Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yours Gratefully

[DISCLAIMER: Personal & long post]

Tomorrow I will be walking down Ryan Field along with my classmates at Kellogg to collect my MBA degree. One of the 150,000 odd US students to do so this year. A part of a much larger number of Indians across the world. No big deal. True. But it brings to an end a chapter that started nine years back. A chapter from my story, and it will remain incomplete without this post.

It was during my second year at college, I was doing my B. Com or undergraduate in Business as they refer to it in other parts of the world, that I wanted to do an MBA. A normal career choice for a moderately bright student like myself. For those not acquainted with the Indian B-school system, at least in the mid-2000s, almost the entire batch of the top schools joined straight from college with no prior work experience. This means that the one annual test day, taken by ~150,000 students then (more than ~200,000 now) pretty much sealed your fate for the year. The top B-schools - the Indian Institutes of Managements (IIMs) had around 3000 seats. If you do the math only 2% of the test takers had a chance of making it.

I started with my MBA preparations during my final year of college and was consistently performing among the top 1%-3%. I knew that with further practice unless I messed things up on the D-Day I had a fair shot at cracking it. It was the third Sunday of November in 2004 and I went to Presidency College, Kolkata for my test. I do not recollect the exact  details but I remember coming out of the exam and calling my parents from a PCO (Public Call Office) booth and telling them it could go either way. The results came out in a month's time and though I had performed better than 95% of the test-takers, it wasn't good enough for an interview call from any of the 6 IIMs.

This is where I will try to but won't do justice to the role my parents played in providing the support and confidence in me. First, it's almost taken for granted that all good Indian students will pursue engineering right after school, whereas I, in spite of always being a good student at school and doing quite well in my school final exams decided to take up Commerce. Just because I wanted to. There was tremendous societal pressure on my parents to "show me the right path" but they protected me from all the noise and asked me to do whatever I wanted, with the confidence that they're with me. This was 3 years prior to the MBA episode. This time around, first there was the setback that I wasn't going to the premier B-Schools. Second, no "good student" worth his/her salt thinks of not doing his/her Masters before joining the workforce. It was during this time that Google, just starting their operations in India, came to our campus. And I made it. Goggles? Web Page? Am I mad? And my parents were being foolish in letting a twenty-one year old take the decisions of his own life. Once again, all they told me was they believed in me and would support me in any decision I took. Even if that meant joining a company with a funny name and brightly-colored child like logo. Gulu (Mom, yeah I know silly!) & Baban (Dad) - I know today you are more excited and happy than I am and so I wanted to congratulate you on the MBA. I have perhaps never mentioned it in a public forum, but  - thank you for being by my side, always. Love you. And love you too MLS (my little sister) for being there.

Google on the other hand I have never shied away from showing my love for, in a very vocal fashion. It was as if Google took over my guardianship from my parents. I can't thank everyone who put their faith in me while at Google - giving me responsibilities far bigger than what my years or experience would have made seem prudent. I was most fortunate to have managers who were far more of mentors than bosses like Neel, Ashish, Sundar, Aliza and Sridhar. Also, a special mention to Shailesh, a fellow Kellogg alum and my manager at Google who instilled the confidence in me to go big. 

Then there were the friends, Anal, Sreejita, Manan, Saurabh, Dushyant, Savio, Arnab and many others who not only believed in me but also spent hours guiding me through the application process, preparing me for the MBA interviews and going over multiple iterations of the essays. And then there was Boudhayan who timed his move to Chicago to perfection and played the greatest host for the year.

December 2010 I received the call from Kellogg, congratulating me on my admission. The past year deserves an entire post and more for itself, all I will say for now is that the MBA was worth every penny of the many I spent on it.

Finally this story will remain irrelevant without the person who sacrificed everything for it. If taking the risk of tying the knot just a few months after her twenty-second birthday was not enough, she actually gave up everything she had - her city she had always lived in, her parents who lived in the same city,  her friends, her lifetime savings and her most cherished job, to fly out with me to an unknown country, without a job or purpose. Just to fulfill my dreams. My newly acquired MBA skills tell me she'll make for a pretty lousy businesswoman working on blind faith and love. Something else tells me I'm covered, for life.  Thanks for everything Veni.