Climbing the Corporate Ladder in Heels!
An Engineer in Material Sciences from Chennai, Narayani is armed with masters from Stanford University. After working out of California for a couple of years, she moved to France for 3 years, and then relocated back to New Delhi, India for her maternity leave. She has steadily worked for KLA – an organisation that deals with capital equipment, semiconductors, and chip manufacturing.
Reason to pursue an MBA
After moving to Delhi, she felt a vacuum with respect to her network – most of her network was present in Chennai; creating a network for herself was one of the biggest drivers to do an MBA. Also, while she had been an enthusiastic engineer, and was an expert in her domain, she had the hunger to learn how to conduct end to end business.
She had a new born baby and wanted to continue working. These two factors completely made the decision for her – the MBA could not be full-time! Plus she wanted world-class education but in Indian prices. Another major reason was that she didn’t want to write a competitive exam: While she was sure that she would do well if she did sat for one, it just didn’t seem like a justified investment of her time, giving everything else she was occupied with!
Brand name was very important to me, and ISB had it. This was a new format that had been introduced and it worked really well for her – for two reasons: 1) Personal: With a new born, she was not too inclined to stay full-time in campus, and 2) Professional: Her industry moves extremely fast and leaving would actually hinder her ability to catch up from where she left. PGPpro managed to circumvent both these problems, and brought international education to my doorstep.
PGPpro: The Expectations
“I have lived and worked abroad, so I have had world-class education. However, what I wanted was a change in perspective to a more Indian one – as I intended to live in India, work in India, and perhaps even start a business in India. I trusted that we would continue to use ISB’s great resource pool of professors. Plus, I always wanted to learn strategy, and loved that the course was built around it. To share how much I wanted to learn, as a specialisation, I made a conscious decision of choosing finance over marketing, even though marketing is something I do all the time.
I was also expecting these 18 months to be a challenge in terms of managing the various roles in life, which is true, it was challenging. It was a rigorous full-time MBA, and it was not just part of my life, but my entire family’s life.”
PGPpro unexpected benefits: Flexibility
“The on-campus day care centre was a blessing. Even though on the weekends, the day care centre isn’t operational, they offered for someone to be there for my daughter if necessary. The entire ecosystem associated with the course, and institute, as well as my cohort was extremely accommodative and supportive.
Another unexpected benefit is the flexibility: the curriculum is structured in a way that even if you missed a class, you could take it at another location – it is something I maxed out on. I was allowed to do 3 missed classes, but I requested and did more. I travel a lot for personal and professional reasons internationally and to South India. So I would complete my travel, and then do the course at Hyderabad, despite being from the Delhi cohort. All these were a huge convenience to a working mom like me. What this also ended up doing is that it multiplied my network to include the Hyderabad cohort as well.”
PGPpro Advantage: Faculty
“The faculty were as well aware of the Indian ecosystem as the global best practices, and could, hence, connect the dots. And it is relevant to note here that just like my professors at Stanford, all the PGPpro professors had extensive work experience – they were not just theoretical academia oriented professors, but they came in with wide consultancy experience. This is especially imperative in business as only someone who has faced the practical difficulties has the agency to do justice to the issue. The case to case interaction with these professors was absolutely priceless.
I am trying to do things laterally in my company, and I keep in touch, and often still reach out to the professors when I need expert opinion, and this shows how approachable they are.”
PGPpro Advantage: Peer group
“Not sure if I was lucky in general but my cohort was excellent! The fact that we had less than 50% engineers in the cohort is something unheard of in India! Not 2 people came from the same industry, which is how diverse the group was, and everyone brought in their own perspectives to the table. We also had folks flying in from various states in India. The cohort also consisted of a large percentage of right-brained people who typically don’t make the cut in programmes where a competitive exam is required, as most exams are math oriented, which is a bit unfair – most programmes push them into the ineligible category because maybe they struggle with statistics, without considering the fact that they are brilliant with people management, and there was so much you could learn from them!”
PGPpro Advantage: Curriculum
“The professors would improvise on case studies to adapt to our cumulative levels of experience – and a major part of the discussion revolved around how we could collaborate with our combined experiences in class rather than what the faculty could teach us. We brought a lot of real life work problems to class, and the class helped to solve it. There was a lot I could take back as suggestions to my country director and other top management people, and suggest a seamless way to implement the same.”
PGPpro Advantage: Alumni Network
“ISB alumni are more proactive than those from most other institutes: Between all 3 programmes I did: my undergrads, my graduation abroad, and PGPpro, I find ISB alumni the most actively involved. And although I haven’t had too much necessity or opportunity to interact, I can say that they don’t discriminate between which programme you belong to, as long as you are an ISB student or an alumnus, which is an apprehension we had.”
PGPpro Advantage: The rigour
“As we were the second batch, there was also a fear about how industry might perceive us: PGPpro is seen as a weekend programme, where a lot of people assume that we have not been subjected to the slaughterhouse and grilling of a full-time MBA, but it is not true. Of course, the challenges are different, but the rigour, width, and depth of the programme are the same!”
PGPpro Advantage: Workplace implementation
“PGPpro allowed me to have conversations about new initiatives with various stakeholders at a time when I had just moved back to India and was trying to establish credibility within the Indian wing of my organisation. Just before a course, I would contact the relevant head – and tell them I was doing this course, and if they wanted me to work on something related in the company. Or I would learn something new and go back to the concerned stakeholder, share the learnings and the global best practices, and put in my suggestions. I did this quite successfully and set myself up for growth and opportunities. My company noticed how I was proactively taking initiatives horizontally, and willingly adding new skills. Result: I was promoted twice in the year and a half of PGPpro!
A lot of the impact was later too – especially in the area of strategic innovation management which I learnt from Prof. Anand Nandkumar and worked on closely with my country director. I was always passionate about innovation but wasn’t aware that it is something that could be done structurally as well. Also, when you go back to work, you often face issues that you discussed in class – but once you have heard 6 people from 6 different industries provide you with 6 different solutions, tackling these issues can be a breeze, no topic is beyond your reach and you have free experts to do consulting for you.”
PGPpro: Who should join?
“The more clear you are in your conviction of where you want to go ahead from here, and the more experience you bring – not just in number of years, but how much you know and how much you have learnt, the better advantage you will be able to take of the programme. Also, if you are someone is okay trading off the campus life, and would like to go to campus occasionally but return to your family and workplace after a brief dalliance, then PGPpro is for you!”
Advice to future women leaders
“I started a women’s forum in my company to expose women to more opportunities. I think the first thing women should do is question the status quo: we all have grown up seeing a certain ways things are done, and we assume that is the only way, but it is not true. Another advice would be to take risks! And don’t shy away from showcasing your accomplishments: We, as women, are socially conditioned to be subtle, so this may seem counterintuitive and feel mildly embarrassing as if we are touting our horns, but it is important to talk about what you have rightfully accomplished, else no one will ever come to know. Not just that, you will inspire others too!”
PGPpro in Covid-19 times
“When you have a downturn or an economic crisis, it is always a good time for you to upskill, and both monetarily and time wise, it is a good investment as by the time the markets are back, you will be upskilled and raring to go! That is one reason in favour of doing PGPpro now. A lot of ROI depends on your personal goals and ambitions: My cohort members have changed jobs 2-3 times during the course, and what aided them was the network they made through the cohort and the ISB alumni! I got promoted twice and received raises twice, as I wanted to stay with my company, and that more than covered the cost of the programme. However, in life, that’s not all we are looking for – like the network, it is not what it does for me this year, but what it does 5/6/10 years down the line! I have seen peers change industries, roles, geographies and I know it is possible.
What PGPpro did for me is that is accelerated my career: It is always hard to ask the company to promote you every year especially when you are hitting the mid-senior category, because as you go up the ladder, the senior positions continue to reduce, and this programme gives you the leverage to go ahead and ask for the growth!”
PGPpro Class of 2019