Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mr Banker

12 Nov 2007, Times of India

Anupendra Sharma shares his experience of studying in three top institutes across countries.

It was 1992 in Manchester, UK. My application for burger-flipping had just been turned down by McDonalds in the midst of a recession. It was a character-building experience as I ended up in a Pakistani restaurant chopping vegetables, lugging flour on the streets and cleaning dishes.
However, my stubborn resolve to pay my way through my Masters degree crumbled that first weekend. I was exhausted from working 12 hours a night at 80 pence an hour. When the University gave me a job shelving books for 5.50 pound an hour, I was relieved that I could keep my promise.

I used my 99 percentile GMAT, above-average BITS Pilani grades, a well-written essay, and resume with interesting summer and extra-curricular experiences to get accepted into the 25-strong, one-year Masters in Accounting and Finance programme at Manchester Business School. I had no prior background in the subject.

Remembering the McDonalds rejection, I applied for 100 jobs, filling every one of the four-page applications by hand. I was living by Andy Grove's philosophy that `Only the paranoid survive.' I researched every company that interviewed me in great detail and my first offer came on
December 8,1992,and I was proud to have five offers by the time the recruiting season ended, although only two classmates were employed. I observed that Indians in other Masters and MBA programmes had offers as well. Indians generally fare better than most international student groups in finding jobs, even in adverse economic conditions.

I joined London-based auditor at Pricewaterhouse for a year, and then moved as a financial analyst on the core team launching Ford in India and China. It was exciting. But, I was still keen to pursue my dream of an Ivy League MBA.

I made two mistakes in applying. Firstly, I applied early with two years of experience at two different companies. Secondly, I knew little about the MBA a d m i s s i o n s process. I thought my rank and my high GMAT would get me in. I was lucky when Cornell called.

The US MBA was very different compared to the UK. I immersed myself in school, tried different things and led initiatives. I started a shrimp farm in Central America, taught three classes, worked during summers at McKinsey London, learnt to fly a plane, worked as a computer consultant, assisted the career office, and racked up $90,000 in loans even with B-school jobs and summer internships. But more importantly, I met my wife, a classmate at Cornell. When I graduated, I pursued my dream of working on Wall Street with several investment banking offers.

B-school taught me many hard skills, but more importantly soft skills that included networking, leadership, entrepreneurship, presentations, communications and golf - the skills that carry us through our careers. If you can combine these skills with integrity, tenacity, hard work,
patience and good humour, with a dash of good luck, the MBA degree has the potential to achieve all of your dreams.