Friday, April 20, 2012

A chance to win scholarship by writing out essays

For all those who are in the process of applying to a B-school or preparing for GMAT, the BeatTheGMAT site is like a repository for information, problems and a lot more. The site is hosting the annual scholarship this year and the deadline for the scholarship is 23rd April night. The rewards include quite a few goodies which include GMAT prep courses, admission consultancy freebies and so on. For more details, please refer to the site below --:

To sum it up, like its aptly mentioned in the information, what do you have to lose?! So get going, get writing, this might be a good opportunity to get a feel of what writing essays in an application is all about. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 15, 2012 – Retrospective Introspection (Part 3 – Reasons for the ding)

On the other front, I have been thinking on the cause of rejection and failure to even get an interview call. I am awaiting feedback from Indian School of Business (ISB) and I have a gut feeling that they would say that I lost out in view of the competition and a below average GMAT score. 

I was able to come down to the following possible chinks in the armour --:

a. GMAT. This was the weakest link and a no-brainer really. I have started preparing again and will be giving it in the new pattern as I believe that the new Integrated Reasoning ( IR ) section would be a good indicator of my data analysis abilities if I intend to apply for a consulting job. Also since this IR section has replaced one of the essays it will not have any bearing on my actual GMAT (Q/V) score. This is one area that I will improve and if things go as per my plan this will not be an issue this time around.

b. I did not spend enough time on my essays as I should have. Thanks to the critical suggestions and suggested improvements by an ex-colleague who also happens to be an alumni from ISB, they were decent enough but I think the content that I enclosed in them did not pack enough punch in them. I need to improve on really choosing the content material with a lot more care in my next application.

c. My extra-curricular activities were not good enough. This might be a possibility but 2 of my achievements were representing the state in a national competition for a sport during my secondary schooling days and heading the IEEE student’s chapter in which we had organized educational sessions for the school students in the schools run by the municipal corporation. I am afraid I cannot do much more in this part as of now. 

d. Recommendations. I though hard on this part and I am convinced that I had the two best judges of my ability to recommend me. I did not seek to read their recommendations owing moral obligations but I am pretty sure that they both would have surely done great justice in their feedback. The more important point is when re-applying I can either choose to use these same recommendations or then use new ones. The guys that I had chosen were the best choices and the ones who observed me from the closest quarters. I am not at all keen on seeking recommendations from my present organization as it will probably end all chances of any progression in my present profile. 

e. Spreading my net of schools to apply. I am thinking on this aspect and had thought on it the last time as well. The US schools and European schools are way out of budget. Also the most important thing is that 2 years might be a rather large investment and I would rather prefer ISB’s 1 year course. I am delving further on this aspect as of now.

A few points that I have been trying to do in addition to all the above points are --:

I. I have been trying to get in touch with alumni having pre-MBA background similar to min so that I can get an idea on the possibilities after getting a MBA. That is to really pump up and be clear in my Why MBA aspect.

II. Evaluating the need / possibility of an admission consultant for my re-application. I am not sure on this aspect as of now though I am seriously contemplating it.

April 14, 2012 – Retrospective Introspection (Part 2 – Whether to re-apply)

Moving ahead, a very important question that has been troubling me is whether I re-apply immediately this year or wait for a year and then re-apply.

There a few things in this aspect as below --:

i. The Positives --:
The positives of re-applying after 1 more year are plenty, more significantly increased international exposure, reduced financial burden to pay the steep fees and increased clarity on future goals, etc. 

ii. The Negatives --:  
There are a few personal things that would make it difficult to push it ahead by another year. This is the prime most reason of my not wanting to push it ahead by a year.

iii. Changes since the last application --:
If I am to re-apply immediately this year then I will need to show the improvements from my last re-application. On this point I have a few positives. The biggest change is international exposure of almost 5-6 months at 2 client locations. One was a new customer for the company and I was designated to handle the first big revenue impacting event (i.e. the Christmas and New Year period) after the purchase of our product. I handled it pretty well and there were no issues/outages. This is a big achievement since I had just completed 6 months in the organization and had moved out from my comfort zone of my previous job in a different sub-vertical to a new sub-vertical in my existing job profile.

Second up, I was immediately sent for my present assignment for duration of almost 6 months. This customer is our biggest customer in terms of size of market, contribution to our revenue and in general the deciding account for the entire customer group clients. This customer had just upgraded to a new architecture and release and was not satisfied with the project results. My presence in this project was to support and to stabilize the upgrade and resolve any issues. So far it has been fantastic in terms of stability achieved and issues have almost become zero and the customer has also released the payments and has expressed satisfaction in the new product features.

Third, I have been given a promotion as well as a change of designation. This is relatively appreciable since as I have mentioned above I am only 6 months old in the organization.

These are the most important improvements in my profile since the last application. 

It is the negatives that I am considering and at this point I am pretty much convinced to re-apply immediately this year. 

April 13, 2012 – Retrospective Introspection (Part 1 – Contemplating Future)

With things being pretty busy at work I did not make much headway into the deeper delve into what exactly I aspire of in life. Honestly, I have been trying to figure it for the last year or so and feel that it is not so easy or straight forward :( That said, I have come to this conclusion that one needs to have a broader aim set and take baby steps towards it. After all it is the journey in itself which is as enjoyable as the destination. Not sure if I am making much sense on this though.

Through the entire process, I realized that the joy that I got in resolving problems was personally satisfying. The very reason that I intended to approach the consulting profile is a step in this direction. As per my understanding of a consultant's profile this is the bread and butter of the job profile. The luring facet of facing something challenging on a regular basis is the real motivation for wanting the shift of functions. 

That said, I am pretty much aware of two things --:

1. That I might not possibly end up in consulting line even after a MBA since it is pretty competitive and number of people selected by the top consulting firms is pretty much on the lower side compared to the number of applicants. The alternative function / backup option I want to work on is Marketing. I was fortunate to experience and get a very slight feel of how the marketing side of things happens in an organization during my previous work profile. It was personally a really good eye-opener and also the quality of discussions in and around that particular vertical is also one of the main reasons of wanting to do an MBA. I firmly believe that one is only as good as the quality of one's discussions.

2. There is a chance that too many continuous challenges in the consulting industry can result in an imbalance in work-life balance and can also cause issues. Though this is a possibility that cannot be neglected and must be happening to a lot of consultants, this is something that I think might come into play a few years after being the consulting career and either ways it is a chance that I am willing to take.

I intend to have more discussions on this aspect of possible career verticals that are open to me with or without a MBA considering my exposure to a variety of technical aspects within the Telecom sector. I have presently discussed with a few B-School friends and also researched a few blogs on whether it is possible to transition to consulting / marketing vertical with a good brand without a MBA. The inference so far is that while it is not impossible to do so unfortunately it relatively rare and the people who do so have about 8-10 years of experience.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A job well begun is half done

April 10, 2012
With all the determination from yesterday, I started today’s preparation with a lot of gutso. The BeattheGmat daily question of the day is a nice start to have to the preparation. By signing up for this free service on the btg site, one gets one question each for Quant and Verbal daily. The level of questions varies and is a good daily tonic to have when taking on the GMAT. I had signed up for this service on my previous attempt as well but had not followed up on it. This time around I am dead serious of doing it on a daily basis regularly.
Another good resource is the 60-day guide on BTG. We get a daily list of activities and reading to follow and it is also a good practice. These though are my personal opinions as I traverse my path from 630 to 740.

The first problem (9 points and triangles) that I received in the daily quant itself stumped me. Even though I had seen this problem before I could not solve it. On reviewing the solution I feel that this was a tough one to start with and as mentioned in the comments it was a sure 750+ question. That said, it will be questions like this one that will be posed in the actual test if I intend to achieve my target score. A lot of work needs to be done in the quant arena if I am to improve from Q43 to Q50. It is surely possible and I am confident that I will make the leap this  time.

Another good resource that I encountered was the mastergmat website. I signed up for their free service which is valid for 1 week. I started with  the POE (Process Of Elimination) strategy and found it to be really good and effective for the problems in the review. Whether this can be used for all problems or not will be revealed as my practice sessions heat up. I will keep you updated on how this goes. I have not started with the verbal section as yet. I think I will start working on verbal from the coming week.
I feel an air of positivity in my preparation this time and the determination to see this through. Hope this stays till the end. 

D start of a new beginning...

My first blog in this decisive 2012 application season.

April 9, 2012
Today, I have officially kick started my GMAT preparation for the third time and with this also my preparation for the admission season of 2012. Once again I start with ISB as my target school but this time I do intend to add a few more backup options to my application season. The previous 2 attempts have not yielded much in terms of GMAT scores with 620 and 630 being the previous scores. My preparation seemed good the second time around but again I faltered in the Quantitative section with a score of Q43. I intend to be very thorough with my preparation this time and am targeting a score of 720 to 740. That roughly translates to (Q50 / V40).
I will be starting off with quant problems from Manhattan GMAT preparation and moving to advanced quant problems. My main mistake in my previous attempts was that I did not practice and solve more quant problems from miscellaneous sources. As a result I found myself lacking in the DS and PS quant problems on the actual test which needed to be right to increase my quant and overall score. The MGMAT prep test is a good test and their algorithm plot in the after test analysis gives one an idea on how one has fared on a per question basis.
I do not intend to give my test before 2nd June meaning that I will be giving it under the new Interactive Reasoning section. I am presently surfing to get a clear idea of how this new section is setup and will be tested. The new GMAT prep test is now available on the official site and can be downloaded for use. I have installed the new software and it is compatible with the old prep test installed. This means that I can use the 2 mock tests from the old software and 2 mock tests from the new software making it 4 official mock tests to use. Other than this I intend to test myself on the one free MGMAT test and Veritas and Kaplan tests which are available from BeatTheGMAT.
The OG 13 has been released and there have been reviews on the various sites on the OG 13. Prima facie it appears there are now wholesale changes to the edition except for the addition of the integrated reasoning and a few extra questions. Presently I think I will move on with the OG 12 and the quant and verbal guides that I have for my preparation. As of now I do not intend to buy any tests but I will reassess on this point in a month’s time by which I will have a more clear picture of where I stand.
Below is the brief plan of action that I intend to take for the next 2 weeks --:
1.      Week 1 – Start with revision of concepts of Quant and solve the OG12 questions.
2.      Week 2 – Start with the basics of sentence correction and critical reasoning
I will be travelling back to India in 2 weeks’ time so I am not planning for way ahead. I believe my effort in the next 2 weeks is equally important so as to set the tone of my entire preparation. After all a job well begun is half done. I will be coming back from India from May 10th and will be on-site for about 3 months from that time. I will be most probably taking my GMAT by around 30th of August. I have firmly decided to update my blog periodically this time. It is now or never for me since there a multitude of factors that are weighing me down, viz. --:
1.      A shift of industry from core technical to management / strategy / operations consulting
2.      The fact that I do not keep growing younger means that I will be 28 if I start my B-school academic session next year. There are some personal things which make it very important for me to successfully convert my attempt this time.
3.      I am personally convinced of the nature of job I intend to undertake which will make me satisfied and happy and it is more like a problem solver profile which is what a consulting job sounds like.
It is my earnest wish to get into a B-School in 2013. God willing and with efforts from my side it should happen.

My first blog on this journey -- Originally dated 24June 2010

The journey to the future is being contemplated...

Each one is born with his destiny is what I have heard but then it is also believed that each man for is own. Shawshank redemption has Tim Robbins famously quote that "you gotta get busy living, else get busy dying". The irony for me though is I am confused & struggling in making up my mind on which one to get busy with. :-)

The possibilities that I am presently faced with are all bright & good in their own sense which is precisely the reason for me to be absolutely confused in deciding what is that I should go after. As a prelude, I am about to complete 2 years on work. My work is dynamic & interesting & keep posing new challenges on a daily basis but somewhere down the line it is getting repetitive. There have been organizational changes which have resulted in structural changes within our team leaving the team unsettled slightly as everyone now wants to grab the attention of the new boss leading to a little messy atmosphere within the once harmonious team.

The fact that I am involved in a core technical job lets me have the liberty to think about the M.S. option which will help me delve further into the infinite technical possibilities that branch out from my basic knowledge right now. The lure is of the foreign shores, the educational model there which is like worlds apart from the book based model employed in India. Education abroad has always been more practical based, application of knowledge based whereas here in India it is more book based which as I will reveal further is causing me a huge dilemma. A M.S. will open up new avenues that seem highly lucrative on the knowledge front and also will give me chance to dive into things that till now I have only roughly known about & which interest me too. However the counter argument in this case is that as I am learning in my present job, that no matter how much satisfying & thirst quenching the technical part is, its a matter of time before the boredom sets into the picture. It is not the content that gets boring but it is the repetitiveness & the inability of the others to take it up at the same level despite proper documentation & sharing that sometimes becomes frustrating. Also the fact that an OPERATIONS job will always mean that its more inclined on implementation of something which is already planned out or that maintenance or support of something. So though I might have an increased understanding of the stuff, in a larger picture I will be doing the same work as I am right now.

The second choice that is emerging is that of continuing in my present job field & organization, where I am about to complete my first evaluation & might end up getting the top rating as I have slogged hard & given more than 200% & thereby some what taking the load & responsibilities of my reporting manager which has helped him relax over the tenure. The work is good & I can learn new things with time & with advent of many new things in my field almost on the verge of getting introduced, it is a prospect that I can't easily ignore. The counter argument in this case is however, as mentioned above there have been some changes which I do not have any control on but which are having a bearing on me. I cannot but resist the fact that they are affecting me more personally & to an extent professionally also. I have been restricted to explore the other avenues in my field which is making me feel bogged down & curtailed. Also if I shift jobs the opportunities & the scope of work in my present work are much vast than the one that I would be moving to. As an illustration let’s say I handle subject A,B,C and D right now and have sufficient understanding of A,B and C. It is subject D where I am being restricted from delving into presently. However in every other organization that I might apply to A,B,C & D are all different verticals. So I will have to possibly choose from one of them. It is no surprise then that my scope of learning will get curtailed.

Having contemplated the 2 possible options wrt the positives & negative, I moved to the next option that was open to me. A post-graduate degree i.e. a MBA. It was a dream/decision that was at the back of my mind that sooner or later I will be doing a MBA. It is more like the destiny thing that I mentioned above. It is like a culmination of what I want to do/be. My present job has exposed me to the world of the Marketing wherein I do end up doing a lot of analysis & stuff that ideally would fall under the Marketing profile. Then there are the avenues like Finance, HR, Business Intelligence. etc. Personally other than HR the others seem highly interesting, though I would concede, without any offense that HR is more like the debates that we had in college where you get to brain storm on innumerable things irrespective of whether they concern you or not. It is the prospect of the world of knowledge that beckons if a MBA is taken. It is the sheer magnamity of the ocean than is alluring to the soul. Also the fact that it is all an unknown entity as of now makes the situation more interesting.

So it would be safe to say as this stage that I am more inclined towards the MBA option which now throws up 2 sub-options from which one needs to b decided upon. The sub-options being an Indian MBA or a foreign MBA. The thought process by which I have contemplated these options is the style / pattern of course, faculty, approach to the subject, ROI and though I may not agree fully, geography / surroundings. I will take each one of them objectively, presenting both sides of the coin.

The first thing that comes to the mind is the finance. The best Indian MBA will approximately cost 20 lakhs or $ 40k while the average cost of an MBA in US in a school in the region of 25 to 100 best B-schools will cost around 40 lakhs or $80k. Try as I might I cannot undermine / miss this factor though after a lot of thought I think I might just somehow be able to afford the high costing US MBA if its good enough.

Moving on to the approach to education & the way that the course spans out is the most important point that needs discussion. Like I mentioned above, the Indian way is heavily inclined towards the book based approach whereas that abroad is more practical. Gradually Indian schools are moving towards the case study but then I ain't sure of how effective it is. A talk with my peers abroad in the B-Schools revealed the fact that there is an interesting mix of international students from varied backgrounds. This fact throws to light the different mindsets of thinking that are possible which I believe is a very interesting factor. Different thoughts will lead to an outlook that is way broader & considerate of all possible factors.

This brings to the ROI (Return On Investment) perspective. It is here that individuals differ & also there is a angle of what amount of risk is being considered. Whether to go for a 1 year course or a 2 year course. Its not just the fees that are involved but also the fact that the duration for which you study you are out of salary. So you may add up the compensation lost in the investment made. Also where an Indian MBA might fetch a return of around 10 lakhs per annum an US based job will return around $100k i.e. around 45 lakhs. Europe has many good colleges but with the a few economies going kaput recently it seems that recession is around the corner in Europe & finding a job will only get tougher with time. The USA on the other hand is just getting out of one & the future seems to be improving on the job front as well. India, meanwhile hasn't actually had a recession but only that the ever blossoming pay hikes have now taken a backseat & employees have had to make do with  a little less bonus.

 A factor in selection is also the geography. I like to roam around and explore, so the prospect that I might be able to explore a foreign land & specially as diverse as the USA or Europe is lucrative. I am not sure time would be there to indulge in this factor but then where there is a will, there is a way. I have heard a lot of the course abroad being exhaustive and very demanding which then means that free time is normally spent recuperating. Exploring will surely be enjoyable.

This is my perspective on what is & what can be. I might be a stereotype with regards to my dilemmas & what I am going through but then as I have been doing a little bit of research, I observed that there are many blogs, sites where people discuss the same & same over without referring or browsing through it. This is my attempt to put forth my side. I am trying to make it a practice to write more often & present my journey as it comes. I plan to take GMAT in around 3-4 months time and then start applying from November but before that I need to decide what to do. I hope I will be able to decide soon now & have a PLAN A & PLAN B ready.