– Vishrut Awasthi (PGP 2014)
As the second hand of our clocks circles around to meet the number 12, with every passing minute, our heart beats become louder and faster. The whole dorm, and the first year batch, is transfixed on it’s email inbox. With nerves getting stronger, we wait as the clock is about to hit 1:45.
This number, unarguably, has had such a strong impact in the lives of every student who has ‘experienced’ the first year at IIM Ahmedabad (which is fondly referred as WIMWI- short for Well-known Institute of Management in Western India. For people who don’t know, IIM A is ranked within the top-15 MBA colleges).
1:45 PM represents Quiz time. At this time, the first year students get a mail of a surprise quiz on one of many subjects being taught in the trimester, and we, students, are expected to appear for the quiz in an hour.
I’m sure all MBA grads have faced these situations in different forms.
Accounting, Marketing, Finance, Legal, Operation Management etc etc are the subjects that are taught to us at B-schools & students are expected to master these skills which will help them to be ready for the real world.
The two years of pressure-testing at IIM Ahmedabad were a riveting experience for me. At first, when I joined in May 2012, I, like my batch-mates, went directly inside the furnace & started to work up according to the time-tables, participated in group activities & tried to hit the ground running with the syllabus. Seldom did I think about the usefulness of the courses I studied, as my conviction was that I am being prepared for the real world. And I was 100% right, only I didn’t know how.
The tag-line of IIM A is Vidya Viniyog Vikas, which means progress through knowledge. During my first few months as a fachha (read first-yearite) at IIM A, I thought ‘knowledge’ meant studying & excelling in subjects like accounting, finance, marketing, OP etc, and ‘progress’ meant getting good grades.
Fast forwarding six years to 2018. Now I know what the logo actually meant. What is the meaning of ‘Knowledge’ and what do they mean by ‘Progress’. I’ll take a stab at what I have in mind.
Knowledge means capability development & up-skilling onself. Kaizen way of living
Progress means realizing your aspirations & achieving your long term goals.
Understanding of subjects like fin, marketing etc is a small subset of gaining knowledge. It is actually about identifying oneself and developing capability muscles through experiences & interactions so that one can affect change & make an impact on people.
Studying for two years at IIM Ahmedabad is a strong start in pursue of knowledge & progress. I will give you an example to explain this:
Suppose you gather enough courage to scale the tip of Mount Everest.
Studying and learning at IIM A is like taking a helicopter to the base camp of the mighty mountain. You will reach quicker to the base camp than many others who are trying to reach the summit. But, you will only reach as far as the base camp, and that’s it.
If you have the desire and passion to reach the summit, you have to do it yourself, by using tools & instruments, persevering with time, learning & leveraging techniques and then, only then, you will reach the peak of Mount Everest.
Metaphorically, reaching Mt Everest is getting to be a CXO of an enterprise & the tools and instruments are the capabilities and skills successful people develop with experiences and interactions, in the real world, which help them to scale the summit of corporations.
Capabilities and skills. hmmmm, interesting, but how to develop these capabilities?
To be true, I am not an expert on commenting on it, as I’m also on my way up, trying to reach my summit.
But, I have cracked one code, which partially answers the question on how to develop capabilities:
Get as much air-time as possible with those who have already made to the summit.
Look at them, read them, listen to their stories and experiences & try to absorb their qualities which you believe will help you. Absolute gold.
I remember one of such interactions I had a couple of years back with our organization’s former Chief Commercial Officer, Mr. Sridhar Venkatesh on stitching up a successful career.
He used lifting of a rocket to space as a metaphor for career progression.
To enter into outer space, the rocket needs a significant thrust (pressure) & fuel to achieve the escape velocity. After it gets into the outer space, there are different forces that drives it.
So, to enter into proverbial outer space in our careers, we have to put in the initial thrust and fuel inside our rockets.
These initial forces come from experiences, interactions & capabilities and skills we develop.
This capability development (which differs from person to person) with time is the quintessential fuel which is required to reach the outer space. It is important to continuously add right fuels to our career rocket so that it achieves the escape velocity to go past the atmosphere, and make its way into the outer space.
Rocket-fueling for growth.