Admitted to ISB

I guess it is stale news now. I am admitted to the Indian School of Business Class of 2010 and I am really very happy and excited about it.

The evening of 20th Nov

I didn't go to office. I was not sure but I just did not want to work on that day. I wanted to take some time off to work on Tepper essays and decided that Thursday to be that day. After my not so good ISB interview performance (according to me), I was not very hopeful of a positive result from ISB. But still, this optimistic heart hoped for a 2% chance of something positive. On top of that, I was third time applicant. So that created more anxiety. My history goes like this:

Attempt 1 - 2.5 years of work-ex - Waitlisted -> Ding
Attempt 2 - 4.5 years of work-ex - Ding
Attempt 3 - 5.5 years of work-ex, GMAT 710 -> 730 - ???

By evening, I grew tense and tired of pressing the refresh on my inbox. So by around 8:30 pm I decided to take a break and go out to have some snacks. I thought anyways ISB sends an SMS, so I'll receive one even if I am out. At 9:15, I got calls from 2 of my friends whose results were negative. ISB was not sending SMS, only email. That was bad. I gathered my group and rushed back. That was the worst 10 minutes of that day. On the way, one of my friends tried to access gmail from his GPRS phone. He said it had never worked before but let's give it a shot. And voila, it worked. While I was driving, he opened the holy mail and read, "Congratulations! You have been offered..." I couldn't hear after that.

I was happy. I was excited. I started crying with joy. That was the first time I cried with joy and believe me, the feeling is unexplainable. My efforts have finally worked out. When you try hard for something and you don't get it, you mark that as unachievable (or hard to achieve). And when you finally get it, you feel like a winner. You start believing in yourself again. You regain your lost confidence and you are a man again. That's what I was, a confident man that night.

Congratulations to all folks who have made it to ISB and all the best to all R2 folks.

Soft Skills are hard to attain

Well, not for everyone. But if you see yourself entering the business world sometime sooner, this is one skills that will be very critical and is the hardest to attain. Now what are soft skills about:

  • Speaking confidently in front of a crowd
  • Command over a language
  • Maintaining the correct body language
  • Presenting yourself effectively
  • Effective communication skills
  • Speaking precisely and concisely
This is just a list that I made casually while thinking of what I need to develop to be truly successful.

Expectations from an MBA

Experts have commented time and again that an MBA is not for academic oriented people. An MBA is not for someone who wants to attain a "degree". Of course, you gain a lot of hard skills during your course of an MBA, you gain better understanding of disciplines like finance, marketing, operations, etc.

But there is much more to an MBA. Your expectations should go beyond the hard skills that you attain. Look out for other sources of learning. Capitalize on the diverse peer group that you have. Interact with people from various backgrounds, learn how to connect and build relationships (professional). Prepare yourself for the future.

An MBA has a bigger role in preparing you for such a role in terms of soft skills. Most B-schools have a course called "Management Communication". It has all the elements of a presentation (or that is what I think): effective business writing, presentation skills, communicating effectively one-to-one or to a crowd. It is not easy to stand in front of a crowd and make them believe in your ideas, your vision.

Tuck on ManComm

ManComm as "Management Communication" is known in B-school parlance is one of the favourite subjects of Tuck students. While going through the latest blog entry on the Tuck Admissions blog: Hard skills are easy, soft skills are hard, I can imagine myself using the MBA as a perfect platform to develop on my verbal and non-verbal presentation skills. Tuck's close-knit atmosphere plays a big role here through open and direct feedbacks. Walking up in front of the class and speak on a topic you have just been give for 2 minutes requires courage (at least for me). But I really appreciate the minute details pointed out with respect to the body language, voice modulation, etc. The feedback is essential.

Stanford's Management Communication Program (MCP)

Stanford GSB has a different method of enhancing soft skills. They have around 60 communication workshops held throughout the year. The workshops range from Effective Listening to Delivering Bad News, from Impromptu Speaking to Voice Workout. The conciseness of the topics itself tells you how each and every minute details needs to be worked on.

I just used these two examples to show how B-schools place a lot of emphasis on developing communication skills.

In contrast, most one-year programs do not have such an intensive focus on enhancing one's soft skills. As far as I understand, this must be because of the following reasons:

  • Less Time. Since the course span is just a year, these skills can be picked up by students as they move along.
  • Different demography. Well, not exactly. But usually one-year programs are designed for professionals who want a quick MBA and return to business. So B-schools also expect incoming students to ready to take on management positions and thus focus only on hard skills.
So I agree with Will from Tuck:

Hard skills are easy, soft skills are hard.

Business School Research - A note about "fit"

While researching B-schools, the big question that every applicant has to answer is about "fit":

- Whether the B-school fits into your career aspirations
- Whether you fit into that B-school's culture - This is important because if you research thoroughly, you'll find out that you cannot fit-in every B-school. For example, you may feel comfortable if the class size is small and you can get individual attention. If that is the case, apply to a school which sells on a close-knit community. Harvard is not for you.

So as you understand, "fit" is a give and take thing between the school and you. There are multiple sub-variables also involved in the above mentioned broad classification:

B-school fit into your plan

You might want to consider:
- Location of the school - That will ultimately also lead to the most probable location of post-MBA career. If you do not like New York, don't apply to Stern or Columbia for example.
- Top Hirers - You should have a specific target industry or employer in mind while applying. Go to a place that favours the industry you are targeting. It can be for any reason: location of the school, course structure, anything. You may want to prefer west coast schools if you want to work in Tech industry post MBA, for example. A look at the top 3/4 hirers gives you an idea.
- Class Size
- Faculty:Student Ratio
- Extra curricular activities in the B-school
- Are you the one who prefer a big brand name?

Do you fit into the B-school culture

- You may want to have a look at the demographics to understand this.
- Have a look at the Professional clubs at the B-school. Do you see yourself participating actively in some of them?
- Find and talk to alumni. They are really helpful provided you have done preliminary research and come up with intelligent questions to ask.
- Find out about life outside the classroom. Do you see yourself really engaging in these activities?

While reading randomly on the internet, I found this spreadsheet very helpful.

This person has compiled all the parameters from BusinessWeek into one spreadsheet. The criteria that was chosen was:

  • Demographics
  • Diversity
  • GMAT
  • Work Experience
  • Age
  • Faculty
  • Class Size
  • Joint Programs
  • Alumni
  • Salary
  • Cost

Knock Knock Tuck Tuck

It seems Tuck adcom take their own sweet time in going through the applications. I am jealous of applicants who are in the US and have initiated the interviews themselves. It seems like eternity since I submitted my application on 14-Oct for EA deadline.

Well, if they take time, it is actually good in one way. The final pool would comprise of handpicked people and if, I am one of them, I will have an awesome mix of classmates. It seems a couple of applicants have heard from adcom and are done with the adcom-initiated interviews, I am still waiting to hear from them.

Phone interview vs F2F interview

I would rather go in for a face to face interview with some adcom panel member or a local alum. Face to face interview gives you a chance to present yourself completely and not just your voice. If you are a pleasant personality, a slight error in your voice modulation is ignored. Whereas, in a telephonic interview, you have to make sure that your voice modulation is appropriate so as not to give wrong signals.

In addition, in a face to face interview, you get to guage what the interviewer is thinking or how he/she has taken your response. If everything is going well, you will get a feel of it and the interview is more of a conversation. I am not much of a phone person. I would rather meet and talk.

Random rambling, while awaiting Tuck adcom.

Are there many people who are awaiting adcom to initiate an interview?

My ISB Interview Experience - 2008 - Part Deux

I was happy. I was excited. I got the much awaited interview call from ISB. This was my third interview with ISB and I am not ashamed of this fact. I have never failed. To me, all unsuccessful ventures were termed as "learning experiences" and not failures. But it was the third time and that got me highly nervous during the interview.

Anyway, it was 8-Nov 2:50 pm. My interview was scheduled for 3:20 pm. I reached the venue just to find the whole floor deserted. All the rooms around were empty. "Did I read the correct date?" Yes it was. Then I rushed to the Admissions Office just to find out that the interview venues had been shifted to the Executive Housing (EH) because of Belgium's King's visit. I found out that had I come through the main entrace, there was a security personnel guiding you to the new venue. I was already on campus so I did not use the main entrance. Anyways, I was late and I had to run now for my interview. Gosh, it was so hot that day. By the time I reached EH, I was sweating. Thanks to the sun and the suit, I was feeling so fresh now. I got the 100 words essay on the word "fathom"; with one hand I was wiping my sweat and trying to write with second calmly. I was blacked out. Where was I? Did I prepare for this interview? What answers did I prepare? What do I have to say? What's happening?

At around 3:40 I was called in. There were three people: an adcom senior person (M), a lady from the adcom, Jayshree (F) and a current student (S). I just sat down with the essay sheet in my hand. I expected them to ask for it but they didn't, immediately.

[[ I am writing each and everything that happened in the interview including the answers I gave. I know I am out of the race but I want to help R2 applicants and other readers of my blog. ]]

F: So you are applying for the third time. What happened the last two times?
Me: Well, the forst time was in 2005, and I was waitlisted after the interview.
F: Oh.. (asking another panelist) Was there a waitlist policy?
F: (To me) So why weren't you selected?
Me: The feedback that I received...
F: No. Not the feedback. What do you think were the reasons? How did the interview go?
Me: Ma'am I believe the interview went great. I think I wasn't prepared for an MBA at that point of time. I had 2.5 years of work-experience.
F: Ok, What happened the second time?
Me: Last time I applied in 2007. In fact, I was interview earlier this year.
F: So you were called for an interview again?
Me: (C'mon, I'm not that bad) Yes Ma'am. The intervew went great again. I got the feedback that I needed to show more energy and enthusiasm during the interview. Based on that and based on the discussions that I had with current students and alums, I think I was not able to present myself effectively.

F: Ok.. So tell me. What are your career goals?
Me: I want to open my own network integration firm 5-6 years down the line. I have had good amount of exposure in telecom business ranging from telecom software services to product development. But before that...
F: To open your own firm.. (Me: oh please let me complete) why do you need an MBA?
Me: Ma'am before starting my venture, I want to gain experience in the business developement area of a high-tech firm. Once I feel I have gained sufficient exposure I will take the plunge. An MBA will provide me with the required knowledge and I will build a sound network, that will help me again when I start on my own.

S: So what if you don't get selected? Will you never achieve your goal?
Me: Of course I will. I will find ways to get into sales or business development in my organisation. But that will take more time. An MBA will facili...
F: No we are not asking why an MBA will help. Anyway, why are you so desperate about doing an MBA?
Me: I am not desperate about doing an MBA. (I was totally blacked out by this point. Somebody, please get me out of here) I have a specific plan in mind and I am working towards it.

M: So when you said high-tech firms, what are the firms that you are looking at?
Me: Well, high-tech firms not only include telecom firms but other networking firms too. Like Cisco, BT, for example that offer BD roles in ISB.
M: Ok. Why you only chose network integration business? Isn't there too much competition there?
Me: I agree there is. But over the years I have gained competence understanding the technology and I think I will do well. As far as competition is concerned there are firms like X, Y, etc that serve GSM or 3G networks. I want to enter into 4G equipments and thus would target only a small segment at first.

S: What is your goal? MBA or ISB?
Me: (I think they had already made up that third time means two times failure. Let him go) Sir I think it's neither. Opening my own firm is my goal and MBA is just a means to achieve that.
F: There are so many technocrats these days that venture into entrepreneurship without an MBA and are successful. So why do you want an MBA?
Me: (didn't I already tell that?) blurted out the same thing.

F: Okay, your application says you organized an event in college... (Specfics about that incident)
Me: (Smiling) Well, that was one interesting event. (Told them in detail)
F: Tell me one thing. When I moved from "Why MBA" to extra curriculars I saw a big smile of relief on your face. Were you not feeling comfortable during that time?
Me: I agree I did smile (I was smiling then too) but that was not a smile of relief. I was just reminded of that event and thus smiled.

Some more extra curricular discussion.

S: I see you are a Mensa member. What is Mensa and what prompted you to join it?
Me: Answered in detail.
S: Ok. solve this puzzle for me.
Me: (Took some time. Halfway through I hought of giving up too. but finally managed to solve it)

F: I'll give you a simpler problem now. Tell me how many paper cups would be consumed in ISB per day.
Me: (Good. estimation question. I was more confident now) I was solving and as the usual tips say, I was trying to think aloud. I was calculating weekly numbers. She stopped me twice correcting "Just give me the daily numbers"
Me: Sorry ma'am I was just trying to think aloud.

I got so confused by that time by interruptions that I mixed up some weekly and daily numbers and gave the answer as 3000. I think it is huge and I deviated a lot.

F: Ok. Thanks a lot.
Me: (What?? That's it? No "Do you want to tell something else?" No "Do you have any questions for us?")

If that's it, then that's it. I got it up, thanked everyone and left. The interview lasted around 30 minutes and I did not get a good feeling after that. Went for a swim later and washed away the worries.

I ruined it and it took me 2 days to get over it. In the meantime I met Ashwanth who had come over for interview the next day. Ashwanth, I think you have a good chance. All the best.

I am off to my other apps now.

ISB Interview Invite and Other Updates

It has been more than 3 weeks since I updated my blog. I have been rather extremely busy at work. I traveled to Germany for around 10 days for customer meetings. I must say it was an immense learning experience in terms of exposure to real customer expectations management and product release planning. Anyway, this visit and loads of work is my excuse to submitting only one application in R1 (Tuck), in addition to ISB. Yeah, I know I am bad at planning, time management, etc. But now I am targeting at least 3 other schools in R2.

ISB Interview Invite

I received in invitation to interview with the ISB Adcom on 8th November at 15:20 hours. Last weekend, I met a couple of friends and acquaintances who had come to ISB for interview. It was good to get me into the feel of the interview and help me get into the interview mode. Well, there are some advantages of staying on ISB campus.

Anyway, I am off to preparing for ISB interview. This being my third ISB interview, I want to overprepare and leave no stone unturned. Let's see what happens. All the best to others who are yet to interview and to those who have already interviewed.