Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chicago must be beautiful

I was invited by my summer internship employer to spend a weekend in Chicago. Met people at the firm, got to know prospective fellow interns better, partied for a couple of nights, caught up with old friends from India, all this while staying in a plush hotel in the heart of downtown.

I like Chicago for some reason. It was typical Chicago weather, what with the winds and the snow. However, I get this feeling that it is a buzzing place. There's movement all 24 hours, everyone looks busy, people are friendly, so many activities going on any day of the week and there's plenty of history associated with the city. There is a certain order to the chaos in Chicago. Having spent four years in Bangalore and having loved every moment of it, I guess that's the way I like it. I hear that Chicago is particularly vibrant during summer time and I look forward to spending 10 weekends there. Hopefully, I will get a decent nest in downtown itself, and that will enable me relish the place even better.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ISB versus a top B-school in the US

A lot of my friends in India are faced with the option of MBA from ISB versus an that from an American B-school. I will take a shot at penning down my opinion on this.

The first step is to figure out what factors are relevant to making this decision. Some factors that I can think of are:

Career Prospects
Both the breadth (range) and depth (options within a particular job description) of career paths is important. I think a US MBA has an advantage here. Brand recognition is critical specially when you are looking for jobs that are not run of the mill.
First of all, the sheer range of options that are possible if you are graduating from a top B-school in the US is unparalleled - Investment Banking, Sales and Trading, Private Equity, Hedge Funds, Wealth Management, Venture Capital, Consulting, Real Estate, Marketing, Sales, General Management jobs in almost every industry vertical that you can think of - the list is as endless as the number of job profiles that exist in this world. A US MBA opens window of opportunity to many more possibilities than ISB would. Caveat - As an international student, it is really difficult to enter into job functions such as Marketing.
But then what about people who want to pursue careers in industries where it is possible to find a job through ISB? That is where the depth comes in. You have the opportunity to get an Investment Banking job with Goldman Sachs in New York or London of you are graduating from ISB. However, do perform due diligence on what percentage of people actually get the job - more importantly how many people having your background and experience get what they consider to be the best possible scenario. This should be particularly relevant to career switchers - it is easy to switch your function or your industry, but difficult to do both things simultaneously. A US MBA will open that much more possibility of you pulling it off than an ISB. If after graduation, you would anyways prefer to work with Cognizant versus the same job profile in Google's headquarters, then ISB is probably a better choice.

Return on Investment
A major concern about US B-school education is the extremely high fee, specially when converted to Indian Rupee. I wonder if anybody would have even bothered comparing the two options had the investment amount been the same. Joining in the US is definitely a bigger risk - given that it is a bigger investment. However, the returns are definitely bigger as well - even if we consider only money and no other aspect. Question you should ask is what you want from your career in the long term. In the short term, it will probably take the same time to pay back either loan (assuming that you are taking a loan that is).

B-school experience
B-school is a remarkable journey. You have to live it to believe it. Academics is just one small component of the journey. Apparent cliches like diversity in cultures, ethnicity, professional backgrounds can only be appreciated once you are here. My curriculum team of five at Fuqua consists of a people from three different countries and five different professional backgrounds. This is so typical of any MBA student's experience in the US. The educational and learning value of this team I realized only after I was a part of such a diverse team. I doubt if one can get the same experience at ISB. Also, the skills that get ingrained in you by experiencing and learning so many different cultures can only help you in the real business world.
I am sure the quality of education in terms of faculty and facilities are at par with the world's best at ISB. Still, not everything is taught and learnt in the classroom.

Alumni effectiveness is a very strong factor in the business world. We do not realize this much in India, but networking is almost a make a break factor in business - and networking starts with alumni most of the times.

A two year MBA makes it easier to transition into a new career. This relates back to the first point about career prospects for career switchers. A summer job is mutually beneficial for both the student and the company. You get a chance to explore and understand whether you actually want to do that job or not. The firms are also more willing to give you a chance to explore and learn.

There can be numerous other factors that can be deciding factors - such as geographic location, personal reasons, weather, affinity to Hyderabadi cuisine etc. To each one her own. I do not think you can go wrong either. It is more a matter of what you want from your MBA and from your career.