Babson University MBA Graduate speaks to Nirali Advisory about her Study Abroad journey!
Undergrad- NMIMS University- BBA
Postgrad- Babson F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business - MBA
“I have seen that the essays and the interviews are what make or break your application.”
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your Educational and Professional Background? Which college, company and role did you work in to get you where you are today?
Hi my name is Malvika Dhume. I did my undergrad at NMIMS University, I did my BBA there. Post my BBA I went on to work with EY as an analyst and a management consulting practice with technology media and telecom space. I worked there for 4 and a half years and got a fast track promotion to become a consultant. And currently, I am based out in Boston because I did my MBA at Babson University.
2. What was your undergraduate Major? What prompted you towards it?
My undergrad major was in finance. So, I did my BBA with the General Management Degree but I wanted to specialise in finance given that those are the skill set you require in the real world to get through a lot of different areas of business. I do think it is especially very important to know and understand the details of finance in consulting. This is what prompted me to do an undergrad major in finance.
3. When and why did you decide to study abroad?
I did my IB in my 11th and 12th which was essentially an International Board. I felt that learning through this particular system would apply to me in undergrad schools and even in the US or UK because due to its application-based approach to studying.
I always wanted to go abroad even for my undergrad. However, I was unable to at that point in time. Hence, I always had a goal to go for my MBA to a top US University.
4. Did you receive a scholarship? Do you recommend any good organisations/institutions that provide scholarships or financial aid?
Yes! I did receive a scholarship from Babson University for $40,000 it was via the Forté Fellow Scholarship. This scholarship focuses on women who have leadership or who have strong work experience and provides scholarships to those students. Primarily to get this scholarship you need to kind of write an additional essay for scholarships requested from the school. I have heard of multiple other scholarships because Babson is very well known to provide scholarships to their students. You have multiple scholarships such as The Dean's Scholarship, etc. Additionally, if you go on the grants, financial aids or scholarships web pages of your school you’ll often find which organisation the school is affiliated with.
5. Is it worth taking a loan to study abroad? How does one measure one’s ROI?
I think it entirely depends because there are multiple factors that are involved such as how much loan you are taking, what is the school’s career services like, what is the schools position, how good are their tie-ups etc.
If you are studying in the US or in the UK and you do have good job prospects and if you do end up getting a job in that country then there is definitely an ROI because you can save. Typically after an MBA, the average salary range is between about 100-150 thousand dollars. So there could definitely be an ROI within about 2-3 years if you take a loan of say 50 - 100 thousand dollars.
6. Why did you choose that particular course in this particular university/college for your studies abroad? What was the process you went through while choosing the university/college?
So I was looking at multiple schools. A 640 was my best GMAT score. Though I tried extremely hard to push it forward, I could not. However, I did have an average work experience of 4 to 5 years which is typically considered “good work experience” for applying for MBA Schools.
I choose Babson because it is very well known for “Entrepreneurship” and more importantly the “Entrepreneurial Mindset” that you need to have even if you are working for a large organisation. This is something that resonated with me. And today, even though I am looking for employment with another company, I do plan on starting my own venture eventually. I feel like Babson has provided me with the right frameworks and the right mindset to eventually achieve that goal.
7. Any particular advice you would like to give for the application process from SOP writing to Academic GPA to other things which you thought were important that helped you get into that course at that university?
Definitely, there is a lot of work that goes into any application and GMAT is only the first step of the application process. Your essays are so very important because each school has about 2-3 different essays. You need to have your story straight in terms of your goals, your future plans, why you need an MBA right now and why you are applying to this school.
More importantly, your essays need to be collaborative with your entire story. They also need to be in line with your recommendation letters and your interview. This is because the admission team will look at the whole package. Additionally, though the GPA is important, in my experience, I have seen that the essays and the interviews are what make or break your application.
I feel like writing those good essays and having a good storyline is very important. You need to have your own personalised story that should resonate with what the school’s values, ambitions and goals are so that you can fit right into that particular school.
8. Were you satisfied with your choice of university? What is your most and least favourite thing about the university experience?
Yes! I was definitely satisfied with Babson. I feel that even though it may not be as well ranked overall it was amazing in terms of you the course structure and the professors. The best part about Babson was its class size. Our class size was about 150 students. Because the class size was so small the professors knew each and every student very personally. We always got time to go and meet the professors and discuss multiple ideas with them from a personal and professional standpoint. So the professors were extremely helpful.
My most favourite experience about Babson was having extracurricular activities. There is so much that goes around in Babson in terms of events, leadership positions, student council and being a part of multiple clubs. I was the Co-president of the Babson Marketing Club which was an amazing experience.
Another really amazing part of Babson is the campus. The campus is huge and it's really beautiful. So that's also one of the things that I really liked about Babson.
In terms of the least favourite experience would be having more diversity. I feel like that is something that Babson really needs to work on.
9. How was the Indian fraternity over there? How was the overall campus diversity?
As far as Babson is considered 60-70 % of its student population at least in the graduate level is international and about 30% is Indian students so there is a large Indian Fraternity at Babson. That can be a good thing and a bad thing. Because if you do eventually see yourself going back to India and setting up your business or starting a job there you do have a very large network. Babson has some really good students from great backgrounds which helps build a strong network!
However, just to add onto that. I feel that having more local population or more diversity is something that Babson could do with because as I mentioned 30% is Indian and 30% is Latin American population. So in terms of overall diversity, though we have students from 30 different countries (which is great), I feel like due to its smaller class of just 150 people, Babson could do with more local students.
10. Tell us something about the faculty and resources which were there on campus.
The faculty and resources that Babson provides are great. Whichever area that you find yourself interested in or looking for, Babson has an institution that is dedicated to that particular subject or need.
For example: If you are interested in Finance, Babson has something called the Cutler Center for Finance which specialises in any requirement that the student has within the subject area of finance such as investment banking or venture funding. Additionally, since Babson is known for its Entrepreneurship there is a Blank Center for Entrepreneurship where students can start their own business! Here students also get a lot of support through pitching their start-ups in competitions like the Babson B.E.T.A Challenge, Rocket Pitches, etc held on campus. These initiatives help them raise small amounts to kick start the business. Of course, there are professors who mentor these students along with other student members and alumni which is really helpful also. These are just the many reasons why Babson continuously ranks number one for Entrepreneurship!
11. Tell us about your journey from the first semester to the last both academically and non-academically? What was campus life like? What were the extracurricular activities on campus?
The first semester is extremely difficult. This is not just from a studying point of view but also I feel that the college wants to put you into the grind. So as you start your journey at Babson the first week is orientation week. Here, they would do something called as “Tech mark.” However, I am not entirely sure if they still do it. So “The Tech Mark” is a really cool stimulation that Babson starts off with and they get us to do this in groups. This really bonds the students together and allows you to get to know each other better. So right from the beginning, Babson focus on team bonding and project work.
Throughout the two years at Babson teaming is a very important part because you are accountable for your own work and responsible for working well in groups. At the same time, the best part about working in these teams is interacting with very diverse people in terms of culture, background, professional experiences and personalities. This really helps you to learn a lot from one another. I think that’s something which is great about the whole Teaming aspect.
So from an academic standpoint, yes, in the first semester there is a grind because it is divided into two modules and it is very fast-paced. So that is something you need to be mentally prepared for. From the second semester onwards, things start easing up a bit also what is great is that you start picking your electives right from the second semester.
Non-academically, you have so many different clubs that you can be a part of. For example Marketing, Tech, Finance, Family Business clubs exist where multiple events like conferences keep happening. Not only that, the Graduate Student Council or the GSC always organises multiple events that are more fun and team-based bonding such as catch up with the beer at the bar on campus or through different parties that are thrown like Halloween or Diwali party. I feel like all these are a very important part of the networking and bonding experience between students at Babson.
12. What did you learn and what were your most dear experiences? Any suggestions or recommendations for fresher's starting out?
I learnt a lot of things from Babson revolving especially around starting your own business and ways to go about doing that. The traditional method has been doing tonnes of research, doing customer survey’s etc, which is a long process. The most important thing that I learnt at Babson is that when you have an idea, start small. Prototype it, test it with your customers and then work on it as you iterate it. This, I feel is a very agile way of working.
Babson also focuses a lot on Design Thinking and trying to innovate outside of the box. One of the most fun classes I attended was an Elective Intensive (which is essentially a weekend class) called “Leading Innovation: Gorillas, Chimps and Monkeys” by Prof. Jay Rao. This was such a great class and he is an amazing professor. I think this is one class that I recommend for all the students who do end up at Babson.
I also found every student at Babson to be very hands-on, adaptive and street smart. At Babson, it's a common joke that the Babson students are hustlers they know how to get things done. They focus on entrepreneurial thought and action which is no matter what you are doing (working on a start-up, or mid-size company or at a large organisation) you think like an entrepreneur, you take ownership, you believe in getting work done no matter what is going on in the world.
13. How is the quality of education compared to Indian institutes? What were the gaps in both systems? How did you manage to cope?
So I definitely think it's very different from Indian institutes. I can’t speak for all the institutes but I do know that most US universities and even the UK ones focus more on application-based learning. So rather than needing to mug up anything or learning something by heart, it is more important to apply whatever you learn. So maybe via projects or papers, you write based on whatever you have learned in class and apply it in a real-world context.
Another thing unique to Babson was also “the B-cap” which is the Babson consulting Alliance Project which is in the second semester. Through this, we work in teams with a company on a problem or a business issue that it is facing. Then we try to solve them while working with the management of the company. At the end of the semester, we present them with a solution. A lot of times, these solutions are implemented by the companies which is a great achievement and learning experience for all the students.
In terms of how I managed to cope, I think it's easier to cope because you realize everybody else is in the same boat as you are. So it is a lot of hard work and a lot of hustling, but you manage to cope.
14. What were the career opportunities available? How does one manage to grab them?
Many companies constantly came to campus. There were also multiple “spotlights” which were small networking sessions with companies. The career services also had a consulting, finance, marketing, CPG, guest and social impacts spotlight. Other than that they had a few companies that came on board such as AB InBev. Also, there is a “Babson Connect event” every year where alumni from reputed companies like Amazon, Shark Ninja, etc show up.
However, my advice would be that nothing comes easy or is spoon-fed. It really depends on how much initiative you take to network and put yourself out there. I think a lot of students already placed have hustled their way through and networked heavily so that they are not just dependent on the Career Services.
I would advise knowing how to network on LinkedIn, going to events, etc. Obviously now with COVID, you need to attend the virtual events. This is both good and bad. The good part is that you can attend a virtual event from anywhere in the world and do not need to travel there. But at the same time, you don't get the personalized touch of interacting with these people.
So in terms of grabbing these opportunities, the companies that do come on campus would request “resume books” from Career Services. The Career Services also helps you with your resume reviews interview prep, etc. And once interviews are done the students get placed, but a lot them have been placed through their own individuals hard work and networking.
15. Tell us a little bit about your current job profile and work.
The current job profile that I'm essentially looking for is in Product Marketing or Strategy roles. I am still exploring job opportunities and doing internships at this point given the tough economic situation due to Covid19 at this point. I am looking at media, tech, consumer goods, and companies to get into product marketing or the roles of a product strategist.
16. Any other suggestions or pieces of advice you would like to give students who are starting out the study abroad process?
A piece of advice that I would give to students is definitely network with other students or alumni of the particular institute that you are looking to get into. This is very important because every student who is a part of that education institute or even the alumni knows exactly how their experience was, what the nuances are or what core values the school looks out for. So if you include those within your story and try to weave them into the storyline that you are portraying, it is very helpful.
Not only that, I feel like, if possible, talking to the admissions representatives of the schools and also trying to network with the professors who are at the school is really, really helpful because it shows that you are hardworking, you know how to network and want to get your work done. So that is definitely an important part of the application process.
17. How did a study abroad help you?
Studying abroad has definitely helped me, personally and professionally. So I have studied in the Indian system and the US system. I definitely think that the most important highlight for me is how different the professors are. You have a very professional yet friendly equation with the professors because they often do really care. And typically if you schedule a time with professors, you can go and meet them and they are always open to talking and discussing any problem that may be professional or personal. For example, I know some of my friends who had family businesses back home in India and have gone and spoken to professors about the family business, and how they can grow them and have gotten wonderful, solutions and suggestions from the professors.
I also feel that studying abroad really makes you very independent. Since you need to do everything by yourself, you learn to be independent. For example, you need to be waking up on time, be punctual for classes, carve out time to do your chores etc. Overall the learning curve is not only from a professional standpoint but also a personal one. You grow as a person and learn to live a more disciplined life. This has been an important takeaway for me.
We hope that you have found this interview insightful. Do let us know how in the comments section below!