Sometime last year, around the month of May, the discussion on what I should probably do with my career added to the summer heat under a balcony fan that barely helped. We had just come back from our vacation in Europe and were about to plan the next one. Yes, I know my travelogues have been pending since that trip to New Zealand two years ago, but hear me out!
The summary of the chat with Roshnai and a couple of friends that evening was that I should get an MBA degree, if I want to do anything meaningful with my career. Now, I’ve been a good student in high school and worked hard to get an admit to IIT and all that jazz, but once in IIT, Boyle’s Law struck me hard – Pressure x Volume is constant. The moment I got into IIT, I felt at ease, and I started doing many other things, beyond studies of course! I thought, getting into IIT was it, and that brand would take me far in my career. I got a decent management consulting job on day 2 of the placement season, had a girl friend, life was set.
In the past 7 years post IIT, I firmly believed that my career was good without an MBA and I could not justify the effort and cost of getting a graduate degree to further advance my career. Few of my peers took the MBA route and moved on, many stayed on course with their career trajectories without an MBA. I still couldn’t justify the cost of doing an MBA. But the discussion that night, though elementary, gave me a perspective that I perhaps did not have, or likely tried to avoid having! It got me thinking about my career and how I planned to grow, with what skill set and around what kind of a network of people.
For someone like me, with more than 7 years of experience, the only options for getting an MBA are part-time MBA, or PGPX-kind of courses from IIMs/ISB. Thankfully, US business schools appeared to be more open to experienced candidates and also carry larger global recognition along with a formal graduate degree. Of course, the facts that such a course would be extremely competitive to get through, would cost me a bomb and would likely throw up immigration issues were to be considered. I decided on taking the GMAT first and then deciding if it would even make sense to apply, and in parallel, spend some time introspecting and figuring out the justification for a full-time MBA in the US.
On the morning of 19th August, as I was leaving for the GMAT test center, with a brief history of mock test scores between 720-750, I downed a can of RedBull (yes, I had read that it helps to keep you alert during the exam) and packed a bar of Dairy Milk:
“How much would I score” – I asked Roshnai; “750” – she said.
“That’s it? Why can’t you say 800?”; “Okay, I think you will get between 780-800, happy?”
Honestly, during GMAT, you have no way of figuring out if you are doing well or not since the test is adaptive, and throws up tougher questions if you answer a few tough questions, and easier questions if you fail to answer a few easy questions – smartly throwing in a few randomly.
“770“; “Wait, what?”; “770“;
“You are kidding, please be serious? You are mad.”
And I had scored more than anyone else I had ever known thus far. Way beyond the mortal 700-720s and a notch higher than the 740-760s that I had heard of acquaintances.
Getting the GMAT out of the way is important to focus on applications to B-schools, as they take as much time as preparing for the GMAT itself. Thankfully, due to my GMAT date being moved ahead by 10 days, I got some more time to work on my applications before the September-end deadlines. The shortlisting of schools I would apply to largely depended on my GMAT score. And thus started phase 2.
With my focus on healthcare and consulting, I decided to apply to 5 business schools – that number because I wasn’t sure if I’d have the energy to do any more research or get any more recommendations from the same set of people. My shortlist of schools included Kellogg (because ZS), Fuqua (because Healthcare), Ross (because Consulting), and Anderson (because West Coast). I also added in an application to Wharton’s Healthcare MBA (a smaller separate section of the Wharton general MBA) as a stretch. Over the next few weeks, I went through countless iterations of my post-MBA goals, individual school essays, resume and answers to questions such as Why MBA, Why Now and Why Here. At the end of my application submissions, I was glad I could put in strong applications, and perhaps the best I could, given my higher-than-average experience and the fact that I belonged to the over-represented applicant pool of ‘Indian-male-engineering-graduates’.
It was a wait-and-watch from then on. I am not sure what happened with my Kellogg application, but I got interview invitations from Anderson, Ross and Fuqua, followed by a straight ding from Wharton. I quickly added a short trip to Singapore between the interviews and got done with all of them right after Diwali. Fast forward to December 14th, and I get my first call: “Congratulations Aditya, you have been accepted to our MBA program, and to help you with your decision, we are offering you a fellowship of $45,000 for each of the two years!”. I could NOT believe my luck! 90k USD is a huge amount, and I had not heard anyone getting that amount of scholarship to attend a B-school. Over the course of the week, a couple more calls poured in. I was accepted at Duke Fuqua, Michigan Ross and UCLA Anderson, with one of them giving me a significant scholarship, and another one giving a much smaller but surely not insignificant amount. A trip to Bali followed the week after to let the feeling sink-in – yeah the trip was pre-planned to either enjoy the success or drink through the sorrow.
So yeah, over the last few days, I’ve been messaging and talking to a lot more people to help me take a decision, and I hope to finalize where I am going, over the next few days! But yeah, come Fall 2016, and I would be a student again! Ready to take the risk and look forward to a sea of changes coming my way :)
With the decision likely taken by this weekend or next, would start phase 3 – the time to plan for next two years. And that would mean submitting my documents, applying for loans, getting a visa, resigning from job, taking another vacation, buying essentials and flying out! Fingers crossed!
And yes, I sincerely hope to update this blog with my travelogues to New Zealand, Cambodia, Austria, Hungary, Turkey (again), Singapore and Indonesia, soon!