In Pursuit Of Dreams: Krishna Sarath
Heroes have always served as a reflection of their times, a template of who we are and what we want to be.
Krishna Sarath, a remarkable persona with an aura of humility, a graduate of the 2018 Dual Degree batch of Electronics and Communication Engineering Department, completed his masters from IE Business School, Madrid, and went on to work in prestigious international organisations like International Energy Agency (IEA) and The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Presently working towards making the world carbon neutral, he has talked about how he switched from engineering to management, how his interest for management manifested into a passion for the betterment of the world and, various challenges and prospects of working in international organisations like the UN and the IEA.
Team Monday Morning caught up with Krishna Sarath over an email-based interview to know more about his inspirational journey.
Embarking On An Eventful Expedition: Days At NIT Rourkela
The dual degree of Electronics and Communication Engineering at the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela came to Krishna Sarath as a serendipitous surprise. In his words:
One of Pixar's sayings I (Krishna Sarath) grew up to stated:
Best things happen by chance.
I got a perfect score in JEE Mains and my boards (I thought so at least) after which I took other entrance exams lightly (assuming that I'll get an NIT anyway). But as fate played its card, my rank turned out to be much worse than anticipated. I struggled for next month, figuring out my options when in the 4th round of counselling, I was allocated EC in NIT Jamshedpur. So, my dad and I booked our tickets to Jamshedpur from Mumbai for my admission. The day we were to depart, we reached CSTM station to find out that the train is running late by 12 hours. In a matter of minutes, my mom called me and informed me that I got an up-gradation to NITR EC Dual in the spot round allocation. It was the most random beginning to a festival of five years.
I cannot pick a favourite moment I spent at NIT Rourkela because there are so many special ones.
But I wouldn't forget the time when I was one of the core organisers of the Multi-Ethnic Fest and South Zone ended up winning the trophy for the first time. Another memory involving SAC was when we, Film & Music Society (FMS) secretaries, pulled off the celebrity night. The thing I miss the most is my hostel life, my friends and my branch mates (EC, being one of the most gruelling branches, my branch mates were a lifesaver).
Balancing Skill Development And Academic Preparation
It is apparent that just performing well in studies of one's branch, doing everything in a straightforward way, no logic or out of the box thinking and no other skill is just like following the herd and going where life takes you rather than shaping your life the way you want to. Read on to know how Krishna Sarath achieved the perfect balance, in his words:
By dealing with so many professors and students for five years, I inculcated the ability to deal with different mindsets. The course structure was highly demanding too. I was an average student, but these four years in the EC department taught me the importance of patience, perseverance and consistency.
It is always a good idea to keep retrospecting and to think about the direction you want to go in life; it doesn't matter if you're in the first year or the final. That doesn't mean avoid studies; they aren't mutually exclusive.
NITR provides us with much exposure in the form of societies, clubs, fests and academics to explore our interests and discover oneself. Once you have found your interests and the direction you want to pursue, it is up to you that you upgrade your skills, network and plan your future.
It takes a great deal of effort to balance your academics and your interests (if both are different) but to be successful, this balance is crucial.
Motivation For Pursuing An MBA
When I chose the Electronics and Communication Branch, I had no idea what was in store for me. The First-year was a mix, which was excellent. However, Second-year was particularly tough for me, both in terms of academics and other activities. Luckily, I had a lovely group of friends who were my pillar. I started getting involved in several clubs and sports activities, coordinating and helping in the organisation of different fests and events. At the end of the second year, I got inducted into the institute's SAE BAJA Team. We qualified the prelims, and for a significant part of my third year, I participated actively in this club. I was a part of the management team, and my work included garnering sponsorships, marketing and publicity, planning and implementation, liaison between different sub-teams, and logistics. The fact that a purely technical target needed so much management laid the foundation of my journey towards management. During both my internships, I observed that engineers were at the core of the operations. However, they were rarely the decision-makers. The leadership often consisted of engineers who rose the ranks, but they often had higher degrees, either specialised or generic, which further cemented my interest in pursuing higher studies involving management.
Gearing Up For The Battle: The GMAT Prep
My comparative advantage when it came to the GMAT was my steady hand at quantitative aptitude. From my time in school through Olympiads to placement prep tests at NITR, I always fared well at quantitative. And when I attempted my first GMAT mock test, I failed miserably in the English section. GMAT is a tough exam because it is adaptive. The more you answer correctly, the more problematic the questions get, and so does the scoring. When we prepare for an examination, we tend to go by chapter. However, the test is random. So, it is a good idea to embrace this randomness from the first day of preparation. I bought an online test series and practised ten mock tests. For English, I did a free verbal diagnostic on e-GMAT. That proved of great help to me. My suggestion regarding GMAT would be to avoid classes/ tuitions and adopt a self-preparation strategy. Business schools value your academic past, but they equally look for soft skills through other activities. Therefore, if you plan to join a business school, make sure your CV is balanced and speaks for itself. The world is transforming, and there is a growing need for specialised masters graduates rather than generic. So, if you find your passion regarding a particular subject like Data Analytics or International Relations, do not hesitate to enrol in the corresponding specialisation rather than a generic Masters Degree (Like an MBA).
Striking It Big: MiM at IE Business School, Spain
Getting into a top-notch institute abroad is a passionate dream of many. Read on to find out how Krishna Sarath nailed IE Business School, Spain which ranks among the top 3 business schools in Spain and one of the best in Europe as well, in his words:
I wanted to study management in Europe from the start. But upon insistence from my parents, I gave the CAT exam without any preparation. I scored 98 percentile (which wasn't enough to get any of the top tier IIMs), which cleared the path for me to pursue my way. Mu Sigma gave me a joining date of late October, and I had four months after graduation. I decided to prepare and attempt the GMAT, mainly to get it out of the way (since it is valid for five years). After a successful GMAT attempt and much time on hand, I started my research on universities and courses. I stumbled upon the MIM, which mainly was an MBA. Still, the course is structured to cater to those who had minimal professional experience. I always doubted if I would be interested in pursuing studies after a break, and this was my trigger. I had a leaning towards international organisations since childhood. I, therefore, looked for courses with a specialisation in Management and International Business/ Relations. I narrowed down to two schools, LBS and IE. Both were world top-ranked for MIM and had unique approaches (like case study teaching method and pro-bono consulting opportunities).
I completed their procedure (an application form consisting of past academic performances, two essay questions and references). I got shortlisted for IE's interviews (two rounds). I was successful in both and got the admission in the February MIM intake of 2019.
Later, I got the interview invite for LBS too. But since LBS' program was starting in September 2019 and lasted for two years, I went for IE's MIM. One more thing about IE that appealed to me was its focus on social empowerment (this was one of its foundational values, and IE had various initiatives in the direction).
While considering a university for higher education, we often look for rankings and expected returns. However, I realised that it was imperative to ensure that what I wanted, and what my university offered, were aligned. Though I am graduating at a not so right time, IE is the best decision I ever took.
A Glorious Journey At IE Business School Spain
Imagine studying in a prestigious college in Europe while pursuing your passion, meeting someone from a new country every weekend, having a myriad of events to attend each night. Thrilling, isn't it? At 22, Krishna Sarath left for Spain to pursue a Masters in Management at IE in Madrid and did all of this. In his words:
It was a great deal personally, as it was my (Krishna Sarath's) ﬁrst time abroad, with no familiar companion. Being one of the top business schools, the level there was quite intimidating. Most masters are 2-year courses, but mine was just a year long. So, the schedule was pretty hectic too. My class had students from over 35 countries. IE as a whole had students from 110 countries. We followed the case- study method and a considerable amount of work was done in groups. My workgroup had seven students, all from different nationalities and backgrounds (engineering, psychology, literature and business). However, the amount of diversity and exposure that I experienced here was unmatched. Although it seemed overwhelming in the beginning, it was all worth it. I realised the importance of amalgamation of management skills and cultural empathy in this multilateral world.
The people I met at IE and the lessons I learnt there through academics, competitions, extra-curricular or my travel ventures have ensured my growth not only professionally, but reminded me of my responsibility as a global citizen.
Every day at IE was different and memorable, especially since the program was for one year. Both the Masters' part and the experience of living in the "Clubbing" capital of the world. One indelible memory was the after-party at the end of the second term. Our program consisted of three terms, two with the same students and the third with the specialisation. Our class consisted of students from 30 countries, and diverse backgrounds ranging from architects, engineers, authors, business graduates to veterinary doctors. After two terms (merely six months) together, we all got pretty close, and the thought of separating into different classes made us all downhearted, and this made me (and probably all of us) realise that no matter how diverse we are, we are ultimately human beings who feel and sense the similar way.
At IE, during my specialisation in International Business, I was very inﬂuenced by the course of Country analysis and macroeconomics. I was taken aback by the role oil played in the global economy. Oil was at the core of many deﬁning moments in the twentieth century. I saw energy and environment as a subject that unites the world.
Motivation Behind Joining OECD
Our world is divided on so many lines, such as economic or ideological views. I always wanted to work for an International Organization to address at least one of these problems. No matter how many advancements we make in science or medicine or any other field, it is only utilitarian if it is accessible to everyone who needs it. Achieving this in our current state of the world is very difficult. Through my internship at the IEA, I have experienced and admired the efficiency of the OECD system and the role it plays in the world. And to be a part of an organisation that doesn't see borders and serves humanity as a whole gives me the necessary motivation. Currently, I am a trainee, and my future at the OECD is unclear due to current circumstances and some technical issues (like my nationality). However, I'll continue to strive. I see three issues that bring countries together- Trade, environment and energy and security. I want to work in projects dealing with these issues across the globe.
A Typical Day Of Working At International Energy Agency
At the International Energy Agency(IEA), I am currently a part of the project that promotes transition towards clean energy in emerging economies like India, China and Indonesia. My day starts at around 9 with a brief on the progress till now, and discussion of daily/ weekly targets. Then individual teams break into planning and analysis of different parts. On regular days, there are high-level delegation meetings between energy ministers of different countries and the leadership of IEA every other day. As a trainee, my job is to research and analyse and give inputs to my managers on various issues. I get to observe the delegation meetings between energy officials and diplomatic representatives of stakeholder countries. There is a debrief at the end of the day which gauges the progress made that day and occasional feedback.
I am proud to be working at the IEA, an organisation that not only is responsible for the energy balance in the world but also strives tirelessly to make our world cleaner and carbon neutral.
Challenges And Prospects Of Working At Such Organisations
The concept of a globalised world is a fundamental requirement for the existence of International Organizations like the UN and OECD. Over the years, our society has understood the importance of global proliferation. The rise of the nationalist governments around the globe surely poses a challenge to the functioning of these organisations. In the last few days, we have seen WHO in action for various reasons. At an individual level, sustaining at these organisations is difficult too. Employment is generally a fixed term (for example, two years). One has to perform consistently for getting extensions and making a career out of it. Also, as I have repeated several times, cultural awareness plays a vital role. OECD consists of employees from all member countries. So, it is imperative to have sufficient cultural knowledge and cognisance to function correctly in this environment. In terms of prospects, working at organisations like these provides immense experience, growth and exposure in the respective field.
Greatest Achievement Till Date
I don't think I have achieved anything significant yet. However, I am taking baby steps towards what I consider an achievement, and I would continue to strive for that. Although, my decision to go down this path is uncommon and risky (less likely to be successful) too- and I am glad that I did that. One of the things I am proud of is my travel experience. I backpacked to 17 countries in 2019 while I was studying in Spain.
Plans For The Future
In the future, I see myself working for an International Organization, working for energy or security. Since India is not a member of OECD, I have minimal opportunities (requires citizenship of a member country). Due to the current situation with visa and air-travel restrictions, my future here is very unclear. However, the level of exposure and satisfaction I obtained working at the OECD is unrivalled, and I am looking forward to continuing working here.
Just an appeal to current students: From my experience with travel, I learnt that every place has something unique to offer and an incredible story to narrate.
From my experience in life, I have learnt that every human being is unique and has a story of what and why he is. As future leaders, we need to balance the requirements of the profession with the individuals' personal lives. It is paramount that at every step we take, we not only consider our self, families and countries but also our responsibility towards the environment and Humanity.
A Piece Of Advice
For an undergrad student looking to work in a global organisation, the most important aspect is their motivation.
Your expression of motivation when joining a particular international organisation plays a crucial role when they look for potential hires. Secondly, most employees have advanced degrees (Masters and PhDs) in the fields that they want to work. For example, most employees at the International Energy Agency are Masters/Doctorates of Energy Policy, Energy Economics and trade, Energy Engineering or similar. Similarly, employees at UNESCO would have advanced degrees in Archaeology, culture or history. The best way to get into an International Organization as a fresher is through their internship program or Young professional Program. Apart from this, communication skills and cultural sensitivity are crucial for such organisations. Being a part of public speaking/ debating clubs and activities like Model UN would be helpful.
I have always had my family’s support and a small yet prime inner circle of friends whom I consult and debate with regarding every decision I make. These are the people who support me blindly in everything I do. It is essential to acknowledge and honour their contributions as nobody can do anything alone. One more thing is the ability to take calculated risks in life, and the resolve to make decisions, for nothing in life comes the easy way.
Team MM congratulates Krishna Sarath for all his achievements and wishes him best for all his future endeavours.