iMahal Interview Series:
Jayshree Ranka
October 14, 2000

iMahal:  It sounds like that you were still indecisive, after seeking advise from others and doing your own research. Please tell us about the evolution in thought about the MBA, since you are obviously pursuing the program now.
Jayshree:  Yes I was, at that time, still indecisive and still struggling with what the right thing was for me. As you know, it is a serious commitment of time, money, and effort, so I did not want to take this lightly. Moreover, I knew that a decision to pursue the MBA would change my life, my career, and my goals substantially. Anyway, let me now turn to your question about the evolution of my thoughts. Before I started the MBA program, a friend who knew I was not sure of what to do, sent me a quote (from a book by L.H. Montgomery) that I use to keep things in perspective -- "What I want to get out of my college course is some knowledge of the best way of living life and doing the most and best with it. I want to learn to understand and help other people and myself." Unlike some of my classmates I decided to do this program for me, because I was enjoying learning. The hardest thing I learned was to say it's okay to not know everything and to not do everything. I learned to prioritize. I realized that learning and enjoying myself was more important than grades. I joined this program but I still wanted to enjoy my life. It's a hard balance to achieve, but I try. For example this winter I decided to take up skiing again and I skied every weekend. I still take vacations, and often miss classes for it. I figured I may not graduate top of the class but 30 years from now whether I graduate number 1 or number 30, I won't remember my grades and no one else would care, but I will still remember the fun times.
iMahal:  We are very impressed with the quote from your friend. It is rather inspiring. I am curious by two items that you mentioned. Hope you can elaborate on them briefly. First, you said that unlike your classmates, you decided to do this program for you. Are they not doing the MBA program for themselves? Second, are you suggesting that skipping classes for fun is the way to pursue an MBA program, or any other program for that matter?
Jayshree:  Let me take the first question about my classmates. What I meant to say is that in my case, being a whole person and living a happy life, balanced with career, was my approach to deciding for my MBA. In contrast, many people decide to pursue the MBA to become highly successful and rich. Nothing wrong with that, but it is my not what I want out of life. I do not intend to have my life consumed by the pursuit for career success and wealth. Sure, I want to be successful, but not at any cost. For me success is measured by many other factors. Let's see. The second question was about skipping classes. Again, I am not suggesting that people should skip classes all the time and expect to graduate and achieve great success in their career. It is the issue of establishing a fine balance. It not one thing or the other -- strictly classes and no fun, or all fun and no classes. We all make choices of what to do at a given time. At different points in life different things are important to us and our decisions are based on what we want. The example of skipping classes for vacation is just my way of achieving balance in my life. Mind you, I have not let that affect my performance in classes in any substantial way. Heck, on my last trip, I spent many hours in an Internet café and I even had to take some papers to read.
iMahal:  I am glad you clarified that. I was a bit confused. I must admit that I misunderstood you there. I now understand that what you are saying is that striking the right balance is a personal decision and all of us should make those decisions for ourselves. Would you now tell us how the pursuit of the MBA has affected your life, if at all?
Jayshree:  Aside from my personal changes, the MBA has helped me see the world differently. I have to admit I was pretty ignorant on many things, including financial and business related issues. Until now I barely understood the stock market. The MBA for me is definitely an evolving experience. I finally found excitement from learning new concepts and ideas. As I look back I realize that I'm glad that I did the program part-time and after working. I feel my work experience and knowledge of industry helped me in school. For me, being part-time was a better choice than the full-time for the reason I needed the time to figure out if this was the right choice or not. When I started this program I often thought I'll still stay in the technical career. My one friend made a bet with me that by the end of the program I won't. I didn't believe him. In the end we are both right, because now I'm realizing that my true interests lie not on my current technical career path but I the one that I'm about to embark on -- which will combine both. I learned that I can leverage my technical background for working in the hi-tech strategy or the e-commerce arena. The MBA has now opened doors to new career opportunities for me.
iMahal:  Wow, sounds like the MBA program has been a life-altering experience in a positive way.
Jayshree:  Life altering in the sense that I have changed my goals and career paths. I suspect that it is the same for others as well -- many people go to MBA school to change their careers. I know that what I have learned will help me both in my professional life and in my personal life.
iMahal:  It was quite an effort and struggle for you to decide whether or not to pursue an MBA. You sought input and advice from others. Looking back, would it be fair to say that such an elaborate decision making process was very helpful to you? What would you say to someone who is thinking about pursuing an MBA program?
Jayshree:  Research, Research, Research! This is a serious commitment, which will have a profound effect on your life. Seek advice from others. Listen to all, but decide on your own. I would also say that 3-5 years of work experience is important prior to entering the program. Industry experience is important because it allows you to bring real world experience into the classroom to help clarify a situation or make a point. Other advice: try to get into the best school you can. You not only learn in classes from the teachers and the books, but you learn quite a bit from your classmates and other activities. At GSIA in particular we had a class called Management Game. It is a simulation of a multinational manufacturing company. You are grouped into teams, where each team is running this company and competing against others. You make all the decisions on how to run this company for three years -- everything that a real management team would do -- including strategy, marketing, operations, and financials. In the end you also have to present to a board of directors who evaluates you based on your performance. This was an interesting experience since you start using what you learn in your other classes in a simulated world. This class allows us to practice what we learn in a simulated situation, a place where you can make a mistake and you can learn from it without a major problem occurring.



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