In the past, we have interviewed several experts including alumni, admission heads and faculty members from top universities. In the 3rd part of our MBA admissions consulting blog series, we have Manish Gupta (MG), Chief Consulting Officer of MBA Crystal Ball, one of the leading and most credible portals for MBA applications and admission guidance for top international business schools.
Manish is an Indian School of Business (ISB) alumnus (graduated with Dean’s list honors) an IIT topper, and a former McKinsey consultant.
At MBA Crystal Ball, he manages all application-related services (profile building to MBA essays, recommendations, interviews, etc.) on a full-time basis.
In this post, MG shares various facts about his own career journey, careers in India, study abroad, and MBA admissions consulting.
Behind the Scenes of Career Counselling & MBA Admissions Consulting
Q&A with Manish Gupta, IIT & ISB Alum and Chief Consulting Officer, MBA Crystal Ball
About Manish and His Career Journey
Tanmoy: You have had a stellar career (academically and professionally). What made you switch your career and get into admission consulting?
MG: Such a switch is always intriguing and sounds exotic to most people when they see my profile for the first time. Doing something so offbeat, in my experience, is hardly ever the result of a unique Eureka moment or a moment of epiphany. In my case, the basic roots of this were in two things. One, I like to write and two, I always liked giving advice (I was after all a management consultant). But the change did not happen overnight. I was doing this on the side for more than 4-5 years before I could see a career here.
Tanmoy: I am sure you don’t regret your decision of rejecting the Princeton admit (with full scholarship) for MS. Could you please share with our readers what made you take that step?
MG: As I have shared my journey about the Princeton admit, the decision at that time was driven by both an inclination to get into the industry and not being super kicked with a career in research. While I was reasonably good at research, but as I have explained there, just because you are good at something should not mean you have to do so. I definitely don’t regret it and with time, have even less and less memory of how I felt when I first got the admit news, together with many other admits.
Career Guidance for Students and Working Professionals
Tanmoy: Getting into a top college in India for Bachelors has always been very competitive. IITs tend to have a lower acceptance rate than the Ivy League and Oxbridge. But, pursuing Bachelors abroad is a very expensive affair.
What would be your advice to those folks, especially, those from a middle-class background, who want to study non-STEM subjects and have missed out on getting into a top/reputed college in India?
MG: It is indeed tough to get into the known/brand college in India given the competition level. For those who have missed the bus there however, the world does not end. We work with some many people from tier 2 and 3 colleges, who’ve made a successful career. Liberal arts can be a good career option too, provided you are doing it with passion. Even if you do your education from a no-name college, given the resources available these days, you can always pick up the right skills and build a successful career. Whether it learning machine learning concepts or self-publishing books as a writer, the opportunities are a lot more than what they used to be.
Related Post: Top Non-STEM Careers
Tanmoy: MOOCs have been very successful. But, not everyone (candidates and employers) are convinced? What are your thoughts on this?
MG: The reason for this is because online programs are still relatively new. The offline models have been around for 50-100 years or more in most streams. While MOOCs are 10, maybe 15 years or as a concept. The acceptability is coming and we’ve seen many candidates use these to progress. However, the value of these programs in our experience tends to be more when you are learning a hard skill than a soft skill. The reason is that it is easier to test the former (say your JAVA coding skills) than the former (say your leadership skills) for a recruiter. In case of a full-time offline program, the brand backing the program helps recruiters get that assurance that you would have the basic soft skills they may be looking for. For MOOCs, the brand is yet to be there and that’s perhaps a big challenge.
Related Post: Are MOOCs worth it?
Tanmoy: Currently, there are way too many MOOCs and online course/training providers. This is also overwhelming for the candidates. How should they go about selecting the right platform or course?
MG: As I shared above, MOOCs are effective when they are done for the purpose of gaining some hard skills. As a general guide, like for say a regular MBA, here too, it is best to go for known brands. Now that brand could vary depending on what industry/function we are talking about. But if you are exploring a MOOC in a particular area, chances are that you’ll know what the top brands are in that. If you don’t, it might be better to gain a bit more perspective and talk to people in that industry, before you blindly take on an expensive MOOC course.
Check out the Top Online Training Courses!
Study Abroad Guidance
Tanmoy: Which are the top 5 study abroad destinations that Indian applicants should consider right now (Undergrad, Masters, MBA)?
MG: The US, despite all the issues and concerns, remains the top destination. The UK is a close one and if you look at the recent numbers, it has been witnessing a surge in Indian students heading here.
Latest News: Foreign Graduates can now stay in the UK for 2 years after graduation. Read 2-year Post-Study Visa Reintroduced in the UK.
Apart from these, two other countries that are really emerging very fast are Canada and Germany – both because of easier visa norms in our experience. On our blog, we have talked about emerging destinations too. As a fifth one, you could think of Australia or Singapore – the jury’s still out there on that one I’d say.
Tanmoy: In India, the agent model (commission based student recruitment) has been a good success. But, this has also led to a biased approach taken by a few study-abroad counsellors/consultants. Additionally, a lot of scams happened as well.
What are the signs that applicants should watch out for while working with study abroad agents (the traditional counsellors)?
MG: Not just in India, such scams operate on a global scale.
Fundamentally speaking, the moment a counselor or agent has a connection or commission with a school, the basic premise of the process is broken in our philosophy. You are no longer an unbiased party – which is what a counsellor and a consultant has to be. It just turns out to be unethical and purely driven by increasing numbers. The aspect of sound advice and suggestion, more often than not, get compromised in such settings. So, if an applicant gets this inkling of a doubt, our suggestion is to steer clear of such models completely.
Tanmoy: Traditionally, the majority of Indian applicants heavily rely on the college/university rankings. What would be your advice in this case?
MG: Rankings are very good indeed. But they should only be the starting point of your research in selecting the right MBA programs. There are a lot of factors you should evaluate, once you have let’s say decided a broad range of rankings you are going to consider. These would include things like GMAT fit, school acceptance rates, your ‘fit’ with the school – its pedagogy, culture, people. Basically, you’ve got to reach out to the school community and try to gauge how well your interests will be served, and how you’ll be able to add to the community. All this effort will also come in handy during the application stage.
Business Schools and MBA Admissions Abroad
Tanmoy: How should candidates assess why and when they should do an MBA?
MG: The best way to do this is to first decide what your career goal/plan is. Then, you should work backward to assess whether an MBA is really needed for that career. For instance, many people think Product Management as a career requires an MBA. While an MBA will help for that, it is not a necessary qualification.
The “when” part of the question can be determined from a statistics perspective. If you are looking at MiM/CAT based programs, best to do it 0-2 years out of undergrad. Else, the average for GMAT based programs is 4-5 years of experience.
Tanmoy: With the introduction of specialized programs like MS Business Analytics, MS Finance, MiM, and online degrees, do you see any decline in interest for regular MBA programs?
MG: Many of these like MiM and MS Finance are not really new and have been around for ages. As outlined earlier, the two serve a different set of audience. Analytics, however, is a new beast and has been disrupting the market. It is still relatively very new for us to be able to see a concrete trend.
Tanmoy: Would you like to share any profile building tips (or any other general tips) for the folks eyeing MBA from top international business schools?
MG: We’ve shared several informative videos on our YouTube channel on topics ranging from profile building tips to getting scholarships.
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