Rajnikanth isn’t the only one getting attention in Chennai. Great Lakes has been stacking up on some good mojo too, as it quietly goes about doing its job. While everyone is getting enamoured by its more famous competitor (no points for guessing which one), many graduates of the 1 year PGPM program at Great Lakes have some special memories attached to their alma mater.
Amar ‘Gladiator’ Harish is one of those grads. With a bright future (the sun shining down on him in the photo has more symbolism than you thought), he headed back into the corporate world and took on an exciting new role within a top company. In this article, he shares his experience at Great Lakes —
It’s daybreak when I write this blog, almost a month since I moved out of Great Lakes. With the intentions of taking a walk on the nearby lakebed, I woke up early today – but it looks like the nostalgic moments of moving out of Great Lakes never seems to set in. Life at Lakes was simple, hectic, rigorous at times, but yet enjoyable to the fullest extent.
Peter Robinson, one of my favorite authors compares his Stanford MBA program to hell, in his book Snapshots from Hell (which to date, remains a must read for every MBA aspirant). Sounds weird, as I feel that it’s upto you to make your B School life heaven or hell. It is what you do there, the people you meet and the relations you build with them that transpire any B School to a heavenish abode.
I had set out to do my Masters with an intention of improving my analytical skills and moving up the corporate leadership ladder. The quest started a few years back and like many, prepared a shortlist of schools to attend, application dates, alumni contacts, professors – well everything on earth! At that time, Great Lakes was at a very nascent stage. Prof. Bala was a visionary and I had heard of him from a few pass outs of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad where he was a co-founder.
Great Lakes accepted applications from only students with a minimum of two years of work experience. At that time, Great Lakes moved into my consideration set and I keenly watched it grow. Two years later my classmate from school joined Great Lakes and well, I was able to get first hand information on the quality of faculty, the facilities and the students at Great Lakes. By 2010 the organization shifted to their sprawling campus on the scenic East Coast Road in Chennai. I did pay a visit to the campus and was taken on a guided tour (you may get lost the first time!). It was impressive, a massive pentagon shaped structure with five water bodies symbolic of five Great Lakes, well-equipped class rooms, study centers, wi-fi enabled campus, a resource center beckoning against the backdrop of a huge amphitheater. The hostels were well equipped with the basic necessities, air conditioning and a twenty-four hour cafeteria serving quality food and a well-equipped gym and an indoor activities room with space for gaming, foosball, table tennis etc… At the same time got to know about a few faculty as well and their achievements, which probably my whole batch would be proud to emulate one day. They ranged from being an academic to an industrialist to a serial entrepreneur and many more.
Took the plunge in the summer of 2011 and trust me, it was a Great experience. The curriculum probably took toll of my sleep cycle, but was definitely worth the effort put in. The eminent faculties from universities across the world were coupled with guest speakers on every aspect of management. They were stalwarts in their respective fields and set great examples to follow for the future. Even for me, I had never thought of listening to someone like Mr. T N Sheshan for over twenty hours hardly a few meters away from him! For our batch the visitors ranged from Jamshed Godrej, Hufaiza Khorakiwala, TT Rangarajan, the Mumbai Dabbawalas and his Excellency Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam to name a few.
The curriculum at Great Lakes is structured to be both research and industry oriented. Every one of us, were expected to complete an Empirical Research project in a field of our interest, it was new, but probably laid a great foundation for those interested in research and would probably want to pick that as a line. Industry is now oriented towards analytics and the application of Science into selling is really being sought after. To ensure that we are not left behind, we were offered streams in Analytics with focused programs on Business Analytics and practical applications of analytics.
It would be nice to have a superb curriculum and faculty, but well none of this would be of use if we could not put it into practice. I was having a casual chat with Prof. Surysekar from Miami once and he said, if someone can make an institution practically fully student run, its Prof. Bala and yes to a large extent it was true. We were a student driven organization working on democratic principles. Students had a say in everything including the admissions to the next batch, the branding of the college, the leadership activities, boardroom discussions – this is what I would say is a must for any B School program.
An asset of studying in Great Lakes is its Karmayoga project. Started with an intention to drive leadership abilities into the students’ mindset the project expects us to go to the nearby villages and enable the poor and underprivileged to stand on their own foot without depending on any one. To a large extent the program has been successful in not only enabling the key villages around the area but also developing camaraderie with the villagers and understanding the heart of rural India, which now remains the focus of development. Well it was almost tearful when the villagers bid a farewell to us as well as we vacated the campus and had been there for our last visits.
A one-year MBA has its own disadvantages. May be you cannot pick up an internship of your choice. But some of us were able to do that as well and gain pre-placement offers, but yes very few as I said, it’s your focus and interest that drives you in a B-School. A school can offer you everything, but it’s upto you to use it. We had professors from Stanford, Kellogg, Yale, Harvard come down and teach us, some developed great contacts with them, and still continue to do so and engage in their research activities as well.
Life sometimes come to a stand-still with a one-year MBA. You forget your relatives, friends and dwelve in building new contacts and gaining knowledge. Time sometimes is just enough for that.
Sadly everything comes to an end and so did the life at Great Lakes, end to the walks at Anupuram, all night studies and fun at the Bajaj Bistro, the drives to Mahabalipuram – everything! We were called ‘Gladiators’, as every batch is given a name in Great Lakes. And yes like true Gladiators, we fought in the colosseum called Great Lakes and came out unscratched. I still remember throwing my hat as high as I could last week at the convocation where Mr. Azim Premji addressed us. As we prepare for a harsh corporate life, I think what has really made the difference in the past year is the people we have met and the relations we have built with them.
Amar-ji also has a blog where he chronicles his Great Lakes journey in his natural eloquent style. We hope he comes out of nostalgia soon so he can take on any questions you have about Great Lakes.