B-School Selection
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Should you take the GRE?

It might seem like an unlikely choice to consider in the aftermath of an unsatisfactory CAT but the GRE and the MS is possibly the one of the most under-rated career choices. One of the reasons for this is the false dichotomy that we buy into — MS or MBA, Techie or Manager. Let delve a bit more into the GRE and MS as a career option and what it means after your Plan A — an MBA.

It is not a question of MS or MBA but MBA when

This is may be the first misconception as far as Indian aspirants concerned — the false dichotomy mentioned above , MS or MBA, Techie or Manager. It is similar to many of the other dichotomies we take for granted, believer-atheist, capitalist-socialist et al. But we know that while there are enough people securely perched on both ends of the spectrum there are enough people who lie somewhere between the two ends. The MS-MBA divide is no different.

Most people might not fall into either category. In fact most people will have a bit of both, an aptitude to take up a job in their core field and also an aptitude to take up business side roles later. There is a time to apply and to invest in each of these aptitudes and it goes without saying that the time is earlier for an MS and later for an MBA.

The real question is MBA when. Once you start working in any sector you have two paths open to you — rising up the ranks in the R&D vertical or rising up the ranks in the Management vertical. The latter would may be need a PhD. and the former an MBA. The big business decisions will always be taken by the management side and not the R&D side.

So if you want to get into decision-making roles, which most people would want to after some point, you would eventually need to do an MBA. Also, the value of a management degree really kicks in after you have gained good quality work experience. This is the reason why the average age of most people in an MBA program in premier schools abroad is more than 26 years of age.

The same is not applicable to India because neither does our economy offer enough high-quality jobs for graduates not does our education system produce enough high-quality industry ready graduates.

Poor plate of food need not mean poor cuisine

One of the things that turns people off MS is the way we are taught engineering in most of our colleges and the painful exams that involve a lot of cramming. If we add to this the fact that we have been cramming science-related stuff since childhood, it is but expected that a many youngsters will have a healthy aversion towards pursuing an MS. Add to this the fact that most of the jobs post-engineering are in IT services and the effect that two years in IT can have, it is understandable that MBA becomes the beacon of hope for a better and brighter future.

The two questions you need to ask yourself to decide what suits you best is

  • did you like any subjects in your engineering, not from theoretical problem-solving perspective but from a practical real-life applications perspective?
  • are there tech jobs you want — app development, chip design, security, automobile design

If your answer to any of the above questions is yes then you should pursue an MS.

If I was asked this question during my college I would have said no because while I did well in engineering and enjoyed studying quite a few subjects, for me it was purely a case of abstract problem solving. I would have loved problem solving subjects in any field (as long as it did not get way too deep). I did well because I was competitive. But I did not want a technical job because I knew I had no aptitude for it whatsoever. I knew that some of my batchmates who did not may be do as well as me in terms of marks were much better in terms of their ability to do well in a core job.

Also, we get to learn more about ourselves and our skill sets more through good professional experience than through courses in college. So instead of the Indian method — finish off all your education, get a job, quickly get married, make babies and then contemplating where is my life heading, what am I doing (and then going and getting yourself an Enfield) — it is always best to put oneself in a situation early in life where one gets really high quality experiences  — moving to a different country, studying in a different ecosystem, managing finances — that will help one to grow as a individual.

So unless your answer to the above questions is an emphatic NO, questions you should pursue an MS.

The better core jobs are abroad

If you are interested in a good core job you need to pursue an MS abroad since the best core jobs in all sectors are abroad. Even on IIT campuses the number of core jobs available are not high in number. The simple reason is the size of our economy itself! We are still a developing country that is on the world map because of our IT services and not because of our manufacturing or software product development muscle. Even most of the apps that are being developed are rip-offs of apps that already exist abroad!

Also, getting into marquee companies such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft is easier if you are in the US armed with an MS than it is here in India.

While we have started to take initiatives such as Make In India it is going to be while before those of you reading this blog right now can benefit from it. Simply put most of the high-quality core jobs are all abroad.

Better ROI, better means to finance your MBA

You will end spending about $50000-60000 for an MS if you get no aid and no scholarship at all. Those from good colleges, with good, GPAs, good GRE+TOEFL scores can easily secure a scholarship and end up spending substantially lesser.

The salaries, especially in technology firms say CISCO, start at least $75000 per annum. You will be saving enough to pay off your loan quickly and invest as well (unless you decide to get yourself a fancy car, that will cost around $30000-40000, which you can gauge is not out of your budget at all!)

Also the workload in the initial years post your MS will be 9-5 and with weekends off, enough to plan and take trips across the world.

Once you have accumulated enough experience and have an idea of what sort of a career you want to build, you can do an MBA. Most importantly you will be better able to  finance an international MBA, which for most young professionals working in India is way out of league financially.

Also it is not a must that you have to do an MBA especially if you are in technology. A dear friend who is settled there was having a chat with me and I (like may be most Indian professionals) asked him why he was not doing an MBA (we feel without an MBA we are not complete men/women). His reply was pretty candid — I work in tech. and I already make enough and doing an MBA won’t really make a difference financially!

 Maximise your Return On Experience

If you are even remotely interested in the engineering side of things I think you should make a career plan that maximises the return on your experiences. Doing an MBA immediately or after an IT job will mean that you are letting go of four years of your life that had some meaning to you and also ensuring that you are closing the door on it for the rest of your life.

A much better option would be to do an MS in the US or in Europe (depending on your branch), work for around 3 to 4 years, travel the world and plan for an MBA knowing what you want to do and where you want to go — you can choose a particular college since it attracts recruiters from a particular sector, you can choose to relocate to a different continent just for the experience, you can choose to do it from a college in a particular country because you want to work in that economy.

MBA is something that primarily gives you great growth opportunities, do it too early and you will make very little out of it (like using an advanced power in the early levels of a video game) and there is never anything like too late for an MBA when it comes to international schools.

So maximise your experiences at this stage so that you can set up the later stage of your life with more self-knowledge, something which is probably the most elusive of all forms of knowledge.



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