I was born in the small town of Warangal and I was a very curious kid. I remember that I loved history and economics as a kid and as many curious kids of my generation I ended up choosing engineering. My family had a business (so cliché!) and didn’t have a high regard for education. Since I was born with a silver spoon, I never had to think about working at a company for money. At the age of 20, I was managing around 40 people, together with my uncle in his company, and never thought of getting a masters degree.
How I got into an MiM program in Europe
My grades at my engineering college were pretty low as I was consumed by sales and purchasing in my job. But then I saw my whole engineering college taking the GRE to go and live their American / Australian / Canadian dream and I decided to attempt the test just after a few weeks of preparation. I got a fairly good GRE score of 323, which was the highest in my college. I was super pumped.
Finally I realised that engineering wasn’t my calling and so I chose to attempt the GMAT. This started a struggle with the GMAT. It took three attempts to get a 750.
Getting a 750 in the GMAT was not easy especially because I had no direction or guidance. I scored high on the quant one time and on verbal another time. But then I made sure that I made a very elaborate plan of sticking to the basics and the hard work paid off.
At the same time, I started working for a startup where I had a very dynamic boss (780 GMAT, IIT Hyderabad, Wharton admit) who inspired me. Nothing was un-doable for him and after talking to him I felt that I needed to get into a top school and be the best manager there ever was.
To be very honest, my application strategy was very impulsive. I applied to ISB but got rejected. Then I got into Amazon and started working there, so decided to apply next year.
But Amazon was nothing like the startup I just came out of. I had no previous corporate exposure and I felt that I couldn’t stay there without any business education. So I applied to a few other colleges and chose ESCP Europe that offered me a scholarship of 20,000 Euros.
My reason for choosing ESCP Europe was simple. It gave me a chance to get totally out of my comfort zone and Europe seemed to be a place to target especially as US and UK were dealing with populist movements
MiM classroom experience
I got into ESCP, chose the Paris campus for the first semester, and realized I was clueless about how business schools actually worked. After a week of French classes, we started with the prerequisite courses that non-management background people were required to do.
Our class was fairly diverse in terms of nationalities. It had a lot of French and Italian students with a fair number of German and Spanish people. There were also a lot of Indian and Chinese students. They mostly had business backgrounds but some of them had also studied languages, politics or engineering.
The year started full throttle with core courses which included Corporate finance, Management Control, Organizational management, HR, and law. For me, the problem was that all these courses didn’t focus a lot on the quantitative side of things but forced us to look on vague concepts such as vision, alignment, strategy and the ‘Big Picture’.
The idea was that a management course was not intended to make financial analysts or performance marketing executives but managers who could handle a fair amount of ambiguity and chaos.
Having said that, you can also choose specialisations depending on your interests. More than 50% of our class time was spent on discussions, student presentations, and projects.
For example, we were given a project of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for an orphanage in the most time-efficient way possible. This actually forced us to understand how to set up an assembly line following the Agile and Kaizen concepts rather than just producing some bookish concepts on an exam.
There was an organisational management project on the culture that actually helped me to understand what kind of firms I want to work at (for example, I would never work at Apple).
I also understood what makes bankers so ambitious (in my opinon, greed), how many implicit things affect the work culture of a place and how to conduct yourself in a firm. In the finance lecture, the ease with which the professor explained the diversification of risks, and differences between systematic and firm/industry-specific risk is something I will remember for a long time.
MiM student life
I landed in Paris in August of 2017 with a roommate from ESCP who was also from the south.
I couldn’t cook and I survived a few months just on bread, Nutella, butter and whatever my roommate made for me.
Student life is pretty great at ESCP because you have campuses in Paris, Berlin, London, Turin and Madrid. That along with student discos such as the one in the Berlin campus makes your life pretty solid (10 Euros for 6 vodka drinks…good luck with those prices in India).
I ended up making a lot of friends of many nationalities and was often the only Indian in the party, which was great because that has helped me adjust to Europe much more easily – adjusting from Warangal to Paris can be quite a task.
ESCP Europe has a very strong brand name in France (comparable to IIM Calcutta) and has also gained popularity in Germany. Brand recognition is always dependent on which country you target. So networking becomes pretty easy.
Career services hooked me up with a senior manager at BCG Digital, who became my coach to prepare for interviews. A few VPs at reputed tech firms in Berlin helped me identify what kind of jobs to target.
Internships are considered as a stepping stone to a full-time job so it is very important to get an internship in the area that you like.
When I joined the business school I was not very sure of what I wanted to do but after some deliberation, I thought that working as a product manager would be a good fit for me and so I applied to a lot of product management roles in various companies.
An internship is always complicated if you don’t speak the local language.
Every Indian I know at ESCP Europe and ESSEC has applied to at least 100 companies to get a decent Internship.
I was able to get into a very big FMCG company and a very big e-commerce company. I chose the latter because it was still functioning like a start-up and I really liked the work culture.
But then I watched a Business Plans lecture by Jim Goetz, Partner at Sequoia Capital, which got me interested in Tech strategy and venture capital space. I applied to a few VCs and tech strategy roles but I had to work very hard for those interviews.
These interviews mostly focus on your knowledge of finance and strategy concepts (Porter’s model, financial statement analysis, consulting case studies) but also firm-specific tasks such as preparing pitch reports for startups, analysis for huge luxury firms, etc. So the best way to crack them would be to read up on your lectures, solve the cases with the Case-in-Point book, research the firm and follow TechCrunch .
At the end of the day…
At least for me who wasn’t working in the most dynamic job in India, taking an MiM was a very good experience because I didn’t want to work at that role for five more years to wait for an MBA.
Also in France and Germany, you aren’t expected to get an MBA and an MIM will usually do as long it is from a reputed place. I think the end path with a MIM or an MBA is the same in Europe.
So the decision that you have to make is can you work in your job for three or four more years to get an MBA. For me, I couldn’t and I feel ESCP Europe has been the best decision of my life.
Plus there is also the question of age. You would certainly enjoy Paris or Berlin more when you are 23 than when you are 30 ;).
This article was originally published in MBACrystal Ball