happen? Why is everyone talking about Cloud?
The lady then asked me what sports I play and what my hobbies are. I said Basket Ball, so they asked what level have I played. I had written about video editing software which was my work at Adobe which I had worked on for 5 years. Film editing, script writing too were mentioned by me. So they asked me to what extent I knew them. It was my interest so I had read about it and I could answer well.
There was one moment when they asked me a certain question and they said not to give obvious reasons. So I gave them other reasons. I thought I got the question wrong. That was one pressure situation where you doubt yourself about whether you got the question wrong. So I summarized it and finally gave them an answer. I was confused and wondered if they were trying to intentionally do this to test me.
Once you’re done with your ISB what do you see yourself doing next?
I would love to get into Google or Microsoft or Amazon in a Product Management role.
I think that clarity of vision helps you somewhere?
Yes it does although in the interview I mentioned how I would like to make a video editing product on Cloud which is still a dream. Yes, one year down the line I’d like to have a job and 2-3 years down the line I would like to try this product.
Before applying to your colleges, what was your previous work profile like?
I did my Undergraduate from IIT Madras in Aerospace, which was my major. My minor was in Operations Research.
What was your work profile like?
I had worked with a couple of banks. I worked with HSBC and Capital One in the Data Analytics division.
When did you decide to apply for an MS and why did you feel this was the next step?
I always wanted to pursue my higher studies. For a couple years I tried hard for my CAT. After my CAT, I realized I hadn’t done as well to get into a top IIM so I decided to apply for an MS program in the US. I wasn’t 100% sure about doing an MS in the US, and I wanted a broader range of choices.
What kind of schools were you looking at when you thought of applying?
I had two options – Finance and Operations Research. Since I was looking at Finance or Business Analytics, I looked into the upcoming trends in Business Analytics. So I chose schools near the East Coast as they would be ideal for this domain and are well known. Columbia, University of Chicago and CMU were the schools I applied to. My backups were UT Austin and Cincinnati. I had applied to 4 schools for Business Analytics and 2 for Finance i.e. Columbia and University of Chicago which are the top schools for this specialization
Being in the financial hub, they seem to be good choices. Was location a big factor?
Yes it was a very important factor. I didn’t have much time as I decided to apply only in December, so my choices were restricted as I had to make a quick decision. I picked the East Coast and the schools which were the best in the business. I had spoken to a couple of friends and went with this.
So the first step was to take the GMAT, how did you prepare for it? How did you manage work and studying?
I wanted to give my GMAT last year and I had joined CrackVerbal. I attended classes and I suddenly decided to postpone my GMAT to sometime later. I thought I would write it a year or 2 down the line. But when I realized my CAT wasn’t going to work, I decided that I would like to do the GMAT. I then spoke to Arun and he said that I was doing quite well in class and I can give my GMAT.
I gave the 2 diagnostic tests and I got a 720 and a 730 respectively, which I thought were good scores but not the ones I wanted. I picked my GMAT exam date within the next 15 days. I was simultaneously prepping for CAT. I did a 15 days crash course, sort of; gave my GMAT and ended up with 710. I did it in a hurry, it was probably not the score I would have wanted but the scores were decent enough for a GMAT program.
So after CAT and GMAT you decided to go with your GMAT scores? Applying for an MS is not the same as an MBA, what was your next step in the application process?
After completing my GMAT, I spoke to Arun about my MBA and how difficult or easy it is to get into a B-School. Arun mentioned that there are MS programs which I could look at. To my surprise I found good programs on the schools’ websites, especially in Finance which were well suited to me.
I had read a lot of papers by Microsoft and did some research, so I figured that Data Analytics and Finance will be high in terms of jobs and the scope in the next 10 years was very good. Since I had already worked in Data Analytics, I decided to stick to it, but I also wanted to do an MS in Finance. Fortunately, both programs were accepting GMAT scores.
Also earlier in college I had given a GRE, the scores of which are still valid, so based on that I applied to the schools, it was around 310. With this I went ahead and applied for Business Analytics.
For an MS program as well, you would need an SOP and recommendations, how did you go about writing them?
For my SOP, I had applied to 6 schools and I wrote 6 different SOPs. They each had a particular requirement so I wrote one for each. CMU and North Western for instance, needed specific essays for specific questions, so it had to be individual for each school.
For Columbia I mentioned my SRM certification and how I’d like to work in Management. I also described some of the Professors’ work at Columbia and spoke of how I would like to be a part of that.
For University of Chicago, it was again related to Finance, I spoke of my education here as I felt it was more apt. However, for my applications to Business Analytics courses, I spoke of my professional experience.
So how did you go about choosing your recommendations for the programs?
Again I had just 15 days to complete my applications, so I chose three Professors I had studied under. One was my project guide who I had worked closely with and she was happy to give me recommendations. The second was a Mathematics Professor as this is important for Finance related courses, and the third was an Operations Research Professor.
I also got three recommendations from work – one from the Director of Capital One, one Senior Manager and finally, one from a Senior Associate. I again submitted my recommendations based on the school I was applying to.
Columbia I thought would never come, so I was more relaxed and didn’t put in much effort into choosing my recommendation. I actually applied an Operations Research (OR) formula to pick which recommendation goes to which school! It was based on probability and I’m not sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing.
So you had a dream school and a safe school?
Yes, I chose my recommendations based on which school I considered my dream and which I considered a safe bet.
After your essays and recommendations were there any interviews?
Yes I had them with almost all schools – Columbia, North Western, UT Austin etc. For CMU, I had to submit a video SOP.
Who took the interview?
For Columbia they were senior students. For UT Austin there was a Program Head/Director. For North Western it was the Program Director and Alumni.
Was it a stress interview or a casual one?
The stress was to find out if you were really interested in the program or not, and whether you knew about the program or you’re applying just for the sake of it, but it was fun. Columbia – their questions ended in 5 minutes and I ended up asking questions for 15 minutes! It was a lot of fun.
So your final choice is going to be Columbia?
Yes again Arun needs to be thanked for it, he and a lot of other people helped me choose it.
For Columbia something funny happened – I applied for the Finance program and so the interview was under the Industrial Engineering department and OR, they offered me an MS in Operations Research. I had applied for Finance and got offered this!
For somebody with comparatively less work experience, and thinking of an MBA or an MS abroad – what words of advice would you give them?
Be conscious of what divisions you want. Ask yourself what you want to do. If you are not sure about an MBA then I advise you to do an MS as it gives the same exposure but with less cost and you’re still in a tech field. With less work ex it is a better option. It is not a business program but it has a broader range. Also be honest with yourself and give it your best shot. Don’t underestimate yourself!
A lot of students struggle with this, after 2-3 years of work experience they don’t know whether to wait or apply so I think this would help them.
You should ask yourself if you’re happy with your job and should I do something better? Then an MS is the right choice that is if studying will help you get there.
Where do you see yourself a few years down the line, now that your college is set?
I’ve left my options open. I’ve left it to the program. A lot of people work with investment banking firms etc. after the program, so that’s a possibility. The Data Analytics option is always open too. OR is flexible that way. Though I applied to Finance, I think OR is really flexible so I want to go there and figure out my options. I think I will allow time to decide after going there.
A big thanks to Arun especially for helping with my SOPs for Columbia. He really guided me through the process and helped me without charging, although he normally does.
What is your educational and professional background like?
I did my Engineering in Electronics and Electrical, from VTU. I’m a Bengali but have lived all my life in Orissa. I did my Engineering in Karnataka. I did ok at Engineering, in the sense I topped my college.
I feel I did better in my PUC (state university) since I was in the top 50 of my state.
I then got recruited during the campus placement and that’s how I came to be in the semi-conductors field. It was a small company in Karnataka called Karnataka Microelectronics. When I joined the company it was very small with only 20 employees. I stayed there for the next 7 years.
By the time I left it had grown to 400 employees, so in 7 years it grew from 20 employees to 400! There I used to do a lot of recruitment related roles like talking to professors and students etc. But that being a service industry, I felt I wanted to move to the product industry so I could experience the other aspect of the business as well.
I quit that and came to Bangalore and joined AMD first, and then I moved to Texas Instruments and been there since. I have around 10 years of work experience.
How did you transition to the MBA dream?
One fine day I asked myself what I’m doing in my life and daily I followed the same routine, I felt I won’t grow if I continue with my current role. Ten years after college I felt I wanted to do an MBA. So I came and attended one of CrackVerbal’s demo classes.
Initially I expected it to just tell me what GMAT was about because I didn’t know what it was about and that was the intention I attended it with. I then joined the classes because I felt it would bring a good structure to my learning. I studied all the 3 sections of verbal.
I gave the GMAT twice, the first time I got a score of 660 and the second time I got a 710 and then with that score I thought it would be good enough to apply with a 710 as I have 10 years of work experience.
How did you go about the next steps in your application process?
For applications I came back to CrackVerbal again. Arun and team helped me a lot and told me what was good for me. The courses which they felt were right for me ended up being 2 year courses, although I wanted 1 year courses as I have 10 years of work experience and a family, I felt it would be better.
They suggested 2 courses – INSEAD and MIT. Arun chose the MIT System Design and Management program for me and I wasn’t aware of this course at MIT. I had actually taken the services only for INSEAD and with all the brainstorming etc., I felt I could apply to MIT as well since the brainstorming sessions helped me gain a line of thought.
CrackVerbal trains you for the next application as well and not just leave it at consulting for one particular program. Arun was kind enough to review my MIT application though I had only signed up for my INSEAD application. For INSEAD however, I received a reject. For MIT I had an interview and got through in the first round.
How did you manage to prep for your GMAT despite your work schedule and having a family?
It was very challenging but I tell my friends that if I can do it so can you. Each night I would study between 10 p.m. – 1 a.m. I would return from work late because being a team lead I would have conference calls to attend to in the evenings. I would return home, then spend some time with my wife and finally begin studying after 10 p.m. Of course, I learnt it the hard way that after 10 years, returning to books and GMAT is not easy to crack it takes quite a toll on you. For 6 months I tried to spend at least 3 hours every day and on weekends study for about 6 hours. I don’t recommend the same for others. I felt I wasn’t as smart so I put in the extra work. Some get a 760 with just 3 months of prep. It took me 6 months however.
I was thinking of giving it once more as I wasn’t too happy with my score but I was advised against it, and my MIT admit came through and that was the final goal.
How was the interview with MIT?
For the System Design and Management course, I had given my SOP, resume and a regular format for achievements etc. I got an interview call 6 weeks after. I interviewed with the industry co-director, Joan Ruben. The moment she asked for an interview I just said yes so I think I was the first person to interview.
So maybe that was an advantage for me. July 26th, 2013 was the deadline for announcements of chosen candidates so I would anxiously check my e-mail everyday and finally I got an e-mail from the admission committee that I got in!
What do you think was the defining factor in your profile which helped you get an MIT admit?
I always wanted to get into IIT, but never did. So I always felt I should aim for a big school. I feel if I had gotten into an IIT, it would have made me do the same thing every day but because I didn’t do that, I had a varied background like joining a start up. I taught in Engineering colleges; mentored interns and gave talks, etc. so that gave me good exposure and made my profile look good.
Also the brand names which I have been associated with are good and the score helped too, so it was a combination. It is very important to have a clear line of thought. The couple of brain storming sessions with CrackVerbal were helpful. I thought I wanted to do Consulting but I was guided the right way to the right course by CrackVerbal and I realized a Product Manager kind of role is better.
Since I’m from a semi-conductor background, it is a niche one and to add to it, 30% of employement from MIT is for Product Managers and that’s exactly what I want so it worked out for the best.
What advice would you like to give to the future MIT aspirants?
The first thing I would like to say is there is no substitute for hard work, the only substitute is you’re really smart. You need to compensate for your weakness. If I could do it with 10 years of work ex, a family and a kid on the way I think anyone can. The whole “I don’t have time” excuse is nonsense.
If you sleep for 2 hours less each day, you’ll be able to do it. You need to be very clear with whatever you need to do. Once you have a good story then, clarity of thought impresses them I think.
What was your background like before pursuing an MBA?
I graduated from PESIT after pursuing an undergraduate in Engineering, post which I spent 4 years working for Capgemini. I started off in a coding role, then progressed to a more sales oriented one. Finally, I spent 2 years working in Competitive Intelligence. This department functioned on a global level and facilitated strategy and bid related decisions. If we were to enter a new market for instance, we would need to provide information on the competitors and their respective competencies, so that was where my role contributed to the decision making process.
How was your progression from work towards your MBA goal?
It was during my last couple of years at Capgemini that I came to CrackVerbal and began preparing for my GMAT and MBA. I attended the classes at CrackVerbal and went on to obtain a GMAT of 690 in Feb of 2011. I eventually got an admit to SP Jain, Dubai.
Can you tell us a little about the program at SP Jain?
This is a global MBA which was a two city program at the time. The one year program at SP Jain was split between Dubai and Singapore, which for me, was a wonderful experience. The new, 3 city model allows students to spend their one year in Dubai, Singapore and Sydney.
What was the application process like at SP Jain, Dubai?
The application form is a fairly simple one. It’s unlike the other B-schools which ask for lengthy essays. It has different sections which ask you about your work experience, extra-curriculars and your profile in general, but it’s not an exhaustive one.
Once you submit your online application, it is reviewed. If you are short-listed, you are invited for the one day interview process. These interviews usually have around 3-4 slots.
The interview process has about 4 rounds. The first one was a case-based interview; the second one was an interview session with the Professors of SP Jain. The next round for me was with the President of the school. Every round was treated as an elimination round. After you get past all the rounds, you are notified of your result a few weeks after.
Being a multi-city program, where are the interviews carried out?
For people out of India, such as me, the interview was held at SPJIMR, Mumbai. Some of my classmates were from Dubai as well as Singapore, and for them it was held at the respective campuses.
What was your initial experience like with the program?
Being a one year program, the initial months were challenging. The course requires that you have a minimum of 3 years of work experience, so for 3 years you’re most likely out of touch with studies. Once you get used to it though it gets easier and more enjoyable.
What was the classroom demographic like during your course?
I think the course attracts a lot of Indian candidates, my batch was pre-dominantly Indian and our alumni were too. In other terms, the demographics are good – we had a very good male to female ratio as well as large diversity in terms of backgrounds, for instance we had many from the Jewellery Design, Consulting, Hospitality, Manufacturing, Marine, Public Relations and Media backgrounds. Of course there were plenty of Engineers as well!
Does the program need you to take any pre-requisite courses?
Not entirely, for some subjects like micro-economics and macro-economics, the school provides you with the study material just to ensure everyone is on the same page when the course begins.
What was the nature of the course? Was it mainly case-study based or theoretical?
The course was largely based on case studies. We had about 5 case studies for each subject which is really helpful as it puts you in the shoes of the manager at the time. It also depends on the faculty taking the course and how they want to go about it.
What markets were focused on in the case studies?
They were mainly global markets with companies like Apple, Zara, Walmart, etc. There was no one market, but yes we didn’t have too much on India. The focus was on the larger companies.
What are the specializations offered at SP Jain?
Marketing, Finance, IT and Global Logistics & Supply Chain.
When do you get to choose your major?
You have to choose your major before the course commences, I had chosen Marketing. You have two semesters of 6 months each, the first semester, you learn various subjects which might be common to all the majors. The second semester is spent learning things related to your specialization.
Does the program provide collaborative opportunities in terms of projects?
Yes it does, we have 2 projects. One is a research project and the other is an internship. The internship is usually carried out at a company and isn’t like your regular internship. It’s pretty much like a regular job and you’re presented with a real world problem. You get to ask your faculty for help, contribute to the problem-solving process, and you get marks for it.
What was the placement process like?
We have Corporate Relations teams in India, Dubai, Singapore and Sydney. They basically work towards getting the students openings, and matching up positions to skill sets. The entire process is initiated by them. Once a database of roles has been created, we then get to apply to the suitable roles, post which we have interviews. That’s the basic gist of the placement process.
You mentioned the class diversity and how you had classmates coming from say media backgrounds, are placements carried with that in mind?
Companies definitely come to us looking for relevant experience. For instance an Engineer wouldn’t be the best person for a more media driven role. The roles are very specific to certain functions. It’s usually a lateral form of hiring where companies come looking for people from relevant backgrounds.
But yes, if one finds that they don’t have the relevant experience, they have an option to apply for Management Trainee roles too.
How do you feel the program contributed to your growth?
Coming from an Engineering background, it was definitely a very good learning experience for me. The major take-away was the classroom experience. Apart from this, the faculty is absolutely top notch. We have faculty from Kellogg, Schulich Business School, etc., and the best part is the course is also based on the faculty and what they decide. That gives us the best of both worlds and really enhances the entire learning process. The placements too were very good, this added to my experience during the global MBA program.
What do you feel gives SP Jain an edge over other B-schools?
Getting to study in different cities like Dubai and Singapore allows you to experience how the international markets function. We also have some of the best faculty in world coming to teach us. There aren’t too many places which allow you to learn from a Kellogg or Wharton faculty, so this really enhances the learning process. It also adds to your growth in a holistic way, my classmates and I are so much better now than we were one year ago – the course really helped us better our skills. It also allows you to interact with students from various backgrounds so that teaches you something new each time. Of course, the placements are excellent; this helps you break into the international market too.
Any words of advice for the aspirants of SP Jain?
Firstly, I feel that if you’re choosing a major, you should be able to validate your choice. There needs to be a clear cut reason that connects you to that particular course. It’s also important to know what you would like to get out of the course and the type of companies you would like to get into post your course. During the interview process, they essentially look for clarity.
It also helps to have a good overall profile and pursue the creative arts as well apart from your regular work. For instance I had a lot of classmates who were singers, into quizzes etc.
I would also say it’s definitely challenging to get into the SP Jain fraternity, but once you do, you should make the most of it. There are many wonderful business minds with who you can interact with and learn so much from. Networking is crucial and I would say one should focus on that aspect as well. It’s one of the few platforms which allows you to work with accomplished individuals of the business field.
How was your experience with CrackVerbal?
I had taken the GMAT once before and wanted to improve my score. I came to CrackVerbal for my GMAT prep with a focus on the verbal sections. They were very helpful in terms of providing practice and teaching you the tactical things you need to do for each section. This really gave me an advantage. I think most of us are good in Quant but probably lose out on Verbal, so CrackVerbal helped me a lot in terms of improving my GMAT score to a 690.
What was your educational and professional background like?
I’m from Andhra Pradesh, I did my Engineering in Instrumentation & Control from Sri Venkateshwara University. I moved to the department of Atomic Energy as a Scientific Officer. I then worked at Invensys, Dubai for 4.5 years and moved back to India to begin work with ABB as a Training Manager.
What prompted you to pursue an MBA?
My experience working overseas made me meet people from all walks of life. I would often come across people with a Management orientation. My work too, apart from being technical required me to speak to customers, this not only helped my profile but it also helped my company. With this I found that I developed a penchant for Marketing and tilted more towards Management.
I discovered that GMAT would be the ideal route to work in Management. I gave the GMAT a few times after preparing on my own but didn’t succeed in obtaining a good score. My score was around 640. After reading many articles and the blogs of CrackVerbal, and speaking with my friends, I felt CrackVerbal is doing the best job in teaching GMAT.
After returning to India, I joined CrackVerbal’s Verbal classes and then took up Quant classes as I was extremely happy with the Verbal experience and felt the need for both. I finally obtained a GMAT score of 680 and was thrilled with it.
Being an Engineer, it’s usually believed that Quant is easy to tackle, what do you feel about this?
Initially I too felt that Quant is fairly easy, I scored around 47 to 48 but to improve the scores to a 50 or 51, I felt it takes some fine tuning, the right type of strategies and methods. It’s not sufficient to merely practice, and GMAT Quant is quite different from the usual Math we learn in school and college.
It’s more logical and is not limited to learning formulae; this is where I felt I needed some assistance in learning the right tactics and to fill the very narrow, but existent gap of logic. I joined classes at CrackVerbal and they helped me a great deal in improving my score.
After giving the GMAT, how did you proceed with your application process?
I didn’t have much time between my GMAT and my application deadlines. I had given my last GMAT on 7th August, I then attended a two day workshop with CrackVerbal and my application deadline to IIM Ahmedabad was on August 10th. For IIM A, there was not much to do in terms of essays, so I filled out the application myself, though I have to say, the workshop was extremely helpful.
For IIM Bangalore and Calcutta however, I needed help with my essays as the deadlines were at the end of August and it was the first time I had thought about my essays. I had taken the assistance of CrackVerbal for this as well.
It usually takes 4-6 weeks to introspect and write one’s essays, however I had to do my best in 20 days and this was possible thanks to the help and advice I received from CrackVerbal. Even the brainstorm sessions and inputs were quite helpful. The application services of CrackVerbal were very good.
I even applied to ISB on 15th September. I received interview calls for 3 out of 4 schools and I think the application services definitely helped me in this regard.
Which 3 B-schools did you receive the interview calls from?
I received interview calls from IIM A,B & C. I believe my GMAT score was low for ISB and perhaps why I didn’t receive an interview call for the same.
How do the interviews at IIM A & B compare?
Both interviews were on similar lines – they delved deeper into my profile and my essays, and tried to understand me better. They also asked me about current affairs, and since I began my career in the Nuclear industry, they asked me about my opinion on how the industry is fairing. In the interviews, a large part of what they ask you tests how well you can take a stand on a subject and how comfortable you are with your profile. They try to see how quickly you can think on your feet.
What was the nature of the interview, were they stressful?
I never found them stressful, it was more of a casual talk where they tried to get to know me better. I didn’t find it strenuous as I was well prepared with my answers. The Mock interviews with CrackVerbal helped me prepare for the actual interviews and I knew what to expect.
What factors are you considering while choosing between IIM A & B?
I’m looking to further my career in the Energy sector, and placements play an important role in my decision process. Last year I believe IIM A didn’t have enough placements which is deterring me from choosing it.
Relocating along with my family is another concern; I’m looking at these factors and will also speak with the experts at CrackVerbal to make a good decision.
Having international exposure, what made you opt for Indian B-schools?
Indian B-schools are at par with international B-schools, even the Financial Times rankings have Indian B-schools listed amongst the top schools. I feel they provide exposure which is on similar lines as international schools.
The fees are also more affordable, which made me consider the IIMs and ISB.
Finally, I wanted to settle down in India as I was out of the country for a long duration which is why I felt it best to pursue an MBA here.
If you were to list out the top 3 things that helped you achieve admits to IIM A &B, what would they be?
Although I began my GMAT preparation quite some time back, I maintained the persistence and dedication. It’s very important to stay dedicated to your GMAT plans and preparation.
I was also very well prepared with my profile and made sure I was following current affairs pertaining to my industry. It’s vital that you stay up-to-date while applying for an MBA.
A lot of people can offer advice but we will not know if they’re good or bad, The right advice is also crucial. Luckily for me I have been working with CrackVerbal for my GMAT prep, essays and even the mock interviews, this has helped me a great deal in achieving admits to IIM A & B.
What was your overall experience with CrackVerbal like?
I think everything went very well for me, I don’t see any lacks or negatives!
What advice would you give future aspirants?
I think dedication plays a huge role in achieving your goals. One must allocate a few hours each day to study and prepare for the GMAT.
Research is another important factor in choosing a B-school and it being a costly affair, it’s important to learn everything there is to know about the program, the school, and so on.
One should make sure they heed the right advice and listen to experienced professionals while they pursue their MBA dream.
Overall, dedication I feel plays the biggest role, no matter what your goals are.
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.
Please take us through your background
I did my engineering in Bangalore, and in my final year I did an internship with a start-up in Patna which wanted some website and development work done. It was a finance firm but while I worked on the coding aspect, I was also interested in the firm from a holistic point of view. I didn’t limit myself to just my brief. The CEO was pretty happy because he felt that apart from my work, I also took an initiative to understand the business.
After my engineering, I began working at HCL in the software domain. I was lucky to have a great manager who allowed me to work on various aspects like Project Management, apart from my work as a software developer. So in my 2.5 years at HCL, I managed to learn a lot about the business, except the senior management related roles.
Somewhere around this time, the CEO from the startup informed me of an opening at their firm. I was in constant touch with him. It was a marketing role and I was more than happy to take it up since, HCL being a large company would not offer me too much to learn. I also wanted to get into marketing and this was a great opportunity for me.
What sparked the idea of an MBA?
I always wanted to enter the marketing domain but that left me with two options – a Masters in Marketing or an MBA in marketing. After I spoke to a lot of people, including family who knew me well, they suggested I opt for an MBA since it’s more generic and a Masters program would be too focused and limiting for me.
How did you approach the GMAT?
I had already taken the CAT several times but didn’t make it. Additionally, I felt that people who get into IIMs are mostly freshers. Since I already had about 2.5 years of work experience, I believed that I might not get to learn as much. This is when I decided on the GMAT since it would allow me to apply to both Indian colleges and programs abroad.
I felt I should study for the GMAT myself as I had already taken the CAT many times. But it just kept getting delayed for various reasons so I decided to enroll in a class.
I attended demos at Ivy GMAT, CrackVerbal and Manhattan Review. I had attended the CrackVerbal demo after the Ivy one and it was Arun’s class on Sentence Correction. After I experienced his class, I was totally convinced because of his amazing style of teaching and the methods he applied. It was so different from the others and I felt this was the best. It’s evident that he is passionate about teaching unlike the other centres.
He wasn’t just an instructor, but he was truly dedicated to it. The quality of the questions and the level too were a cut above the rest. Ivy and Manhattan didn’t have very challenging questions. I rarely get challenged with verbal, but at CrackVerbal, I was really challenged. I think Arun knows the GMAT better than anyone else and this fact really stood out.
So I enrolled for the verbal classes and then for the Quant classes. Because of my CAT experience, I felt quant would be pretty easy but I was in for a surprise. My very first class was so tough I walked out of the class dejected. But then the Quant instructor informed me that CrackVerbal wants to help you understand your current level, so that you can improve to a 50-51 level on the GMAT.
What was your GMAT journey like ?
I took my GMAT twice, the first time I had a good verbal score but a low quant score, I got a 680. After I spoke to the experts at CrackVerbal, I was coaxed into writing it for the second time. This time I focused on my quant preparation more and I got a 690 with a better score on the quant.
I didn’t want to give it once again because my deadlines for applications were fast approaching. I was constantly encouraged by the academics team at CrackVerbal to start my application process because I was running out of time.
I even requested the academics team to help me solve the questions and it was so nice to see that they took time out and help me figure out my mistakes. It shows how dedicated they are to helping to improve your score and understand where you are going wrong.
How different are the CAT and the GMAT? Can you apply your experience with the CAT to the GMAT?
They are very different. The CAT is merely an exam, it’s more about practicing a lot so you can learn the question patterns. GMAT on the other hand is more challenging, it’s a journey and not just an exam. It tests you on various aspects and really makes you think. It’s a lot more exhausting as well.
The verbal on the CAT is easy but the verbal on the GMAT is extremely difficult because you have to apply yourself. It’s not just about practicing but more about the right strategy. CAT doesn’t require any strategy; it’s just writing the test. The admission process too is very difficult in terms of the GMAT, you have to really know what you want and why you want to do an MBA. The CAT is not like that, it’s nothing compared to the admission process here.
How did you choose the MBA programs?
I had attended which really helped me plan out my application process and answered all the questions I had regarding the admission process. The first thing I did was look at the rankings. I then realised that the ranking is not the parameter I should be looking at. I then looked at colleges based on location. I looked at the US, Canada & the UK as a back up. I wanted a 2 year program because it would help me make a career switch much better.
I then looked at the marketing departments, the professors, the blogs, and delved into the details. I narrowed it down to 8 schools which were very different from the 5 schools I sent my scores to after my GMAT. This included Schulich School of Business from Canada Throughout my research process, I would keep speaking to the application services team at CrackVerbal that guided me through the process. I selected Manchester Business School, Pepperdine, Illinois, Atlanta, and a few others. In Canada it was Schulich school of business and Rotman.
How did you go about your essays for the application process?
I had already fallen behind with the application process. I wrote my first draft and was shocked to find that the CrackVerbal experts were not pleased. My second draft too was not good. So I kept working at them, I chose the most challenging essay to work on first as I felt this would help me put things in perspective. I ended up writing 25 essays in all for all my applications!
The best part about working with CrackVerbal’s applications team was that I was made to write my own essays and though the first draft and the final draft had the same substance, the final draft was amazing compared to the first one. It was a really great experience. I had also consulted with others outside of CrackVerbal and they would simply ask me to provide points so they could write the essays. But at CrackVerbal, my essays were completely transformed and it was a brilliant experience.
What was your interview experience like with the schools?
I had attended a lot of info-sessions conducted by colleges. I had a one-on-one chat with the panelists of Schulich School of Business, Manchester & Pepperdine. I was amazed to find after my chat with them, that they had already gone through my essays and treated my discussion with them as my interview. So I didn’t have a formal interview. I would say for this reason, it’s very important that you treat it like an actual formal interview because you never know if they are evaluating you then and there.
Though they say they won’t evaluate you from an application perspective, I think it’s human tendency and it will definitely play a role in your selection. Schulich School of Business and Pepperdine had a very casual discussion with me. Manchester was more challenging but they were all good. I had also gotten an interview call for Terry for which I had opted for CrackVerbal’s interview services. My mentor was Pradyot and he was very straightforward and would not sugar coat your problems. I think this is important because it will mentally prepare you for the toughest interviews and this preparation will make your actual interviews seem extremely easy. This experience with CrackVerbal really helped me stay mentally prepared.
Which schools did you convert ?
I got into Schulich School of Business, Pepperdine & Manchester. I immediately dropped Manchester as it was my backup and I was more keen on the other two. I finally decided on Schulich School of Business after researching the two programs and evaluating their pros and cons.
Any words of advice to other aspirants?
I would say treat the info sessions as an actual interview and be well prepared with specific questions, not generic ones. It’s also your chance to make an impression with them. Make sure you dress the part, in formals. Carry out a lot of research, speak to alumni, professors and get all the details you can. For the GMAT, Crackverbal is the best, you wouldn’t need anything else and the program is more than enough. For the applications, keep aside a lot of time to prepare for them.
I think keeping aside 3 months to write your essays alone would be helpful since it’s your entire life story which you are writing! Aim at the Round 1 deadline instead of delaying it for later as you would be at a loss otherwise.
Could you tell us about your profile?
I work as a software developer with Juniper Networks in Bangalore and have a work experience of 3.5 years in the telecom industry.
How did you know about CrackVerbal?
Once I had decided on preparing for the GMAT, I was on the look-out for some good coaching centers in Bangalore. I figured that I needed help on the verbal section of the GMAT. One of my friends at that time suggested I come to the ‘Verbal Experts’ for GMAT coaching and that was how I joined CrackVerbal.
Tell us about your GMAT journey!
Well, before I wrote the GMAT, I had taken the CAT and got a 93%ile but unfortunately did not get a call from any of the IIMs. To be honest, I had no idea about the GMAT until then. It was only in March 2014 that I discovered a career path through the GMAT. I gave the first mock test and scored a 610. Quant was easy, however, I found trouble with the verbal section on the GMAT and that was when I joined CrackVerbal.
One very important section on the GMAT is on Reading comprehension where most students struggle. The strategy and techniques taught at CrackVerbal helped me to a great extent and in just two weeks I gave another mock test and scored a 690! That was a huge jump. I knew I was making progress as I had my basics in place, thanks to CrackVerbal.
All I needed to do now was to practice a little more. My performance had increased and I was scoring between a 750 – 770 range in my mock tests. I was quite satisfied by my mock results and so decided to take the GMAT in July 2014. I scored a 750 on the actual GMAT test!
Why did you choose to do an MBA?
I wanted to have a mix of technical and managerial knowledge. After 3.5 years of core experience in technology, I wanted to experience the different managerial roles and have a much broader profile. Also, right from my college days, I dreamed of doing an MBA. I was just waiting to clock the relevant work experience so that I could do my MBA from a top B-school.
So which B-schools have you applied to?
I started my research on B-schools only after my GMAT test. I applied and was being interviewed by 3 US B-schools:
1.Kelley School of Business
3.University of Maryland
I successfully converted my interview to the University of Maryland. My GMAT score definitely worked to my advantage and gave me an extra edge.
How did CrackVerbal help you through your MBA applications?
I worked with CrackVerbal for my applications to Kelly School of Business. The Admissions consultants at CrackVerbal worked very closely with me. They helped me delve deep into my reasons for doing an MBA, my short term goals, my personality, professional achievements, and my overall expectations. This initial brainstorming helped me discover my interest in politics, social research and also gave me some thought direction for writing my essays.
I was able to give a definite structure to my essays and also CrackVerbal puts every candidate in touch with an external consultant who is an alumnus of the concerned B-school. In this way, you also understand the expectations of the B-school when they evaluate your profile.
Though I worked with CrackVerbal only for one B-school, the guidance and strategy that was shared helped me incorporate the same into my other essays as well. I had a great experience working with CrackVerbal for both my GMAT and my MBA applications and I strongly recommend all my readers to work with a consultant on your application!
How was your overall experience with CrackVerbal?
I would recommend CrackVerbal to all MBA aspirants who want to achieve excellence when it comes to their verbal skills. The classes at CrackVerbal establish the perfect balance towards fun and learning. Their course is designed in a very nice way. They provide feedback over forums and also have a dedicated support team to answer all your queries. The forum will particularly interest you since it has a lot of ongoing discussions and debriefs that will inspire you.
I feel CrackVerbal is the perfect place for whoever wants to get into an awesome B-School!
Any strategy and tips that you would like to share with our readers?
I would strongly recommend all my fellow GMAT aspirants to refer and practice questions only from the Official guide. Also, the strategy to get a great score on the GMAT is to be able to identify and eliminate the wrong options. Spend enough time and practice on understanding the concepts tested on the GMAT test. You have only 1 minute to solve a question, hence a good knowledge of concept is necessary.
A score of 750 on the GMAT requires a little more than just finding the right answer. You need to analyze and eliminate the wrong options quickly. The analysis is the key to crack a score of 750 and above! Also, if you join CrackVerbal, their books and resources are sufficient to refer (along with OG material, of course!). They have great content and the faculty at CrackVerbal are very approachable. They are the best study partners to work with!
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I did my graduation in Chemical Engineering from SRM University in Chennai. Soon after that, I worked in sales and then moved to marketing. I have a total of 6 years of work experience and the domains that I worked on were mostly automation systems and aerospace.
What motivated you for an MBA?
Well, there were two things. After engineering, I immediately jumped into sales, because even while I was in college, I knew that manufacturing was not my thing. My inclination was always towards something else.
When I was working, I understood that if I have to change jobs, the industry isn’t just looking for someone with experience, but also for someone who has a degree from a premier institute. I didn’t have a degree in marketing, and I realized I needed that in order to make faster progress.
Secondly, like most people, I felt like my education was incomplete if I didn’t have a Masters degree. I wanted to do it from a place that was not just about the brand and environment but from a place that would give something back to me.
How did you go about with your GMAT Prep?
I started preparing in 2012. I was struggling with work so I took time and practiced each sub-section of the Verbal section for one month. I just prepared from the OG for 6 months. I used to get 620 and 640 in my mock tests. I understood that there was a lot I needed to do. Work picked up and I got distracted but I kept in touch with CrackVerbal and in 2014, I was back.
I actually prepared well in 2014. I took a friend along so that I had company to prepare together and we both ended up getting the same scores in Verbal and Quant and an overall 700.
I had actually given two attempts. The first time I felt like I was well prepared, but only got a 650. I revised my Verbal section since that was where I felt I needed improvement and after a week or two, got a 720 on my mock, and finally got a 700 on the actual test. And I decided to go ahead with that score!
What was the difference between both the attempts?
I realized that when it comes to the GMAT, it is more about patterns than knowledge.
When you’re preparing for different tests, you miss the pattern that the real test has. That was the difference between my 650 and my 700.
What were the B-schools you had in mind?
Some essays I wrote on my own, and some I took CrackVerbal’s help for. I applied to NUS, Memphis, Berkley, Cambridge, ISB and IIM-B and got admits from Memphis, IIM-B, and ISB.
How was your experience with CrackVerbal?
I consider myself as one of the oldest students of CrackVerbal. I was constantly in touch with them. Although it took years to get my GMAT prep and exam done, I got constant guidance and motivation from CrackVerbal. CrackVerbal classes helped me get my grammar right. I referred this book called Manhattan which had clear explanations for Sentence Correction.
When you’ve done a lot of good work and you’ve gone out of your way to do something extraordinary, but you don’t showcase that properly, you lose out on a lot. Even though I worked on my first few essays by myself, it was only when I worked on my NUS application with Arun that I understood how to put forth in a way that it’s understandable for the reader.
Everyone’s making sure to do their best and it’s very important to have a guide at this point to mentor you and that’s what I got out of CrackVerbal. I had the best guidance which best showcased my work.
Do you have any pointers for other MBA aspirants out there?
I would say there are 100 factors that matter in while preparing for an MBA. It’s a different scenario for everyone. You’re lucky if everything falls into place. Keep trying to make it work. The advantage I had was that since I was in the same company for so many years, I knew the system well enough to plan my studies.
For GMAT, the pattern is really important.Understanding the pattern is a zone that you get in. If you don’t push hard enough, you won’t reach there. You have to be in that zone to write the GMAT. You might probably take a month to understand the pattern. Just the knowledge would not do. You will be able to time yourself well if you know the pattern. Leave the rest to hoping that everything else will fall into place.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have a total work experience of about 6 years. I worked for 5 years with Godrej as the Regional Manager and soon after that, I started my own company in the E-commerce sector.
What motivated you towards an MBA?
While working in Godrej, life was pretty good. I had got promoted out of turn and had settled down in life. There was nothing challenging that motivated me to work further. When I started my venture, I realized it’s really important to have a deep knowledge about the company or product that you’re managing because as an entrepreneur, people begin to judge you from every angle- your education, your background etc. I felt that an MBA from a premiere institute would stand out on my resume. I wanted to learn how people in this sector have that kind of confidence and connect to the outside world. As an entrepreneur, people begin to judge you from every angle- your education, your background etc. I felt that an MBA from a premiere institute would stand out on my resume.
How did you approach the GMAT? And what was your score?
The hardest thing on the GMAT was to have things in order. GMAT is a test where you can’t lose your focus. The approach towards developing yourself for the exam is very specific and I was able to keep a specific approach while preparing.
Since I’m an avid reader, I could manage with RC. I had a major problem with CR. I had signed up for Verbal classes with CrackVerbal and had specific CrackVerbal material that was provided to me- that helped.
On the GMAT, it’s not about 10 hours of preparation, it’s about 1 hour with quality focus and dedication.
How was the day of the exam?
Before going for the actual exam, I actually replicated it by giving mock exams. I gave these at the same time, wore the same clothes and the same bag and estimated the travel time it would take to reach the test center. I happened to score a 710 on prep 3, prep 4 and on the actual exam too.
Which B-schools did you apply to?
I applied to ISB, IIM-C, and NUS and bagged admits from ISB and IIM-C.
How did you go about with the Application process?
Since I wasn’t in touch with studies or writing long essays for more than 6 years, I needed someone to guide me. The deadlines were fast approaching and I had 3-4 months to prepare for the GMAT, application, and interviews. That’s when I decided to go to CrackVerbal. I targeted B-schools according to the profile they offered and followed a clear discipline to get the process done on time.
How was the interview experience? What were the questions asked?
The interview was a bit of both- easy and hard. I was interviewed by a Marketing professor who was quite easy going and an alumnus who was quite the opposite. He made sure to create a pressure situation during the interview to test my calm. They asked me about my start-up and asked me to explain my balance sheet. I was questioned on my previous role at Godrej and why I left such a good paying job to plunge into entrepreneurship. The whole interview revolved around questions about my risk- taking abilities, my personal background, what I wanted to be in the future, whether I wanted to go back to doing business and so on.
How was your experience with CrackVerbal?
When I started preparing for the GMAT, I wasn’t really sure on how I should approach the Verbal section. Being an engineer, Quant was easy for me. For Verbal, it’s not just about vocabulary or grammar, it’s all about logic and how you interpret passages. I felt I needed somebody who’s been in my shoes and could help me with Verbal. My brother told me about CrackVerbal after hearing about them from other resources. The first RC class I attended was a demo class. The way Arun teaches is quite different. He approached the subject in such a way that made realize that Verbal is achievable. When it came to applications, CrackVerbal helped me realize what I needed to portray in my essay, rather than just writing the essay for me. It was like more of a self-awakening thing. The approach by CrackVerbal was impressive. Their opinions truly mattered and they made sure I got everything done on time.
Do you have any advice for other MBA aspirants out there?
Everyone says the GMAT is hard and that you have to give a lot of attempts. I would say, create your own experience rather than relying on others words. It’s up to you how you approach the GMAT. Nothing is difficult if you have the right people to guide you and the right resources and the right approach. If you believe, you can achieve.
Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
I graduated as a computer science engineer from Sir M. Visveswaraya Institute of Technology in Bangalore in 2014. Right now I work for AIG Analytics and Services Pvt. Ltd. I have been there for about 4 years now. I work as a catastrophe modeler. The role basically involves supporting insurance underwriters. We do the risk assessment for the underwriters.
Why did you decide to do an MBA?
I actually had the idea of doing an MBA at the back of my mind towards the third year of engineering. I wanted to get into a managerial role, but I had to explore the corporate world before I could pursue my MBA.
I gave my first attempt of GMAT in 2014 and I scored only a 600 which was not enough for me to get into a good business school. So I decided that I would first take a shot at the corporate world to understand what it takes to become a manager or a business graduate.
What mistakes did you make the first time you wrote the GMAT?
The first time, I made the mistake of crunching through a lot of material and free resources, solving a lot of questions. Rather than understanding the GMAT, I was just processing a lot of material. It was only later that I realized that the GMAT is more of a pattern based exam that you have to crack.
So how did that change the second time?
So the second time I gave the GMAT, was in August, 2016. I took one year to prepare this time. It was an on-and-off preparation because I was trying to juggle it with work. I started maintaining an error log this time to keep track of the sections where I was making a mistake. In this, the Crackverbal material really helped me. I would look at the 700- questions in the CV Prep material and analyse where I was going wrong.
Can you talk about your Crackverbal classroom program experience?
One thing I noticed is that the instructors at Crackverbal have a very good understanding of the GMAT, almost on the level of the GMAT test-makers themselves. So initially I went only for Verbal classes but later felt like I needed help with the Quant section as well. Arun was my instructor for Verbal and he taught everything so smoothly. The second time round I managed to score a 710.
How did you select your B-schools to apply to?
So I mainly focused on the US. I also focused on a couple of schools in Europe like Rotterdam School of Management in Netherlands and Said School of Business, Oxford. I chose all of these schools based on the post-MBA employment statistics in those regions and I felt US was the place to do an MBA. I had applied for fall of 2018 and I had applied to 7 schools. I noticed that European schools stress a lot on work experience, 3 years at least.
What was the application experience like?
The first time I applied I made it more about my GMAT score, essays and how well you can personalise your essays. I would look at a lot of essay topics and basically gather a lot of material and practice by trying to put in within the word count. But I realised that it is more than just those things and you need to craft an overall profile that is strong and makes sense. Schools focus on a lot more, like diversity factor, work experience, undergraduate background and more. The first time, I got an interview call from 2/7 schools and then after the interviews I was rejected by both. That’s when I realized I need to focus on the overall profile.
So how did you go about it the second time?
The second time I did more research on all the universities to understand the diversity factor, job prospects in the region and what each university specialized in. This time my essays were more focused about my achievements and my professional experience and how I could leverage it in the MBA program. There were a few additions to my profile this time round because I had just gotten a promotion and international experience and it really helped me a long way. This time I applied to 7 schools and got interview calls from 4 of them.
How were your MBA interviews?
I went through 2 cycles of interviews. The first time was when I applied for 2018 fall. One of the interviews was in Rice University. It was scheduled for 30 mins and a second year student took my interview. He began asking me the cliched questions like “Tell me about yourself”, “why MBA?”, “Why Rice?” and then it moved towards questions like “How would you handle a team?”, “What is your idea of leadership?” and so on. So what I realised is that I was running out of time and it was like he was setting the tone of the interview. So when I asked for a review, he told me that my responses were lengthy and should have been shorter. So I took these tips and used them to my advantage the second time round.
What was your score for the first time?
I got 720 in the first attempt and then I got 750. For the first time, I prepared on my own, but for the kind of score I was targeting, I thought I could use a better GMAT score and I’m capable of getting a better score.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I’m basically an engineer, graduated from NIT Suratkal in 2012. Subsequently, I joined EY in the operations consulting role and slowly shifted into strategy consulting. I still work with EY as a management consultant. It has been five years now.
What motivated you to do MBA via GMAT?
I was always keen to do an MBA because I felt more inclined towards the business aspect than any of the technical roles that I had encountered through my engineering. I had done some technical internships and I also had a chance to intern with EY. I realized that I’m more inclined to the business aspects of work. I had the idea, then, that I should probably do an MBA. Just generally talking to people, I realized I wanted to get more perspectives because what I have seen is, typically, in Indian MBA programs, you can join IIM as a fresher. That was one of the options I was considering. So, I even gave my CAT, but the reason I decided to wait and look at doing an MBA abroad is the access to perspectives and the diversity you get is unparalleled when you compare it to the Indian MBA programs. Even if you look at the top programs like IIM and ISB, a lot of Indians, unfortunately, have a similar background – engineering – and I’m one of them. I did feel that going outside will give a better perspective in terms of people from other areas and other countries. I also had a long term goal of working for a multinational company and I felt, from that perspective, working abroad for a few years will help develop my profile further and prepare for future jobs in that kind of role much better than an Indian MBA would. And obviously, once that’s decided, GMAT is a mandatory requirement.
Could you tell us about the challenges that you faced and how did you overcome them?
I initially studied on my own and gave the GMAT a shot. The number one challenge is getting back to the studying mode because the first time I gave the GMAT test I had worked for about three and a half years and trust me, getting back to spending time studying really does take something. You basically forget a lot of things and the entire practice of studying goes out of your system. I think that was one big challenge. I think it is very important to get the fundamentals right when it comes to GMAT. The first time around, while I knew the formulae and went through the questions and understood the GMAT format, I think there were a couple of key things missing, which helped me do better the second time. One of the main things is to actually look at GMAT as a pure test of common sense and logic. I think the mentality a lot of Indian students have is they tend to look at formulae and solving specific types of questions, hoping that you’re prepared for similar questions. In GMAT, you have to go back to the first principles and think about common sense and logic more than just formulae. Secondly, I think you need to be mentally and physically prepared for it.
What kind of research did you do prior to coming to CrackVerbal?
My research might not have been as extensive as others’ research because I knew a couple of people who attended CrackVerbal who gave me some good feedback. I did enquire about two other institutions. I attended a couple of trial classes, one by Aditya and the other by Arun and I was impressed with Aditya’s approach in solving maths. Engineers mostly think that we are good at maths, but I think his whole approach in understanding GMAT was lacking in my approach before and Arun’s method of conducting the verbal classes made my decision simpler.
How do you think CrackVerbal helped you?
I think it should not be too much of a challenge for people who have a strong academic background to get a score of 680, 700, or 720 if they just put in the work. Getting that 30-40 point increment above that, I think that’s where external coaching can help you. From that perspective – going back to basics and looking at a whole new approach to solving GMAT problems, especially in quant, which I was exposed to through Aditya at CrackVerbal, I think that really made a big difference to my score. At the end of the day, my verbal score improved by two points, but again, from 39 to 41 is a sizeable jump.
What can you say about the support team, apart from the faculty?
I interacted with Likkesh and Prateek and both were very supportive. They took a lot of effort – I had a special situation where I was retaking the exam after 9-10 months and at 720 I was in two minds. So even though I’d forgotten some things, I was very keen to prep for a month and immediately take the exam again. In terms of customising the classes to crunch everything down to 3-4 weeks and cover all the topics, I got a lot of support from the team to that end. They even scheduled the mocks, gave me access to faculty whenever needed, even followed up with me after my GMAT. They enabled me to take full advantage of the faculty and resources at my disposal.
What are your future plans and how are you going about preparing for it?
CrackVerbal helped me with my applications as well. I’ve already gotten into ESADE in Barcelona and I’m waitlisted at Johnson Cornell. I have also applied for a couple of more colleges in the second round.
Could you elaborate on the services as far as the application services are concerned?
I worked personally with Arun for three or four colleges. There was great one-on-one support and I got timely access and quality feedback from Arun. Everything was customised to the story that I wanted to pitch and I got support for the specific colleges I wanted to apply to. CrackVerbal helped me narrow down my choice from numerous options to the ones that were best for what I wanted. They really considered all possible aspects from geographical location, class size, to companies known to recruit heavily from certain universities. It was very comprehensive.
What advice would you like to give for the aspirants planning to do GMAT or wanting to study abroad?
The only advice I would give is think about the right school to take full advantage of the MBA experience. Just speaking to students from colleges I wanted to be in gave me great insights and helped me make my choice. The opportunities provided by top universities abroad are enormous. This is one of the most important decisions of your life. Don’t get caught up only in your GMAT prep, take the time to talk to students and figure out your best fit.
How much did you score in your GMAT test?
I scored 770.
That is an impressive score. Was it the first time you took the test?
No. It was a second attempt. Although I did fairly well the first time, I scored 710 but I felt I could do much better. That made me take the test the second time and it worked out.
Great! That’s quite an achievement. Can you tell me something about your background?
I actually studied mechanical engineering and after that I started working in a data analytics firm and up until very recently, I was with them. I’ve just started an internship at an asset management company in Mumbai. Besides, I have cleared Level 2 of the CFA Exam.
Could you tell me about the preparations you went through and the challenges that you faced?
Yeah, in terms of preparation, I think I stuck to the official guide, that is the OG for Quant and Verbal, and CrackVerbal’s Guides and advanced documents that Crackverbal had given. Even the instructors mentioned that it is better to stick to two-three sources. I agree with that. More than the questions you deal with, I think what you take back from the questions is more important.
How did you hear about CrackVerbal?
I had actually gone to CrackVerbal about four years ago. While I was doing my engineering, I was contemplating applying for the 2+2 or YLP, one of those programs. At that time, I had heard about CrackVerbal online, visited CrackVerbal offices and attended a couple of programs but decided not to do that and instead give it a few years. So this time, it was just a matter of calling them back because the experience was really good.
How do you think CrackVerbal actually helped you?
First of all, the instructors are really good, not just in terms of how they manage to break it down and really understand how a student would approach studying the whole thing, but also in terms of the strategies. I think the time hacks – the more you start doing mock tests and reaching the fag end of your preparation, you start realizing how important the strategies they give are. All the time-saving strategies add up together. That was a major difference point. One more thing is how ready the instructors are to make as much time as you want. No matter how many doubts I’ve had, I’ve always gotten the help I need on email as well as in person. Everyone is really supportive. I’m not the only one, there are so many students – so, the time they make is really appreciated.
Can you point out one specific feature that interested you or you liked in the entire course?
One thing that I really, really liked – this actually happened after the classes when I was taking all the mock tests. There was literally a phase where I’d take a mock test, I would come out and then whatever I didn’t get right, I would sit and discuss with Aditya, the quant instructor. He would explain to me everything that went wrong. It was a kind of instant feedback that really helped me a lot.
What would you say about the support provided by the team, apart from the instructors?
I have interacted with Likkesh and Prateek. They helped in mock-test scheduling and arranging classes that I missed. Divya responded to my emails promptly. All of them were approachable.
What are your future plans?
Firstly, I’m hoping to hear from some college.* Besides that, like I said, I’ve just started this internship which will keep me busy for a few months. This is in the asset management field, so for me, it is a shift into the career path that I always see for myself.
What advice would you like to give for the aspirants?
I think more important than the number of questions that you do is the takeaways that you get. On the exam day, be calm and confident; don’t try to do a lot of questions before the exam and make sure you’re in a good headspace when you’re walking in. And don’t underestimate your hunger, carry a snack along! Don’t worry if you feel like you’re getting too many easy questions during the exam.
*Update: Sushiksha is now studying at Saïd Business School of the Oxford University.
What was your motivation behind an MBA?
So, I’ve done my engineering in Electronics & Tele-Communications, and I have about 4 years of work experience. When I started off, I joined a company called Ice Asia as a service engineer. So, what this company does is that they are a service and sales partner for several European firms who are into the field of automation. I joined here as a service engineer and was later promoted to handle technical sales. Somewhere along the line, since I was very passionate about consumer electronics, I felt I needed a shift.
What aspects did you highlight on your profile for an admit to Schulich?
I think my rapid career development due to the various roles I had taken on while working in the service department, while simultaneously handling sales & technical sales, was something that helped me in great ways. An added plus was my hobby of writing for blogs on daily life experiences. This was something that was unique about me, and I felt that it helped me crack an admit to Schulich.
What was your GMAT Mantra like?
Before joining CV, I had approached the GMAT like any other typical engineering exam just like all Indian applicants do — cramming whatever you can into your head just before the exam with a text book and a few notes.
Although Quant was easy, Verbal was the real obstacle during my first attempt. So later, when I started doing some research on various forums, this one post on GMAT Club really caught my eye. It was written by a student about how CrackVerbal provided him the perfect approach that was required on GMAT Verbal and how the GMAT is a test of logic and not skill, plus how there is a pattern in every question on the GMAT.
Coaching from CrackVerbal was an integral part of my journey especially because it helped me understand this pattern, which in turn helped me score well on the Verbal section considering that was my weak area. Plus, it taught me how to keep time when I’m writing the test.
When it comes to the hardest modules on GMAT Verbal, I would say that CR and SC were my kryptonite. At CrackVerbal, they taught me the right way to ace the Verbal section by helping me understand how we can classify each question and distinguish between them. Hence, with all that, you’ve got a definitive approach to each question that appears on the test.
What sort of material did you use?
I would say it was always a combination of different reference books along with the material provided by CrackVerbal. No matter what the book was, when it came to practice, I would only use the strategy taught to me during my online classes (Yes! I took the CrackVerbal Live Online Course!). Another thing that aided me when it came to my prep was the student forum that you have access to. They’ve got the solutions for all the OG questions, along with responses from other fellow students. This really helps you understand all the unique ways in which other people approach the same question.
What was your experience like on the day of the GMAT?
Firstly, I ensured that the slot that I booked was perfect for me to write the exam. Because when you are in prep mode, i.e., the last two months of studying, you understand at which point of the day your mental health would be peaking. So, I booked my slot around the time my mental state was the most active.
Secondly, I would say that two chocolate bars would do you good during the break to keep the sugar going and to keep your mind alert.
Thirdly, the most important thing I’d like to say is that you need to be calm although you might make mistakes. Never get disheartened, and always keep your cool.
What was your application process like?
Here, again, CrackVerbal comes into the picture. They helped me when it came to structuring my essays along the right line of thought and ensured that I don’t make common mistakes that other applicants do. I was certain that it was either Canada or Singapore where I wanted to go. The mentors at CrackVerbal were very easy to talk to, and they knew what you needed to have. They ensured a one-on-one personal approach when it came to applications.
What all schools did you apply to?
I applied to Schulich, Rotman, NUS, and ISB. I got admits from Schulich and NUS, but Schulich was my dream school. I chose schools on the basis of the regions I wanted to settle down in after my MBA. The second reason for choosing Schulich was because I was looking for a more holistic experience when it came to my MBA. Plus, I wanted to understand not only the role that I would play in business, but also the roles of other people related to me.
How do you feel CrackVerbal helped?
I took the CrackVerbal Online Course. They have very good faculty who go out of their way to help you. I don’t think classroom or online makes a difference. During my entire MBA journey, I felt CrackVerbal was a major game changer. The instructors and the forum at CrackVerbal helped me with my prep in ways that I cannot even imagine. When it came to applications, they ensured that I would be up to speed with whatever I do. CrackVerbal’s USP would have to be its approach to Verbal and its unique student forum.
Do you have any words of wisdom for our MBA aspirants?
GMAT Quant is very easy, but when it comes to Verbal, everyone finds it hard. This might sound like I’m trying to market CrackVerbal , but I truly feel that they’ve mastered the art of Verbal! They know what works for Indian applicants.
It is very important that you don’t freak out on the day of the exam. You need to be relaxed and composed when it comes to approaching the questions on the test to ensure that you deliver.
As far as applications go, adcoms look at you as a developed individual. It’s not all about academics. It’s what you’ve done in life and how exactly you went through it all. They want to know you as a person who has his own individual identity. At the end of the day, it’s you against another bunch of individuals more or less like you!
So, Tell us about yourself!
I did my B.Tech Electrical from IIT Rourkee, an Alumnus of the 2013 batch. After the completion of my engineering degree, I joined Samsung as a Software Engineer.
How did you find out about CrackVerbal?
My friend who was also planning on taking the GMAT told me about CrackVerbal. Through word of mouth and also research on GMAT forums like PagalGuy, and BeattheGMAT which showed some fabulous reviews about CrackVerbal. There was no looking back from then and I joined CrackVerbal for my GMAT.
Tell us about your GMAT journey!
I took the GMAT twice. I joined CrackVerbal before taking it for the second time and boosted my score by 40 points. With regard to my MBA applications, it took me almost a month to get done with after my GMAT. I scored a 700 (Q 51, V 32) on my second attempt.
The first time when I took the GMAT, I scored a 660 with a breakup of Q 41, V 31. Before joining CrackVerbal, my prep was pretty disorganized. Some days I would come back and study for the GMAT while some days I would skip my prep because I felt very tired after work. It felt like I had no direction. I used to borrow notes from friends at other institutions and used to learn for the GMAT.
In the end, I took a mock test and then appeared for the GMAT test. But unfortunately, this approach to the GMAT did not help me attain the score I wanted.
I knew I had to join a coaching institute to give me the required discipline and strategy to carry out my GMAT prep and so I joined CrackVerbal. I had a diagnostic test and scored a 700+. My quant improved drastically after joining CrackVerbal. The classes helped me not only in identifying my mistakes but also helped me build around my weaknesses.
Verbal was a problem for me. I used only CrackVerbal’s material to solidify my grasp on verbal, especially in SC and RC. SC was the trickiest according to me. Also, during this rigorous verbal practicing process, I did not neglect my quant preparation. I made sure I balanced out the study time for both sections of the GMAT. The CrackVerbal material was more than enough for my preparation. Thanks to CrackVerbal, I scored a 700 on the GMAT and I was all ready to apply to ISB.
What Schools did you apply to?
I applied to two schools ISB and MIT Sloan. I got a reject in the second round of MIT. I availed the CrackVerbal application services only for ISB. While working with CrackVerbal, I got to know of how important thought and goal clarity is in an MBA interview. It was this clarity that helped me bag an admit to the Indian School of Business and I owe it to the admission consultants at CrackVerbal who were patient and helped me introspect on my MBA and future goals.
How did you differentiate your IT profile to the Ad-comm members?
Being an IT engineer with minimum work experience, I had to ensure that I do way more than my regular day job. I knew I had to move away from the “IIT graduate” tagline and do more to enhance my profile. Before I started working with Samsung, I used to do a lot of co-curricular projects.
I was an enthusiast when it came to making the world a better place. I had worked on a project called “Thought for Food” which basically aimed at feeding the poor and hungry in India and slowly eradicate the hunger problems in our country.
I had been to Berlin, representing Asia for this project where I exhibited my ideas in front of millions. In my free time I used to develop apps on the Android Platform since I had come from software engineering background. These extra initiatives helped me in portraying the budding entrepreneur within which made all the difference to my ISB application.
Why MBA and not MS?
I was asked this very question by ISB during my interview. I wanted to do an MBA since I had an inclination towards entrepreneurship and product management. My co-curricular activities instilled a very strong desire for social service too and I believe an MBA would help me formulate new goals and ideas to make the world a better place.
Any advice for the IT Guys and Girls in the house?
For all you IT Guys and Girls out there, every B-School wants to see what we IT guys bring to the table. Why do people like us with technical background want to shift to a financial or managerial role? They are basically looking at goals and thought clarity behind your post MBA goals. I would suggest you do a bit of co-curricular activities or take extra initiatives apart from your regular IT job.
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