Why MBA indeed? When the question pops up during MBA essays, we blindly assume the only valid response is a passionately launched spiel on how an MBA degree will ‘widen your horizons’, ‘open up new doors’ and execute a whole lot of clichéd and hackneyed phrases.
When Arvind Ganti was faced with the question, it triggered an introspective journey that culminated in an unusual decision. If you are in a similar dilemma, you might find Arvind’s story interesting.
Over 5 years ago, I joined Pagalguy during my engineering, I was one of those many guys, who started GRE and CAT preparation, reading Norman Lewis, Barron’s list & joining TIME. 365 days & 2 exams later, I ended up with a 90 percentile in CAT and scored a shocking score in GRE.
Stunned and disgusted with what happened, I discarded my plans of doing a Masters in the US (in hindsight, my best decision so far). I was still not sure about applying to MBA business schools, but nevertheless applied to one, SP Jain, which anyway rejected me (no surprises there!!).
So, with no higher studies plan, I had no choice but to work, a feeling which my brain and heart were not comfortable with, as I actually sucked at programming and IT technical roles ( I am a IT major btw ). But keeping up with general trend, I ended up having a job offer at one of the usual suspects IT firms.
So, with the future secured with a job offer (last step before attaining modern Indian nirvana of being “settuld”), I decided to experiment in my life and ended up joining a leading student organization’s global traineeship program.
Six months down the line, I was in central Portugal. Experimental that I was, I lived for half a year in Portugal doing a traineeship with a small IT firm. Those 6 months, started what I called, a journey of a life time. It turned out be the most unforgettable time of my life. I learnt everything on my own from paying bills to cooking food, from tasting new exotic Portuguese cuisine to meeting people from many countries.
Now this was all a new experience for a guy who spent all his life in Hyderabad and couple of other cities of India. What it gave me was a window of opportunity to experience new cultures. The night-long discussions on a wide range topics from Salazar and Carnation Revolution to Gandhi, from India-Portugal Goa Connection to General European and Portugal Culture, has helped me get hooked to International Culture and Societies,
Still I had desired and continued to dream about an MBA at this time. I had already carried out my research on top schools in Europe and US, and soon I became acquainted with the International MBA game. After my stint in Portugal, I came in contact with European MBA students studying in a top 10 MBA school, which, not only was useful, but also convinced me that I should attend a Top 10 MBA program and was thinking of the $64,000 question. How?
I relocated to Central Europe, working for a Fortune 50 firm and here is where, it all began for me. As usual I made an MBA plan of working for some years with the firm, get a blue chip international work experience and try for an MBA a few seasons down the line. I thought I was ahead in the game.
All I needed was a good GMAT score and good MBA essays to get in, thus I was under the impression my MBA journey was on track. 24 months, 3 backpack trips, 30+ countries and 2 life changing experiences later, everything turned upside down. So what went wrong?
Nothing actually! Thanks to my travels, my brain exploded with new ideas, beliefs and thoughts. What started as an honest intention to improve profile by traveling the world, infected me with a bug called travelosis and one fine day, I found myself selected for an International Expedition to Antarctica.
This turned my life in a complete tangential manner. The Antarctica experience was something never imagined before, the sight of the first iceberg, the first penguin, the first collapse of an ice shelf 500 meters away from my zodiac, the feel of the southern ocean when I plunged into water whose temperature recorded -2 degrees as I accomplished the craziest thing done ever in my life. It changed the way I live, think and perceive things.
The trip brought me in contact with some of the most remarkable people I have come across in my life. From lawyers in Hanoi to the rich Sheikhs of UAE to young Yale, MIT and Oxford grads, it was an experience which brought all of us together in a quest to understand the harsh Antarctic environment.
Spending time understanding how societies connect and share a relationship at regional, national, inter and intra continental inspired me to think and make a career in understanding international society and affairs. I was beginning to think, will an MBA help me to really understand what I desire and aspire for.
Suddenly, the years built upon MBA dreams were beginning to look weaker and for the first time, I was unsure as to why am I thinking about an MBA. And the final answer came few months later…
Six months after the Antarctica sojourn, I found myself on Arctic Island of Svalbard, off the North Pole. Unlike Antarctica, Arctic was populated with people; there is active exploration of world’s resources, as I call it the second great game of the north.
This experience was life changing in that I was one of people who could actually compare both the Polar Regions. The whole experience was instrumental in shaping a desire to understand the relationship and thus emerged my passion to learn international affairs.
Coming back to India, after a 3-year stint, I asked myself the question I asked 6 months earlier. Why MBA? I could not answer the question; I realized an MBA will not help me understand the answers I am looking for. I realized, an MBA as a degree is something which I dreamed I wanted but realized that it is not what I want in life.
I realized I no longer have a longing for it as I see no meaning as to what I will do with it. Thus the grand dream which started in Oct 2005 finally came to an end in 2010 as I kicked my MBA plans out of the bucket.
Now, sitting at outpost of a place where China embraces the free market economy and celebrating my 25th year of existence on a Chinese New Year week, after living in 4 countries, travelling 35 countries and regions across 4 continents, working across 3 industries for 2 fortune 50 firms across 2 continents, I ask the question…Why MBA?