The true worth of an ISB MBA one year into the market


Wanted to commemorate the first anniversary of my passing out of ISB with a blog post titled "The true worth of an ISB MBA one year into the market" but my first principle of blogging (Do not blog unless you have something interesting to blog about) that I seldom adhere to kicked in and I missed the anniversary date of Apr 5th 2010. But now that the force of the principle has worn off and I am really sleepy I think I can drop my guards and start my ramblings so here we go ......

I have always thought that school is where you learn to assimilate a lot of data about various domains. Its just a test of you retention skills and of course your ability to reproduce what you learnt. But as you go higher somewhere around high school we start learning a little bit about applying what we learnt. In an undergraduate unfortunately at least where I went too you assimilate more data about another domain which you were previously unaware of, you can think of this as specializing too a little bit of applying what you learnt in school but with more focus on a particular domain. Yes there are practicals that test your application skills in UG but then they are more a test of pleasing the prof and reproducing what was taught by the prof who himself/herself knew very little about the subject, as it was taught to you.

Masters again is specialization , learn more about one domain and retain as much as possible , you also get to apply a bit from all that you have learnt before and a bit from what you are learning now but then no great shakes. Was ISB any different , I dont think so.

I dont blame the school for my being clueless, But the moment you figure out its only a test of retention and presenting whats retained in exams the brain just refuses to work harder than its required to (at least mine does) and you go through the curriculum taking the shortcuts without learning a thing. I experimented with the subjects I liked a lot and scored B grades in them. Soon I learnt that retain, render and appease prof in class to score A was the way to go, and it was easier and more rewarding(grade wise) to do than to try to apply what you are learning and score B. Its a one year course and irrespective of what they day grades do matter so to finish with the 3.5 on 4 that I did I had no choice but to sacrifice learning and resort to retaining.

But as soon I entered the job market I found my worst nightmares come true. Senior managers like one quality and just one quality more than all others in their subordinates - The ability to think of a good experiment to conduct, define the approach, conduct the experiment, analyze the results and make a pertinent conclusion. Why was that a nightmare two reasons i) It dint require me to be a MBA I could have that even when I was in UG ii) It was analysis and application and my 12+4+1 years of education laid more stress on retention.

I was going to write off my ISB as a sunk cost while all the case studies I did kicked in and started helping me. Even though the Class Participation, Study group and the short duration had taken their toll on my learning from the case studies, the case studies had taught me an important thing - how to analyze a problem in a structured way , how to look at a problem from different angles and how to test your conclusions. The time I spent with a study group consisting of people from different skill sets helped too, it taught me how to present my ideas in such a way that people would buy it. And finally being a graduate from the 12th best B-School in the World made me more confident about myself.

So am I saying ISB was totally worth it. Not really , if you can solve 100s of case studies by yourself, read a few management books or science books and learn how to analyze problems, find a group of friends to exchange and test your ideas with and find confidence within yourself I dont see why ISB is necessary.

Of course there is the case that you are being part of an institution that selects only an 'elite' few, the fact that you had good experience, acads and GMAT score to get an admit there and the fact that you worked you as$ off to succeed there, could send really good signals to an employer who might be considering hire you. But thats the bane of the market today, employers select for the fancy degree and not the underlying qualities because a good degree acts as a good filter, especially when talent is easy to find.

So to summarize was ISB worth it - yes it was it taught me skills that I would have never learnt by myself either due to laziness or lack of exposure,
Could it have been better - yes I felt there were more tests of retention than case studies and applications and the one year format made things harder to absorb, there was more adsorption than assimilation.

Would I recommend people do an MBA - not really if you can figure out how to analyze problems, break them into small easily conquerable pieces, work the internet to find solutions for these pieces, present your solutions and findings in an impressive way to others you are good as long as your employer realizes your worth. If thats not happening then you might need a MBA for signaling reasons. And if you need a MBA ISB rocks, even though the one year makes learning difficult I am convinced from my interactions with MBAs from other B-schools in India that one learns way more in ISB than in any other B-school in India (as long as you are looking for a general MBA, I dont know about specializations such as finance and marketing)



Praveenottama said...

Hi Badri,

I have been a silent follower of your blog for the last one year. I googled about ISB stuff long time back and landed on your blog. Since then I have enjoyed your writings about your life at ISB and the after process! I have now designed a blog of my own (inspired by blogs like yours) and have included your blog in my blogroll.

I hope you will find that befitting. Cheers!

My name is Praveen. This is my new website & blog.

Let me know your thoughts on it. Thanks much.

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