Friday, December 26, 2014

Making it to the top! - An interview with PGP 2 topper Ashwini Chavan

Tell us a bit about your educational background – were you a topper all through your undergraduate and school days? What brought you to an MBA?
I was born and brought up in Mumbai. I studied Chemical Engineering from Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai (UDCT). I was a top ranker in school. During college, I fared well but was not a topper.
I worked with Reliance Industries in the petrochemicals sector for around 3 years when I realized I want to contribute to more than just the technical aspects of the job and be a part of the managerial decision making process. With an engineering degree and a core production background, pursuing operations management seemed like a good career prospect.
Walk us through your academic journey in the first year – How did you pace yourself academically in the first, second and third term?
SPJIMR follows a semester pattern with each semester comprising of two modules. Each module has 5-6 subjects each following different evaluation criteria with a combination of projects, assignments, presentations, exams. In order to juggle multiple submissions for various subjects, time management plays a very important role. Prioritizing the assignments & projects, based on date of submission and weightage assigned, helped me in managing majority component of the grade.
For doing well in written exams, my strategy was to attend all classes attentively and take notes. I believe that doing the pre reads, participating and paying attention during lectures is very critical in grasping the key concepts. In order to be attentive in class, I ensured that I did not compromise on sleep.
Did you encounter situations where you were in a group in which others were not as committed as you were? How did you handle this? 
I have been very lucky in this aspect. All the groups that I have been a part of have been great to work with. Your academic group is very important in a B school because as high as 60-70 % of your grade depends on group projects, assignments and presentations. In fact I would attribute my good grades to all my group members in the first and second semester. My group used to spend the right amount of time discussing the requirements of each project, how to go about it, division of responsibilities and then each member came up with the best quality parts which led to a good group performance.
What were your thoughts and goals when you entered the SPJIMR Campus? Did you expect to top the program in the first year?
When I entered the campus, I was really excited to be back to school after 3 years of work experience. My goal was to learn a lot of new concepts and thoroughly enjoy the process. I did not expect to top the course; it was just a by-product of the learning process. I believe there are many factors which decide one’s grades and I concentrated only on those which I had control over. Rest like I said, I was lucky to find the right group members and sound guidance.
B school life is always buzzing with all kinds of activities and distractions. What did you do to keep focus?
Firstly I would not call the activities as distractions because they play an equally important role in shaping your personality at a B school. Also, it is necessary to pursue a hobby in order to avoid getting bogged down by the academic pressure. Even the employers don’t look for candidates who have had their entire focus only on academics/grades.
Working in the organizing committee, being a part of cultural performances, participating in competitions has helped me keep my life at SP fast paced and interesting.

Tell us about your DOCC and autumn internship. How was the experience?
I did my social internship/DOCC with an NGO SOS Children’s villages of India near Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. It was a great experience as I got to work with differently abled children and make a small contribution to their lives.
My autumn/corporate internship was with Hindustan Unilever Ltd. where I worked in the customer service department in the supply chain function for West Branch. My project was to improve secondary service levels in general trade and rural distribution channels. The project was a good learning experience as it gave me insights into the complex supply chain of FMCG companies. Since it was a live project which was implementation based, I could see the improvements in the service level percentage as a result of steps undertaken by me.
What was your reaction upon knowing that you had topped the first year? How did you celebrate it?
As my grades were consistently good, I had expected to be in the dean’s top twenty list (DTT) of the batch. But that I have topped the first year was a big surprise and I shared the good news with my family. Then there was a small party with a bunch of close friends.
What is your advice to a student entering a B school, in the first term? How can they achieve their academic goals? Apart from academics, what should they focus on?
I would suggest that academics is just one part of the whole B school experience. Although scoring well gives you a sense of confidence that you have a grip of the concepts, what really matter are the soft skills and a balanced personality. MBA basically teaches you to take on challenges, manage constrained resources and make sound decisions without letting anything affect the calm of your mind. Developing this ability is what the student should focus on.
As far as the academic goals are concerned, managing time and discovering a learning technique that suits you best should do the trick.
If you could distill the necessary qualities for success into one, two or three unique attributes, what would those attributes be?
This is a really difficult question as there is no one recipe for success. Everyone has to capitalize on their strengths and overcome their shortcomings to succeed in life. However, I think the underlying common attributes which are important are an appetite for knowledge and sincerity.
If you could go back in time and you had to live the first year differently, what would you do?
I wouldn’t change a thing as it is the sum of all efforts, activities and decisions that has brought me to where I am today. Applying for an international exchange was one of those good decisions which has added to my basket of novel experiences.
What are your future career plans?
Based on my autumn internship project and a PPI, I have received a PPO from HUL to be a part of the UFLP 2015. I intend to continue working in the supply chain function and contribute to it.
Apart from imbibing academic knowledge, how else has the first year of MBA enriched you? What is the greatest non-academic learning you had at SPJIMR?
Participating in B school competitions, being a member of organizing committee for management fest, choreographing dances and being a part of all cultural events on campus along with keeping up with lectures, assignments, projects, exams has given the biggest learning of time management. So I have learnt the art of maintaining a balance between what you need to do and what you want to do.
I have gained a lot of insights from interactions with my batchmates, each of whom brings something new to the table due to their diverse backgrounds and experiences.
Usually toppers are regarded as nerdy types, and in the high-stakes environment of a B school, they are subjected to a lot of peer pressure in ways that range from good-natured banter to mockery and bullying. Did you face this? If yes, how did you deal with it?
I did not face anything serious at SP. All my close friends know that I am not someone who slogs all the time for getting good grades and there is much more to my personality than just being a topper. So most of the remarks passed are light hearted and in good humor.
How was your performance in SPJIMR? Which institutes did you interview with, which ones did you convert, and approximately where did you lie in the final list of candidates selected for SPJIMR?
Based on the scores of various entrance tests, I received calls from IIM L, K, I, New IIMs, S.P Jain, MDI, NITIE, NMIMS, SIBM. I converted all interviews except IIM L and I decided to join SP Jain. I am not sure about my position in the final list though I was selected in the first list of operations management specialization which I had applied for.

1 comment:

  1. Tks very much for your post.

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