When dreams come true.. a journey to IIM Ahmedabad begins..

What a moment it would be if I could replace the "to" in the title of this post with "at", but that ain't happening anytime soon until we enter the post Covid world and life comes back to normal. This could take weeks or months, but a journey has started. It has been an even longer journey to reach this stage, and here are some reflections into what kicked off the whole process for me, and what transpired over the years.

Way back in 2007, when I was pursuing final year bachelors in commerce, I planned to continue my education in management, just like almost everyone else in India wanted to, at one of the premiere B-schools in the country - namely the IIMs/ISB. This was a dream that didn't materialize back then, and life took enough twists and turns. Post completing my bachelors, I applied to several jobs, and got into ICICI Bank. This was the time when 2008 Global Financial Crisis broke out. The crisis made life difficult for people in the banking and financial services industry, especially for those of working at ICICI Bank as the bank was severely impacted by this crisis. Life kept getting tougher, and the dream of preparing for an MBA or pursuing an MBA took a back seat. I enrolled for a distance learning PGD in business administration program from Symbiosis, and life went on.

Despite obtaining my PGD in 2011, the dire desire to study in a top B-school remained alive. Various situations kept me away from any action towards this dream, including the main reason that I was doing fairly well in my career, and was having the intended progression despite certain personal limitations. Moreover, work kept life busy. I kept thinking and partially planning (on and off) to prepare for an MBA in a top B school. However, the desire kept declining with time, again may be because some complacency kicked it and I started holding up a view that I was doing equally good as much as a full time MBA from a good B school did (with a few limited examples around me). There was a phase when I finally gave up this entire plan, and got on with life.

It was again in 2018 that the MBA thoughts started flying around my mind, and were intensified when I was assigned with team management responsibilities. Until then, my work revolved only around me, and I had complete control on everything I did. It was quite challenging too, and thus, I remained engaged with it. When I started handling teams, interacting with different departments in the organization, and engaging with clients and other other parties, I realized that there was something lacking. For some reason, I kept feeling that may be some training or education along these lines would have made me better at handling certain tasks or challenges. I wasn't sure, and I continue to be unsure, if that really was the case, or was it just that the desire to study had found its way again to my mind, and had taken over my thinking process.

What I finally gave in for was just this thought that if the thought of missing a learning curve was true or if I were to do full time MBA for better career opportunities/ growth, then should I do it now or later, and clearly the answer was ASAP. I was already married by now, and we were expecting a child to light up our lives soon. Responsibilities double after marriage, and quadruple once we have kids, and so, this again didn't seem a right time to leave a job, especially when I could see reasonable career prospects too. In fact, I was further deterred when two interns joined under me, and they were from elite B-schools. I felt that the time has passed, and I was probably too old for an MBA now. Of course, I wasn't even looking at the usual 2 year MBA - that was nowhere my cup of tea, but I was feeling old even for the executive MBA programs that I was considering. I kept coming back to this point - if not now, will I ever be able to do it in my life, and the answer was clearly no. My wife was also of a similar opinion that if at all I wanted to do this, the time is ripe now, and any delay will only make it difficult. 

After a multitude of thoughts building inside of me, I finally thought, "Let me at least apply and get an admission. Its not as if they are waiting for me. For all I know, I would just apply and not get selected. So, why think so much?". MBA application is a long process. A good MBA application could take as much as a year to materialize into a decision, considering the preparation for GMAT, writing essays, getting recommendations, shortlisting process, going through interviews, and then the final admission decision. I went through the list of one year executive full time MBA programs, and zeroed in on a few of them. I sketched on a plan on which ones to apply at what stage, what should be the order and priority, etc. I kept aside the list of international programs, and decided to look at the domestic ones first. Reasons (1) cost aspect, and (2) in the longer run, I want to be in India. In India, its naturally the IIMs that I had to target, with the order being IIM-A, B and C. Looking at the batch profile and several other aspects, I ruled out B (course focused on people with ~5 years experience, and so, I'd be too old there with 11 years experience). A looked great with 9 years average experience, and C was a choice from the finance domain perspective. Something I really loved about A is the motto, "Vidya Viniyogadvikasa", which means, development through the distribution or application of knowledge, and may be the driver behind the case study method, which is the most outstanding differentiation that IIM-A and also something that makes A the most sought after B-school. I decided to apply to A in R1 and C in R2. If I didn't get through these, I planned to apply to other B-schools later.

I had some experience of studying for the GMAT back in 2013/14 when I was briefly engaged with applying for an MBA at ISB, and this didn't materialize. Now, I had a solid 4-5 months ahead of the application date to prepare for the GMAT and write my application. Unfortunately, work and travel kept me very engaged and I could spend only little times towards this. Blame some of this on my procrastination habit as well. I did spend 2-3 weeks studying a few chapters, and that was helpful. However, time flew so quickly that I didn't even realize when the R1 deadline expired. One fine day, I just registered for the GMAT, scheduling it just 2 days ahead of R2 deadline, and allowing myself 2 months to prepare. Work schedule continued to remain tight, and I studied a bit on the weekends. Ahead of the exam, I solved a few practice papers and went through lesson summaries. As I wrote the GMAT, there were a couple of points that took my side (1) I had some prior experience of preparing for GMAT (and also other competitive exams) and therefore had a understanding of the pattern, Qs, etc (2) I has in the past taken up several competitive exam kind of tests for various purposes, and lastly (3) the kind of work I do involved a lot of analytical thinking, logical reasoning, brain storming as well as writing, editing, publishing of research notes, etc. - and these helped me do reasonably well in the test. Yet my preparation was insufficient, I felt. So, anyone reading this - please prepare well for your GMAT - it is a very important part of your application, and you should get the best possible score, and devote sufficient time towards preparation.

As far as the application itself, I had spent a seriously large amount of time writing the application, and reviewed it at least 20-30 times. I wrote the application over a period of 2 months, each time thinking from a different point of view. I did a considerable amount of editing to deliver the exact message on why I really want to do an MBA now, what are my expectations and how IIM-A will help me achieve them. I read a lot of advise on this, and initially, it all sounded like bullshit to me. After all, how can someone get specific about what they want to do in life. Aren't we the kind of people who will do whatever best comes up? So, I found it really difficult to get into specifics to begin with, and whenever I tried to, it just didn't match with what I really wanted to do. It felt like someone else's story. For whatever reason, I did not want to seek any help on this (a wrong decision in the hindsight). After a lot of deliberation, I was able to keep my points crisp, simple and straight. My story was something like, "I am on ship A, and I want to go to ship B because I will get DEF and the ship will get GHI. But we are in middle of the sea, and I don't know how to swim. So, you guys teach me to swim. And because I have done JKL in the past, I can be a good swimmer." This isn't a very accurate description, but the spirit of the message was on these lines.

So, finally, my application to the PGPX - IIMA was on its way. I was fairly confident of getting an invite for the interview, and also somewhat hopeful of getting an admission if I get shortlisted for the interview. However, not everything in life goes as per our hopes and wishes, and therefore, I continued with learning more about other colleges. On one fine evening, I got an email asking for a preferred slot for interview. Considering I was outside of India, my interview was to happen on Skype. Needless to say, I was jumping on my couch. The interview was done soon, and it was a combination of awesome and awful experiences for me. May be, I will delve on the interview part in another blog post.

On another fine evening, while my wife and I were sitting with our little baby who had just entered the world a few weeks ago, an email popped up that the results of R2 are out. This was a couple of days ahead of the date when the results were expected to be out. It was quite an emotional moment to login to the IIMA website and read, "We are extremely pleased to invite you to join the One Year Full-Time Residential Post-Graduate Programme in Management for Executives (PGPX) for the 2020-21 batch at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad.". I couldn't have asked for more. I had to believe now that dreams do come true, and they usually come true at the most unexpected times. All we need to do keep putting our best efforts, be persistent and always, be hopeful. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Until a year ago, probably, even the thought of studying at IIM-A was out of my reach, and today, I am packing my bags to head to the red bricks. Honestly, this still feels like a dream even today.

Every dream, when it comes true, lays the foundation for a new goals, new aspirations and new dreams. Human beings are progressive inherently, and so, reaching one goal doesn't usually stop them, but sets them up for the next one. Heading to IIM-A is thus just the beginning of a new adventure, a new life or mostly a new perspective to life, and the doors have just opened. What makes me most happy and content at the moment is the fact that all that sweat has gone, knowingly (GMAT, application, interview, etc) and mostly unknowingly (learning new skills, giving best at work, career progression, achievements at work, academic progress, non work related efforts and achievements, social awareness, knowledge of industry/ current affairs, an intent to be a good manager or leader or just that burning desire to be a better person, etc. etc. - none of these were built overnight but had a significant weight in the process), to knock at these doors over the past many years have finally paid off.


Comments

  1. You will definitely achieve it buddy....very happy to read it you will be in to IIM... awesome

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  2. Fantastic Puneet. Happy for you...

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  3. Awesome Puneet. It was so inspiring to read about your journey. Good luck for your future. All the best.

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