The Accidental MBA

It has been more than a decade since I bid adieu to my B-school, so it might be a little late for reminiscing about that whirlwind ride. But in the last one month, courtesy of staying at home and a plethora of Alumni virtual calls we had been participating in – there has been more than a few opportunities to reflect on old times. So, let’s begin from the beginning!

suryanshu spjimrgroup

The so-called MBA Tag
I got into SPJIMR after working for 5 years in the industry. After some long drawn, and rather illuminating interactions with my college mates and seniors, I understood that the following are the reasons why most people clamor for a B-school, many a time quitting a stable/decent paying job.
1. IT guys/girls get into B-school to graduate from coder/developer to sales/strategy/consulting or other fancy roles
2. Operations guys (girls were rare till my time in Ops!) come to get their careers fast tracked or to jump into a more sought-after organization (the likes of global manufacturing or CPRD giants)
3. The rest come there to get into specialized roles like Finance/HR/Marketing
The list above is not exhaustive and is a simplistic generalization of the myriad other reasons and ambitions. The pressure to succeed and justify the ROI for the opportunity cost, drives them crazy day and night right from the first day till the hallowed placement! Luckily for me, it was a smoother journey. I was one of those less focused participants who applied for an MBA just because everyone else was, and surprisingly, got into a B school with relative ease. Looking back, it reminds me of Karan wanting to get into Army in the Hindi movie Laksh!

Gone with the Wind
Once we started, there was no time to breathe or think. The first term hits you like a tropical cyclone. A grueling daily schedule of classes, extra classes, guest lectures, group work, special projects – the engagements just kept coming. There were multiple diverse subjects ranging from Macro & Microeconomics, Financial Accounting, Business Law, Organizational Behavior, Marketing, Strategy and many more. I was totally overwhelmed; I had never heard of these subjects during my Engineering or TCS days (my pre-MBA job). To make things more difficult for people like us (the close gang!), SPJIMR is located at the heart of Mumbai (unlike many IIMs/IITs/and other premier institutes). That strongly motivated us to visit the many pubs/clubs/theatres in Bandra, Lokhandwala and 7-Bunglows during the nights, rendering us into immobile zombies in a perpetual state of stupor during the day. We’d be in a trance, and the likes of Kotler, Michael Porter, McGregor, Drucker and CK Prahalad would frequently join us in suspended animation. But not everything was that bad. Let’s focus on few positives!
1. Having a competent faculty and a set of extremely dogged classmates who refused to give up on me meant I managed to crawl through all these topics. In fact, I excelled in subjects like Business Strategy and Optimization Techniques which focused on applications of basic subjects like Mathematics, Statistics, Finance, Economics, Consulting.
2. Being at the heart of Mumbai, SPJIMR could mobilize the who’s who of the industry as guest faculty, which I am confident no other Institution can match with the same frequency. It helped us understand and apply the industry applications of the topics we learned.
3. To settle our nerves amidst the grueling schedules, we had a unique subject called Gita Shibir – which focused on ethics, long term vision, social responsibility, value systems and the other softer and moral aspects of our character in a unique way. The subject was based on the narratives from Bhagavad Gita. I don’t think before SPJIMR any other institution has used the learnings from Gita with such wit and effectiveness!

Some special Mentions
We had a short 20 day break midway through the course. People were free to utilize the time any way they wanted. Some went home, some worked on a social cause or with NGOs. We chose (again- the close gang!) to work with a microfinance institution in a remote village in Satara district of Maharashtra. We stayed at the house of Chetna Gala Sinha and worked under her able guidance and developed a financial model to take the products developed by SHGs of village (mostly poor or deprived women) to the market (Refer http://manndeshifoundation.org/). The impact those 20 days had on my life can never be overstated, and the learnings I had at that time would be a lifelong asset to cherish. Chetna maa’m went on to get recognized by multiple agencies for her commendable work with underprivileged women. She co-chaired World Economic Forum in Davos and she is part of the inclusion committee at G20 summit, apart from being considered among top influential women leaders in India.

suryanshu docc

Another thing to mention would be our occasional trips to interesting places around Mumbai. Places like Khandala, Lonavala, Kashid Beach, Alibag, Panchgani etc. Some were impromptu trips on weekends while some other were educational trips or excursions, like the PG Lab. We used to play lot of simulation games during those outings (Building Towers, BizMap, Tool based simulations etc). In the later ones, there used to be hardly any time at the end of the day after different team building activities, management games, and trekking on mountains. But we also got to learn a lot.  So, obviously we can achieve more than we think we can if we push ourselves!

suryanshu spjimrgroupactivity

Also, I remember an interesting incident from one of the Economics classes. I was as usual dozing in the class after a night of pubbing followed by a graveyard shift movie in one of my favorite Lokhandwala theatres. Our professor (a proud Bengali with multiple Post Docs in Economics) was discussing one very interesting industry problem and suddenly he asked me a question related to the topic. It jolted me out of my daze, and I was caught there like a deer in headlights! He then proceeded to ask the rest of the class. Luckily, it was a tricky one and nobody volunteered to answer. Finally, one of those smart boys (our gang called them smara**) answered. Then, the professor smiled at me and said “We Bengalis will keep doing PhDs but when it comes to a practical problem regarding money, the Marwadis would always have the correct answer. Later in life, I thought of this incident multiple times. If you ignore the racial colloquialism in the statement, the crux of the message is interesting. “Management is more about practical applications of theoretical learnings in an imperfect world”.

-Suryanshu Goswami (Alumnus, PGPM 2008)

(Suryanshu completed his PGPM in 2008. Before joining SPJIMR, Suryanshu had worked for five years in TCS based out of Chennai and US in IT delivery. After completion of PGPM, Suryanshu joined LTI in Oracle Business unit in the presales function. In the last 12 years, he has worked in Sales and Corporate strategy teams and is currently employed by Capgemini. At present, he is living in the Netherlands with his wife and eight years old daughter. Off late he has been writing technology-related blogs as a hobby, which he had been publishing on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/in/suryanshugoswami/.)

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