Interview : Yash Khandelwal (Mech – 2008)
Yash Khandelwal is a marketing & sales professional with over 8 years progressive leadership experience in several markets across Europe, Asia and Africa. He is I am currently a part of the Global Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance Rotational Development Program.
A brief description of your current job profile. If possible, help us understand your previous job profiles.
I have spent 8 years in the automotive industry across After sales, Retail Network Development and Sales. I am currently working as the Product Marketing Manager in Nissan’s Global Headquarters in Japan. In my current role, I am responsible for ensuring optimum life cycle, grade mix and price positioning for our core products in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Indian markets.
What are the skills one should develop in order to pursue a career in Sales and Marketing? How useful are internships and online courses in this regard?
Interpersonal skills and a keen understanding of your product, customers and the marketplace are most important.
Outstanding problem solving, analytical and numerical skills also go a long way especially in marketing roles. Internships are a great way to learn through hands-on experience. Online courses are good to understand the basics and structure your problem-solving skills – however, they do not provide you with real-life experiences which are really crucial.
How important/necessary do you to think is an MBA degree to pursue a management related profession?
Coming from an engineering background, an MBA is really useful to pursue a management profession if it is outside the scope of your core skills. For example, I do not feel an MBA is a must for a Mechanical/Production engineer towards a supply chain management role or similarly for a Computer engineer in a management position within a tech/software organization. Having said that, an MBA was really useful for me to transition into classical Sales & Marketing roles.
What were the factors that led you to pursue an MBA at NTU instead of an Indian B-school? What are the advantages B-schools abroad have over their Indian counterparts? Would you recommend students to pursue MBA abroad instead of India?
Some of the key factors were – a very international cohort (from 22 nationalities) and a mix of people with different backgrounds and experiences (ranging from 4 yrs – 12 yrs). I was looking for an Asian program due to cost factors and Singapore being one of the most diverse and developed countries in Asia, presents great career prospects.
I would definitely recommend pursuing an MBA abroad as Indian B-schools, even though are at par in terms of quality of education, are very homogenous in terms of the participant pool. Since MBA is a more experiential rather than a textbook experience, doing it from a very international program allows one to appreciate diverse culture and point of views if one is looking for a global career.
Having worked at different places in the world like Japan, UK, France etc, were there any challenges you faced while adapting to the different work environments and work culture of these places?
Each country has a very unique working culture and environment and adapting to this uniqueness is a big challenge in itself. For example, European countries lay a lot of emphasis on work-life balance and Japan is the complete opposite where work takes priority. Navigating through challenges posed by language barriers can also present significant struggles. Most important thing is to approach each work environment with a very open and appreciative mindset.
Having extensive work experience in the automotive industry, do you think the technical skills you acquired during B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering were useful at work? Do you think the courses at NITT have limitations in terms of industry exposure? If yes, is there anything the student can do to make up for it?
It depends on what domain within the industry you are looking to enter.
Mechanical engineering students are well placed for production/R&D/engineering/supply chain roles if they have a keen interest in those areas.
However, for those looking to enter the Sales & Marketing/ Finance or Legal domains need to build that expertise either by spending some time within the industry to laterally transfer after learning on the job or by doing specialized courses in these domains.
How important is work experience for doing an MBA abroad? What is the ideal duration? How does it help?
To answer this question, having work experience is a must when you do an MBA abroad. In fact, many top schools have a mandatory 2-yr work experience requirement for applicants. This is useful to add to the diversity of the class and also helps to have diverse views and inputs to a curriculum which is very experiential and case-based.
Any work experience helps as it is always useful to have real-life examples and perspectives on some of the issues being discussed. Leadership experiences are well appreciated too. It is always easier to transition into more senior roles within the job you were doing pre-MBA if that is something which interests you. However, many people choose to do an MBA to transition into some other industry or domain as well. For this, sometimes you might have to accept positions at the same level pre-MBA, as having relevant work experience is also important for certain companies.
How does one find the balance between work satisfaction and monetary satisfaction?
This is a very difficult question and is linked to one’s personal preferences and skill sets. It also depends on what kind of career graph you would like to have. For example, so far in my career I have come across colleagues who had a pretty steep career graph but that comes with a lifestyle that is very stressful and demanding. However, this is of a lesser issue if you like what you do. Having said that, you must be comfortable spending a long time away from your family. This is not an issue for fresh graduates but is an important factor to consider later on in your life.
In some instances, there have been equally talented colleagues who wanted a better work-life balance and spend more time with family and friends. They settled in for a more gradual career path. This by no means shows that they are not capable. It is just an example of what they decided to prioritize.
Hence, my earlier comment that this is something which is a very personal preference.
What are some things about your career path you wish you knew in college, in retrospect?
I have had a very fulfilling career path so far. There is nothing in my career path that I wished I knew during undergraduate studies. Each role opened up new learning and interests for me. I never knew Sales & Marketing would be my calling when I was studying in NIT Trichy. At that time, I was looking to enter the automotive industry in more supply chain roles. However, an exposure to Sales and Marketing made me realize that this is something which interests and intrigues me. In order to equip myself with the right skill set and experience, I did my MBA and started the next phase of my career in this domain.
Is there something the T and P cell can do which does not come under its umbrella, but is important?
Alongside full-time roles in the final year, T&P cell should also work to leverage the existing relationships with the companies to explore internship opportunities for third-year students which will enable them to explore their interests and also showcase their capabilities. This is also a very good way of building a network within the organizations, which go a long way throughout one’s career.
On top, if possible, career sessions or any topic sharing sessions with some of these industry experts across domains will help students understand the different domains and help chart a career for themselves.
Is there anything the students can take away from college genuinely on a qualitative basis? Is there any advice you’d give to engineering students in general?
On a qualitative basis, always try to have an open mind towards learning new things and learning from each other. Appreciate the fact that everyone has some strengths and you need to make your strengths work for you. Never miss an opportunity to learn new things as you never know what may capture your interest in the end.