Interview: Abhilash Mahadevan (EEE -2014)

Abhilash is currently attending management school at IIM Ahmedabad (Batch of 2018). He previously graduated in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from NIT Trichy (Batch of 2014) and worked for around two years in the VLSI semiconductor design industry with Qualcomm India.


Describe the factors which led you to shift from technology to management.

There are a lot of factors but they needn’t be objectively true for everyone. What I felt was there is a lot to the art of making money. Not a lot of it is obvious – some of it is obvious if you try to understand but most of it is confidential; there’s not much visibility to how these companies make a lot of money. I found this aspect really interesting – when you work in a company for, say, 2 years like I did, you get visibility to two things; one is the insight into the technical aspects of the company and the other is the business side of it. For some, the challenge of innovation and technology is enough to keep them going forever but for others, it isn’t. It eventually comes down to curiosity and I was curious about the business side of companies. I also wanted to stay in India as well.

So, you never faced the dilemma between doing an MBA in India or one abroad?

I did, of course. Most management schools outside India are pretty expensive. There are scholarships and endowments but it just keeps getting harder and harder. I think the top management institutes in India are fairly well advanced and we do well on a global scale. I’ve been to management institutes abroad and I realized we’re as good or even better in most aspects (of course, I found this out only after joining IIM). A lot of students from our college end up in the top management institutes and hence we also get the best possible guidance from our seniors which is very crucial to making the right decisions.

In retrospect, do you feel that there is anything you’d have done differently in college from a management perspective? Are there any particular internships or courses you’d recommend?

If you ask me, I’d just say do engineering. The analytical and multitasking ability you learn during engineering will help you everywhere. If you’ve started an engineering degree, it is imperative you do justice to it. If at the end of 4 years, you don’t know much even theoretically, then it’s like you have failed. If your core learning of engineering isn’t compromised then you can learn a lot about management as well. Choose the management electives offered and learn simple concepts through books or online courses.

Do you consider work experience necessary before pursuing higher studies in management?

It depends. I feel that if you are a really smart person who can think on your feet and be analytical, then you don’t need the work experience. Business is a collection of people working with motivation and one needs to understand this significantly to make an impact. Most of the times, this understanding comes only when you work with people. So, having experience in most cases is crucial before you pursue an MBA and make the most of it and fully appreciate it.

Is it useful for someone planning to pursue management to learn to code?

A coder’s mindset is something you can slip in and slip out of. I have coded quite a bit and like any skill, it is useful. It depends on the role you’ll eventually work in after management. Technical competence is really important in today’s world and coding is one of the most bankable skills out there. If you ask me if it is necessary, I’d say no. There are loads of people from non-engineering backgrounds who are also pursuing management and they are doing pretty well even without the knowledge of coding.

Were there any particular challenges you faced during your job?

One thing is, no school can prepare you completely for the real world. You will face challenges in communication and other soft skills which no one teaches you. You will have to learn these on your own with good foresight. On the technical side, in my case, everything I learnt about VLSI wasn’t really useful in my previous job. It’s completely different because the job is like an assembly line – the tasks in the company have been simplified to a great level to maintain efficiency such that almost anyone can do it. This is the case with most of the companies which operate at that scale. The tasks will be much less intellectually challenging. We are hired and not just any random person because we have been through the rigour and we learn faster and better comparatively.

Is there anything students should know in particular before taking up management?

If you’re the kind of person who is a rebel and doesn’t like a structure or method to do things, then management is definitely not for you.

Also, about the bucket loads of money part- it is a myth. It’s almost such that only the top 1% of the students overall are really earning as much as what is speculated. For every extra penny earned, there’s a cost – the time you spend, the effort you put in etc. All the jobs that pay well demand that you work at least 10 to 12 hours a day. Since you’re an expensive resource, you are expected to work like crazy – this is something which everyone should know.

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