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From journalism to B-school
Aarti Kothari
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January 08, 2008

It was a tough decision for me. Leaving behind my husband of four months and coming to the Indian School of Business. Trading off my days of loving my work for days of working to like my daily routine. Life continued to be tough. But (more importantly) rewarding.


My habit of introspection and questioning acquired over four years of financial reporting has stood me in good stead over the last nine months. I questioned how diversity works in the classroom. I asked how the school thinks it can maintain high standards of learning in a batch of over 400 students. I wondered how I would gain in a class full of engineers.


Here are the answers. But first, why did I, a journalist, choose to do pursue an executive MBA degree?


Even back in college, while studying Economics, I knew I wanted a corporate career. And the way to get there was by doing an MBA. I knew enough people, in industry and otherwise, who vouched for a management programme for working executives.


The choice was between dishing out Rs 45-odd lakh for a Wharton-type programme or a third of that for the ISB. But this posed another question: just how good was this new Indian B-school? Today I stand corrected. It is Indian only in name but global in every other aspect. And it's as good as you can make it for yourself. That's the truth.

My interactions with the faculty, staff and students while reporting on B-schools led me to believe there was something truly unique about this place. In a nice kind of way. So I chose the ISB.


But to bridge the gap between undergrad and B-school, I decided to try my hand at business journalism to get a broad view of business. And, admittedly, to meet important people. Besides, this seemed a much better choice than working as a sales person in my uncle's firm.


And so on April 12, 2007 my husband and I reached the ISB. To answer my own first question, I think diversity really works. Doctors, shippies, army men, architects, entrepreneurs, the list of diverse profiles goes on.


I do believe what I learnt at work has helped me have a sharper perspective on issues like creating shareholder value, the changing imperatives for Indian corporates, marketing issues in India and so on. That apart, sometimes asking the right questions has helped me (and my study group, if my may add) score higher marks in class.


More importantly, my passion for public speaking combined with my ability to quickly get to the core of an issue (again something I learnt on the job) led to debating competitions. Now competitions are an important part of B-school life as they form the all-important 'spikes' on one's resume. The icing on the cake, however, was my winning the school's most prestigious scholarship. I think diversity really worked there. Or my training as a journalist did for sure. 

The second question was: can the school really deliver on its promise of a great learning atmosphere with such a huge batch size? Undoubtedly, yes. In fact the feeling I get is that administration often thinks of it as a challenge it has no choice but to meet.


The batch size is big but the class size at 74 is manageable. Faculty members and teaching assistants are on email to answer doubts at all times. Assigned faculty mentors act as agony aunts. Counsellors help in dealing with the stress. Housing is not compromised as each one of us lives in a cushy room in a flat or a studio if we have family staying with us. You get the basic picture.


Finally, in MBAspeak, am I happy with the return on my investment? Yes, with the exception of the husband I left behind in Delhi. I have decent grades in a batch of 200-odd engineers. That's not too bad. But I worked hard for it. And I played hard too. I took part in competitions, participated in student club activities, partied every time there was a party on campus (which was often), made friends and prepared to get a good job. The jury is still out on the last one but till then I live in hope.


Just to wrap up, it is in your hands to make the one year at b-school your most rewarding or just one more thing to help you kill time. I suggest Route 1.

The writer is a student of the Class of 2008, Indian School of Buiness.

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