Excelling the Management Mantra: Shriya Aishwarya's ISB Admit
If Management is the go-to of almost every engineering student, then the Indian School of Business (ISB) is the dream worth chasing. Ranked number 1 by Bloomberg Businessweek for its Post Graduate Programme, ISB is a dream for any student who wants to pursue Management in future. With an indomitable spirit and hard work, Shriya Aishwarya, a 2021 graduate from the Department of Electrical Engineering, has secured a seat in one of the most prestigious business schools, the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad. She had bagged a splendid job at ZS Associates via ZS Campus Beats Case Challenge 2020 (Link) and then achieved this feat.
Team Monday Morning caught up with her for an insightful interview where she uncovers her behind-the-scenes getting into the dream B-school.
Monday Morning (MM): You had a lucrative job at ZS Associates. When and how did you manifest this choice of going into the domain of Management?
Shriya Aishwarya (SA): Much before I kickstarted my journey at ZS Associates, I had understood that my interest lies in the field of Management. I understood this through a couple of minor courses that I had undertaken in my second year, the case study competition that I had participated in my pre-final year and understanding the prospect and nature of work that I will be required to do after graduating from a B school. All of these factors inspired me to join a top B-School.
MM: How did you know about the Indian School of Business (ISB)? What made you apply there?
SA: I came to know about ISB in my second year, and it had become a dream B-School for me right from the start. I applied to ISB because of a lot of reasons. Firstly, the rankings indicated a globally acclaimed top B-School in India. Secondly, the peer group at ISB is exceptionally diverse with people from various age groups, work experiences interact and collaborate which enhances peer-to-peer learning. The alumni network of ISB is robust, and you will find each of them achieving laurels in their respective domains. I was allured by the placement prospect, too, along with the Student Exchange and Experiential Learning Program. I also wanted some time to groom myself for the course since I have heard a lot about the hectic schedule there in the first six months; I want to prepare myself for the batch, which is possible only if a deferred admit has been received.
MM: How is it different from the MBA (Master of Business Administration) course offered by IIMs or MIM course offered by foreign B schools?
SA: The flagship PGP(Post Graduate Programme in Management) programme in ISB is 14 months, while the PGP at IIMs is two years. ISB does not allow freshers to get admitted ( one can only get into ISB with a work exp of >2 years), while freshers can get into IIMs. The founding schools of ISB are the Wharton and Kellog School of Management, which makes the MBA here somewhat similar to the MIM programs offered by foreign B-Schools.
MM: What parameters must be taken under consideration while shortlisting one's preferred B-School?
SA: I am a firm believer in the fact,
“Aim for what you feel you can never get”.
I will suggest the NITR folks be very decisive while deciding on a preferred B-School. NITR gives one plenty of opportunities to explore different domains and grab an excellent placement. An MBA is a considerable investment which means leaving a great job for 1-2 years and investing tonnes of money. I would strongly recommend that the juniors understand the gap they want to fulfil through their MBA from their current role to their dream role and which college will most efficiently allow them to get that role. I have seen many people hastily joining B-School just because they want a degree. But, one thing that should be kept in mind is that MBA is just an add-on to your current skill set and hence having relevant work experience and understanding the industry is vital. Adding to that, I would suggest everyone not settle for anything less than the best.
MM: Could you tell us about the procedure for applying to ISB? What was the eligibility?
SA: There are different application processes to apply for the flagship PGP programme at ISB.
The YLP application process is for the aspirants who are in the pre-final or final year of their undergraduate programme. The EEO application process is for the aspirants who have <2 years of work experience and the PGP application process is for the aspirants who have >2 years of work experience. I had applied through the EEO application process whose first stage had a lot of components.
The components are GMAT score, 2 Essays, 1 LOR, Extra-curriculars, Awards and Achievements, Work experience and academic scores. The overall profile is evaluated and on the basis of that, one gets shortlisted for the interview. It also involves a 2-1 zoom call.
MM: How difficult was the admission process amidst the Coronavirus pandemic?
SA: The process was challenging, but it was a smooth process on behalf of the Admission team of ISB. I faced no significant issues in the entire application process in sections of glitches or reorganization of the process. The only difference was that the interview, which was earlier conducted offline, is now conducted online.
MM: Enlighten us about your preparation strategy for GMAT/GRE. How did you strategize your preparation for every individual section of GMAT/GRE?
SA: GMAT is a unique exam that measures your true potential in terms of verbal and quantitative aptitude. It is not a pressure test exam but rather a good measure of your abilities. I started preparing for the GMAT in June.
For Quantitative Aptitude:
This section was a smooth ride for me as I had always been good at Quant. My previous preparation for the CAT exam helped me ace the Quant of GMAT. There are 31 questions in Quant which need to be solved in an hour without skipping a question. I would strongly recommend anyone who wants to improve their Quant go through this fantastic website CAT100percentile.com which I used extensively to solve all the different kinds of questions from all sections. The data sufficiency questions in GMAT are a unique variety for which I leveraged the GMAT Club Forum practising all the 700+ level questions. I would advise any aspirant to do the same.
For Verbal Ability (VA):
Honestly, It was a dreaded section for me. In the first GMAT mock that I took, I had scored a VA score of 26, which was below par. I understood that I seriously needed to focus more on VA and leveraged the GMAT Club forum extensively and made it a point to practice 50 RC(Reading Comprehension), 50 CR(Critical Reasoning) and 50 SC(Sentence Correction) questions regularly. Some of the key pointers to remember while practising the questions:
It is imperative to set the GMAT Club timer each time you solve a question since time management plays a vital role in this section.
You must go through the explanations given below each question to understand the right approach to solving that question.
Also, since Sentence Correction is a relatively newer section, it is essential to take proper notes of the different rules that one comes across while solving questions and keep revising them every fortnight. I also used the Manhattan Sentence Correction book like the Bible while preparing for this section.
I also focussed a lot on mock tests. I would advise anyone preparing for GMAT to go through the six official GMAT papers meticulously and analyze them well, along with practising time management in all these tests. In addition to these, I also gave the Manhattan Prep Mocks, but that is optional.
MM: What was your process for writing the application essays, and what points does one need to keep in mind while writing one?
SA: The essays are a very critical component of the application process. It is essential to have well-framed true stories for each essay that one will write. I took a lot of time structuring my thoughts and building a deck for framing proper answers to the essays. I first started working on a rough draft and took a lot of help from NITR Alumni at ISB and ISB Alumni from other colleges too for reviewing my essays and kept creating better versions of the draft until I reached the final one. Since the essays have to be written within 400 words, it is necessary to be to the point, and each word should make some sense/ meaning. So I had first drafted a 600-700 word essay and then sized it down to 400 words. It is imp that you don't bluff here because you will be questioned around this in the interview.
MM: How does getting a good GMAT/GRE score increase the chances of selection to a reputed B school? What, according to you, GMAT or GRE score better suited for bagging a seat in a B school?
SA: A good GMAT score is an excellent add-on to your overall profile. Since the engineers do not add much to the diversity of the class, it is always better to apply for the process with a good GMAT score. A 700+ score will be a safe bet. ACCORDING TO ME, a GMAT score is always a better option while applying for a B-School. But even if someone is applying for ISB via GRE score, it wouldn't be a disadvantage for him.
MM: How important is having a good SOP and resume bagging an admission?
SA: I think this is the most significant deciding factor that helps the ISB Adcom understand why do you want to pursue an MBA and why at this stage of your career. My summer internship at Schneider Electric was questioned a lot in the interview. I had participated in a Case study competition too, which gave me an added advantage of already having exposure to the titbits of Consulting. I also had an elected position as General Secretary of CVR Hall, which helped me explain to the panel the leadership abilities that I had showcased. Finally, the kind of work I am doing at ZS and how this experience will be vital to me during and after my MBA.
MM: How do you think the interpersonal skills you developed in NITR have helped you achieve your dream?
SA: They have tremendously helped me in securing an admit. The interview experiences at NITR during my internship and placement season built my confidence for facing the ISB interview. Those preparations helped me understand the trust and communication skills required to put across the ideas effectively.
MM: As you passed out from NIT Rourkela in 2021, you have been working full-time at ZS. How did you manage your time between preparing for the process and working full time in the company?
SA: I joined ZS in July '21, when I was preparing for GMAT and writing my essays. In the initial phase, the work at ZS was very challenging as the domain of consultancy was very new to me. At ZS, I am split between two client teams (France and Canada) of a major pharmaceutical firm. It required me to focus a lot on my work and my preparation.
I decided to take a step back from the social media apps which were consuming a lot of my time. I had to put in a lot of hours since I was occupied at work for 8 to 9 hours post which I made it a point to give additional 4 hours every day to my preparation. That phase was definitely not easy but I had this inner drive of getting this accomplished which kept me going amidst all odds.
MM: What specialization would you be pursuing in your Master?
SA: I want to specialize in Operations & Strategy, but that is not final. As in the next two years before going to ISB, I want to explore the other domains like Finance, Marketing too and understand which path would be the best suited for me.
MM: Are there any specific skills one needs to develop to go into Management?
SA: One needs to develop confidence, communication, and analytical skills before getting into Management. These core skills will go a significant way into making one a future leader. One additional skill that helps a lot is being a team player since many case studies, competitions and projects are done through group work.
MM: Where would you like to see yourself after completing your degree at ISB?
SA: I want to grab a strategic leadership position in one of the big firms. But, I want to explore every sector in the next 2-3 years and then decide on my future path.
MM: What other options a student might pursue in this career domain? What is your take on it?
SA: I believe that other than ISB, one can get into top Indian B-Schools through CAT. But as I said earlier, too, one should not be hasty while making this decision as MBA is a one-time investment and should be done only when one feels they can gain maximum of it. Aim for the best B-Schools in India and never settle for less!
MM: What message would you like to give to the aspirants looking forward to pursuing a future in the management domain?
Students are already at a great place at NITR which abounds with opportunities. Explore it as much as you can and remember there is no substitute for hard work. Push your limits and never ever settle for less. Always understand, if your efforts are genuine, you will definitely get the desired results, be it early or late. I would also advise the folks to move sometime away from social media and focus more on their goals. This will be immensely helpful to focus better.
Team Monday Morning wishes Shriya Aishwarya luck for the new journey she will be undertaking and all her future endeavours!