Nisha Shukla faced a dilemma that’s not-so-uncommon among professionals who’ve been working for quite a while and are now looking for some serious career rejuvenation. The options at that stage seem pretty limited.
With an experience of 10+ years and a 6XX GMAT score, Nisha didn’t want to target the traditional MBA programs where the average experience ranges between 4 – 5 years. She also had several other concerns, including the rising MBA costs and the ultimate RoI.
She shortlisted the one year MBA programs in India (IIMs and ISB) and abroad. She got an offer from IIM Lucknow (IIML IPMX). Nisha describes her GMAT preparation and MBA admissions story.
How I got into IIML IPMX (IIM Lucknow)
by Nisha Shukla
With more than 10+ yrs of work experience, I did not want to take the routine path of a typical working professional – from Technical Lead to Project Lead to Project Manager and Program Manager. On a personal note, I wasn’t very keen on taking up opportunities outside India in the long run. I already had work experience abroad for a couple of years & hence I was keener to stay in India.
When scouting for a change in my job routine, I found that an MBA came in close for the following reasons –
1. Opportunity of Full time MBA – It would allow me a break from current job/work entirely.
2. Sabbatical means a change from the existing job routine for a long period, thereby ensuring the time to relax and think deeply, to find the individual goal/passion of life.
3. Any change is always the first step for a new beginning.
4. Beyond the MBA Hype by Sameer Kamat – I read this book before taking the MBA plunge. It helped me keep the right perspectives and realities in place together.
How I prepared for the GMAT Exam
Being the first step towards an MBA, the GMAT exam is supposed to be THE HARDEST step. In my opinion, for many of us who come across the first two phases in our life and embark on this journey of MBA, I am sure more than 50% of them give up before/after this first crucial step.
Well personally, preparing for the GMAT for me wasn’t a cake-walk either. Like everyone else, I burnt the mid night oil too. Here it includes the internet charges for browsing, downloading tests and other online stuff.
To start with, to be ready for GMAT, you need to answer a few questions for yourself, which I did.
1. How much time can you dedicate for this activity daily? Sorry, but practising for the GMAT only weekly doesn’t work!! It is not a hobby to be taken up on weekends.
2. Are you self-motivated enough to study on your own without the need for any classes/company?
3. If you want to join GMAT classes, do you have money to pay for the fees in addition to buying GMAT books, online purchases for various tests and the GMAT exam fees in dollars?
4. The faculty in the classes that you are planning to join, do they have GMAT experience and the required dedication, motivation and tips to keep you focused on your goal and score.
5. Also does the GMAT class timing suit you? Before or after office? Is it on the way or close to home?
6. Joining classes has the pros that you come across others who too are ready to join you in your MBA journey & hence the networking and sharing info/prep materials etc. starts from here. Who knows, one might even end up with a friend for life. For me this clicked, because it gave me insight into various opportunities and MBA that other batchmates were looking for after GMAT and MBA.
The ONE and ONLY ONE TIP that works for GMAT score is practice, practice and practice.
However, one needs to decide as to which point he needs to stop running and jump. Once you come close to your GMAT test date, believe in yourself more than miracles – they don’t happen – atleast not with me. Also test yourself to know what the maximum leap (score) you can make in your stipulated time. Remember your MBA application deadline is also coming closer.
Hence there is no point in trying more than a couple of times & ending up with minor differences in the GMAT score. Whether your score is in 500s, 600s or 700s, you should evaluate, if there can be any significant improvements in your score.
If the answer is no, I would advise to stop trying on the GMAT and look further into other aspects of the MBA application.
If yes, I would ask you to take the plunge once again on GMAT after a short break and work on it like you would do in a do-or-die situation. Going with the thumb rule, more than 3 attempts would not give you any edge. In fact it might even serve as deterrent in your application.
I am keeping this section short and not divulging too many technicalities of GMAT preparation, since there are a whole lot of websites and forums dedicated for this. You just need to read and read and read, and find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
MBA Application Strategy
Though this is not the hardest part, but the most crucial and most important part of the entire journey of MBA. Every individual gets judged on the basis of his/her application. Your MBA application creates the image in front of the Admission committee even before they meet you personally.
The application should be interesting enough to stand out amongst the pile of other applications and to receive the MBA interview call.
The few questions that you should be able to answer here are:
What exactly you want to learn in MBA which will shape your career after graduation – like consulting/finance etc. Or maybe you are not sure on the finer interest and hence keener on a generic MBA. Later when you find your own interest (the latter part needs to be backed with a strong explanation if you come across this question from Adcom during the interview process).
The first question would also help you to nail down your choices of schools.
For my application strategy, I used below criteria:
1. How many years would I be able to put into my MBA (e.g. strictly 1 yr MBA only). This helps to rule out most of the schools particularly MBA schools in USA.
2. What is the maximum amount of money I would put in for my MBA, including my loss of salary for a year (max 30-35 lakh Indian Rupees). This helped to rule out most of European/UK schools – though there is scope to evaluate scholarships etc. However since I did not go that route and the mere mention of INR conversion rates dreaded me enough to rule out these business schools.
3. Thinking about current politico-economic scenario and with my limitations above I zeroed in most of Asian Business Schools
4. Browsing through all the FT rankings and other evalutaions about the Business Schools, I zeroed in on a few of the top business schools in Singapore/Hongkong – NUS, Nanyang, HKUST. Though there some from China which fit the bill, going by my instinct & personal reasons I zeroed in on these schools.
5. Also some business schools in India – ISB, IIMs A/B/C/L (IIMA PGPX, IIMB EPEG, IIMC PGPex, IIML IPMX). I didn’t opt for IIMI (Indore) & IIMK (Kozhikode).
6. Already having a 10 + years of work experience, I was more keen on having a coherent age group in the class. This made me focus more on colleges like IIM – A/C/L which have a prerequisite of 7 yrs of work exp compared to colleges such as ISB which have only 2 yrs of work exp prerequisite.
7. Also couple of things which I excluded or perhaps didn’t focus my attention on were the MBA placement records, post MBA salaries, MBA faculty and their exposure. The reason being, that most of these things didn’t matter to me much on the personal front.
My goal of MBA is to achieve knowledge to implement business ideas and change my own & others’ perspectives about traditional views/thinkings. Hence it is more important to focus on what all can you learn in your MBA journey and class than keep bothering about the current and previous placements and salaries and faculties.
My final list of schools contained schools which I had mentioned during my GMAT exam & it helped me save some money (for not having to send separate scores). However as I progressed through the application process wherein I did not get selected for interview further, I did take a detour in my existing plans and added up schools where I felt that I would have a better probability of getting selected.
Despite the rejections from couple of schools in a row, not for once did I lose my faith in my ability and motivation. I just went ahead with further applications (it does cost a bomb – especially in foreign currency/$ for Asian schools).
On the way, I ensured to talk to knowledgeable & helpful people like Sameer or people who were already into business schools, trying to incorporate their guidance in my essays and applications to make them unique and upto the expectations of the schools.
My only regret is that most of the schools do not provide any particular reason for rejecting the application which makes the applicant wonder as to which areas need improvements. But I guess like most things, even this is also better learnt from experience.
As I mentioned before, one needs to be online constantly looking into, online forums, blogs, GMAT website etc. The major ones in this area are of course – Total Gadhaa and Pagalguy.
For international MBA programs, MBA Crystal Ball has good resources – thanks to the personalized touch and responses provided by Sameer and his team to any one visiting the website for any damn query/issues they face. While browsing for some specific info about application, I stumbled upon MBA Crystal Ball and was glad to discover it.
Sameer responded to me, not only through my comments posted online, but also took efforts to answer my queries such as – how to record video of 2 mins for my application personally on email. Not only queries, Sameer and team even helped me relieve my stress for an application wherein I was making the submission on my last day.
In his own unique style, Sameer pointed me about inviting a disaster in doing so (last minute hassles). This changed my habit and I ensured that all the other applications were done way before deadlines. [Thank you Sameer once again for everything].
Final MBA Results
Finally admitted to IIML-IPMX 2014-15 batch :D
Refer this link for details MBA interview experience of IIML IPMX. Here I would like to stress that – To clinch any interview all you need is 3 things – confidence, confidence and confidence. Period.
Advice to MBA Aspirants
Once you have set your foot on this path, please do not get deterred by low GMAT scores and application/interview rejections. They are just a part of learning of your life to make you a better person overall.
For me personally, If I want to sum up my MBA journey in one statement it would be – I discovered myself in a way no one could have taught me to become.
So if the application journey itself has been so rewarding and experiences worth sharing, I wonder how beautiful the destination would be!
Also it is not an overnight achievement for anyone. Barring a few exceptions it’s surely a couple of years of journey on average for most of us. I am sure, all of us would get tired in the long run and would want to break away.
So I would request you to take short breaks and do rejoice and celebrate with family and friends special occasions and festivities. In hindsight, just remember that a big achievement is waiting down the road.
Now that I am at the end of this journey & the beginning of a new one soon, I am free to answer any of your queries if you are planning to take the similar road or are already midway on it. Feel free to write to me, where you can get guidance to proceed further.
I would want to close this experience journey with my personal line –
ALL THOSE WHO FAIL ONCE MAY NOT SUCCEED
BUT ONE WHO SUCCEEDS SURELY FAILS MORE THAN ONCE!