Sep 24, 2013

USB in my pen stand reveals "Why MBA? Why Now?"

While clearing up my desk today evening, I came across a USB memory stick in a pen stand. Apparently, it had been lying there since last 4 years - Found a solo word file (contents below) that I saved then in my very early days of MBA preparation. Am posting the contents below - Hope it provides some perspective!

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Why an MBA?

I am presently a hardcore circuit engineer. Over the last 5 years, I have done detailed analysis of different complex circuits and have even created some worthy enough to get patented. It has been a very enriching and an enthusiastic engineering experience. I have worked on numerous projects – some were successfully released into the market while most were dropped in the development stage. The reason for dropping the projects was often put forward by our boss as – “the management decided it that way”. Though I did feel a bit uncomfortable, other ongoing projects kept me busy enough not to probe beyond – In fact, the dropped projects have always come as a relief to our busy schedule. However, there has always been an inner desire to look at the bigger picture. Why did the management decide so? What parameters influenced the decision?  Besides having these questions, working in a big company like Samsung triggered a lot of other related questions. I now yearn to know how the big corporations with tens of thousands of employee actually work. How do they (who are they?) manage such a big workforce? My interest to acquire the know-how of running a successful business has got deepened. How business deals of billions of dollars are negotiated, materialized and how they later result into a huge loss/ huge profit deal? In a nutshell, I am very curious to learn how corporations manage the entire system, that too in a diverse, multi-cultural global setting.

Though I have worked on many projects, one of them has been very significant both for me and Samsung. Last year, I played a significant role in proposing, implementing and finally verifying the circuit ideas that saved Samsung US$10.6 per LCD TV (40 inch size and above). We have already sold more than 1 million of those TV sets so far. Looking at the figures, a simple equation and a question pop up in my mind. Profit = US$10.6 * 1 million. What if I had my own consulting firm and had sold the idea to Samsung, LG and other TV set makers while just making 10% of the above profit?  It is indeed a bold thought – bold because it motivates me to change myself - to upgrade myself with business skill sets and effectively integrate them with my engineering perspective.

A knack for circuits and an ability to generate value by applying the VE (Value Engineering) methods in existing electronic circuit boards coupled with a budding entrepreneurial spirit looks like a great combination to start aiming at establishing a technical consultant firm. However, to make this move a success and to be able to think even bigger, I need to acquire the necessary business skills and practise those. I ought to quench my thirst to know how corporations work, how finances are controlled, how the brands are managed, how strategies for multi-billion dollar business deals are developed and much more that I am definitely unaware of now. I want to learn about entrepreneurship, study different cases and discern the dos and don’ts.

Hence, pursuing an MBA curriculum that covers topics on general management comes as a natural next step in my career.  

Why now?

I can foresee a big wave emerging in the electronic industry. Super-fast cell phone chargers, wireless powered gadgets like TVs and music systems and systems powered by renewable sources of energy are going to be some of the hot-picks of the next decade. All the above have one thing in common – they will all demand intensive research and development in electronics. The chemical engineers and researchers are working hard to come up with a battery that can accept huge amount of instantaneous charge. But, we would also need to have a power source that can supply that instantaneous energy. Similarly, wireless TVs would only be possible if we can efficiently generate a wireless power source and receiver. I have the necessary know-how to start working on the challenges associated with electronics.     

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Sep 7, 2013

Engineers thinking of MBA

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Below are the slides that I presented to the IIT Kanpur Students during a brief skype session today. Hope it helps!











Aug 15, 2013

Interview

Hi Folks,

Thought of sharing my interview which was published in Korea Herald today. Enjoy and please let me know if you have any questions.

Best,
ETM

Aug 11, 2013

Question of the Week [Week of August 5]

Question

I'm Vishvajith from Bangalore.I'm currently pursuing my 3rd year BE Mechanical engineering. I can't decide what i should do after this. Up until some time back i had an interest in aeronautical engineering and was pretty sure that was the way to go but then I found myself suddenly drawn towards getting an MBA and not because of the career prospects, but because of the syllabus and my interest in management,dealing with people and building network and everything else a manager does(My father's in the management business and i admire his work).So if you could please guide me as to how to proceed further I would be thankful.

I see there are 2 ways to go about it-

1) Finish BE,fly out for an MS in Aero,work for 3 years and then get an MBA
2) Finish BE, work fr 3-4 years, get an MBA and join as a manager.

You see, I need to decide if i have to work or not post my BE. SO i'm asking for your guidance.

Thank you in advance,
Vishvajith


ETM Response

Dear Vishvajith,

Great Question! Almost every engineer-in-the-making at your stage has this question. I had it too and kept both options open till the end and went with 1. By exploring both the options, I could better evaluate the merits/demerits of both the options and make a sound choice. In my case, I did not go with option 2 because my recruiting company (in India) didn't pay me much.
Based on my experience, my recommendation for you is that apply for jobs that you would love to do post BE and also apply to some schools for MS. You will find your answer in the process just like I did.

Does it help?

Best,
ETM

Jul 8, 2013

Question of the Week [Week of July 8]


Question

"hello I am persuing my be in mechanical branch,will a MBA be a better option for me. Are there any good job opportunities for this combo (mechanical engg +mba). Please reply I am in a great confusion...."

Response
Sure Shreyans! Take it easy - In my opinion, that's not a point to be confused or worry about. You can only explore more as you move ahead in your career. For the moment, I would recommend the following steps.

1. Focus on becoming an awesome mechanical engineer.
2. Identify your interests in the domain of mechanical engineering and look for a job in that domain.
3. Work as an engineer for 2-3-4 years and try to create some impact in your job! Make something that you would be always proud of.
4. Start looking/preparing for business schools if you want to go for an MBA then.

An MBA will hopefully transform your mindset dramatically and you would be prepared to take on challenges in practically any field.

I think your confusion is natural mostly because most of us want to skip steps 1,2,3 and move to step 4 directly. That said, there are people who jump to Step 4 directly and also do well in their career/life. To them, I ask - "Why did you pursue a degree in engineering to begin with?"

ETM
2013.07.08


Jun 12, 2013

My 1st year as a manager post MBA

A couple of weeks ago, I completed my first year as a manager post MBA (and also post my engineering career). I thought it would be worth my while to reflect on the past year and come up with some insights.

For those who don’t know my professional background, here is a brief recap: For 4 years, I worked as an engineer in the Advanced R&D team at Samsung Electronics (in Korea) – went to Harvard for my MBA – came back in mid 2012 to Samsung to work as a Manager in the Future Innovation team. My role over the last one year has been to understand consumers at a deeper level with an objective to come up with a new product category (such as phablets, tablets, and etc. but in the domain of bigger screens) for Samsung.

Back to my reflection – While reflecting, I am/was naturally inclined to compare my last one year in a managerial position with my engineering career. Regardless of the position (engineer, manager, etc.), we are always working to solve some problem and the sequence (as also shown in the image below) is pretty straightforward – “Identify the Intent”, “Do background research”, “Analyze the findings”, Synthesize solutions”, “Realize Offerings”. 


However, the biggest difference for me as an engineer and as a Manager has been the level and scope of discussions I engaged in – I believe that in my current role, I am on a mission to understand and solve “bigger” problems. Details follow. Though I worked on many interesting projects as an engineer, most of my discussions were then centered on 
a. features of products enabled through my innovative circuits, b. how my solutions were better than prior arts, and 
c. prototypes and functionality of those features. 

However, as a manager in the Future Innovation team, I rarely talked about features. Our internal/external conversations were all about consumer needs (both stated and unstated). The focus has always been to align our product/service offerings with the emotional signature of both our customers and non-customers. 

When I shared this perspective with my friends and family, a majority of them asked me (and perhaps you may also wonder)– “How do you know what consumers really want? What’s the process?” It’s tough and as of today, unlike engineering, I don’t have a multi-variable differential equation to solve for the unknowns. However, I have been able to put together some pieces of the puzzle by reading a lot of books (My favorite ones so far are “Crossing the Chasm”, “Infinite Possibilities” and “Authenticity”), observing behaviors of consumers (myself, family and friends) and by reflecting at length on why things are the way they are. Most of the time, I get up with nothing really concrete but the process of observing and reflection coupled with the frameworks and insights from different books has been definitely enriching. At a personal level, I have become curious about innovation to the extent of pursuing a new endeavor at www.innovationramp.com - Going forward, I plan to share my research, analysis and synthesis on the “what” and “how” of innovation on the above link. Stay tuned!

Because my post MBA job centers less around product features and functionalities which we can all see but more about emotions and abstract thoughts, Storytelling has been an important skill to master. Someone rightly said – “Whoever tells the best story wins”. The facts that you use to tell the story and way you express your ideas are instrumental to getting the “buy-in” from internal stakeholders. Though I am now comfortable in identifying and deploying different elements (plot, characters, conflict, beginning and end, key message) of a good story, I am yet to master the various attributes of a good storyteller.

Please don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed engineering and am still an engineer at heart – “Once an engineer, always an engineer”. However, the new spin to my career and the opportunity to look at things from a different vantage point has been a welcome change. I hope the same for all!

- Pankaj Agarwal 

Nov 19, 2011

HBS versus Kellogg

In this blog, I plan to compare the MBA programs at HBS and Kellogg. My blog is an output of discussions with Kellogg MBAs and my own experience at HBS – so this is entirely my perspective. It is advised to take this blog as another data point in your overall research about different schools.

HBS is known for its case based pedagogy. Doing about 600 cases (In a class filled with brilliant colleagues), with each case forcing to think as a protagonist really sharpens one’s intuition in taking the best decision. While I personally love this method of teaching since it brings different perspectives to the table, it is not best suited for courses like finance and accounting. While professors do their best to ensure the case method works for finance and accounting (through additional reading material & type of cases), I feel a traditional lecture would work better in these courses. Kellogg has a mix of cases and lecture-based classes depending on the type of course.

Kellogg is known for its emphasis on team. All courses are structured with a team component to it. Each course has about 3-5 team cases (apart from 5-8 individual cases) where about 4-5 students analyze a problem and submit a paper with their recommendations. All these papers are graded. In the first year, the groups are formed by pairing up students from diverse backgrounds in terms their personal and professional experiences. This way, Kellogg believes that there are fruitful discussions with diverse opinion. Additionally students learn practice collaborative style of working, which is expected to translate it in to their work-life.

From the second year onwards, students themselves select groups. With about 4 courses in each quarter, this translates to about 16 assignments with different teams. While it probably helps a student become a team player, the sheer task of coordinating between so many teams itself is exhaustive! Students at Kellogg find different ways to manage their teamwork – being a leader in one & acting as a team player in others. At HBS, only a few courses have team component to it but HBS has some thing called learning teams (similar to Kellogg each learning team has people from different backgrounds) in first year. Every day the learning team meets before classes to briefly discuss the cases. This helps students clarify any questions / share thoughts before entering into a class of 90 people.

Another big difference is the way the program is organized. HBS program is a semester-based system (2 semester in each year) while Kellogg program is a quarter-based system (3 quarters in each year). In a quarter-based system, a student has more options of courses (Obviously with a limitation of lesser depth in each course). In a quarter system, the courses are also taught in a quicker way – leading to a lot of course load. However a relatively new development in HBS is that it started floating half courses that basically are short courses completing in half a semester. HBS also started intensive courses which is basically a full semester course compressed to fit in half a semester (Duration of each class being double that of the normal class). HBS is on this path to make sure the students have more options to choose from in their second year.

Another big difference between HBS and Kellogg are the mandatory courses. At HBS, the first year has required curriculum when all courses are mandatory. The courses include Leadership, Marketing, FRC (Financial Reporting & Control), TOM (Technology, Operations & Management) & Finance-I (In the first semester), BGIE (Business, Government & International Economy), LCA (Leadership & Corporate Accountability), TEM (The Entrepreneurial Manager), Strategy & Finance-II (In the second semester). HBS started a brand new eleventh course called FIELD spanning across the first year. Kellogg on the other hand has something called core courses (which could be waived upon passing an examination). They are Financial Accounting, Finance-I, Business Strategy, Marketing, Operations Management, Decision Sciences-I&II, Micro Economics, Leadership in Organizations (You can’t waive this course). Kellogg has a greater flexibility of choosing the courses & also the quarters in which the courses are taken. In addition to these, one could choose electives in their first year at Kellogg. I personally love the HBS structure (probably I am biased!) because all courses in my opinion are very much required for a good understanding of any business. Some argue that the mandatory structure forces a student to take a course that he is already aware of through previous work experience. While all courses are mandatory in first year at HBS, there is a huge pool of electives available in second year.


- Pavan Sirpa (Harvard MBA, Class of 2012, Read Bio)