She’s articulate, she’s creative, and self-admittedly she’s not very good at standardised tests.
The first two qualities helped Sneha Sadani soar in the world of advertising. The third one wasn’t much of a concern till the Bachelor in Mass Media (BMM) graduate started planning for an international MBA.
She was aware that she could not match the skills of quant-oriented engineers at cracking tests such as GMAT and GRE. But she gave it her best…thrice. Only to max out at a relatively modest GMAT score of 670.
Yet again she relied on her first two qualities, and a little professional help, to overcome the challenge from her fellow countrymen as well as global applicants.
MBA after BMM Advertising
How I got into Oxford University with 670 GMAT score
by Sneha Sadani
I am the product of a highly opinionated family, a lot of books and movies – and a dash of reality TV.
Not surprisingly then, the only activities I’ve actively taken part in are drama and debate (both inside and outside the class).
Brands have always fascinated me, to the extent that as kids my friends and I competed in self-created ‘Pronounce that Brand’ contests.
Children’s games like these and a Major in Advertising laid the foundation for my career as a Brand Strategist at a leading advertising agency.
In my six years of professional life, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the most creative minds and some of the biggest brands in the country.
My role and organisation allowed me to strategize on a diverse set of business problems, collaborate with multinational clients and win some awards while at it.
As tech brands were taking over lives and airtime in the past few years, I was fortunate enough to be working with leading fintech, social media and dating app players.
With every experience, I realised I wanted to play a larger role and work not to build such brands, but to build the technology roadmaps behind them.
After a lot of conversations and research (read: LinkedIn stalking), I figured the best in-road into tech companies I look up to would be a global MBA.
I knew I was setting myself a monumental task.
For one, I had bid adieu to my math textbooks post 10th grade.
I also hailed from a not-so-mainstream career path, as far as MBA candidates were concerned.
The running assumption is that an MBA is meant for smart, mathematically-forward, finance types.
How was a ‘creative type’ to get through? I decided to find out.
And thus began a journey of sweat, tears and a few laughs in between.
The first stop had to be GMAT. Having given no competitive exam in my life and being a Maths noob, I had been told on enough occasions that this was going to be potentially the biggest hurdle for me.
After several prep subscriptions, practice tests, a pandemic, cancelled exams, offline and online attempts between two cities, I decided to lock in my score from the third attempt: a plain old 670.
So now I had an arts degree, an “unconventional” professional background AND a below average GMAT score vis-à-vis my amazingly talented Indian counterparts.
At this juncture, I decided to absorb my strengths and weakness(es), own my narrative, and give the other parts of my application my best shot. And then, que sera sera!
I knew I had to work with a good MBA admissions consultant because I wanted an objective point of view and a discerning one through my journey.
But I also knew I needed him/her to get my profile for what it was, without under or over selling it.
After scanning through a lot of faffy portals, I connected with Manish Gupta (MG), my first POC from MBA Crystal Ball.
I got a sense that MG was giving me a fair low-down of where I stack up and decided to also connect with Ketan, the MBA mentor/consultant I was to work with.
After a long conversation, with Ketan asking me several questions, listening to me ramble while also giving his thoughts, I had made my MBA consultant choice.
And no prizes for guessing, it was a brilliant choice!
With my ‘armour’ intact, I gunned for schools that would understand my background and help me realise my tech dreams.
With all the years spent in branding, it was also important for me to apply to programs with top notch brand value globally and nationally. With these parameters, I applied to Oxford Saïd and Cambridge Judge.
Writing MBA applications is a mentally taxing journey, for you need to not only introspect through various facets of your life, but also ensure the insight mining doesn’t fall into unproductive territories.
In this, Ketan pushed me to find my voice wherever it was wavering and in turn made it sharper.
Instead of template-ising what I had to say, he made sure my stories translated into paper and added nuance to the language.
He was happy to discuss, agree, disagree on various aspects of the applications, while bringing his experience as an MBA grad himself and an expert MBA applications reviewer.
Per Ketan’s suggestions, before I started either application, I connected with alums who were working in sectors and roles of my interest.
This step, while exasperating, is extremely important and pieces from every conversation add up to your final output.
For instance, in one of my conversations I found out about a recruitment program from one of my target companies in both these schools.
This step also gives a firsthand introduction into the network you’ll get access, a virtue I am only learning the importance of.
So listen to Ketan, don’t skip this!
I was invited for an interview at Oxford and waitlisted by Cambridge.
I realised the importance of an Oxford interview call and to be best prepared, decided to also enroll for the MBA Interview Prep with MCB.
My interview was with a Network Manager from Oxford. She was lovely to talk to and ensured I felt comfortable.
From what I understand, an interview is to validate whether you’ll fit into the class/school.
The prep with Ketan, along with a clear understanding of my post-MBA career goals and the role the schools play in them went a long way here.
In 2 weeks, I was invited to join their MBA program and the larger Oxford community. The first moment was of utter disbelief!
Days after that, I don’t think I still quite grasp it.
I am still figuring out the offer and the possibilities of financial aid, members of the Ad Comm are in touch with me to help figure the nitty-gritties out. And I’m just grateful to everyone who helped me get here.
It’s been a roller coaster of a ride and it’s only getting started!
Looking back, I wouldn’t do anything differently because everything, flawed or not, taught me a little something about myself and my context. And all of that added up to me getting here.
Not that I’m anyone to give any advice, but my two bits are this:
- Know your story for everything it is and own it.
- For every flaw, there are perhaps two strengths, search for them and share them!
To quote Aibileen Clark…
You is kind (hopefully), You is smart, You is important. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, not even yourself.
– MBA abroad after BBA, BCom, BA, BCA (3-year bachelors degree) from India
– Life as a student at Oxford after MBA in India
– Oxford MBA interview experience: Questions and answers