Corporate Career vs College Campus - How IIM-A chose me & I chose it right back!
As you all know, CAT is an exam which is attempted by a wide variety of people.
You have your freshers, people with a drop academic year, some who quit their jobs (Guilty!) and then those who manage it along with a full time career.
Meet Sreepadh Guruprasad, a Chartered Accountant and a working professional who made it to IIM-Ahmedabad (Batch of 2020-2022)!
Sreepadh had a real dilemma on his hands in all dimensions of the B-School journey - The CAT, the Interview preparation and most importantly, walking away from a very lucrative career he had already established for himself (I wish more of us have this last problem though, Sreepadh!)
Without further ado, let’s hear it from him!
Important alert! - If you are a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer, Economics or Commerce graduate who wants to make it to the B-School of your dreams, don't forget to subscribe to The Unconventional MBA!
Hey everyone, my name is Sreepadh and I have recently been accepted into IIM-A.
Before I tell you my story, here’s a quick background:
Class X: 10 CGPA
Class XII: 98% (Commerce)
B. Com: Madras University (through distance education)
Chartered Accountant: Qualified in May 17 (IPCC AIR 6 & Final AIR 15)
Article-ship experience with EY, Statutory Audit division
Work experience: 2.5 years with ITC Ltd. (Corporate Finance Division)
Part 1 - My PRE-MBA thoughts:
Since I was in the Corporate Finance Team of ITC, I got the opportunity to learn a great deal about a variety of domains including business planning, business models and how to read financial statements. This kindled my interest in working in strategy, venture capital/private equity, etc.
That’s when I decided to capitalize on this learning and do an MBA. But the decision to do an MBA wasn’t an easy one. I weighed the pros and cons of my decision in the following manner:
An MBA in a top college would help me in getting a holistic and an all-round insight into the main functions that every successful organisation needs (viz., marketing, finance, HR, operations, etc.)
Now you may ask me why I didn’t just continue in my existing role and learn these things along the way. The way I see it, when it comes to a job, there is very little time to experiment and hardly any room for mistakes.
On the other hand, an MBA in a top college would offer a solid platform for experimentation and learning! All that within a 2 year period!
Besides, the roles I aspired for are more easily available to business school graduates and an MBA was the best way to get my foot in the door.
The opportunity cost – I would be giving up great pay and a great profile. Moreover, I would not earn anything for a further 2 years coupled with the high cost of an MBA!
After much deliberation, I felt that the pros outweighed the cons and I decided to take a leap of faith.
Part 2 - The struggle with CAT and interviews
Preparing for the CAT wasn’t a cakewalk. Earning well and having an interesting profile automatically translated to a heavy workload. I had a 6-day work week which required me to put in 12-13 hours a day on normal days and 16-17 hours during busy seasons.
To add to that, busy season (which accounted for about 40% of the year) brought about 7 day work-weeks. As you can probably guess, the CAT and my interview were scheduled right in the middle of this time.
I started my preparation sometime in August. As I did not have time to attend coaching classes nor the time to take sufficient mock tests, I had to manage time effectively. A snapshot of my daily routine (excluding Sundays) was as follows:
5:30 am – Day begins with a 2 hour study period
8:30 am – Start for office
9:30 am to 9/9:30 pm: Office.
Post 10:30: Study for an hour or so
Given that my preparation was average at best, I was very anxious on the exam day. I did not have a great feeling after coming out of the hall and my percentile reflected this – 94.3.
I was very dejected until the shortlists for IIM-A were out – I was in!
If you ask me what got me into the shortlist – I would say my profile and my being a CA (I suppose!) - but definitely not my CAT score!
Before I proceed further, I have been asked whether coaching classes for CAT are necessary. Personally, I don’t think so. At the end of the day, CAT is a competitive exam which seeks to test concepts one has already studied. All it requires is a lot of practice (especially the Quant and DILR sections) and an adequate number of mock tests.
Unfortunately, this was the busiest time at work and I braced myself for sleepless nights. I did not get any time (except early mornings) or any study leave for my preparation. But, since the only call I got a call was from IIM Ahmedabad, I decided to give it my best shot. I started preparation right away. My daily routine (including Sundays) for my interview preparations was as follows:
5:30 am – Wake up and prepare for 2 hours
8:30 am – Start for office
9:30 am to 1/1:30 am: Office
I prepared a list of important things to cover – such as GK, acads, work-ex, etc. and made a sort of ready reckoner that I would update frequently and refer to often.
Then came D-Day – the interview was in Bengaluru (28th Feb – afternoon slot) – The Analytical Writing Test went decently and the personal interview went really well (was more on topics like my work-experience and general awareness of topics like the economic slowdown, the NBFC crisis and other recent happenings). At the end of the day, I was happy that my preparation had helped me a lot.
Though my journey was really hectic and filled with uncertainties, it was indeed a great learning for me.
Some of the key things that I realized/learnt were:
a. Time management:
Many people (including myself) have this thought that one needs a lot of time for CAT/interview preparation. This journey taught me that it is the quality of effort that matters. Preparation must be focused and sincere.
b. Having a good profile:
Whoever is reading this – put in your best efforts in whatever you are currently doing (be it work or academics or extra-curricular activities). You never know when and how this might help you.
Again, while a good CAT score is important, it is only one of the things that’s important. Having a good profile is definitely a huge huge plus!
c. Getting work experience:
While work experience is not mandatory, it helped me a lot by giving me clarity on my decision to go ahead with an MBA. It gave me room to find my interests, compare my interests against my current role and guided me in finding my true calling. Another plus was that it helped me to answer practically during my interview!
These were my two cents on questions I have been asked frequently and a glimpse into my journey.
Wishing all the luck to CAT 2020 takers!
To stay in the loop for more tips, tricks & experiences from amazing people like Sreepadh, subscribe to this blog!
Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!
Other articles you may like: