Interview: Agastya Ramesh(Chem-2016)

A very brief description of your current research work and background

I passed out from NIT Trichy and worked for a year at a startup called Fermat education in Chennai. I am now pursuing an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur.

What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?

Back then we didn’t know how to approach the MBA entrance exam. We didn’t have any other choice apart from BYJU’s, which only prepared us for the CAT exam. We had no idea what MBA was all about. I wish I knew how many people had gone for MBAs so that I would know exactly what it entails.

What does an MBA offer students?

What students should understand is that an MBA is a very general course. An MBA from a top institution gives one an overall bird’s eye perspective of an organization – whether it is marketing, finance etc.

What should students keep in mind while preparing for an MBA?

It is extremely important to have a good GPA for a student who is planning to go for an MBA. When companies come for recruitment they look at your undergrad GPA the one which you get at the end of 4 years, irrespective of your work experience. There are people who miss out on getting selected by companies due to their not so great undergrad GPA’s. I would recommend students interested in MBA to keep their GPA as high as possible, preferably above 9. Keep it above 8.5. Most of the top B schools in India look for a high undergrad GPA.

Secondly, I would suggest students talk to people who have already done or are doing an MBA. Print can be misleading and so I would suggest talking to people who have already done the course to get a clearer picture of what MBA actually is.

It also helps to have extracurricular activities in your kitty, such as participating in state-level sports competitions.I wouldn’t say this is very important but it gives a nice well-rounded personality.

What skills should one develop to follow the career path you’ve chosen? Do include courses, internships etc.

Well, I won’t recommend any courses as such, because MBA itself covers all the basics in the first year. You can do some MBA related internships, but I would not give them extremely high importance because the exam itself is so hard to crack. What I would tell students is to keep talking to people to understand what kind of career path they want to choose. If someone is particularly interested in some aspect of MBA such as finance or marketing, I would suggest working in a startup to gain some insight. This would help them understand the components of the course better.

What are the challenges faced during learning new skills and adapting to new environments?

When doing an MBA, there are people from different backgrounds along with you. Some may be from a finance background, some from analytics, as such some components of the course might already be familiar to them. It could be a little challenging to catch up with them initially. Apart from that, the course itself is very hectic. But these are minor challenges and people soon adjust to them.

How to decide between an Indian MBA and one from abroad? Do we need to have a fixed perspective on this during B.Tech?

The average age of MBA abroad is 26 to 27. If someone is patient enough to work in a company for 4 or 5 years, say, someone who gets a very good placement after college in companies such as P&G etc, then one can consider doing an MBA abroad. What international B schools look for is a good work experience and a good college. NIT Trichy obviously counts as a good college. One thing you need to remember is that MBA abroad is very costly, it may cost around one crore. If you have a good placement after college and are willing to spend at least 5 years at the company then you can think of an MBA abroad. I think it’s a matter of time and cost.

When is an ideal time to start preparations for CAT/GMAT?

An ideal time to start preparing would be your third year. Enroll in some institution which provides CAT coaching, to get an idea as to what the exam really demand from you.

What must one do after getting admitted into college? How do you feel time must be utilized post-admission?

One can explore some courses in finance or economics in their free time. While it doesn’t add any value to your resume, it does give you a deeper insight into what you like or dislike. Engineers aren’t really exposed to marketing or finance in college except for a few electives in the final year. For example, if someone is really interested in finance, you can even sign yourself up for CFA (Chartered Financial Accountant). It gives you a really good tag that you have a finance background. There are a lot of other certifications one could follow to boost their profile for an MBA.

According to me, the most important thing to do is preparing for the exam, because the real barrier is the CAT exam.

How useful is having work experience before applying for MBA? How many years of work experience is enough?

Most marketing and a lot of other as well companies prefer taking in people who have less than three years of experience. For example, if you work in an engineering company for two years, the work that you do there is not relevant to marketing. Because of this, companies don’t prefer taking that candidate.

People who have more than 3 years of experience usually are taken for ‘lateral placements’. This means that they join the company at a mid-level, not the entry level. But this is only if they have relevant work experience, for example, someone with more than three years of experience at Credit Suisse would be eligible for lateral placements.

From an engineering point of view, it is very hard to get relevant work experience. So ideally it would be better to have two years of work experience. Greater than that, you should rethink. Maybe you could go to ISB instead because that is only a one year program.

What do you think are the inadequacies in management studies and work in India, and specifically in NIT Trichy?

The main disadvantage would be the opportunity cost of doing MBA: You are foregoing 2 years of salary in the hope of a better job. In some cases, people do not get better jobs after MBA. Doing MBA itself is useful only if done from a premier institute. Anything outside of top 20 colleges is a problem. I would say top 10 to be really sure. A good job depends on the student as well. A company looks at grades, extracurriculars, the pedigree of the UG institute (IITs, NITs, BITS, SRCC etc).

Also, an MBA itself is not designed for entrepreneurship. MBA teaches you how to manage a company, it makes you risk-averse. Anyone who is looking to do entrepreneurship shouldn’t go for MBA. Also, the fees is more than 20 lakhs, so most students have to immediately do a job to repay their loans.

Also now that IIMs can award degrees instead of diplomas, will that impact anything?

Not really. FMS has been giving MBAs for a long time now (think it’s the only college in the top 10 to award MBA degree) it has not been able to supplant ABC at all.So IIMs awarding degrees will not matter much.

If one plans to pursue management, is it worth learning to code? If yes, then considering the current scenario, which languages or tools should one begin to work with?

Not really, because all the coding you require later will be taught to you. The companies which come to the campus are probably analytics companies. In MBA, it is not necessary that you learn to code. You will probably need to learn languages like R, if it is an analytics company.

Is MBA the only option for students who are not really interested in their core subjects?

Not really. There are people who have done MS in Finance, Industrial Engineering after college. I didn’t really like my core subject (I was in Chemical) so I figured out MBA would be the best option for me, after talking to people. There are lots of other things you can do if core doesn’t interest you. You can work in a startup, do some courses. At some point or the other, it will involve further studies. You can even do a quick executive MBA course, which is for one year.


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