An IIT degree is often viewed as a passport to international job opportunities and higher studies, especially for those who graduate in disciplines with a global demand (such as Computer Science).
“All IITians go abroad after graduating, no one stays back in India” is a common statement that you’ll hear in discussions.
While you know that’s an exaggeration, you may still believe that a large proportion of IIT grads are going abroad – if not for jobs, then for higher studies (masters degrees).
But things have changed a lot since the eighties and nineties. V Ramgopal Rao (Director, IIT Delhi) says 80% of the IIT BTech students would fly abroad around 20 years back. Not any more.
So how many IITians go abroad after IIT now? Last year, only 200 IIT students from close to 10,000 took up jobs abroad. Most chose to work in India.
What about going abroad for higher studies after IIT? The number there isn’t too high either.
Gautam Biswas (Director, IIT Guwahati) says around 15% of the class go for masters degrees in international universities. The percentage may vary across the different IITs, but we get an idea of the general range.
Things start changing after a few years of working, that makes several IITians consider going abroad for higher education.
From the interactions we’ve had with IIT graduates working in India, we learn that their motivations aren’t too different from non-IITians who work with us for their MBA and Masters applications.
From the large number of IITians, the promising professionals reach the glass ceiling fairly quickly. While the money is good, their work isn’t as interesting. Their learning curve flattens out. Many desire an international career.
Since they now have a substantial amount of work experience and are hoping to upgrade from technical roles to management careers, they consider MBA degrees over MS.
In this article, we invited Aravind Anil to narrate his motivations for going abroad for an MBA after IIT Madras.
Why study abroad after IIT
International MBA for IITian
by Aravind Anil
After the first 3 years in a leading consumer goods company, I knew I wanted to do an MBA to get into core management roles.
A 4-year journey finally culminated in an INSEAD admit, thanks to the encouragement and support from family – parents, wife, my seniors and career mentors.
This would not have been possible without the direction from Manish Gupta and MBA Crystal Ball.
Growing up as a single child in an upper middle class India family, I was fortunate to have been guided by my family to pursue academic excellence.
They also made sure that I was trained in Indian Carnatic music and also in playing the Piano.
Music competitions gave me the confidence to present myself in front of large crowds. I used to be studious, and kept a close small group of friends, often shy to enlarge the friend circle.
After completing schooling, I went to the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM) to pursue a Dual Degree.
As a fresher heeding my seniors’ advice at college, I became part of the organizing team for the institute student cultural and technical fests.
Though I did not realize then, I now know for sure, that these helped to develop my overall personality.
Having had to interact with students and professors from across the country, college life at IIT taught me how to socialize better.
On graduation, I was excited to start in supply chain with Mondelez India.
With sponsorship from the leadership team, I have been fortunate to have undertaken diverse roles at Mondelez. I did roles in sustainability, engineering, business development, and core manufacturing operations.
Currently working in Malaysia, I have also had a first-hand experience of blending into an international setting.
From the beginning, I worked in large multi-cultural teams which gave me a good understanding of different cultures.
My stints taught me to manage large teams both directly and indirectly. Working in a large matrix organization meant stakeholder management was extremely critical.
My business development roles motivated me to consider doing an MBA to move into core management roles.
Presently, I am involved only in technical project management. Moving forward, I wanted to see myself directly steering businesses.
When I started on my MBA aspiration in 2017, my biggest worry was on my credentials. I neither had team management nor international experience under my belt.
Additionally, my first GMAT attempt gave me a sub-par score below 700.
Speaking to my seniors and friends who were in top international business schools at the time, I realized I was far from being even shortlisted.
To improve my GMAT score, I took aid of both – the Manhattan Prep test series and the GMAT official guides.
After preparing for 2 months, I could improve my score to only 710.
I was determined to improve my score further but 2 more attempts yielded no better result.
Quite disappointed at my GMAT score and without a strong profile, I decided to hold my MBA aspirations.
3 years had passed since my best GMAT attempt and my MBA aspirations lingered on in my mind as I used the time to handpick roles that let me bridge the gaps in my profile.
By 2021, not only did I make professional progress by having team management and an international experience, but I also made personal progress – I got married.
At this stage of my life, I had to complete an MBA fast. I was clear that a reputed 1-year MBA program was what I was seeking for, and I did not have time on my side. I was planning to apply with my GMAT score from 3 years back.
Luckily for me, I knew a senior who was in a similar position as me and managed to be admitted to INSEAD, taking help of MBA Crystal Ball.
After speaking with him, I knew MCB would be the right choice to give me even a chance at achieving my MBA dream.
What struck me the most about how MCB invested in a candidate to understand one’s profile in full detail to later pick and reflect the right attributes in one’s essays.
I signed up for the 2 school MBA application review package and later the interview package with MCB.
I applied to the Said Business School and INSEAD.
I worked with Manish, the Chief Consulting Officer, at MCB. Manish knows the INSEAD MBA application process inside out that many a time, it was through him that I realized several steps of the application process.
Through MCB’s detailed ‘Meet Me’ document and the first conversation, Manish comprehensively understood my academic, personal and professional backgrounds, professional experiences, and my career interests.
What stood out for me was how he pushed me to dig deep into my memories to get out experiences that would later prove useful in my application.
The INSEAD essay questions required a lot of pondering and introspection and I was not sure where to begin.
Manish not only gave me a sense of direction on what I could use from my life experiences in my application, but also helped me structure it in a way that appealed to the Admissions committee.
The best part was how he pushed me to bring out my experience in my own words that preserved the authenticity of the application.
Passing on the advice I received from MCB – clarity of what you want to achieve out of the MBA is very important to help you decide the right program for yourself.
I wanted to make an industry shift through a reputed 1-year MBA, that offered good post MBA career choices.
Not only did I attend admissions fairs but I also spoke with school alumni and the school career center to get a better idea on the respective MBA programs.
I would definitely advise one to adopt this route to understand better of post MBA career options that the school has to offer.
To my surprise, the school staff are open and honest about the strengths and weaknesses of their program and this helps one to make the right choice.
While luck was not on my side in my MBA application to the Said Business School, I felt happy to be shortlisted for the INSEAD interviews.
There were 2 interviews, both of which were conducted by INSEAD alumni. INSEAD expects the candidate to talk to the alumni and setup the interviews within a 3-week window.
As what is generally the case, one of the alumni allotted to me was more experienced and was running his own company, while the other was a more recent alumnus working in strategy consulting.
Both my interviews lasted for an hour and were held virtually. The interview with the older alumnus was a stress tester, as he tried to understand my intentions behind doing an MBA.
The one with the newer alumnus was more conversational where she shared her experiences of being in strategy consulting and her advice on how to choose a career in consulting.
Both the interviewers were eager to share their personal professional journey and hence it is always better to have more questions prepared to ask them.
While I had prepared long back in college for my placement interviews, I was not sure what to expect for an MBA admissions interview.
As I prepared alongside work and had only a week for preparation, I opted for an interview package from MCB to bring focus into the preparation. The results were declared 3 weeks post the interviews.
I got admitted into INSEAD!
I plan to use my personal savings to fund my MBA.
Given the career options that INSEAD has to offer, I am confident that I would be able to achieve my career aspiration to make an industry shift.
I feel that the stints that I did in my last 3 years helped shape a good profile to present in my application.
My decision to choose MCB and have Manish guide me helped me put in a strong application. The application process made me introspect like I never knew myself before.
I wish I made the decision to apply a bit earlier in 2021 which could have let me structure my thoughts better. Now, in hindsight, I have no regrets as I feel grateful to have been admitted to one of the top 3 MBA programs globally.
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