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'Low marks are usually due to a lack of effort'
Santhosh K
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July 03, 2007

We asked Get Ahead readers to send in stories of career success despite academic failure. Here is Santhosh K's tale:

I was a very average student in school. I cleared my board exams with a Class II grade, and chose the easiest route to a degree by opting for the Commerce stream in college. My concept of college was to have fun while it lasted, and I paid the price for this point of view when I was made to drop out, and join my uncle in his business. 

The employees at my uncle's organisation knew of my familial connection -- they started seeing me as someone who was employed thanks to my association with the boss, and not because of any other merit or qualification. I felt like my abilities were overlooked and  unappreciated, and soon left -- I decided to carefully plan out a worthwhile career instead. 

The first step involved a long-term vision of where I wanted to see myself in years to come. I had always wanted to enroll for an MBA, but without graduation that was not to be. I soon learned, however, that I could qualify for an overseas MBA without a degree, if I had substantial work experience. However, to study abroad I would have to make money. This was the time of the IT boom in India, and there was easy money to be made in the industry with a few months' training. I got into IT, and soon realised that I had a flair for networking. I was lucky to secure a job in an organisation's technical support department, with a decent pay package. 

A little over a year passed, and I secured a better job in another company, as a technical sales specialist -- it was soon clear that I was a born salesman. I was promoted from sales and marketing executive to sales and marketing manager for nearly 10 products, most of them industrial or heavy machinery. 

This was when I received an offer from a multinational, to work as a commercial manager for its operation in Afghanistan. This was a risky proposition, considering the uneasy order that ruled the country after its conflict with the US. There was big money involved, however, and I would be able to fund my dream of pursuing an MBA abroad, so I succumbed. A year-and-a-half later, I was able to leave for the UK to pursue further studies.

At 30 years of age, with over eight years of work experience, I was accepted into one of the UK's most reputed universities -- but my first semester was literally a nightmare. The last time I had studied for anything was 12 years ago, back when I was in college. Now, at university abroad, I had to work my heart out to get through the first semester with just a 50 percent average grade.

The second semester saw me out-scoring most of my classmates, most of whom were very bright, much younger than I, and from an engineering background. It soon became clear to me that the reason for my average grades in school was the lack of effort I put into studying. Now, I spent close to 11 hours every day in the library, and the result was astonishing. Among my friends I was always scoring the highest marks; I believe I topped the class in a few modules, but then you don't get to see everyone else's marks, so you never know for sure. 

I am now 31 years old, and will soon receive my degree. Job offers are flowing in, but I know what I really need to do -- it was decided even before I joined B School. I have very sound theoretical knowledge of business development modules, and now I will join an organisation as a business associate, then move on to a business consultancy, and in five years' time I hope to have a business consultancy of my own set up in Cochin, my hometown. The city is growing fast, with many new projects initiated by the State government, and I presume five years from now will be the ideal time to open a business consultancy.

Well, I hope my story helps confused students out there, who have fared poorly in their exams. A few of my cousins are already taking a lot of comfort in it! But jokes aside, my experiences taught me two valuable lessons:

~ Set up a longterm plan and stay focused; this will help measure the extent of your success when you look back.

~ Low grades are not a sign of an inferior intellect -- they are usually the result of a lack of concentrated effort.


If you have been successful in a vocation despite not having fared well academically, tell your story and help others in a similar situation turn their lives around.

Mail your contribution to, making sure to include your full name, age, occupation, the name of your city, and a photograph (if possible). We will publish it in the Get Ahead section of

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