Feature of the Month: From Goa to London and Engineering to Consulting (by Arya Mohanty)

It did not take me more than an internship, which was a mandatory requirement of the BITS Goa curriculum, to realize that I was not cut-out for a career in engineering. However, it was only in the last semester of my undergrad when reality dawned upon me. I was not extremely keen on taking up a job straight after graduation as I thought I needed a more holistic business education that bridges the gap between my aspiration of moving to a management role and my limited knowledge of business and management education. However, since I had not listed myself in any entrance examination earlier and therefore could not go directly for a Master’s after my undergrad, I had to sit for placements in the final year so that I do not lose continuity between my undergrad and post grad education.
 
I was a happy-go-lucky student in BITS Goa and did not lay a lot of emphasis on academics. It may sound a bit cocky, but in retrospect, I would say I was a 7 pointer by choice. After all, how much more can you expect from a student who’s hardly attended any lectures and has taken maximum advantage of the no-attendance policy in BITS Goa. However, I was involved in a lot of extra-curricular activities and being a National level Table Tennis player, I had a natural inclination towards organizing and leading sports events which made my time in Goa worthwhile and immensely satisfying. 
 
After my penultimate semester, I was confused whether to do my management degree from India or from a foreign B-school. I had not given my CAT or GMAT yet and though I had known quite a few seniors who went on to do their Masters from reputed B-schools in India (read IIM A /B /C /ISB) and abroad (LBS, HBS 2+2) I never interacted with them on a personal level and always had my doubts on getting into one of these schools. 
 
It was only in my last semester, when I really made up my mind of applying to London Business School, which was a dream then, for my Masters. I was really keen on studying in a city like London and the relatively short 1-year course was very appealing. The strong alumni and brand recognition on a global scale were strong factors for me to consider LBS as an option. However, my own assessment of my profile always made me feel that this might always remain a far-fetched dream and converting this into reality may be too difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, based on numerous discussions with my family who were keen on me getting the best possible education at my age encouraged me to give this a shot. I moved back to home and decided to do a thesis at a research institute in Bombay in my final semester. This gave me ample amount of time to study for GMAT. Very early on, I understood that this exam is not a test of your mental IQ but it’s an exam of mental focus and concentration. I really struggled to sit for two hours at a stretch let alone to sit for the entire duration of the exam which is around six hours long. 
 
To really be able to crack this, I joined GMAT classes as I realized the long-term value of a good GMAT score, considering its validity period of five years. After numerous mock tests and a couple of months of preparation I ended up with a decent 730 score. I would say it’s a more than enough score for a European B-school Master’s course which does not require significant work experience. With my GMAT done, I now had to prepare for my essays and the rest of the application process. In the last semester, I had secured a job in a talent acquisition firm in Hyderabad in an interesting business role and I thought I may use that experience as leverage for my B-School essays.
 
As I always doubted my potential to get into LBS, I wanted to ensure that my essays stand out from the Indian cohort that would be applying to LBS. Once my job started, I used to continue to sketch the key themes I would want to touch on in my essays and used to work on them every evening after work. I was incredibly lucky to share my apartment with two very smart individuals, one from IIM-A and another from ISM-Dhanbad who had around 5-6 years of work experience and joined INSEAD later and had ample amount of experience in writing B-school essays. I set-up multiple calls with current LBS students at that time who were doing their Masters and students who had just graduated. I was really interested in the minutest of details and other cultural aspects of the school which were not overly clear from the school’s website. I also was interested in the theme of their essays and career goals of students before entering LBS and whether they changed post LBS. All these interactions were crucial to help me draft my essay and submit my application. It was incredibly stupid of me to not submit my application in the first round as I realized a week later after the deadline that I had forgotten to press the ‘submit’ button and had only managed to just ‘save’ my application on the LBS portal. Nevertheless, I submitted my application in the second round and then kept my fingers crossed. I never had a lot of expectation that I would hear back and also did not apply to any other foreign B-school as I was pretty much drained mentally after writing my essays for LBS and did not want to endure that again. I had no back-up option and it was either LBS or nothing to be very honest. 
 
One fine evening while I was applying poker with my flatmates, I checked my email and was elated to know that I was invited for the interviews. I now thought that there is just one more hurdle and my dream of getting into LBS might actually be a reality soon. I decided to go all out and read out all the forums that are available in the public domain regarding LBS interviews. Right from researching the names of interviewers, their likes and dislikes, their personalities (after speaking to LBS students) and researching about electives offered by professors and various cultural events of the school I spent around two weeks’ time to have a very solid understanding of three things – what I know about the school, what will I bring to the school and how the school is going to add a lot of value in my life personally and professionally. 
 
Unlike Indian b-schools, I was even told that it is better to take a proactive approach rather than reactive when it comes to interviews. Keeping this mind, I pounced on the opportunity to opt for a face-to-face meeting earlier than my scheduled interview as I thought I would be able to really showcase my views in a better manner in this setting rather than a virtual meeting. I was quizzed on various facets of the programme, my experience in school, BITS Goa, my work and my life goals. All in all, I would say my interview went well and lasted for a good 90 minutes.
 
After a couple of months, I received by LBS admit and that was the happiest day in my life yet. However, that record was short lived as after a few months I received another letter from LBS that they have selected me as a GREAT scholar, jointly awarded by LBS and British council, to one or two Indian students in the entire cohort for outstanding overall achievement upon admission. 
 
 A glimpse of my application process to land a role in Consulting in UK
 
At LBS, during our orientation we were told that LBS has many things to offer so the students really need to focus on what they want to get from LBS as the course is designed in a manner where time just flies away. I was determined to get into consulting, though I was not geographically constrained. 
 
Having spoken to seniors from LBS, I knew it was going to be immensely challenging to secure a job in consulting in UK due to visa sponsorship issues and past statistics of Indian students in securing jobs in consulting in UK. Since consulting is considered to be a lucrative career option, it would require considerable amount of effort in practicing cases, developing a network, and in remaining flexible while managing academics in order to stand out from many talented classmates who would be applying for the same jobs. 
 
Though I began my job search pretty early on, I would say I did not take the effort in reaching out to the right people and learning more about the culture of the firm in the initial months of my job applications. This reflected in me not getting any interview calls. In order to fix this, I again reached out to fresh grads from LBS who guided me on how best to reach out to people in the firms that I am interested in. I also got into the Executive committee of the Consulting Club and used that to develop my network and practice cases with senior LBS MBA students, who provided me with great mentorship and support. Getting into Consulting club, provided me the opportunity to spend a few extra minutes with potential recruiters before and after a recruitment event and that did play a role in landing an interview call. It really came down to luck for me to get a couple of interview calls through such chance encounters with recruiters.
 
I ensured that I am always on top my case study skills so that if I get an interview call later on I should be prepared for it. After numerous applications, I received my first interview call eight months later. However, I did not clear the final round of the interview. A couple of months later, I received three interviews. Since I was still practising cases regularly I managed to get into the last round of all three. I finally got an offer from my current firm, Analysys Mason, a leading TMT strategy advisory firm, and decided to opt out of the interview rounds of the other two companies. 
 
In summary, I would say my journey from landing a place in LBS to securing a job in consulting in UK was only possible because of the incredible people that spared a few minutes out of their lives to share their views with me. It is only because of their guidance I was able to get both the boxes ticked in terms of my near-term professional goals so I would advise, if considering to apply for B-school, to reach out to relevant people and to seek honest feedback as a simple call can really bring you very close in realizing your dream.
 

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