23 December 2006

2nd Quarter Results - 6 Months at a B-School

I had heard and read a lot about life @ a B-school. Both good and bad. Mostly from friends who had made it to similar places and public forums like PG et al. But experiencing it first hand is a different ball-game altogether.This is a strange place which at times makes you behave in a strange manner.Welcome to the world of perennial sleep starvation, marketing jargons, impromptu batch meets where balance sheets never tally and mastering excel is a necessity for survival. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is probably the most important pyramid after that of Pharos. The race to meet the deadlines, the fight to get into the hot shot committees, the arcane quizzes, the occasionally insane workload, the nightouts, weird assignments where Google is the messiah. All are part of this life.Lots to learn here - both in the classroom and out of the classroom. Especially from the peer group. Here we have quite a diverse batch – from CAs to a marine engineer to a lawyer. Before coming here I never knew that you can do so many things on excel or rather excel can do so many things for you. You study everything from labor laws to consumer behavior to inventory management and wonder what you are actually here for.The glamour quotient which you associate with a B-school before coming gets considerably reduced once you come here. This entire trumpet blowing of workload and stress is nothing but hype and hoopla. An over exaggeration, I would say. I realize that this place is not perfect just like all other things in this world.At first, 18 subjects in 1st sem, 10 hour of lectures everyday, quizzes every Saturday (you don’t know which subjects’ quiz will come this Saturday), no concept of Sundays or week offs gives you the impression of great academic rigor. The system is good on paper but there are enough numbers of loopholes, for the ingenious ones, to exploit. There have been hardly 6-7 days in the last six months when I have felt really stressed out. (Of course this doesn’t include the exam days). At times I feel that I had more pressure in my engineering college with 3 internals every semester.If there is sleep deprivation, it is probably more as a result of late night sessions of ‘Age of Empires’ and ‘Counterstrike’ rather than some weird assignment on Linear Programming. After a month or so, people started sleeping in the class unabashedly. And the best part is that profs (apart from a few exceptions) don’t mind. They understand. Of course, the skill of sleeping in the class with open eyes or at least in a manner which will not attract the attention of the faculty is an asset.The unending streams of assignments are initially done using the Japanese practice of inventory management, Just-in-time (J.I.T) and eventually using S.H.I.T (some how in time). Of course, Google is your savior here. I wonder how many of us would have been able to complete their PGDM if Sergey and Larry hadn’t come up with their invention. There are times you feel that the only thing you will be good at after coming out of this institute is getting the right thing out of Google in the smallest possible time. How I wish somebody pays me loads of cash for this particular skill.The Saturday quizzes are even funnier. Lots of permutations and combinations are worked out on every Friday evening in an attempt to guesstimate the subject which is going to screw your happiness on the next day. You listen to the rumors or rather grapevines (hey I have flunked in OB) going rounds in the hostel corridors and mess tables. Then you zero in on a subject or two, which results mostly in a correct prediction (touchwood!!). But at times your prediction backfires horribly. You study marketing and go, only to find an economics paper. And then comes our collective ability of bullshitting. You write whatever you feel just to fill the pages. As far as studying is concerned, you initially start on Thursday. Then, eventually after a few weeks, a combination of procrastination and boldness pushes the start of studying to Friday evening, then to Friday late night and finally to Saturday. The reason may be partly attributed to the fact that excess of anything diminishes its importance. Finally, what results is the mockery of a well-intentioned system of evaluation.The early morning tribulations (read non academic activities viz. yoga, aerobics and gym) is a unique feature of this particular B-school. You curse the system, swear the authorities but still turn up day after day. You, the bleary eyed one, do some weird asanas and dance with music. The incentive is not health but attendance which is probably the most important thing here after God. It is a necessary evil to get your PGDM. Sometimes you start wondering whether you have come here for learning something or keeping 90% attendance in all subjects. Believe me, 90 is the most sacred figure here and there is a lot of number crunching involved to make sure that you touch this magic figure.The faculty is okay. Actually the permanent faculty sucks but visiting ones are mostly good. Some are demigods, if not God. They mostly have those six coveted letters stamped on their CVs – IIT IIM. The way they teach, the layman level examples they give, explaining things logically, analytically, the way they push your thought process to its limits is simply amazing but such profs are hardly one or two in number. As always, the best are outnumbered by the mediocres. And as always I just love the pep talks, philosophical discussions about life at a B-school with our teaching greats. Some of them encourage introspection and make you step back and think, which is probably the only thing I am good at. You realize how important it is to develop an original thought process which is structured, logical and is based on a sound reasoning. Now I realize why some MBAs get paid such obscene amounts of money (those who get paid such amounts).Just like the 4 Ps of marketing, we have 4 Ps of management education – Presentations, parties, placements and paychecks. The last two being the most important. That is precisely the reason all of us are here. Everything else is incidental. Never knew that ‘zero’ is as important as the ‘Day 0’ of placements indicate. I wonder when there will be a ‘day minus 1’ of placements in B-schools.But this MBA thing is a big leveler. Here, engineers struggle with P&L accounts and balance sheets while CAs get screwed in IT systems. It some how brings everybody on an even ground.But at the end of the day all of us have come here for different reasons. Although the common denominator is ‘transformation’, each reason is unique in itself. The ‘take away’ of all of us will be different but I guess the common ‘take-away’ will be a paradigm shift in our thinking processes. Yes, MBA gives you a new perspective towards everything that surrounds you. This training makes you look at everything around you in a different way, thinking of new dimensions and possibilities. You start appreciating the small things and intricate details which you used to take for granted. However, cynical I may have sounded above but I can see the changes in myself. Surprisingly, most of the things taught here, are pure common sense but as somebody said ‘Common Sense is not so common’. But most importantly this place teaches you humility, kills that false pride and ego which often makes us blind to others' perspectives. It teaches you to respect and appreciate others for whatever skill they may have.Just like most of the things in life, here also the onus is on you. As one of our stellar visiting profs told us on the induction day - how much you get out of this place depends a lot on how much you will put in.The good things of this place are discipline, strong emphasis on IT based teaching and IT oriented curriculum. This is quite a happening place with lot of out-of-the-classroom activities - from our annual B-school fest to Six Sigma Awards to live research projects – happening round the year. There are so many things happening that it is practically impossible for someone to be a part of everything.The key to survive and excel this odd journey is, knowing where you eventually want to go, setting your priorities straight, keeping focus on your lakshya and on the way, picking up the things which are relevant to your goal.As they say here ‘The Journey is the Reward’.

Epilogue: We have unofficial orders from the top that any bad-mouthing about the institute in public forums will be severely dealt with. Keeping in mind this fact, I have refrained from naming the insitute and tried to disguise all details as much as possible.

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