Have faith in yourself and clarity why MBA – Shivansh, XLRI Class of 2023

                “Life constantly throws opportunities at us, it is our attitude that decides their worth” ; This my opening line at the IIMB SOP. The opportunity of joining a top B-school was a once in a lifetime one and not easy to come by, rather one had to put in the work and grit and yet feel extremely lucky to get an admit.

Let me begin with a little about myself; I hail from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh and was raised in Mumbai. I have been doing amateur theatre for 4 years and I currently engage in writing plays, reading philosophy, consuming pop culture apart from working on my fitness. Being a foodie, I love travelling and exploring new restaurants.

I completed B.Tech in Computer Science from IIT Bhilai in 2021. I had joined in as a Mechanical Engineer, but got my branch changed after the 1st semester to Computer Science as it was my first choice. IIT Bhilai started functioning in 2016, therefore I belong to the 2nd batch of IIT Bhilai. The newer, unorganised cultural aspect of my undergraduate institute opened up multiple avenues for me to get into leadership and management roles and I ended up being the founder of Teaching Cell, IIT Bhilai, catering to 150+ children in the nearby rural areas. I was particularly fascinated by the scope of AI/ML in optimising the most tedious of processes.

While everyone was pumped about placements before their final year, aspiring to go into both software developer as well as R&D roles, I was pretty unsure about seeing myself working in a purely technical role. Given my leanings, I wished for a more wholesome managerial role which would make me a bigger part of the change brought down by the firm. Laterally, I had also been doing projects in AI/ML and exploring its scope. I was sure that the industry is on the verge of changing pretty drastically and wished to play a bigger part in that change. All this culminated into the beginnings of my CAT preparation when one of my seniors in UG, who also had similar inclinations advised me to think if a B-school was an exciting platform to help me.

I researched a lot about how a B-school would aid me in giving the kind of exposure, network, business acumen that I desired. After spending a lot of time talking to some B-school seniors and watching YouTube videos, I finally decided to put my foot down and start preparing for CAT.

I started my preparation seriously in May 2020, which was roughly 6 months before CAT. My preparation style had been pretty simplistic; I would sit on a test every week or 10 days to gauge my skill level in all the sections and then spend a day or two analysing each and every aspect of it – Time spent on a particular question, its difficulty level and the subtopic it pertains to. I would also time myself in different slots – morning (9-12) and evening (3-6). This method worked pretty well as my quant basics were very clear and I was spending my time on my weaker aspects. I was pretty average in VARC as my reading speed was above average. But I struggled on the assimilation part of the RCs and would end up reading most of my RCs twice. Another issue that I encountered was sequencing questions in sections like DILR as it becomes very crucial to know when to hit the metal and when to let go.

However, I sincerely persevered through every test and with the help of the support of family and friends got over the rough patches. Suddenly, the pattern had changed and the environment grew a bit uncertain. It was around October that my percentiles had started declining in a row and that was a point when things around you help you cope up. I took a week off from the environment and started jogging 10 kms a day in the mornings. I would listen to a podcast while jogging and it would freshen me up for the entire day. I improved my sleep cycle and food habits considerably and started picking up where I left with about a month to go for CAT.

I had the morning slot for CAT and it went better than I had expected. I also gave XAT and IIFT in January. Meanwhile, the interviews were closing in and I thought it was better to start off right after CAT. I had been lucky that my father had the habit of reading newspapers daily and during the pandemic, I had inculcated that. But still, I felt that I needed a much more personalised form of mentoring to get ready for the B-school interviews. That was when I enrolled myself in the PDP program and got Arkss Sir as my mentor. My first task was to write an autobiography of 2000+ words, which to this day is saved on my desktop. I keep adding on to it now and again. Arkss sir read it before our first interaction. This first interaction with him did not involve anything on interview preparation. Instead after talking for a while, he asked me – “Shivansh, you have done a lot of things, some very impressive ones. But why do you want me to validate you?” This took sometime to sink in. Never have I ever been asked this and the more I analysed my responses the more I understood how the depth of it. We talked about my childhood experiences and Arkss sir gave some really good insights which made me realise my potential much better. He also helped me cope with the anxiety of being a fresher effectively.

Shivansh – Theatre in the blood

We connected regularly thereafter discussing on how to tackle interviews too, but I felt much more comfortable in sharing my fears with a mentor who understands them as much as me. I gave some mocks, some went drastically wrong, but I kept learning newer things as I was interviewed by other CL mentors too. I felt confident and calm about the forthcoming interview season.

I finally sat in for my interviews. Although every interview brought some anxiety with it, my post-interview discussions with Arkss sir always gave me confidence and better analysis of my performance. The biggest takeaway from the interview process for me was that the interviewers were not essentially analysing our knowledge regarding the context, but greater impetus was laid on articulation, confidence and questions that made you think on your feet. I remember being asked to lay a plan on how IIT Bhilai would become the top engineering college in India, and I took some time to structure the problem on paper. Although the 1 minute awkward silence was long, it was worth it as I could deliver the solution much more effectively.

Lastly, I would say the whole process has taught me a lot and has given me a lot of self-confidence. My dream of converting prestigious B-schools would never have been realised if not for the support of my friends, family, seniors and mentors. I thank all of them from bottom of my heart. For all the people starting their journeys in the future, my advice would be to have faith in yourself and have some level of clarity beforehand about why the program is suitable for you.

Results : Converted XLRI(BM), IIMB(PGPBA), baby IIMs, IIM Indore

Waitlisted : IIMB, IIML, IIMK

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