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'Be clear about why you want an MBA'


…says Parth Dev Jugnalia, a first year MBA student at TISS. In conversation with Advanc’edge MBA, Parth talks about his decision to pursue a management degree in Human Resources from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and how fulfilling his chosen career path has been. 


Q. Was an MBA always on your mind? Why did you choose to pursue an MBA degree?
I studied engineering in my graduation. During the first three years, MS in Material Sciences was on the top of my mind. But as I neared the end of the third year, I realised that the engineering domain wasn’t quite what I wanted, primarily because working as an engineer didn’t seem appealing to me in the long run. So in the next one year I tried and identified my areas of interest. Fortunately, I figured out that I was most interested in the field of human resources, and I started reading about it and interacted with industry experts. That was when I decided that I really wanted to pursue an MBA.

Q. You didn’t have work experience before your MBA. Did you feel disadvantaged?
I didn’t have any work experience, but I graduated in 2017 and started my MBA programme from TISS in 2018. During that one year, I worked as an intern to better align my profile towards my interest in HR. I really wanted to understand what this field is all about before actually going for the formal education. And yes, the internship did help me to some extent in handling the tests and the PIs, because I could discuss my interest more effectively with the interviewer.

Q. What helped you most in your preparation?
One of the things that was crucial was my ability to put in a lot of efforts without getting tired. Preparing for competitive exams required me to invest a lot of hours, and I was doing my internship as well. So time management was a crucial aspect in my preparation, and I think I did a fairly good job of it!
The SimCATs, the IMS mock tests, too helped me in gauging the patterns for questions asked in the CAT. They helped me focus on particular sections, and gave a very good sense about what I could expect in the actual test. Also, the SimCATs helped me figure out how much time I needed to allocate per section and plan out a strategy for the actual test.

Q. What is your take on group study?
Firstly, you must ask yourself, ‘does going in for group study add any value to you?’
I believe group study will help only when you’ve gone through all the study material,
solved question papers, and built your fundamental understanding of the subject matter. So for me, it makes sense to go for a group study only to address doubts and clear any queries.

Q. Any suggestions for CAT aspirants?
You have to establish some very concrete timelines for yourself with the objective of completing your learning and assessment. This is essential for any competitive examinations and not just the CAT. You will be assessed on Math, Verbal, decision making, logical ability and so on. Make sure to chart out a timeline that you can invest in each of these areas before the final day of CAT or any other examination. Religiously go through the text books. Interact with people who sat for these tests, because their experience can be really helpful. If your target is to get into one of the top B-schools, then hard work is a must.

Q. How was your experience at the selection rounds at TISS?
TISS conducts a National Entrance Test (NET), the TISSNET. In this, there is a special focus on general knowledge. On D-day you are subjected to three kinds of assessments. The first is an essay. Secondly, you have to talk about that essay in a GD, and finally, the PI. The essay topics can range right from abstract to social issues. It could also be something related to human resources.
My experience at the TISS discussion was quite orderly. A few individuals were making their point vociferously, but the group was more or less a very pacifistic kind of a group. That helped everyone make their point succinctly. The group was able to summarise in time very well, and quite a few of them from the panel were selected for the subsequent PI round.
The PI rounds started with a vetting of whatever I had mentioned in my CV. Subsequently, it took the form of a behavioural interview, wherein questions about my experiences in particular situations were asked. Situations were given to me where I had to take a decision; there were questions on social issues. In PIs at TISS, your profile may or may not drive your interview, but what you say will actually make a lot of difference at the end of the day.
The entire process for all the three activities lasted for about 8 hours.

Q. Tell us a bit about your experiences of group discussion and personal interview?
Group discussion topics for me ranged from HR topics to social issues in India, which meant that I encountered a gamut of GD topics. My PIs were primarily driven towards understanding my individual capabilities — how I would react to a particular situation. So the behavioural component of lot of interviews was actually pretty high. The other thing that the interviewers focused on was why I wanted to pursue HR, having come from an engineering background.

Q. According to you, what are the important points one must remember before going for a personal interview?
One of the key things I will suggest to anybody preparing for PIs is to be very thorough with whatever they’ve written in their CV. Because that in itself is the interviewers’ first take of who you are. What often happens is that the interviewer picks a particular point in your CV and then goes to deeper levels with their questioning. This can lead to a stress situation, and you have to prove your knowledge to the interviewer.
Secondly, learn how to present yourself. Apart from your communication skills, you must keep in mind the general etiquettes while entering a room, manoeuvring your hands, sitting posture and the way you engage with the questions. Be humble, be straightforward and also, if you have the necessary component of wit, use it! Interviewers appreciate a certain amount of wit in a candidate’s answers. Make sure that you are dressed for the occasion. You’re presenting yourself as a potential professional, and it reflects poorly on you if you are dressed shabbily. Make a check list of the essential items you need to take with you on the day — your documents, stationery, and also something to eat, because PI day can be very heavy, you never know when you will be called in. Be prepared for contingencies.

Q. Why did you choose TISS over other institutes?
Even before deciding on an MBA, I was genuinely interested in the social side of things. That was a deciding factor for my pecking order in choosing an HR specialisation. For me, TISS was first, followed by other colleges. In fact, the unique selling proposition of TISS is that not only are you exposed to the curriculum of a flagship HR programme, but you also find out about the reality of the modern world, including getting sensitised towards social issues. That was exactly what I had in mind when I chose TISS.
The institute has a unique element called the fieldwork internship programme, wherein every semester has an internship stint. So at the end of the two years of TISS HRMLR programme, every student gets four internships in the form of field work, coupled with summer internship and an NGO internship (which is sometime in the second year). That’s a total of 6 experiences, and this differentiates itself from any other programme.

Q. What, according to you, are some of the benefits of studying at TISS?
I think the biggest benefit of studying at TISS is the practical experience that you obtain. Through the fieldwork internship programme, you are exposed to what the business world looks like. This gives you a look at the ground realities of HR as a profession in some of the biggest organisations in India, as you intern with some of the biggest names in the corporate sectors. For instance, in the FMCG sector, you might get an internship opportunity with Unilever, Marico, Nestlé and so on. These are the practical touch points that one must have when doing an MBA, which is often not emphasised enough in other B-schools.

Q. As part of the campus life, what should one look forward to at TISS?
TISS provides you the opportunity of being part of a larger ecosystem of being a socially responsible individual. There are numerous committees at TISS. Also, TISS gives you the option of being part of a bigger cause. The Field Action Programme happens to be TISS’s intervention in areas that require particular focus and government actions. You can be a part of these FAPs and part of the end-to-end execution of those initiatives. If you really have an inclination towards a social cause and doing something more than just the HRM course at TISS, you can explore these avenues too.

Q. What are your personal learnings after joining a B-School?
For the most part, B-schools are the first touch points students have with the corporate environment, although for those with work experience this might not be a new experience. However, whether you have work experience or not before coming to a B-school, you end up unlearning many things, and you end up relearning others that you had fo rgotten. The topics of conversation in the classrooms are highly stimulating, to say the least. And these talks and conversations go beyond the theoretical context. The faculty here are industry experts, have worked outside and are visiting faculty members who are very proficient in the subjects they teach. Also, at a B-school, you realise how important networking is. These are the personal learning that eventually leads to personality transformations for most students graduating from B-schools.

Q. Anything you would like to tell future aspirants?
First, be very thorough with why you want to pursue an MBA. Have a good and sound reason. Secondly, the preparation to crack any entrance test needs to be thorough. Third, be extremely thorough with the kind of profile that you have, it should reflect your personality and your life experiences. Network with individuals that are part of these institutions. Try to gauge what their experiences were like. This will help you make a sound decision as to the kind of B-school that you’d prefer. Lastly, the preparation days can get stressful, so it is essential to invest some time in recreational activities, be it sports, or hanging out with your friends, or even travel. And of course, eat healthy and sleep well!