The Indian B – School Experience has been edited by Rushi Bhimani.
Beginning college is one of the important milestones in one’s life. However exciting it is to realize what’s on the horizon, it is also additionally critical to analyse what college life will bring to your platter. And if by any chance, you land up in a B-School, then you better be prepared for the hustle that comes your way, in the light of the fact that B-School can be hardcore. ‘Hardcore’, being an understatement.
Now, I am someone who is days away from finishing his three-year undergraduate at a quintessential ‘Top-15’ B-School (with a two-year post-grad to follow). Hence, I think it’s only fair to say, I have my fair share of knowing what goes on within those walls. What one needs to understand is that the whole B-School experience is a memorable one. In both ways, the good and the bad.
Imagine that you are an 18-year-old who has just finished high school, and the prospect of college is exciting. Movies and TV shows have given us an idea of what college is supposed to be—fun, exhilarating, parties, hooking up with random people, booze, and grass. You expect that it is going to be the ‘chilling’ time of your life. That is when it hits you. The first week of ‘orientation’. Bam! Smack in the face. It hit me too. I was not the same ever again. Overly dramatic? Grab a cup of coffee because I’m only getting started.
Once you finish the orientation session, the ‘honeymoon phase’ has officially ended, and those of us still left here start to feel the strings of conformity. Imagine a severe lack of sleep, skyrocketing anxiety levels, and a logbook that only keeps reminding you of how much you are behind on your tasks; and the harried B-school student shows up. A classmate once said to me: “Each week I let myself know, ‘I simply need to get past this week.’” Also, the rat race ensues from day one. You never feel what you are doing is necessary because regardless of to what extent you examine, the number of practice issue sets you to solve, conferences you go to, alumni you contact, there is constantly more you could do to ‘get the edge’ and ‘outperform your competitor.’
Time consistently spent on something “useless” rouses self-blame and hatred; blame that has just intensified when everybody around you shows up distinctly performing well. Almost everyone shows work off while you barely managed to meet the deadline. Your self-identity starts blurring as there is no longer time in the day for the exercises which once characterized you. And maybe, gave your life a sense of importance. Rather, you turn into a number crunching robot: just one of the hundreds of students lining up for the next recruitment drive to kick off. You sincerely hope to edge out the competition by weighing your crop circle with friends and other like-minded comrades.
B-School is intrinsically outrageous. Take 120+ dedicated, decided, individual students with Wall Street and KPMG aspirations, bring them on a platform to compete while lowering their self-esteem so that you can beat your classmate for the ‘ideal’ summer internship or that extra ten grand per month. The perfect internship will, by chance, permit you to have some positive effect on your general surroundings (or possibly your social group). It will give tremendous and fluctuated encounters, provide varied experiences, reinforce the concepts you are learning in class, challenge you to think out of the box and afford you the ability to repay the mounting heap of student loans. It keeps going on.
Every day is a struggle to ‘find fit’ into an ‘ecosystem of vultures’ (a term I am proud of coining) and to ‘fit it all in’ into your brains. Furthermore, the complicated situation is that when we do fit in, we strive to differentiate ourselves from the lot because that gives you six-digits a month. Thus, we end up working way too hard, in a daze. We sacrifice parts of ourselves, everyday. We survive on espresso shots and weed, bereft of the person we wanted to be before ‘life happened.’
However, B-school makes a man out of you; certainly did in my case. If there are bad things about the Indian B-Schools, there is a lot of stuff that they do right. Yes, as students we initially cribbed about the workload and always struggled for the time. We still struggle with time, but we have now learnt to accept the workload and take it in our stride. Need an annual report analysed? Have to prepare a report on economic trends in a country? Need to present about work-life balance in class? That too, ALL on the same day? A B-School student will meet every deadline. No worries.
Whether we liked it or not, they turned us into racehorses who can handle pressure and work comfortably under pressure. I finished data collection, the analysis including statistical tests, wrote a full-scale research paper and drew out conclusions proving my hypothesis, in 18 hours flat. Yes, it took me about five coffees to stay up, but if I get an A- grade at the end of it, I’m pretty chuffed about it.
Apart from handling work pressure better and not burning out, B-School teaches you a great deal about people. Here too, you have got the right lot and the backstabbing bastards. If I were to give out principles about management like a Kotler or a Drucker, I would say just one thing: Everyone will smile at you and tell you that they will take care of it. 99.9% of the time, it is bullshit.
Even though you might get chummy with your friend, she wants that 9+ GPA as much as you do. You called each other brothers while drinking bottles of cheap scotch. But remember, he still wants to kick your ass when placement season begins. If you want to survive, keep your head down, mind your own business, and let your work speak for itself. If you are not going to follow up and make relationships or network well, you will be the MBA who has to become a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. That is how important reading people right and maintaining relationships is during those years at a B-School.
I would like to finish off by saying that to be a successful businessperson; you do not have to go to a B-School. However, if you are at one, you will make memories that will last you a lifetime. You will face torrid times where you would want to bang your head against the wall. At the same time, there will also be moments of elation. Moments that made the decision truly unique. Learning is immense, so is the struggle. It is more like boot camp, but instead of camouflage, you wear a suit, and instead of a rifle, they arm you with a PPT.
Go on, soldier, get those sales figures up!
To read more by the author of The Indian B – School Experience, click here.