Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Follow your passion and avoid blunders

Some blunders are strong enough to follow you to the ends of the Earth.

Be careful of the decisions you make right from a young age. If every you are unsure of what to do please go to a professional career counsellor and ask for help. A career counsellor will know enough about how things work and also what opportunities exist.

If you are a parent, please remember that it is your job to guide your child into the right decisions. Always guide your child into exploring all types of field so that he / she can try his / her strengths and interests and realise what they are good at. Go to a career counsellor and help your child realise what field he / she will be good at. No age is small enough to start exploring.

Don't do something which is feasible. Identify and follow your passion. Its your passion that will bring you success.

-> SJ

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Become a Creator or a Fixer NOT an Enabler

Addition to the original post: Why NOT to do an MBA

I've been promoting this post on my Facebook Timeline and Twitter Timeline with headers stating that the world is echoing with this mantra. To support my claims this post is dedicated at bringing more information from some credible sources to help you (the reader) think on the topic and take it seriously.

".........Recently, more companies have indicated that "they are moving away from an emphasis on M.B.A.s" and are instead hiring more undergraduates at lower salaries that they can then train in-house, says Camille Kelly, vice president of employer branding at Universum, a firm that advises companies on how to attract and retain the best employees. Companies, she says, "still will do M.B.A. hiring, but it won't be to the same extent they have in the past."

The article says that the pay package received by students fell about 62% at 186 schools. People find it difficult to survive in the weak economic state and go in for higher studies to boost their hire-ability, thinking it would be the formula to success and a high salary. But to what end? The job market for MBAs has become smaller and the pay has decreased.

".......A weak economic climate is only partly to blame for the M.B.A.'s plight. The changing nature of B-school programs, evolving corporate needs—as well as the perceived value of the degree—have all helped dilute the M.B.A.'s allure...."

The key statements to read from the above excerpts are: (a) "Evolving corporate needs" (b) "perceived value of the degree".

In my humble opinion, the WSJ has tried to dilute the problem by putting part of the blame on the weak economy. Its when the going gets tough that we 1st cut off the luxuries and MBAs were always a luxury as these people know how to manage and look at things in a superficial light, which will not help companies survive as their employees need to get their hands dirty to understand the business in a thorough manner.

Jay Bhatti is an investor and advisor to start ups in NYC. Ex-founder of Spock.com and a Product Manager at Microsoft. He completed his MBA in 2002 from Wharton Business School. He has seen the heights of the demand for MBAs and is currently seeing the lows as well.

He says: "The sad reality is that an MBA is not as valuable today as it was 30 years ago. Stanford University published data stating that from 2005 to 2008, over 94% of graduates had jobs by graduation. However, since then, only about 75% of graduates had jobs lined up at graduation. Stanford is a top MBA program, so you can imagine it being worse at other schools. In fact, 21 schools that are ranked by US News & World Report said that for the past few years, nearly 50% of their graduates did not have jobs at graduation."

Like all MBAs he has also analysed this problem from a superficial point of view, saying that only the top 5 schools will get you an ROI. He says that the MBA course was designed in the 1950s when the top companies saw that the employees lacked management skills and wanted to hire managers to enable the employees.

Reading in between the lines, applying my own experience and mixing it up with the WSJ article, I see a deeper problem. Today most people can naturally learn the skill of management and with the recession and a weak economy companies want to hire only those candidates which can help them grow from the foundation to top. Its like any building, make a strong foundation and the building stands strong.

In my humble opinion: The demand for generalists has just disappeared as they do not help the company grow. Generalists just manage what they have. They do not innovate the product, or invent a new product- that is done by scientists or engineers (aka creators) or the true professionals. MBAs are not professionals but are managers aka enablers.

Today the companies want creators to help create new assets that can generate more revenue.

As an MBA pass out and as a person involved in a start up I see things at a level where employees of big corporations and students can not. I have always believed in the view that to learn something you need to start from the foundation and build it strong. This is what is required today also. People need to have a strong foundation to be hire-able. Foundations can only built with skillsets. MBAs do not give you the skills for building a foundation, they build on top of the foundation.

My advice to all students or employees who have not yet or are thinking of an MBA- DON'T.
Think of a MS or an MSc or an MTech. Become a Master of One field. 

Excel in One Field any field, and you shall get hired.

-> SJ

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why NOT to do an MBA.

I finished my MBA in 2011 from a tier II institute in India - Got a mediocre job for peanuts at a 1500Cr company with 2000+ employees which is run in a non-professional manner. All my dreams of getting a HUGE package post MBA, living in style, being able to afford all sorts of gadgets per month and traveling around the world was shattered.

I adjusted to reality, reset my expectations, reset my goals and carried on with life. Today of course I'm not with the same company (trying my hand at entrepreneurship); I see many people from my institute joining and graduating, struggling to find a job after paying insane amounts of money, and I wonder what was the benefit of doing the course? You spend 2 years away from friends & family, rejecting invaluable corporate experience... but what do you get from it?

I spent 2 years of my life at a hostel, enjoying, having fun and learning a little bit only from the few exceptional teachers we had. Today, 2 yrs post that I often question myself: 

What did I learn from MBA? Did I learn anything? How has MBA shaped my life?
A person with 7-8 years experience would probably not learn anything from an MBA, which is fortunate, as I did learn something. Although nothing spectacular. I delved into the depths (to a certain extent only) of finance and learnt a lot about how the corporate world works from the PoV of money matters.

But did this help me at all? Not really, I'm a finance geek. I understand how investments work, I understand the intrinsic and extrinsic value of things. I understand how companies are valued and some of the factors which are taken into account. I understand the details of mergers & acquisitions. I did my internship in banking and I understand how banks also deal with things.

But ultimately I, a person who studied finance all his life, am now working in marketing and alongside learning product management. This is not a rare occurance. There are many such stories where people have changed functions post an MBA. So its safe to say that most of the time what you study is not what you apply.

Most of the people who apply what they learn especially when it comes to banking or finance have had to do a professional certification like CFA, CA or in Banking to convince the companies that they can be hired. 

This leads us to another question: If we do not apply what we learn why should we do an MBA? If we need another certification, why an MBA to begin with??
I keep asking myself that. The whole point of me doing an MBA was to get focused learning in finance so that I do not have to do a certificate course as a degree would be better than a certification. But, as I discovered later, a certification is more important than a degree called MBA.

Then why-oh-why should we do an MBA? I can become a banker and a finance expert by just doing a certification for 2-3Lacs, why should I spend 10Lacs+ to do an MBA which will take me nowhere??

Where is the benefit of doing an MBA? Just to become a good manager? I can learn that better in the real world by trial and error.

Many people today are still looking to do an MBA thinking it similar to a magic pill which will solve their money & job problems. Get real people! The only thing that will solve your problems is you. An MBA is mostly preferred by engineers who do not want to continue on the tech side and they are whom it is most suited for. Being technical people, they have learnt the depths of their fields and need to broaden their view and diversify into the softer aspects of corporates (management).

The last question that we need to answer is: Is MBA worth it?
Well to be exact, not really. Its better to go do an MS or a course specializing in 1 field- Finance, Economics, Computer Science, Marketing etc. it does not matter. A specialist is what companies want or need. A generalist is a overhead used only to do the dirty work passed on by others.

What I mean to say is that an in-depth knowledge in a certain field is much better than to be a jack of all trades and master of none. It helps us develop a special skill set which is what companies require. Its this skill set which helps us generate value for society.

As an MBA graduate my only advice to people currently pursuing or planning to pursue an MBA is that.. THINK BEYOND AN MBA... don't get fooled, go for a technical degree and specialise, develop a skillset and an intrinsic value rather than do an MBA.

You can learn all that an MBA can teach you on the job but an MBA can not make you into a specialist in a field.

-> SJ

Monday, April 15, 2013

Getting on with it!

Worrying about how everything will get done or whether I am capable of doing it limits my ability to respond to challenges considerably. The less I think about doing something and the faster I just get on with it, the fewer problems I cause myself. Good planning is always helpful, but time spent fretting and procrastinating is a major drain on my energy. The more willing I am to respond positively to opportunities, the more my capacity will grow.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Project Management Is All About Converting A Thought Into Action

If one can transform his/her thought into concrete action then success is not a far-fetched dream. Of course, transforming thought into action is a giant leap, agreed it is difficult but it is something which is achievable. During that giant leap many risks are undertaken. One has to plan for all sorts of eventualities and lay down concrete steps which have to be completed to reach the final goal. This visualization of ideas and planning of execution of idea is what makes up project management. The project is the execution of the idea and achieving goals and the management is the analysis, strategizing and planning required to execute the idea and convert it into action.

Even in project management there are a lot of uncertainties which a project manager has to guard from. A big part of project management depends on the identification and factoring of risks in the planning to prevent any kind of delays in execution. Despite the risk factor, the project manager has to ensure the smooth execution of the project work.

For this a proper and detailed plan of execution is required. The project manager should start by first setting the motive, goals and targets that the project should achieve. Once done, a high level strategy of how the target is to be achieved should be outlined, identifying the various channels which would be used. This high level strategy serves as a road map towards the achievement of the goals, this then needs to be broken down into smaller milestones and targets with tasks that need to be completed along with a timeline. All these put together makes a strong project plan and will help the project manager ensure that the targets are achieved and the project runs as scheduled.

Throughout the process, there is several Project Risk Management faced by an organization. Each decision maker should be well prepared for any outcome and take the risk. Certain Risk factors include costs, delay in schedule, shortage of raw materials, shortage of human resources, lack of infrastructure and political uncertainties. Amidst all this, a Project Manager must implement the project work as it is critical for a company’s reputation. In this the project plan established will help and guide the project manager.

In any economy, there are several wants and needs that arise amongst the government organization, people or other clients. They include demand for infrastructure, new product or services, scientific machines etc. These projects can be of varied strengths. The project plan established will ensure the conversion of ideas into action and help in project management by ensuring completion of work in a timely fashion.

One of the best ways to become good is to understand the nitty-gritties of Scrum Master and the working environments of Prince2.