To get into ISB – EXPLORE YOURSELF – My Journey from a PSU to ISB

by Shriwant Choudhary, ISB

My 7 Years at NTPC

With Mechanical Engineering degree from NIT Silchar, I Joined NTPC in2008 as Engineering Trainee. I went through comprehensive 1-year training at NTPC, explored different functions, performed well in exams and secured posting at NTPC Sipat.

My decision to pick Sipat was driven by my motivation to be in the realm of affairs in super-critical technology. NTPC Sipat was the Nation’s first supercritical unit. But life does not always turn out the way you want it to be. I was posted in coal handling plant and despite several requests for transfers, I ended up with a role which had little to do with technology.

I spent almost 7 years in NTPC before I got a chance to work with operations team of supercritical Unit. During these years, I learned a lot of managerial skills including, but not limited to, people management, process improvement, commissioning of coal handling plants, contracts and inventory management, stakeholder management, and I worked with cross-functional and multi-national teams.

Working in a Coal handIing plant was a great experience that evolved me as a Manager. The plant was new and a half of it was under construction. I had some room for innovation and I leveraged it well. At times, I had to convince difficult bosses, but that too helped to learn. Undoubtedly, a great part of my development is attributed to the good bosses and their tendency to let their subordinates free to explore and learn.

Positive temperament, faith in my own abilities and trust that destiny has something exciting and good for me helped me stay focused on takeaways and not bogged down by the inefficiencies and bureaucracy of the management system. A part of it was also because MBA was in my mind. I knew that I need to learn as much as I can so that when I go to ISB, I can mingle my experience and intertwine it with my lessons to reap maximum out of the MBA experience.

My Journey to ISB & GMAT Preparation

ISB is a dream comes true. But it was not an easy feat to achieve. I started quite early, perhaps as soon as I got posted to a purely non-technical role in NTPC. Although MBA was a brainchild that I conceived during my final year at NIT Silchar, posting at Coal Handling Plant bolstered its rationale.

I started preparing for GMAT in 2010 but never took it up seriously until 2012 – partly because of work pressure and fear of failure. I signed up in multiple portals but spent most of the time on beatthegmat. This portal helped me to pick and choose the books, get insights and practice.

At this point of time, I was not looking at the schools. My aim was to secure 750+ first and then start looking for a school. I was sure that it would take at least 3-4 years in NTPC to build decent kitty before I could join MBA program and invest in my education.

I took my first attempt in 2012. I was not prepared well and took an appointment in haste, with little preparation and focus. It was a decision in haste and it turned out to be a costly mistake. I barely score 600. The score was a watershed on my MBA dreams.

Years passed by and my books and notes bore layers of dust before I took them out again in 2015. By this time a lot has changed, I was surrounded by people with passion and a situation where I felt an urgency for MBA.

This time I enrolled to eGMAT. Changed my strategy and managed time through a series of small but effective steps and eventually cracked it. I got 700(Q48, V38) in October 2015. It was fair enough score to apply to Indian schools.

My background (PSU) also helped me to get calls from IIM-A and ISB. I applied in Round 2 which left me with very little time to prepare for either of the schools.

There are a lot of dynamics that goes behind getting an Admit. But tenacity and the one that helps one get through eventually.  

My Advice and tips for ISB applicants

ISB applicants need to focus on themselves. I have mentored many aspirants and invariably each one of them, especially during their early days of aspiration, asks me for my own essay. Each time this happens, I recall my application days say, “Essays reflect your life and your experiences, the best guide is you yourself”.

It’s just a matter of interpretation and enlightenment. Once you realize your worth you will get through ISB.

The best thing about ISB is that it’s an enabler. The school selects you because you are unique and full of confidence and vigor to succeed. ISB looks at your strength and tries to mix and match your skill set with the class and sees how you would bring diversity and add value to the entire class.

Enjoy experience at your workplace and introspect your takeaways – every day. What have you learned today? How did you bring impact the team and its decisions? Are you an enabler there? Are your contributions unique? If not how can you make them unique? What else can you do? What are the innovation and trends in the world that would add value to your organization?

 The moment you start thinking about these questions your preparation for ISB has begun. The process just asks you to present yourself and answer these questions convincingly. That’s it.

 There is no magic wand to get admit at ISB. Just explore yourself.

 Shriwant Choudhary

Shriwant Choudhary is a student at Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.

To speak to Shriwant or another MBA Mentor for advice/mock GD/mock interview, click here.

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