Parasuram Ramanathan, who already had an MS in Biotechnology from USA wanted to study in Europe. He got admission offers from 4 top business schools in Europe with scholarships from a few.
MBA in Europe after MS in Biotechnology from USA
by Parasuram Ramanathan
A family inspired biotechnologist goes Dutch for his MBA.
As a quiet, young boy from a family with its roots established in the south Indian town of Palakkad in Kerala, I was always eager to help the society in all possible ways. During my childhood – one of my father’s friends came to our house at 2.30 AM asking for anti-venom injection because his son had been bitten by a snake. My father and uncles went to the pharmacy store to retrieve the anti-venom injection to help the patient.
That incident was an eye-opener & I decided that I would follow the same lines as my family in helping the society. But little did I know that my first steps would be taken in the small yet prestigious town of Vellore, where I completed my Bachelors in Biotechnology.
With my Bachelor’s degree coming to a close, I decided to go to USA for a Masters in Biotech Management. Although I was not so confident with a GRE score of 1250 (older version of the test), I obtained multiple admits. During my first semester in sunny California, I was disappointed with some of the course work and transferred to another university in Baltimore, Maryland.
Although, this was a big risk at that time, it paid off dividends. My new university consisted of lectures from FDA (Food & Drug Administration) on the impending issues in the biotech industry. An internship in the second year of my program along with scholarship for one semester quelled any doubts whatsoever about my transfer to the new university.
Right out of school, I worked for a start-up pharma company in bio-manufacturing and quality testing. Subsequently, I worked for a diagnostic company involved in building cancer diagnostic kits.
Although happy to be involved in the biotech industry and contributing with the help of improving technology, I decided that my next step would be a business role or a customer facing profile. So, I obtained a position in Business Development & Project Management in India, to transition into management.
MBA after MS
My new role consisted of managing in-house projects and business discussions with other countries to fit our strategy. Being the project manager, I was also a part of all the discussions with the scientific team, manufacturing team and the demand planning and finance teams. I learnt more than ever about the business of biopharma; or bio-business. Still I felt something amiss. I felt the need for a structured business education, or an MBA.
I did not put my MBA ambitions on hold – gave the official GMAT after much prep work to obtain a paltry 600.
It was during then that I came across MBA Crystal Ball, Sameer Kamat and the book ‘Beyond the MBA Hype’. Intrigued by it, I ordered a copy for myself and started to go through it.
I wrote to Sameer & Manish Gupta, who were very prompt in replying and made me understand the importance of starting my applications early.
My second attempt at GMAT yielded the same score as before. However, I was determined to slay the beast. I changed my preparations methods with additional measures to go through the mistakes. Eventually, I obtained the magical number of 700. Encouraged and motivated with my 100 point jump, I engaged with MBA Crystal Ball for further application process. A good GMAT score alone isn’t enough for a stand out application. I had the grades, the unique profile, the international experience; but so do most of the applicants and thus, I needed an edge over my peers.
Why I chose Europe over USA for my MBA
When I started the process of short listing schools and discussing my application with MBA Crystal Ball I wanted to go to Europe for my MBA. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time in USA: I had made good friends in USA, worked well and built a good foundation for a strong career growth. I had even built a strong network for myself within the scientific community.
But I wanted to go truly global, to understand business practices globally and I wanted the experience of a new culture along with my education. Thus, I decided the following criteria while selecting my schools, apart from the routine filters we all use:
- International presence and diversity
- Smaller program duration (better ROI) – Europe comes into the foray naturally
- Smaller cohort size (ensuring lasting relations)
- Strong life science industry presence
- Wide network of MBA Alumni (they are very important while reaching out to companies)
I spoke to alumni from each of the universities I had shortlisted to understand the application process better.
It is very important to talk to the current students + alumni, who have gone through this process.
With 5-6 schools shortlisted, which contained a good mix of Stretch, Safe & Practical schools, I set out on my discussions with Vibhav (my MCB consultant).
This is the first time I have worked with admission consultants and I must say that Vibhav has set the bar very high. He is very professional and friendly, but knows that a candidates’ strengths and weaknesses through your honest discussions. After all, being honest now can help you cover up the cracks in my application.
Vibhav worked with me diligently on my applications – we went about one school by one, tackling the essays and in the process, I learnt how to differentiate my application. Even the essays for each of the schools were so tricky that they led to some interesting discussions between us. Sometimes during our discussions, he would find a way to state something from my profile in a completely new way and that would motivate me further.
Without MBA Crystal Ball, my application would not have any structure and discipline.
In fact, Vibhav was on a business trip and even at that time, he worked with me on my application due to an incoming deadline. And finally, he was always friendly and he wanted me to have a successful application. Thanks Vibhav for that!
When I got rejected with my 1st application, I knew I had to get better to appeal to the adcoms. And that’s what we did with the following applications, and Vibhav helped me shore up the cracks in my application. Soon I was short-listed to interview at multiple B-schools.
The interviews were a mix of Skype ones and face-to-face interviews, but it was enriching as I learnt more about the schools and more about myself. I had prepared for all of them very well, and soon, a flurry of admits followed.
And suddenly, I was getting admits and soon, left with 4 schools to choose from and with scholarships in a couple of them. When I got the first admit, I was relieved and happy but that made me only more ambitious. In fact the school that I finally chose was one of the latter ones I applied to.
Now this was the moment I had been waiting for; but never in my dreams did I think that I would be in a positively-confusing position. Trust me; it’s a great position to be in!
I finally chose Rotterdam School of Management, Netherlands for my MBA destination, and was difficult to reject the other admits from Copenhagen Business School (with a scholarship), University of St. Gallen and EMLyon University (also with a scholarship). But more often than not, we are left with hard choices to make.
Why I chose RSM over the other European bschools
A combination of factors swayed me in the direction of The Dutch.
For starters, the program is very international and the admissions team makes you comfortable during the entire process. My interviewer told me that RSM is a small well-knit family and after 3 months of interacting with the different departments, I couldn’t agree more.
Secondly, they really care about the MBA class and ensure that the cohort is made up of a fine balance of candidates from diverse backgrounds in profession and culture, thus giving everyone a chance to go global. I was surprised to know that English is widely spoken in the Netherlands, speaking volumes about the cosmopolitan culture being promoted there.
Other reasons include Rotterdam being home to a vast majority of multinational companies and believing in sustainable business practices. And to top it all, the university helps the candidate find his/her own personal brand of leadership through their Leadership Development Programme. I am very excited and cannot wait to be in Netherlands, the land of tulips and total football.
MBA application tips
To conclude, I want to share my 2 cents to the MBA community out there: please start early and understand your strengths and work on your weaknesses. It is even more difficult for us Indians to be unique candidates, when you know that your counterparts are engineers too, have good grades, are working for a multinational company and have international experience.
There are plenty of schools out there: do your own research and find your fit. You will enjoy the journey of lurking on gmatclub.com and many other forums, when it pays off eventually. Remember, the best schools want the best candidates, and vice versa. Good luck to you!