I made a whole lot of lifelong friends in the two years at IIM

Updated: Nov 19 2005, 07:25am hrs
The most important thing you gain from a two-year formal education in manage-ment is knowledge. Knowledge about concepts and about context. Concepts in the various areas of management such as marketing, sales, finance, accounts, operations and strategy. And when we read and discussed case studies or did industry projects we got a glimpse of the context in which a manager works the real world.

Of course for contextual knowledge there is no substitute for actual real world experience. Nevertheless, this was a quick and easy way to compress a wide variety of experiences and get a perspective. For those of us who came straight from college into business school, this contextual knowledge was as important as the conceptual. I felt that those who had work experience in industry, had already lived in the context, and were generally able to absorb more than the others.

We sharpened some skills things we learnt by doing repeatedly as a part of the programme. Skills of analysis, number crunching, problem-solving, presentation, persuasion, computing and others. These were across courses and were hard coded into the pedagogy. For instance, every time we made a presentation to the class on a project, we learnt to present better and slowly overcame the fear of speaking in front of an audience. Every time we prepared a case for class discussion, we were learning how to analyse a problem. When you participated in a class discussion, you learnt that yours was not the only valid point of view in the room, and you picked up the skills of synthesising arguments, building consensus, listening and persuading.

The Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), system made us work harder than we ever did in our lives. When all the classes have been forgotten, it is this work ethic that has stayed with meI know the value of hard work. The ability to meet deadlines, to cope with information overload, to juggle competing priorities and still somehow muddle through. Many of us first learnt these at IIM.

For most students in the class, IIM-A was a humbling experience. You went into the programme believing you were the brightestafter all you were one of the very few in your college to have made it. And after the first term, you realised that there were a hundred people on campus who were doing better than you. Acceptance of the fact that no matter how smart I may think I am, there are many others in the world who are smarter than me was one of my great learnings at IIM.

Much of the learning was outside the classroom while doing projects, while preparing for class, while discussing a case with my study group or generally during adda at the chai shop at two in the morning. I learnt more from other students than from the professors or the course material. In my opinion, a residential MBA programme is much better than a non-residential one.

Finally, what I value the most about my experience at IIM-A was that I met a great bunch of peoplelifetime friendships were formed in those two years. While there was a lot of work, we lived a 24-hour day. We did study but also had our fair share of social events, sports, cultural activities, garba nights and general partying. For a dry state like Gujarat, I managed to notch up a surprisingly large number of hangovers during the two years that I was there.

The author is CEO and founder of naukri.com