Life after CAT: 'IIMs truly test your perseverance levels'
As part of a special series on CAT and MBA we speak with various young MBA graduates who've appeared for the prestigious test and ask them how life changed for them after CAT and MBA.
Siddhesh Joglekar, founder of Estatelister.com and alumnus of Indian Institute of Management Calcutta told Divya Nair how the CAT exam changed his life. Read on.
I appeared for the Common Admission Test (CAT) in 2006 and I must say that life has changed in many ways since then.
I was pursuing IT engineering from VJTI, Mumbai, when I appeared for CAT for the first time. For additional coaching, I had enrolled with a coaching class near college and took a few test series for preparation.
I scored 99.61 percentile in my first attempt. I received calls from five Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) from which I chose IIM-Calcutta. With absolutely no professional experience, I had to compete with candidates who had considerable work experience. But I was quite confident about my academic performance and allied achievements.
During the Group Discussion (GD) rounds, I realised something very important, which I would like to share here. Your CAT score is important, but the panellists of the admission committee at IIMs are looking for the best profile among candidates. They are not just looking at your CAT scores. They want to be sure that they are admitting students with the right attitude.
For example, in the Group Discussion rounds, they will ask you questions on general awareness. They asked me questions on people and society that will test your reasoning and analytical skills and help them judge your value system.
Your responses will help them gauge your confidence, passion and personality. I was asked to talk on a particular subject for 20 minutes.
Although I had no work experience, I had to convince them about my skills and past achievements to prove my eligibility.
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Image: Siddhesh Joglekar
'There was a constant pressure to perform and excel'
The two years that I spent at IIM-Calcutta have so far been the most amazing years of my life.
One thing that I learnt was that the friends you make at IIMs will stay with you for life. This is because of the amount of time you spend with each other in those two years that fosters a sense of affinity and affection that is hard to describe. And IIMs truly test your perseverance levels-- the amount of projects that you do in a day is sometimes more than what you will be required to do in your professional term!
The MBA course at IIM though helped me get a broader perspective about life -- something I may have missed had I remained an engineer.
I learnt the importance of networking, communication and got some essential hands-on experience about organisational behaviour through various projects and presentations that I undertook at school. The professors were highly qualified and so were my batchmates. There was a constant pressure to perform and excel. Their mere presence inculcated a sense of responsibility and helped set the right benchmarks for my career.
I successfully completed my post-graduation in Marketing and Strategy. After my MBA, things weren't as easy as I expected it to be. Recession hit in 2009 and the placement figures were not very rosy either.
That's when I realised why one must be extremely careful about choosing the right B-school. If you are an MBA aspirant and you would ask me to help you decide on a B-school, I would want you to consider the following:
Alumni list: Always check the alumni list of the B-school you consider to apply. This will tell you a lot about the quality of students produced by the educational institute.
Faculty list: Look at the faculty list and the work they have done in their respective fields. Given a choice, choose a B-school which has a decent number of visiting faculty members. The quality of visiting faculty ensures that you will get good projects to work on during the two years you spend at school. These projects could be seen as stepping stones and can be converted to prospective career opportunities in the future.
Rankings: I know a lot of students who choose their B-school based on rankings alone. Let me add that you should not be rigid about these rankings as they are subject to change with time. A given institute that may be declared number one according to a certain survey need not imply that it will be the best for you. Choose a school that best meets your profile and course requirements.
Placements: Let this also not be the sole criterion to judge a school. At least in our country, students face a lot of pressure with respect to placements. From what I have observed, we are very myopic when it comes to career decisions. These things should change for good.
Image: Indian Institute of Technology Calcutta
'Every time you achieve something, you feel nice about it'
All said and done, my professional journey began in 2009 when I joined rediff.com as a Product Manager.
Since it was an information portal offering myriad consumer services, I could also bring in my engineering skills into practice. Here, for the first time, I realised that the time I spent in education (knowledge) did no go waste.
As for those who ask why an engineering graduate should study management, my answer is 'Management definitely gives you exposure to more aspects of the business than engineering, which may be enticing for some people. Also, India is a free country. You can study anything you want. In the end, it is all about the economics. If you think you would be better off studying management in the long term, just go for it!'
During my term in rediff, I came across a lot of people, including my batchmates from other cities who were struggling to find a rented apartment for various reasons. These people were at the mercy of agents, friends and relatives to find a place to stay.
Although I had a house in Mumbai, I could somehow relate to their problems of accommodation and wanted to help them find a solution. I am sure, every one reading this would have also faced a similar situation at some point in their lives.
That's when an idea struck me -- to start a portal, which will connect consumers to real estate buyers and sellers at the click of a button.
I had made up my mind. I wanted to start my own firm and the idea of a real estate portal was close to my mind. And hence, Estatelister.com was born.
This decision wasn't easy either. I had a lot of things to consider before I took the plunge. Initially, the very idea that my salary won't be credited at the end of each month gave me sleepless nights. Besides, I had to think of investments -- where will I get the money and resources from? There were questions to be answered. But I had to make a decision.
I quit my salaried job six months ago and founded Estatelister. Through my team's hard work and constant encouragement from my early customers, we have made considerable progress with one aim in mind -- making the property hunt better for the whole of India.
In this journey, I am meeting new people every day. My aim is give maximum information about real estate and property to users through my website -- through FAQs, emails, listings, updates etc.
Each day is a challenge and I am exploring new possibilities to make it better. Every time you achieve something, you feel nice about it. It's a different sense of satisfaction. But I know, I have a long way to go from here. My journey has just begun.
Mine isn't a success story yet , but if there is any advice I would like to share with aspirants, it would be -- Go for your passion, guys! Choose your dream today!