IIM Ahmedabad: Reflections

So, 2 years at IIMA are now over, and 2 months hence, it is still taking me some time to let it all sink in. The place felt so much at home, that now when I sit at the window in my house, sipping my coffee and trying to reflect on the time gone by, it almost feels weird – thoughts don’t come as easily here as they did at the window facing LKP (I’d like to call it ‘my spot’) or ‘the ruins’ or at the balcony of my dorm room.

Still, I fire up my laptop and start typing – thoughts come randomly at first, in abrupt incoherent snippets, and I keep typing – at one point of time, I almost decide to let my thoughts be that way and get on to something else. But something tells me these thoughts are too important to ignore like that.

What you see below is my attempt at trying to bring them some semblance of structure

On Friendships..

Honestly, before I started at IIMA, I did not expect to become really good friends with people here – I mean all the stress, competition, time-crunch and the fact that we were all much older now is hardly a fertile ground for meaningful friendships to grow. I was so wrong! I met a bunch of really amazing people at this place, and formed friendships, which I hope will be here to stay for a long time! It’ll be unfortunate if they don’t.

On Groups..

If there was one secret ingredient, let’s called it ‘luck’, in the recipe of success at IIMA, I can tell you the ingredient is your PGP Learning-Group.

Groups can make or break your experience at IIMA. It is as simple as that. After spending almost 70-80% of your time in study-groups, you cannot help but realize the influence your learning-team has had on you, especially during your first year. Most of the frustrations, celebrations, arguments you share with them. I was lucky to have nothing short of a kick-ass group (one of my group mates went on to enter the LIMCA book of records for drumming for 30 hours straight!) without whom I shudder at the thought of what my academic performance would have looked like!

IIMA groups

 On Prioritizing..

One of the biggest things IIMA teaches you, especially in the first year, is to make hard choices (some minor, some pretty defining) – because that’s what management is about right? Making the right choice?

Life at the institute hardly allows you to have ‘a routine’ of sorts, and the only way you can get what you want done, is by exploiting those random pockets of free-time that spring up. And one can do that only if they are sure of where they want to spend those spare 30 mins (the options are numerous and all equally appealing). This brings me to a related topic..

On Reflection..

I have a simple insight about this

“The less time you think you have to reflect, the more you actually need to reflect.”

This has probably been one of the harder things at IIMA – I planned to take out some time every week and think about where I am going, but admittedly, reflections sessions were hardly that disciplined or regular

On Learning Vs. Grades..

There will come times during the two years here when you can choose between working towards Grades or working towards Learning. While I know people who have strong opinions favouring both sides, and I hardly know the ‘correct’ choice, I preferred to keep a balance between the two (with a heavy inclination towards Learning). As much as I’d like to take the idealist route and say Learning is all one should strive for, I cannot ignore the fact that Grades are a good short-term hedge

Grades&Learning

On staying healthy..

One of the most ignored aspects of time at IIMA, also one of the most crucial (illness can knock valuable days out of your already crazy first year schedule!). Some smart students got their dose of physical activity through midnight Frisbee tournaments (one of them ranked 4th in our entire batch, see, what does that tell you?) a few others hit the gym (I tried that for a couple of months too, but we shall not talk about it). I choose running (that’s the closest to a sport and requires minimal real-time hand-eye co-ordination!) – I hope I continue running even after starting work – it is nothing short of therapeutic

On staying sane..

Amidst the mad rush that is the two years at IIMA, it is important to keep doing things that help you retain your sanity. Coffee.Music.Conversations did the trick for me 🙂 I made it a point to play the guitar for at least a half hour every day (much to the annoyance of my floor-mates). And conversations over Coffee with a select set of friends was my escape from the crazy world of assignments, submissions, networking dinners and quizzes (we started making long coffee sessions a weekly affair in the last term!). Living on campus meant these coffee sessions were a phone-call away – now with work and everyone living far away, this is going to be a much more ‘planned’ phenomenon! (digressing, check out this post: the opposite of loneliness)

On being stupid..

It’s good to do stupid things sometimes (the key word here being sometimes) – it’s fun, helps you bond with people like nothing else and makes for some really cool stories!

Disclaimer: I am none of those face-painted glam-rock guys

Disclaimer: I am none of those face-painted glam-rock guys

 

T-Nite is one of those ridiculously stupid things, which make no sense at all then..and make total sense 2 years later when you sit at your window thinking about it 🙂

 On Tangibles Vs. Intangibles..

A major paradigm-shift for us after two years at IIMA, was realizing the value of the intangibles. Blame it on our engineering education, but a lot of us were left wanting after classes  – just because there was no one real solution or answer to any problem. Understanding that answers in management do not fit into a simple set of LPP equations was a major battle we had to face. That was probably the first stage towards maintaining the IQ Vs. EQ balance

On Speed Vs. Accuracy..

A constant battle in my mind throughout the two years at IIMA (and my guess is, during my time at work too!) In fact, during my final review with the project partner at BCG, I showed him this diagram, which sums it up quite well:

Thankfully, the partner had a good sense of humor - he offered me a job :)

Thankfully, the partner had a good sense of humor – he offered me a job 🙂

Very recently, a batchmate who is trying to start-up was facing a similar situation – quickly put up a half-satisfactory site and get traction or wait and launch ‘the perfect site’? My views, as usual, are to maintain a balance (I like the concept of lean start-ups and would therefore focus on speed in this particular case).

But a broader solution to this dilemma is called ‘Expectations Management’. Increasingly, I realize, that more than choosing one over the other, it is necessary to let your stakeholders know about your choice, or even have a say in it – makes things a lot easier

On Student Exchange..

If I had to give someone one piece of advice about this, it would be to “GO ON STUDENT EXCHANGE!” Regardless of what one does there, it’s going to be an experience to remember. For me exchange was a crash course in application of what I had learned so far – Budgeting/Negotiation/International Relations/Networking&Schmoozing/Working in cross-cultural teams/Dealing with ambiguity and the list can go on..

Since I was the only student on exchange to my host university (from India); I was forced to awkwardly join a group of people where everyone knew everyone else apart from me and introduce myself..that too, multiple times – it is harder than it sounds; but it gets easy faster than I would have thought 🙂 Of course, not knowing a lot of people leaves you with plenty of ‘alone time’ – something that I barely managed to get at IIMA (mostly out of choice), but which was necessary nonetheless

Read more >>

On FOMO..

FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out is something I’m sure every Business School student relates to – when there are tonnes of interesting opportunities facing you at the same time, this becomes a pretty real fear. What results is something which is popularly known as ‘insecure overachievers’ (this is especially attributed to consulting professionals :/)

I was not one to escape FOMO – it was almost a way of life for a while (I still maintain that a sane level of FOMO can actually motivate you to work hard..better FOMO-ed than lazy right?) Just that every once in a while, it is good to check if it is reaching unhealthy levels

On Listening..

There’s just so much to say and do, that sometimes, listening takes a back-seat. But I realized that when I decided to stop and listen, people have never failed to surprise me! Never have I left a conversation without learning something from the other person (ok, not NEVER).

Receiving feedback is another important learning from this place. Asking for feedback during my internship was probably the best advice I was given. But that should continue over time, even during terms – Mr. K invented this concept of KYF (know your friends) wherein an important aspect was giving and receiving (sometimes brutally) honest feedback!

However, I think the most important source of feedback is non-verbals – part of the EQ equation is understanding what the other person is feeling about you from their behaviour – something that needs a lot of work; and I find extremely hard to master

On ‘All Globe and No Content’..

IIMs and Business Schools in general have been blamed for not teaching anything useful, or rather teaching things which are obvious or common-sense. Even though I agree that if someone really sits and thinks hard enough, they may get to the same insights that one gets in a Business School – but then we are missing the point here.

The point of academics in BSchool, is to help gain these insights at an accelerated pace – from other people’s experiences. What I learnt there was not how to solve a particular problem, but how to approach any problem; more importantly, the fact that there are many solutions to the same problem and how to collaborate with people who have different solutions to come up with something better.

Another important lesson, was that getting to the solution is hardly enough – equally important is getting that solution in action – which might mean, securing buy-in, pitching, building alliances, compromising on a perfect solution to create a more workable solution and seeing it through.

Personally, I feel these softer aspects are much more crucial to success. That doesn’t mean we never got to learn about the more tangible stuff (Just a couple of days ago, my uncle and sister – both Chartered Accountants – were talking about how to treat a BOT asset on the balance sheet..and I instinctively said “Amortize over the Operating Period” .. I surprised myself, but that’s when I realized, we have actually internalized these things, to the extent that they now come naturally to us!)

I was reading my very first post about the institute, and I notice that I had mentioned

“If nothing else, I will come out of this institute, with more discipline, a greater sense of morality and lasting relationships!”

Now that I look back, I realize I have received so much more!

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6 thoughts on “IIM Ahmedabad: Reflections

  1. A comprehensive and brilliant post, Mr. SP. You should share it on Facebook if you haven’t already (I’m too lazy to check – clearly, no FOMO there !)

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