Product Management – The Ultimate Goal and How I intend to get there

Working at a Tech Giant on Enterprise Cloud Products has been better than I could have imagined. I absolutely love the whole process of building successful products. It is extremely fulfilling to know that the work you put in impacts not only your organization but also thousands of individuals and enterprises across the world.

Over the past two years, I worked on nearly every aspect of product development and the opportunities I received have been fantastic. I got to work on cutting edge technology, innovate and work alongside talented people who have inspired me to work harder.

Prior to working in this role, I had interned in various positions working in Graphic design to marketing and sales in Technology product companies. I love these roles too and I realized that I would love to take on more responsibility to build successful software products – Something at the intersection of Technology, Business and Design. I am passionate about building innovative products and that has brought me to this goal – The Goal of Becoming a Product Manager at a Technology company where I can lead innovation.

As a techie, I think my mind is trained to seeing any problem as binary – there either is a solution or there’s not. Business, on the other hand, is trickier than that. There are too many grey areas, it’s not black and white. Making data-driven decisions under uncertainty and taking calculated risks is something I must master in order to succeed as a product manager. I lack the business knowledge I must possess if I want to take on responsibility for the whole software product. A good product manager does not just take credit for the success of the product, he/she also takes responsibility for the failure of it. It’s not only about knowing the technicalities but also about managing teams, driving innovation and being a leader within your organization.

With this in mind, I decided it would be best to augment my technical background with a formal management education. Of course, This does not guarantee the job I hope to land, but I think bridging my gaps will bring me closer to my goals. There are definitely several routes to achieving the same goal. I understand my own strengths and weaknesses by now, and I believe this is the best path for me.

It is easy to get lost with the herd mentality at B-School so I think it is crucial to know EXACTLY what you want before you enter any graduate program. The key is FOCUS. I am determined to achieve this goal, and any professional decision I take will be keeping in mind this goal, until I accomplish it.

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First Top-20 B-School Admit!

I made it!! After being wait-listed after interviewing in Round 1, This has been a really long wait. I am so happy! 😀 🙂

As an early career candidate, I was only 22 when I applied! Considering that the average admitted applicant at this school is 28 with 5 years of work experience on average, I knew it was a long shot. So when the admissions director called me, I was on top of the world! 🙂

Really excited, and I still have to hear back from the other school I have been wait-listed at. Waiting for my official admissions packet, fingers crossed for some form of financial aid.

Chasing the MBA Dream as a young applicant

I am a young applicant trying to figure out my way in this complex MBA journey.

I am learning so much in this process and I thought of blogging about it. I hope this blog will help others on their journey.

Contemplating.. The Decision to get an MBA

Summing up the US MBA admissions process

Do I really want an MBA?

MBA Rankings and ‘Fit’

How many Business Schools do I apply to?

DIY : Figuring out which B-Schools to apply to

MBA School Choices!

How many Business Schools do I apply to?

Every time I come across a profile of some one who has applied only to one or two schools, I feel a sense of panic within me. How on earth do I narrow down my school selection to one, two or at the most five schools?!

Like sure, maybe there are only a few schools that are my absolute dream schools, but what happens If I get accepted nowhere. :O I have seen way too many blogs of re-applicants who didn’t make it the first time. I do not think I have it in me to go through another year of this stressful application process.

So I sat down and did a LOT of introspection. I thought about every possible scenario and came up with a plan. But first let me talk about how I arrived at my conclusion.

Some things about me and how they factor into my decision:

  • I currently work in India, but My family will be in LA next year, so I probably will want to make a move to the US anyway. It looks unlikely that I will move there through my company, so I need to consider alternatives, if I don’t get into an MBA program of my choice.
  • I am from the Tech industry and I am looking to stay in Tech post-MBA. I want to be in either LA or the Bay Area ultimately, so schools with a strong West-coast presence make more sense.
  • My family will be in LA. I want to be able to visit them at least every couple months if not more frequently. I also might need to keep traveling to the Bay area while hunting for jobs and internships since that’s my target destination. Connectivity is a major factor. I will be looking at schools that have an airport nearby with easy connectivity to LA and the Bay area.
  • In the event I do not get an MBA, I might stay in the technical area of product development instead of moving to the management track. If that happens, I would need to look for opportunities to improve my technical expertise and grow, either on the job or through courses online or maybe even a master’s in a particular domain. However, this is the worst-case scenario when I cannot get an MBA and cannot go down the management track. So that’s my backup plan 😀 For now, MBA all the way!
  • Financial aid – I earn very less when my income is converted into dollars. Now, by purchasing power parity I am quite happy with my income here in India, but since I will be paying tuition and fees in dollars I definitely need some good financial package if I want to attend. I can take on loans, but again since I have almost no savings, it makes me very uncomfortable to have debt upwards of 150k at this age. I’m only 22 and I don’t want to be tied down with such a huge financial burden at an age I want to live my life and have fun 😀
  • Returning to India – I do not know how long I want to live in the US. Yes, I know that’s unusual, but I am actually open to returning here or elsewhere in the long term. If I don’t live in the US, it will be even tougher to pay back the loans, so I need minimal debt. That way I have the mobility to move anywhere I want, at any time. I don’t want to be tied down due to financial burden.
  • I personally have several reasons to believe that this is the perfect time for me to head to B-school. I know I might have higher odds with more work experience, but right now I am absolutely positive I want to start my MBA program in Fall 2017.  If I’m unhappy with the admission results, I will accept the outcome, and move on to other things in life 🙂 But while I am trying, I will give it my best! 🙂 So, It’s now or never!!

So I have decided to apply to some of my dream schools which are ambitious and the world’s most prestigious, schools I absolutely love and also have a moderate chance of getting accepted to based on stats and schools where I might be above the average stats, but I think I really will love being a part of the school culture, and also have chances for getting a scholarship!

Either way, If I get accepted to any of these, I will be very happy to attend, and I can’t go wrong with my decision 🙂

If I do not get accepted, I will look for jobs in Tech in the US next year!

MBA Rankings and ‘Fit’

If there is anything I have learnt over the past few months it’s this : There are several awesome schools but what matters most is going to the B-school that’s right for you!

That being said, another equally important piece of advice : Go to the best school you can get into!

Ultimately, from the second you step into B-school all you will care about is landing that post-MBA job. Which means you have to think from a recruiter’s perspective. Sure, rankings do not matter between schools in the same range and it’s like splitting hairs deciding if Booth is better or Wharton. That’s when ‘fit’ with the school matters. But it also is true that an MBA from Harvard will ALWAYS be perceived to be more prestigious than a school in the range 10-15.

Let’s stop pretending we’re all going to B-school only for that life-changing experience. Yes, B-school will be life-changing and a lot of wonderful stuff, but that’s NOT the ONLY reason we want to get there. Prestige is equally important. Prestige from the recruiters’ perspective. If you only want a life-changing experience, try backpacking in Europe to gain perspective instead of throwing away 200K + the opportunity cost. 😛

Now that does not mean that you just apply to the first ten schools you find in the US News Rankings. Remember What I said about the cons of B-school. If your school isn’t right for you, the picture won’t be so pretty. It’s going to be a stressful few years (the application process, the 2 years of rigorous coursework and paying off the debt post graduation ), so you better really really like where you’re going.

Summing up the US MBA admissions process

Okay, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done. And this is just the application process, I wonder what it will be like once the course actually starts and all that coursework piles up! All in all, I think I’ve done my research well and here’s what I think needs to be covered:

  • The GMAT / GRE :
    • It’s just a part of the application process. Note to international students: US universities don’t follow a cutoff process, they just publish the mean test score. You could be excused for a low test score, but it’s best to be above the school average if you don’t have something extraordinary in your profile.
    • my takeaway : Schools rankings depend on test scores, so if all else is equal, a candidate with a higher test score is viewed more favorably. Of course, usually all else is not equal, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s always better to have a good GMAT score. Also scholarships and financial aid usually depends on the GMAT score.
  • Recommendation letters:
    • Usually need 2 letters, one from a current supervisor preferably. Academic letters don’t seem to help much unless you’re an early career candidate
  • Transcripts
  • Essays:
    • This is the trickiest part of your application, and where you will spend the most amount of time. Every school has different essays, and there are usually so many questions.
    • Use the optional essay to explain anything in your application, from bad grades to circumstances you believe the admissions committee should be aware of.
  • If all is well the interview. Some schools ask you to submit additional essays along with the interview.