On November 7th, 2020, we had our online induction for the PGPM Class of 2021. Everybody seemed excited; after all, we were all sitting in the classroom of one of the best management institutes in India. We were so excited that we scheduled a batch meet the previous night just to discuss the pre-reads for the first session. That was the only time something of that sort happened.
Halfway through the induction when we were getting hold of our nerves, our Associate Programme Head uttered this beautiful line, which shall be etched in my memory forever. He said “February se beta, bullet train daudegi, bullet train“.
Life as we all know is a mixed bag and often it may so happen that we misunderstand someone. Likewise, with numerous subjects in the offing, there would be some surprises along the way. For instance, you discover a natural flair for a subject which you were least expecting to be easy. While some with high expectations would fail to pass the muster.
Subjects like ‘Design Thinking’ would push your creativity to the limits while ‘Critical Thinking’ would show you how to differentiate yourself from the herd. As a manager in the industry or as an MBA student, you would be constantly tested to your limits, of patience and emotions. When our souls are disgruntled with the expectations of the world, the lessons taught in ‘Science of Spirituality’ do light our path. The importance of this course cannot be overemphasized.
The essence of an MBA lies in group work/assignments/projects. It teaches us to manage ourselves and other people. It can be super fun or be straining at times. But I can assure you that the most wonderful and endearing memories of pursuing this one year full time MBA in Mumbai at SPJIMR have been created while we are working in groups. I have been part of eight groups till now – From the shy ones to overly extroverted, where the talk would not stop till four in the morning. The group is one place where we can be ourselves. It takes a lot of effort to keep a formal stance throughout the day so we can afford a bit of laxity in the group meeting.
Sometimes in group assignments, to collect data for analysis and hypothesis, you go above and beyond your means. You literally throw the survey forms everywhere from the friends whom you have neglected for the last four years, to your ex-girlfriends. Usually, the responses would be ranging from “dude remember me now when you need me“ to a complete ignore. At least I can manipulate the former into filling the survey but can’t do anything about the latter.
Due to the undying soul of the student still in us, we tend to do all the work on the day of the submission. I remember when we had only 20 hours left and no trace of data to work with, we would manufacture the survey and shoot it in every direction. Some of them will even be sent to foreign lands where we have our relatives/friends. We would launch the survey at 1 am, go to sleep, and would pray in the morning that the Americans and Canadians have done their job. One of the more memorable incidents occurred when I saw data from across the border (Pakistan). For the first two minutes, I thought that we are being snooped, but upon enquiring, got to know one of our group members has relatives there.
The grind involves preparing for quizzes every week, followed by ‘individual assignments’, pre-reads for the next day, more than we can handle ‘group works’, followed by presentations, three-hour-long semester exams and few other very important things which are best left unsaid. All these mentioned are in addition to our daily classroom sessions from 9 am to 6 pm.
Four hours of sleep is a common phenomenon and initially, the body struggles but in due course the body obliges and you get into the habit of completing your sleep in a limited time. Time is a luxury over here, emotions are fleeting. There are no holidays. Only Sunday is off because there is a quiz on Monday. The struggle is real, everybody is in the same boat and we have learned to live with it. It doesn’t feel alien. The situation has normalized.
When you live in chaos you get accustomed to it and eventually rise above the pandemonium. This is what prepares you for the road ahead. When you are an entrepreneur or in the management of a firm, you will be experiencing similar situations, similar dilemmas, and a similar overwhelming feeling. The curriculum prepares you to march into that uncharted territory. It separates the wheat from the chaff and brings out the crème de la crème.
Our Associate Programme Head mentioned that the course would be running like a bullet train. I would beg to differ a little, I think it is more of a fighter jet at MACH 2. It is nothing like anything I have experienced before, more like a baptism by fire.
MBA is different than any other course because there are no definite formulas or frameworks which would land you in the correct spot. Of course, frameworks would help you but the final decision which has to be made qualitatively, rests totally on our shoulders. As a result, it is very important to remain in touch with the human in us.
In our last Business Consultancy session, our faculty mentioned a very beautiful thing. He said, “After few years when you become senior managers and take up leadership roles, remember that the decisions you make will have repercussions in the lives of people who might not be as privileged as you are. So, wherever you reach, take your decisions with humility“.
Group Work is important. It not only defines your capabilities to work in teams but also tests your composure in trying circumstances. But there is a far deep-reaching impact that we often fail to delineate. Our Global Strategy faculty brought this to light. He explained, “the friends you make over here are your greatest assets going forward not the degree, not the learning. To illustrate, if you don’t conduct yourself well during the group projects and become difficult to work with, then why shall your colleagues be willing to work with you in the future, why shall they be referring you? You will become an outlier just like Pluto in the solar system”.
I was in the industry for six years, before I decided to pursue an MBA. I was sacrificing almost one and half years of salary, neck deep in an education loan, my private and social life gone for a toss, Netflix and PS4 were a distant dream, and I hardly remember the last time I slept before 3 am. Every day is about constantly being under pressure, tossing and turning, marinating in your own mediocrity. Even when you sleep, it is to keep you sane rather than anything else.
So, are all these troubles worth it?
It is absolutely worth it. It is worth every last penny. It was always my dream to graduate from a premier B-school and when you are at the altar of your dream, you don’t blink. This is serenity, this is divinity, you keep your eyes wide open so as not to miss a moment and slowly immerse yourself in its flow. If this is the thing you desired then there will be no struggle, no gasping, but only bliss. And as far as I am concerned, I have found my peace in this storm.