Germany is not considered to be the hottest destination when it comes to MBA programs. American programs dominate the MBA rankings game. Then there are several Canadian, Asian, Indian and European (mainly Spanish and French) MBA courses that rank high. But ask applicants about German MBA programs, and you are most likely to get a blank look.
Here’s the story of Shubham Jain, who took a different approach to selecting his business school. He threw MBA rankings out of the window and used a different set of parameters to discover, what he believes, is the best bschool for his aspirations.
Mr X in his late twenties is a nice guy, who is ambitious. All grown up, he likes to party. Upon knowing that there is a big bash soon coming to the city, he is all gearing up for it. One of the condition to gain entry to the party is to look smart to the security guy at the entry door. Mr X intelligently thinks of buying branded clothes that will make him look smart. Initially he thinks of borrowing money from a friend to shop for branded clothes (right from underwear to tuxedo suit). His plan is to hook-up with a rich girl ( no offence to female readers) at the party who will help him to pay off the money and then live happily ever after. Some wise guy advise Mr X “hey!, are you nuts shopping for costly branded stuff, when you can find stuff that can make you look smart at Bombay fashion street ( I hope it still exists). All you need is to be good judge of quality”. Mr X starts to introspect and decides to shop from the fashion street.
Yes you may be wondering why this mindless story is on this post. But this story is quite common to all of MBA applicants. How? read further
I am Mr X, and I could very well be described by the world famous acronym IIM ( Indian IT Male), who aspired for MBA. Now let me demystify the story. The party is nothing but the place where Mr X want to be i.e Top firms or organizations. The security guy at the door is the HR/head/big shot of that firm. The friend who lends money is bank/co-signer/family member. The girl at the party is the role Mr X is aspiring for in that firm. The attire that makes Mr X smart is the MBA, and Branded clothes in a way are very similar to top ranked MBA programs
Still not getting the story? Read further
I gave my GMAT in the year 2010 and scored 720, and with this score I thought to have booked my ticket to a ‘top ranked’ MBA program, until I stumbled upon the admission process. I was ignorant of the fact that one has to look deep down inside, do a thorough introspection and then present the facts to the admission committee in the essays. Doing this is a mix of art and science, and I surely did not have this craft when I started on my applications.
When I realized that I would need help on my applications, I searched through websites/blogs and found MB Crystal Ball. After completing the MBA MAP exercise, Sameer gave me a detailed analysis on my chances to the top ranked business schools. He introduced me to his friend MG, who would help me on 3 business schools. I started with Ivey and got dinged after the interview, which I say was fair given my lack of interviewing skills. But the ding left me with a bruised ego, and the frustration was palpable, not particularly because of not making it to Ivey but because of failure.
Still dreaming to be at the party and find his dream girl, I applied half-heartedly to Manchester, mainly because it appeared a safe bet. The result was obvious, this time I did not even manage an interview call. I am sure MG can give a testimony of how many times I changed my choice of business schools, making an impression that I am a confused soul. But I knew that I was not able to connect to the ranked business schools, with reason varying from – return on Investment, duration, location and fit – not how I fit in the business school, but how the school fit in my expectations.
It was at this point I started getting disillusioned from the business school rankings. Though b- school ranking varies and remain disputed, they are the most widely used parameter by students to select their dream business school. Generally Only after going through these rankings, students then start to look at other parameters – fit, ROI, location, expectations from MBA. I was no different when I started as an MBA applicant but with time I began to find fault in this approach. I was looking for a 1 yr program and wondered how could be that only few well published names could give me what I want from the program.
I changed the game for myself to become unconventional and reordered the parameters, striking out the rankings from my preference. I started searching for a program that was small in class size, that was diverse in terms of students profile and nationality, and that was research oriented. As I have worked for almost six years in IBM, I did not want to let go my stronghold – Technology, rather I looked to connect it with Management. I felt that to start looking for Industry change just because I was working in a mundane job in the outsourcing model of the IT Industry is preposterous. I explored resources available within my company and on websites to come up with my short term and long term goals.
Trust me there could be a lot of opportunities within the Industry that one may find exciting – you just need to explore. As I come from an education system that has taught me to respect, values and learn from knowledgeable teachers, I wanted to be guided by an inspiring faculty of the business school. Ultimately as the aim of any business degree is prepare one to help business, my eye was on the industry relationship business school shares with the corporations. Last but not the least, I also factored return on investment, just in case I have to return to India after the program. No wise person will suggest you to dig deep holes in your pocket to pursue a MBA
To my excitement I found the right MBA in Germany for me – the European school of Management and Technology (ESMT), a business school founded by the business. As I went through the school website I immediately was able to connect myself with the program – where Technology meets management. The 2012 intake was made up of 41 participants from 24 nationalities, with profile as diverse as one may find in any top ranked program. The Faculty is research oriented, with professors from Harvard, INSEAD, Wharton, Stanford – you just name it and you get it. The faculty is also as diverse as program participants – 32 faculty members come from 19 different countries. These numbers are not only comparable with a top ranked programs across the world, but can be even better.
Another aspect of ESMT that excited me was to know about the founders – 25 leading German companies and associations, that includes names such as McKinsey, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), SAP – the list is too long to include all here. This ensured that I would be meeting with C- level executives of these firms during the program. I then searched through web to know about Indian Alums who went through this program, and I saw strong profiles with GMAT score above 720. Without wasting my time I applied wholeheartedly to this unique (and I think the best) MBA in Germany within the first deadline.
As I felt excited about this program, I was able to come up with quality essays ( of course thanks to MG from MBA Crystal Ball) and I knew that at least I will be called for an interview. To avoid the tragedy I had with Ivey, this time I wanted to be sure about my interviewing skills. My lack of interviewing skills were due to the fact that I stayed in IBM for my entire career, even though I changed my projects frequently, I had no experience of getting interviewed outside IBM. And the funny thing about MBA interviews is that there can be difference in what you think and what you say.
I very well remember when Sameer bhai told me during our first interaction that I will have to prepare for interviews just as I had prepared for GMAT – practice, practice and practice. Financially constrained, I did not take services from costly admission consultants, but went to someone who offered me quantity. Interview is more about you rather than the person who is interviewing you, so it does not matter much who is taking your interview, what matter is what you say and how you tackle the interview. A number of mocks built up my confidence.
The day arrived when I had to meet with the Admission Director – Nick Barniville – on Skype. The day was Friday the 13th – enough to scare me out, because of the cult that surrounds this date. I was all nervous in the last 30 minutes before the start of my interview. But once my conversation started with Nick, I was able to take everything else out of my mind. I had a very relaxed conversation with Nick, and he was happy to know more about me and my reasons for choosing ESMT. I was positive about my interview, but had to wait for a week to get a confirmation from the Admission Committee.
The wait was sweet as I got a total waiver of 20,000 Euros from my tuition fees of 38,000 Euros. Berlin is not a costly city, as compared to European standards, and the yearly expenses can be around 12,000 Euros. The total cost of my MBA does not exceed or may be just marginally exceeds the cost of MBA from IIMs or ISB. Getting a quality MBA from Europe with Indian price cannot be termed as a bad deal from any aspect.
I wanted a MBA program that brings both tangible and intangible benefits, to me as a person. The ESMT MBA in Germany not only offers me business skills, it goes a step further by giving me a chance to test my adaptability and endurance – I get a chance to be with a German host for two months and have direct contact with the German language and culture.
Doing a MBA is a very personal choice and I will advise others not to get carried by what others do. It took me a year and a half, a series of failures and the right mentors (Sameer & MG) to understand what I want from the program. One thing that kept me going was that I never gave up in my quest to find the right MBA program that truly excites me. I have heard from a very famous personality, cannot recollect his name right now but he said, and I quote – “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get but if you work really hard and you are kind then amazing things will happen”.
To end this story, I would like to quote another line from a famous Nirma ad of the 80’s – “Bhai Sahab, agar itni saari safedi kaam damo may mile toh koi yeh kyun le, woh na le”
My name is Shubham Jain, and this is my story. What will be yours?