SRCC Rank 1 to being a fresher at IIM Bangalore - The journey of a lifetime!
It’s a relatable dream among school students to aspire to study at the coveted Shri Ram College of Commerce in India, but what happens when you top the charts there as well?
Today, we cover the story of Deepika Kumar, Institute Rank 1 at SRCC (2015-2018) who went on to pursue her MBA at IIM Bangalore (2018-2020). She completed her summer internship at Mckinsey and Company and bagged a PPO. Unlike the conventional toppers, Deepika’s interests are varied ranging from music to financial literacy.
In this article, she dispels several myths around being a fresher at a premier B-school and how one can overcome the stereotypes to create a niche for themselves.
In Part A, she helps us understand what a good profile for a fresher at a B-school looks like.
In Part B she discusses her key learnings and takeaways for incoming freshers at B-schools.
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10th – 10 CGPA | 12th – 97.6% (Commerce with Economics)
B. Com(H)- Shri Ram College of Commerce- 9.378 CGPA (Institute Rank 1)
IIM Bangalore Class of 2020
Interned with McKinsey and Company in Summers (PPO holder)
Part A - Building your Profile for a B-school Admission
I’d like to add a small introduction about myself, before explaining my B-school journey.
I hope it also helps answer some questions around the sort of profiles that are considered “strong” for entering a B-school as a fresher.
It had been my dream to study in the best commerce college of India, right from class IX, and I worked hard towards that dream till the end. And guess what, some dreams are indeed meant to come true, and I landed in the college of my dreams- SRCC!
At SRCC, I tried to expose myself to as many diverse experiences as possible- and create a healthy balance of academics and extra-curricular. This was because I always espoused the belief that extra-curricular are not just great additions to one’s resume, but a diverse skill set helps you look at problems through multiple dimensions, often something for which mere theoretical learning based on books may not suffice.
As an avid music enthusiast right from school, having sought training in sitar, and self-learned other instruments such as the keyboard, I joined the Indian Music Club at SRCC. Music was not only a catharsis from the mundanities of life but a great stress buster amidst college academics. However, that isn’t the only purpose it served. As an extra-curricular that I have devoted a great part of my life to, it also helped me during my IIM Bangalore interview- where I was asked questions on the very fundamentals of music- Swaras and Ragas.
I was part of the Organising Committee for several international exchange programmes such as the SRCC- Pennsylvania State University Programme, SRCC-MH- Utrecht Business School Programme, and so on. This gave me strong cross-cultural exposure and the ability to appreciate linguistic, cultural and other forms of diversity. It also gave me an opportunity to work with people from different nationalities and gauge their perspectives and ideas on a common problem.
As a volunteer at Vittshala- a financial literacy outreach programme, I visited slums around Delhi to create financial awareness and also partook in several Green Initiatives on campus to promote the cause for sustainability. These experiences gave me exposure to grass-roots community work, that indeed needs more participation from youth in our country.
Apart from these on campus activities, I was also involved in a DU- Innovation Project organised by the Cluster Innovation Centre, Delhi University, on Smart Cities- IoT and Industry 4.0, where our team received a grant from the university worth INR 4.1 lakhs to study IoT models with 20+ variables and come up with a comprehensive report on IoT employment in smart traffic systems. This experience of being involved in a research project right in undergrad helped me work on numerous projects throughout my MBA, as well as during my internship with McKinsey and Company, in the Summers of 2019.
The one achievement, or rather, the one proud moment that I will forever hold close to heart, is the opportunity to represent India as part of a 10-member delegation, at the BRICS Youth Forum, held in Beijing from 24th -28th July 2017, where I presented ideas and insights on youth participation in policy making and governance.
Studying at SRCC was a very holistic and enlightening experience, surrounded by the best brains from across the country and taught by the best faculty out there. There were as many lessons to learn from outside the classroom, as there were from within it. I feel that this exposure at least gave me the initial preparation for an MBA degree, in terms of a diverse skill set.
Part B - Advice to Freshers joining B-schools
Let me now skip fast to the third year of college, when CAT happened. I had honestly never planned to actively pursue MBA and was preparing for college placements.
After being placed with a leading data-analytics firm on campus, I decided to give CAT a shot, because I had already registered for the exam. I barely had a few weeks to prepare well and give the exam. Unlike back in school, where I was very clear on getting through SRCC, here I had a lot of doubts lingering in my mind, but I nevertheless decided to give it a shot.
And lo and behold, just 3 months later, I landed up in another amazing place- IIM Bangalore- fondly called as “The Place to Be”, that has strengthened me in multifarious ways- not just in terms of knowledge but also in terms of personality and character.
As I concluded my B-school journey, just a few months back, I reminisce about some of the lessons I learnt, and can share with students who are yet to begin their journey.
How does it feel to be a fresher amidst a pool of professionals with work experience?
Honestly, a fresher’s world view is very different from that of a person with work experience. As someone freshly graduating from academia, entering another phase of study, there is excitement and fear.
Since a fresher has been in touch with academia, getting into the study mode is easier. However, unlike the case with most undergraduate curriculums across the country, the MBA curriculum is structured around a host of components- from class participation to projects, presentations, and viva, apart from mid-term and end-term examinations, surprise quizzes, reflections and so on. In other words, there are places where freshers can really feel the “imposter syndrome” lurking- they may feel as if they are misfits amongst people who have worked on ground and seen real happenings in multiple sectors.
However, this is not to say that a fresher doesn’t have anything to add value. Sometimes we under-estimate our own capabilities. There are always lessons and experiences that one can draw from the roles they have played in school and college- because management education is about organisations in all forms- so what helped me in a lot of situations was the ability to reflect on the roles I had played- as an organiser, a coordinator, a designer or communicator- across clubs and societies and events back in school and college.
“Every experience has the ability to give you the insight you want- you just need to change the way you look at it”
Does being a B. Com fresher give you any additional advantage or disadvantage for MBA?
The answer is both- there are advantages and disadvantages (sounds too cliched, isn’t it?). A lot of the courses that we study as part of the Commerce undergraduate curriculum- such as Financial Accounting, Macroeconomics, basics of HR, and so on, are introduced in the first year of MBA curriculum. So, there is a perceived sense of advantage that B. Com students often seem to have.
However, as I mentioned, sometimes, this very sense of advantage turns into complacency (speaking from personal experience) and one can often find non-commerce background students picking up concepts and learning them faster to give commerce grads a tough competition. It also happens because some concepts and ideas are taught from a business relevance unlike a pure accounting and finance relevance, and unlearning what one knows, to relearn something new, becomes a challenge.
So in essence, Commerce graduates have a slight advantage in terms of familiarity with business concepts and jargon, as well as certain courses offered at the start of the MBA. However, if panned out across two years, the curriculum offers a fair opportunity for everyone to learn, regardless of prior experience or acquaintance. And thus, the perceived advantage should not lead to any complacency.
How’s the peer learning atmosphere for freshers in B-schools?
From my own experience, there is tremendous breadth and depth of knowledge one can amass from their peers. The average work experience seen at most B-schools, including ours, is 3-4 years, and the experience also generally persists across multiple sectors and roles. As a result, a fresher, who enters with an open mind and a blank notebook, has many pages to fill with experiences, and many stories to remember. From banking to FMCG and IT, the diversity of experiences people bring to classrooms in B-schools is quite vast, and likewise, the opportunities to learn, for a fresher, too, are immense!
And, what about placement opportunities? Does a B.Com Fresher face any advantage or disadvantage there?
Freshers often go through this turmoil in their heads about what roles are suitable for them. Should they try their hands at marketing, because it generally tends to prefer freshers? Or should they aspire for roles in product management, consulting or IB? And as a B.Com Fresher there are additional apprehensions- because B.Com by its nature is a generalist degree that gives you wide horizontal expanse, unlike specialised degrees which give vertical expanse.
A lot of these doubts crept in my mind as well when I was appearing for summer placements on campus. However, the overall experience changed my perspective 360*. For a fresher, there is no need to worry about opportunities, because they are immense. Companies scout fresh talent for several reasons- the most important being that they come with a fresh set of eyes and are quick to learn on the job skills. Be it consulting, finance, or marketing, all opportunities are open for freshers as well as people with work-experience. And thus, there is no need to fret or worry.
Further, a lot of the roles for which companies recruit at B-schools, a more holistic understanding is required. Generalist degrees like B. Com provide students knowledge across domains and functional divisions, equipping them to perform better at their new roles.
Any final piece of advice for B.Com freshers?
There are a few pointers, from my experience, which can help you survive B-school:-
1. Be open to unlearning and re-learning: As I mentioned before, sometimes you will have to go back, erase concepts from your mind, and come back to learn. A lot of such instances would come when you study Finance or Accounting. It is very important to master the art of unlearning what you know, because the context is very different now.
2. Identify your strengths right from the start…. Be it finance or org. behaviour, you will find a strength you identify well with. And ample courses to build upon that strength. Know what strengths you can capitalize on, as that will boost your confidence and keep your morale up during the two years of MBA
3. …But, don’t be afraid to explore: Sticking to what you know best should not be taken verbatim. It is important to also explore diversity beyond what you already know. For instance, the curriculum in B. Com gives a lot of exposure to finance and investment related courses, so while doing an MBA I decided to take up new, creative courses across strategy, org. behaviour and so on.
A few months back, I penned down my key learnings from my IIM Bangalore journey, in a blog post. You can access it here: https://wordpress.com/view/deepika515.wordpress.com
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