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The Conundrum for us Business Students

May 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

 

Sipping my ritual cup of morning tea and glancing past India’s polarizing election rhetoric on Google News, I stumbled upon an article discussing about the specializations for an MBA and then it painfully dawned again on me that at one point of time as a Business undergrad, I will have to put my foot down and go in one particular direction. Even though I address myself as a ‘Finance major’ the truth is, as of now this designation is more of a personal interest/passion, my specializations will start only by 2015, provided I go through with this decision.

However, among all the questions that I have been asked, the most usual one from most of my classmates in their late-teens is “WHY Finance?” coupled with a derisive look followed with their unwarranted opinion of how Marketing is cool and swag and full of travelling abroad and easy and cool. I myself love Marketing but it is not because of these assumptions. I don’t blame these kids, having just come out of High School illusioned with frat movies and college rom-coms , believing that Finance=Boring Accountants/Maths whiz/Uncool People, it takes a little bit of time to put aside your beer pong and understand who you are and what you want.

However, they did had a very justified question for me.

Why Finance?

Frankly, my interest towards Finance was ignited by a particular friend during my pre-college days, who was obsessed about Investment Banking; I attribute a lot to him that I started to get curious towards this field. And even though he mostly seemed to get in for money, I actually started to fall in love with this field. I realised the volatile job market and lay-offs in the Financial Service Industry and yet still I decided to get into this Industry. I kept on going through news articles and started gaining interest on the real-estate housing bubble and the succeeding Recession of 2008. I was so deeply infatuated with it that I not only pursued the BA/BS course in Business just for the sake of this field but I also started to relate every subject from HR to Marketing. Imagine giving example of JP Morgan Chase’s acquisition of Bear Stern and WaMu, to exemplify the significance of PESTEL Analysis in Marketing – I did that and my Marketing faculty wasn’t disappointed.

But is this the right practice?

However, as tempting as it may seem to be, it is important for a Business student to be more of a Generalist than a Specialist. This is what I personally believe, particularly if you’re a BA/BS/MBA student, you must have your concepts very clear surpassing the boundaries of subjects. That means, regardless whether you’re a Marketing professional or a Finance or an HR; you must have at least elemental concepts very clear in all the streams including the newer ones likes Business Analytics, Operations, Strategic, Entrepreneurship, Rural Development, etc.

My high-school mates who are currently in the industry often share their experiences of how they had to manage cross-functional responsibilities even though they come from much irrelevant background. A person I know, who is an IT Engineer in TCS, recently had to manage client relationship and had to work with the Marketing team to pitch in ideas; similarly a friend in HR in a well-renowned BPO firm shared her woes of how she had to understand the nuances of DSL Technology and Vendor-relationship within 2 nights so as to understand the stressful working conditions in order to to confront the enormous arbitration rates her firm was facing. Both of these individuals transgressed their conventional functional areas and achieved results.

Even though you may be very ambitious from the start for a particular domain, chances are that you may be put in some other department even if you’d get your desirable industry. It is always better to equip oneself with a robust working knowledge of at least two or more functional areas. I have seen people who have done their MBA in Marketing from premier B-Schools working in the Analytics or Operations department in an Advertising firm and so the ones with their degrees in Finance working in the Sales department of a Trading arm of an Investment Bank. You never know what knowledge may come to you at your aid, just take Steve Jobs and his application of a seemingly irrelevant knowledge of Calligraphy in Macintosh, you’ll get the whiff of my point.

Beyond the Excel Spreadsheets

Apart from the functional knowledge, it is all the way more significant to have a broad understanding of elements encompassing Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, Political Science etc and while it may seem virtually impossible to be a know-it-all,  I have seen people achieve an impressive grasp by taking a little time out as a part of hobby to know about aspects other than that of their subjects in their hectic academic lives. In fact the London Business School has started a new Philosophy elective for MBA students namely Nobel Thinking” taught by faculty from the school’s Economics, Finance and Organizational Behavior departments, it explores the origins and influence of economic theories on topics like market efficiency and decision-making by some Nobel Prize winners. An organization has to have a flow of ideas to flourish and thus the need for inspiration to induce a sense of creativity, which is why Business students have to have a hold in places way beyond their academics covers.

From understanding diversity, social structure, political influence to consumer’s psychology so as to predict market behavior or launch a new product., I firmly believe that unlike a STEM graduate who has an option, a Business student has to necessarily have a  holistic knowledge to achieve an optimum approach in problem-solving and decision-making exercise, making the learning process a little more tedious than other career fields, yet more fulfilling than anything if you have the right amount of passion inside of you.

 

The Art of Manipulation

April 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

Recently in our Organizational Behavior class, we had this lengthy lecture on Politics and its different aspects & influences on an Organization. And quite naturally, about how important it is for a Manager to root it out and the ways to do the same. I literally squirm with discomfort when people so candidly mention that Politics is more of a routine in today’s corporate culture. I mean as a guy who has had his share of life living in a joint family, I am pretty much aware of my incapability to either understand or practise this so-called art. I hold both sensation of admiration and disgust simultaneously to people who conveniently manipulate their way out of every circumstance.

Anyways, as said before, my incompetency to handle people with this manipulative tactic is attributed to the fact that either I was way too naive or actually very innocuous to believe that the guy infront of me with those sweet words is actually my genuine well-wisher. And this in many ways still gives me a huge sense of insecurity when I look at my future employment prospects. Having worked in the BPO Industry, I was surprised at times when one got an unfair favor for reasons other than performance. And that particular firm had a very good standing in terms of employee satisfaction relatively speaking in the said industry.

When people throw words around like networking, cold-calls, pitching, street-smart; i would be lying if I would say that I don’t feel cold sweat, for these tasks are quite easier for someone who is well-versed in a cunningly manipulative art like Politics. This is one of the few factors that has discouraged me from going into career paths in the likes of Marketing or Investment Banking. I am not of the impression that these are the only two areas which have politics, rather I am painfully aware that every field today (even Philanthropy) has a certain level of presence of Politics; however the two aforementioned fields are way too much dependent on manipulation, to the extent that it sometimes boggles my mind.

I do believe that people keen in politics are quite sharp and are in the very well-know of what they’re doing. That of course does not mean to belittle those who don’t practise the same on grounds of ethics or conscience. And what worse is in some culture this practise is now encouraged to such an extent that those who don’t do politics or aren’t able to, are pathetically branded as a naive and gullible fool waiting to get swindled at every path of their life.

Politics be it practised in work or family has the same negative effect – breaks away the bonds between the people. The level of distrust due to such tactics be it in a family or a work environment is so detrimental and devastating that it will hit the entire length and breadth of family system/organization that will reach to the point of no-recovery. Apart from that, if practised extravagantly it has the ability to influence the personality of the victim, scarring him/her forever. This art of manipulation and bully has to stop . 

Unabashed Introvert

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

It has always bothered me to see that I have spent much of my life downright abasing myself. Whether it was that one worthless kick on the football ground leading to the defeat of my team in my third grade, or my failure in those debate competitions in my 6th grade or the fact that I smiled to an unresponsive girl at my 11th grade – all have led me beating up myself for days causing an infinite level of emotional scarring by my own hands. I don’t know why it never occurred to the young me that there are thousands if not millions, of kids who go through the same events without getting as deeply afflicted as I was.

My overt consciousness about myself, however, did had some logical ground after all. Hailing from Bihar (now Jharkhand), I used to face this huge stereotype (thanks Lalu Yadav) from my classmates and my teachers (who mostly hailed from Hyderabad) about me being an uncivilised paan-spitting bhojpuri kid even when I always spoke with a brisk Urdu accent. Now, I love Andhra people and some of my really helpful friends come from that state, not to mention the awesomeness of Hyderabadi cuisine. However, there was this extreme set of events which actually made me really conscious that time and that only led to me amplifying every event right from my second grade. Moreover, we being the middle-class expatriates living in Saudi Arabia, our budget constraints made us cut visits in our social events and the most of the outing which we did was at minimal, visit a park/shopping venue or at maximal, go to cousins who lived in Dammam. This all made me what I am today – an Introvert.

It is extremely important to understand that when I say Introversion it does not necessarily mean the more-broad-generalisation of being timid, scared, shy rather it simply refers to the varying degree of being self-involved, the more Introvert you are the more self-engrossed you would be. In my case as what the Myers-Briggs showed, it is more of an in-between case with a little slight towards Introversion. However, when I rightly say I am an Introvert my classmates mock me for they believe in those generalizations and so they don’t agree with me on the basis of what they perceive as my comfortable position during presentation. The thing is I may not feel taken aback during presentations however, I don’t want to be social to the level they expect me to be. I can’t spend all of my evenings and weekends with people all the time and I can’t be surely enough comfortable with their general conversations which revolves mostly around things that doesn’t interest me. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bothers me. Give me a team and I can handle with positive synergy and move them towards a goal. Give me a bunch of people in an informal situation to talk about stuffs like cars, cricket, Hindi movies and this is where I falter.

I am aware that this is something which I have to take care of, however apart from this, being an introvert is not that bad. Because of this trait, I do feel that I have an edge when it comes to knowledge about the current and past important events from varying fields. Because of my introversion, I spent most of my time on social network, discussing on issues pertaining to topics from political, cultural, socio-economical and even theological issues, which gave me an exposure to way too many areas. Whether it is the Middle-east issue of Israel-Palestine conflict, the SAARC issues, to the labour conditions in China for Apple workers, the extreme consumerism when people are selling their kidneys for iPads, to the evergreen debate on government inconsistencies that led to recession, inflation, etc and to the various schools of thought in a religion not to mention those lovely interfaith discussions – all of this gave me an ample exposure as a forum for contemplation and discussion. It really makes me miss those Orkut days.

Hence, it is important to make use of our traits even if they are perceived to be a limiting element, with a consistent strive to strike a balance wherever one possibly can. I am happy for what I am today and I am thankful to the Almighty for my past as those were the parts that gave me the most precious gift – it made me ‘me’.

  • Alliance University, Bangalore, India

  • Mohammad Imad Shahid Khan, an undergraduate student of Business Management (Finance) in Bangalore, India.