From Life at Sea to Life at Corporate 

Cdr. Suman Kumar Chakraborty is a Naval veteran and an NDA alumnus conferred with Gold Medal by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam for standing 1st in MTech. An avid academician conferred with multiple honours throughout his naval career, he joined PGPpro in 2020. During his time at ISB, Mr. Chakraborty was able to transition into the corporate world as Chief Technology Officer at Magnolia Community Health Pvt. Ltd. As his journey at ISB comes to an end, he shares his thoughts on the programme, experience and important learnings from the course.

How would you describe your ISB experience while pursuing PGPpro?

ISB and PGPro have not only helped me gain an advantageous position in my career but also aided in securing a CXO level position even before the culmination of the programme. I am now a Chief Technology Officer at a healthcare startup. This transition from the Indian Navy into the corporate world happened primarily because of the leap of faith I took with the parachute branded as ISB in the colour of PGPpro.

The whole journey was insightful, inspirational & transformational. What came out of me at the end of the journey was a different entity that had more value, a well-rounded perspective & the ISB advantage.

What are the challenges army personnel/veterans face while transitioning into the second phase of life?

The people in uniform are birds of the same feather that flock together. The transition phase is the time we take to learn how to un-don our uniforms and don civilian clothes and lifestyle. The challenge comes in the baggage of knowledge that army personnel must lighten in order to adapt to the ways of the civilian world. While serving the Indian Naval Forces, we are already exposed to multi-disciplinary educational programmes which are mandatory as we grow in our careers. Hence, the process of unlearning and re-learning is not easy.

How did you prepare for your transition with PGPpro?

While choosing a learning programme for transitioning from Indian Armed Forces, one must choose the education that does not disrupt your everyday duties as army personnel. PGPpro is a rigorous yet well-structured programme stretched over a period of 18-months that is ideal for the army personnel to learn and perform their duties to the highest standards.

What were the main reasons to choose PGPpro?

For people in uniform, we always have the option of pursuing 6-month programme form reputed IIMs. When I did the cost & benefit analysis various programmes, three critical factors were to be considered – time, place and the journey.

In terms of time, the duration of PGPpro was perfect for me as it gave enough time to learn. In terms of place, the flexibility to learn in Mumbai where I stationed was an additional benefit. Finally in terms of journey, the ISB learning experience is overwhelming. One gets to learn in a highly diverse learning environment, not just the  peer group also the faculty. The visiting faculty comes from top B-school in the world and sessions from industry leaders are sensational. The amount of exposure one gets at ISB is second to none. Hence, after my research, the choice became quite clear to me.

What were your expectations from PGPpro? Did the programme deliver something beyond your expectations?

My initial expectations from PGPpro were jittered by the pandemic. A few months into the course, Covid-19 hit the world and everything came to a standstill. Regardless of the uncertainty, I would give props to ISB as it listened to the students’ grievances and was ready to adapt. After a short halt, the programme was back online and we were provided with the necessary resources. ISB’s ability to seamlessly adapt and deliver beyond its initial offerings during uncertain times is certainly something PGPpro delivered beyond my expectation.

Describe your key learnings from ISB experience while pursuing PGPpro? What were the extra learnings you absorbed during the course?

Key learnings are definitely the insights I gained on how the business landscape is changing digitally. Apart from finance and marketing which are the highlights of the course, masterclasses and special interest group sessions on fintech and digital marketing was the icing on the cake. Today, when I have joined a healthcare startup, it is the ISB ecosystem that lets you discover the best combination of startup and healthcare opportunities. The plethora of learning opportunities that come your way groom you in such a way that any position you land up doesn’t seem outlandish.

How is ISB's alumni network? How resourceful & supportive did you find it? What kind of bond do you share with the network?

Your net worth is your network. My net worth was important to me that I made it a major objective of my PGPpro journey by being a student leader and part of the alumni advisory council. I started reaching out to the former students and was able to network quite early. In the ISB Alumni network, it goes unsaid that while there may be reverts that are forthright, there may be reverts that come a bit later, but there will be reverts for sure. When your LinkedIn profile says you are a part of ISB and you reach out to CEOs and CXOs from ISB, you will get a response.

The ISB alumni network is not just about what benefits you derive but also what you give back in return. The mentorships programmes that run in the network not only help you to get mentored but also provides you the opportunity to mentor upcoming students. The ripple effect of value for each member of the network creates travel far wide, benefitting everyone. That is the essence of ISB alumni network.

What do you think are the short-term and long-term gains one receives out of PGPpro programme? 

The short-term gain is the positioning PGPpro provides with the knowledge on subjects you aren’t homegrown into. The case studies taught by professors add to your persona and gives you the confidence to put forth your views on a wider range of topics. Your role and perception of you around the workplace changes drastically and immediate opportunities materialise. In long term, you gain connections that will surely take your career beyond your expectations.  

How would you rate PGPpro in terms of Return on Investment (ROI)?

ROI in education cannot be measured just on the basis of how much you earn in your first job after ISB in comparison to how much you invested, which most of us receive back sooner than later. In my opinion, the connections, the influence, and the support one generates through ISB is where the real ROI lies.

For better understanding, consider yourself drawing concentric circles on the paper. The centre is ISB and circles are the influence you create around it. ISB provides you the compass to draw bigger circles. How fast you can grow your influence totally depends on you!

Any suggestions for PGPpro aspirants and students on how to make the most out of your time at ISB?

While pursuing PGPpro, one should constantly think about how to create value for each other and ISB. Students should associate themselves with learning & development councils and volunteer for work. Be a part of different clubs and reach out to industry leaders for various activities. It enhances your profile in a different light and adds more value to your resume. Additionally, this helps you knock on doors to newer opportunities and before you know it, you are already where you wanted to be!

If you must encapsulate the whole PGPpro journey in a sentence, what would that be?

An Overwhelming Experience.

Suman Kumar Chakraborty

PGPpro Class of 2021

Chief Technology Officer

Magnolia Community Health

Ex-Commander, Indian Navy