You’ll hear many applicants saying they want to use the MBA to broaden their horizon. However, there are a few who want to go back to school to narrow down their horizon.
Sahil Chawla, a marine engineer from BITS Pilani, was one of them not too long ago.
After a productive and lucrative career in the shipping industry (Merchant Navy as it’s more commonly known), he wanted to take up a shore job. So he chose to get an international MBA after marine engineering from India.
MBA abroad after Marine Engineering from BITS Pilani
by Sahil Chawla
It was early 2008, and I was on the verge of graduating from intermediate school. Although I did take IIT JEE and AIEEE entrance tests, within my heart I wanted to opt for a career course different from the normal programs such as electronics or computer science engineering.
After some research, I came across Merchant Navy as a fruitful career option, and so enrolled into the course of Marine Engineering in the then off-campus Marine training institute of BITS Pilani.
Life after BITS Pilani
A career in shipping offers several benefits such as a handsome paycheck and building an international career.
But they come at the expense of staying away from family for most part of one’s life, bearing the rough sea and consequently suffering from seasickness, managing with very limited internet data of 500MB per month and continuous work without weekend breaks.
Nevertheless, I felt proud of making into the program because my family financial conditions were tight, making it highly essential for me to study and start earning as soon as possible and because my intention to pursue a unique career was going to become a reality.
My experience in this pre-sea training program was also unique. Although similar to mechanical engineering in many aspects, the program was centered around marine machinery and comprised of early morning physical training by retired army professionals for development of Offer-Like-Quality (OLQ) in the students.
During the course of my program, global recession came became strong, forcing recruitment in the shipping industry suffer.
However, I was fortunate to make it into Bergesen Worldwide (BW) Maritime Company by the end of my program.
In November 2012, my sea career finally began as Junior Marine Operations Engineer onboard a 300 meters long Very Large Crude Oil Carrier, the size of which amazed me.
Why MBA abroad after marine engineering
Over the years, I rose to middle management rank within BW Group and I was happy and content with life for I had also stepped on 30 countries worldwide, crossed the International Date Line thrice, either skipping a day or repeating one, and travelled round the globe twice.
However, I also started feeling that staying for a few more years in shipping would make my learning curve and earning potential reach a saturation level. I began having an urge to expand my knowledge beyond the shipping industry.
In personal life, I also wanted move closer to my family which had started to grow.
Therefore, in 2019, I started looking for career options a marine engineer could opt for when shifting industries.
My research led me to the most obvious choice of considering an MBA for it would not only help me shift industry and geography of work, but also improve my interpersonal and communication skills, help rise in career with more control and bring me closer to my family.
However, it is common knowledge that to gain admission into a reputed global MBA program, one needs to find the correct fit with the program and differentiate one’s profile.
I only had little clue on how to realize these factors, and after researching intensively on internet and reading through several stories of shipping professionals making their career shift by working with MBA Crystal Ball (MCB), I decided to email MCB.
The response from Manish, on behalf of MCB, was swift and professional. Manish heard my story with complete patience, and understood what I wanted- to build up my profile for securing MBA admissions.
The professionalism and helpful nature of Manish led me to enroll into MCB’s profile builder service in exchange for a highly competitive price figure.
Here, I would like to state openly that unlike most consulting agencies, MCB doesn’t market itself but has built its reputation completely through organic reach.
MCB’s profile builder service was an eye opener for me, for it made me realise my weak areas and helped me understand where my profile stood in the highly competitive MBA application pool.
I tried my best to follow on MCB’s feedback. Not only did it make me gain valuable work experience, but also helped broaden my professional network.
GMAT preparation experience
Like many applicants, my struggle with GMAT was long. I had been away from studies for almost a decade and Covid-19 restrictions around the world left me stuck onboard the vessel for almost longer than usual.
These factors were not in my favour. I failed to score good at GMAT, exhausted my official practice tests, but in vain.
Offering his genuine advise for my benefit, Manish suggested to apply early as my age was going above the average age of most of the MBA schools and that I should target a GMAT score of 720+ to make myself competitive in the vast pool of Indian Male Engineers.
I enrolled into e-Gmat course, which helped me refresh my concepts both in verbal and quant sections. However, I still couldn’t get my score above 600.
Demotivation was setting in and I turned to MCB’s website for help once again. That is where I came across a GMAT article from Chiranjeev Singh, the GMAT tutor based in New Delhi.
The article was part of a learning initiative of MCB, and pushed me to enroll with Chiranjeev (CJ) Singh and Anish Passi’s GMAT Intensive program.
My preparation journey with CJ and Anish was amazing: not only had I understood why I couldn’t get my target GMAT score even after practicing alot but also learned valuable life lessons.
Over a short period of time, I alleviated my GMAT score to 650. But that was it, I decided to leverage my long work experience.
I decided that I must start with my applications with ever-supportive MCB team and not risk my chances of not gaining admission because of “abnormal age factor”.
During this GMAT phase, I also read MCB Founder Sameer Kamat’s book “Beyond the MBA Hype”, which served as an eye opener for me, and helped me narrow down more on what I wanted out of my MBA program.
MBA Application Journey
After researching into the various schools and my target geographies, I shortlisted my schools and enrolled with MCB to guide me through the application process.
I wanted to go for MCB’s MAP framework, but as a genuine consultant, Manish advised against it.
Here it is important to note that MCB that didn’t take advantage of my need, like many others would have done. This built my confidence in the MCB team.
Manish made me work with Rohit, an alumni of Oxford MBA and a humble professional admissions counsellor.
Rohit had worked with several seafarers in the past, and I was happy to work with him as at each stage, as he challenged and pushed me to introspect further, refining my application essays from the level of those written by an amateur to that written by a professional.
The primary satisfaction for me from this application process was that it was not made by Rohit or someone else for me, but by myself, with guidance from MCB.
Unlike other MBA Admissions Consulting Teams, MCB had brought out the best from within myself while also kept me as the primary actor in the process.
As a result of my improved application, resume and references, I gained interview invites from Schulich School of Business and Ivey Business School Canada.
Most of my applications for the school were made while I was working midsea on a ship, and Rohit handled the lack of internet connection and time gap very patiently and with empathy.
MBA interview experience
The invitation invite from Schulich School of Business left me with very limited time to prepare and gather myself. As a consequence of my belief in MCB, I reached out to Manish and Rohit for guidance, and they humbly accepted my urgent request.
Rohit helped me prepare for the interview, highlighting where I lacked and how I could do better. Post my interview, I was confident that I had made it into Schulich School of Business Canada.
My interview experience with Ivey was went good, however, I could not convert it into final admission owing to errors made by myself.
Rohit was kind enough to hear me out and offered lifelong help in future stages of my career.
My Advice to MBA applicants
It’s been just over a month, and here I am at Schulich, one of the most reputed schools in Canada, akin to the IIMs in India. The program is intensive and each day is full of new learnings. I am now building new bonds with MBA cohort colleagues.
To all professionals seeking to alter the course of their careers via MBA, I would advise the following:
- Find why you want to do MBA. Is it only for earning more, or just for moving to a different country ? Consider this career shift as an opportunity to pursue your true interests.
- Research well about your post MBA career, consider the financial commitment needed and invest after only you have talked to several people in your target industry or school.
- Keep yourself motivated and learn to persevere. The MBA application journey is different for each applicant. Yours is yours only. Make it yours !
- Do not shy away from asking for help. However, be cautious of whom you seek help from. It’s always beneficial to get objective reviews from a third party. Research well, talk to people and then decide who will be your partner in this journey.
- If you need help, feel free to get in touch with me via LinkedIn. I will be more than happy to help.