It’s not easy to be a media person, be associated with names like CNN and The Economic Times, and then jump to one of the best business schools in India. Well, it isn’t impossible either, says Nina Mehta who made the shift
Most of us don’t really know what it is we want to do with our lives. Our undergrad education is usually a combination of what we studied in junior college, what our parents think is a good degree, and what the latest trend is. This is mostly followed by the standard engineering-, commerce-, finance-related jobs that ‘fit’ with what we studied to justify spending three or four years of our life learning. It’s the rare person who knows exactly what he wants to do for the rest of his life while still in junior college and sets out achieving it. Even this rare person can have a change of heart down the line, or learn different things about himself and decide to make a shift. I wouldn’t say I fit the mould of the latter, but I most certainly wouldn’t classify myself as being part of the former.
After dabbling in animation for a while, I quickly realised my potential for writing. I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in journalism with the aim of honing my skills as a journalist. While in college I started freelancing for a number of publications in Mumbai and Chennai. Following my undergraduate degree, I decided to opt for further studies and joined the Asian College of Journalism, Asia’s leading J-school for a Postgraduate Diploma in Print Journalism.
During campus placements, I consciously applied to The Economic Times for a posting in Mumbai. Despite having no background in healthcare or life sciences, upon joining I was assigned the task of tracking the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. As a reporter for a beat that ebbs and flows in terms of news, I learnt a lot from industry leaders, colleagues, and people across various levels of the sector’s value chain. From a bystander with little or no knowledge, I became an insider with the skills to understand how science and business affect the economics of the world around us.
The time spent at The Economic Times opened my eyes to the opportunities around me and got me interested in various aspects of business. I decided that I wanted to be part of change happening in the industry rather than just standing on the sidelines, reporting it. This was however not a decision I took lightly; no career switch ever is. I decided that it was something I wanted to do and went for it with gusto.
Cramming for the GMAT while working a six-day job with irregular hours is no mean feat, as some of you know. But, with the aim of getting into one of the best schools in the world in mind, anything is doable. Initially, I applied only to universities in the US. However, insightful discussions with colleagues as well as witnessing the upheaval that the West was going through, I decided studying in India was the best option for me.
Realisation, however, came a little too late as deadlines for the only school I was considering in India – Indian School of Business – was already over. Since the die was already cast for that year, I decided to make the most of the time I had to improve my experience and resume in areas that I was lacking. Journalism, as wonderful a profession as it is, didn’t allow me to delve too much into any particular sector. I decided my research skills needed improvement and joined RR Donnelley, a publishing firm (and a Fortune 500 company, no less!) as a research analyst. Through the year I worked on my MBA application and when the time came, sent it in to only one university. My logic was and still is – if you are not studying in the best university, there is no point in studying at all.
At this point I think it’s important to mention a few things that I feel will help those of you looking to (i) join a leading B-school and (ii) switch careers. As far as the first point is concerned, I cannot stress enough on the importance one must pay to the essays. Essays are a way for universities to judge the kind of person you are. It gives you a chance to showcase yourself in the manner you want. It’s all in your hands. The key to a good essay, apart from being honest and not fabricating claims, is to have people who know you well and whose opinion you value to read your essays and critique them. Getting an agency to screen your essays is not a bad idea; but they won’t know you as well as your friends, family, or co-workers.
With regard to switching careers, there are two types of people – those who know what they want to do post an MBA and those who only have a vague idea. My two cents is that it’s fine if you don’t know exactly what you want to do as long as you are open to self-discovery and learning during the course of your study. As far as places to study management go, personally I can’t see myself in any other B-school other than ISB. The faculty, the class mix, and the immense diversity people bring in terms of background, work experience, and ideas is truly first class. Life on campus is a perfect mix of work (assignments that drive us crazy at 2 am) and play (parties that end with the sunrise). If it’s the opportunity to learn from some of the most dynamic faculty from leading B-schools across the globe or the chance to interact with top-notch industry leaders, ISB is the place to be. And for all of you out there who don’t have a technical background, fret not. If a girl who last did any form in math in junior college can make it here and survive, so can you!
Volume 1 Issue 2