- Gaha K
Rotman School of Management Alum speaks to Nirali Advisory about her Study Abroad Experience!
Updated: Jun 4, 2021
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Undergrad - Bachelor of Management Studies - HR college
Postgrad - MBA - Rotman School of Management
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/anjanadattani/
"I got the opportunity to explore different fields, I explored entrepreneurship, I explored media, explored retail of course I had an idea, I explored healthcare management and eventually, I ended up majoring in healthcare management and business design so I think I got a lot of opportunities to just be and fly around."
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?
My life and career so far is a series of many, many pivots and gut-based choices as opposed to a goal-based, planned path. I grew up in Bombay, did my I.C.S.E from Cathedral & John Connon School, I.B from Dhirubhai Ambani International School and B.M.S from HR College.
During undergrad, I interned at Google India, and after graduating, I joined Reliance Brands Limited, starting off as a Management Trainee and growing to become the Head of Ecommerce & Assistant Manager – Merchandising for Quiksilver, Roxy and DC Shoes India.
After 3 fantastic years, I decided to move to Canada for my MBA at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. During the MBA, I interned as a Project Manager at a tech startup incubator and as an IT Project Manager at a renowned hospital chain. I graduated with a double-major in Healthcare Management and Business Design in 2019, and have been working at Rotman in an education centre called the Business Design Initiative ever since. My official title is Senior Researcher and Learning Experience Designer.
A lot of beautiful twists and turns – from advertising to ecom/retail to entrepreneurship to healthcare management and now in the innovation management and online education space. I know this isn’t my ‘final destination’ – and I probably won’t ever have one :)
2. What was your undergraduate Major? What prompted you towards it?
Through my life thus far, I’ve gravitated to choices/options that allow for more options and don’t pigeonhole me. It’s not a decision-making framework I’d recommend, unless you’re very comfortable in having an undefined career path and explore your next exciting opportunity as it comes. It took me a long time to accept this side of my personality and now I celebrate the endless possibilities (many idealistic) that life can offer me.
I chose to study Business Management in my undergrad, even though I was more inclined towards the sciences and arts back then, only because this degree would allow me to be in absolutely any industry. I have gone back in my mind and questioned this decision many times, wondering if I should add it to my ‘regrets’ list. However, after all these years, I’ve gravitated back to the sciences and arts – my current work combines anthropology (social science), design (arts) and business. As Steve Jobs says: You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.
3. When and why did you decide to study abroad?
I’ve always known I wanted to study abroad. The only reason I didn’t go right after my undergrad, was because I felt that once I left India, I wouldn’t return – so why not spend a few extra years with my family before I move so far away from them!
Why did I want to study abroad? Well, depending on where you go, an international education exposes you to diverse attitudes and ways of thinking, which help propel your personal growth. I got the opportunity to live in Toronto, where more than 50% of the population comprises immigrants, which made it an enriching experience for me. I got the chance to talk to and work with people from different countries and cultures, which made me aware of how much of a bubble I’d been living in.
Living abroad also helps you learn a lot about yourself. I feel, as Indians, we aren’t taught how to be by ourselves, and make decisions for ourselves. Moving from a collectivist to a relatively individualistic society was eye-opening in many ways. My experience in Canada broke me down in a multitude of ways – it made me question the beliefs I’ve held all my life, made me see sides of myself that surprised and embarrassed me, and put me in a multitude of unimaginable situations that made me more confident in myself to deal with life and make decisions for myself, without the influence of family and friends. I know this sounds very romantic, but living through it is challenging, yet very rewarding. I became a lot more independent – and that doesn’t mean just learning how to cook and taking the trash out – but rather, learning to think for yourself and manage your mind and emotions.
Finally, living abroad can be freeing in many ways, to think and act based on what you truly want, without a billion voices influencing them. Having lived there for a few years, I can clearly see how true that is and also how isolating it can be.
4. Did you receive a scholarship? Do you recommend any good organisations/institutions that provide for scholarships or financial aid?
I received a scholarship from my university, based on my application and interviews. Get in touch with your university’s financial aid department – they can be quite helpful.
5. Is it worth taking a loan to study abroad? How does one measure one’s ROI?
It depends. If you’re going to a country that might not allow you to work after you graduate, a loan might not necessarily make sense. If you’re going to a country you’re sure you will be able to work in, a loan is more worth it. You should look at the average post-MBA salary report of the university you’re applying to, to get an estimate of how much you’re likely to earn and how quickly you will be able to pay back your loan. Speak to a few current students and alumni of the program to gauge how the job market is in the field you’re interested in.
Consider the kind of person you are, too. Are you someone who is laser-focused and will not take up a job unless it is in the specific function and industry of your choice? If so, you might take longer to find the right job – a friend of mine took a year to find his dream job after the MBA, which also meant delays in loan payments.
While taking a loan, do consider the interest rates in both your country and the country you’re migrating to. A few of my classmates took a loan in India and transferred it to Canada because it made more financial sense.
When it comes to ROI, that depends on your priorities. In fact, it’s a conversation you must have with yourself at this stage, while you’re considering which program you want to apply to and what you want to study. When I started off at Rotman, I was overwhelmed by the number of different things thrown at me. I felt the need to get straight A’s, take part in and win in all case competitions, make a ton of friends, attend and lead club events, attend networking events, cook, exercise and keep in touch with my family and friends back in India – while dealing with imposter syndrome, adjusting to a new country and way of living, and learning how to deal with Canadian winters.
It’s impossible to do it all as it will lead to burnout, as many of my classmates experienced. At some point in term 1, I asked myself what would make me feel like I had got my money’s worth in this program. It could be anything e.g. I will feel like I’ve had my money’s worth if I get a job that pays me $x after the MBA, OR if I find a job in x industry within 2 months of the MBA, of if I become the president of the university’s student counsel, or if I build a massive network in Canada and bond well with my classmates, etc etc. For me, it was about exploring different industries and roles, and landing on that 1 job that makes me feel fulfilled and excited.
6. Why did you choose that particular university/college for your studies abroad? What was the process you went through while choosing the university/college?
I had my heart set on the US for most of my life, but the recent challenges with work visas made me question this decision and I decided to give Canada a shot because it would guarantee my ability to work there after graduating. I feel that even if you have decided you only want to go abroad to study and return back to your home country after, you must try to work there for a few years because that experience will be invaluable.
I literally Googled “best MBA schools in Canada” and Rotman topped the list. I visited their website and was awed by: 1. Self Development Lab, because it showed me that the university values balance personal growth as much as professional growth which is very important to me; 2. Creative Destruction Lab which might provide a platform for me to experiment with entrepreneurship which had been on my mind for a few years; 3. Business Design which sounded like a beautiful mix of creativity and analytical thinking and hence very attractive to a divergent thinker like me.
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 in?
My Rotman essay was very authentic. It was completely and unapologetically me. I didn’t just talk about how I want to completely kill it in life, but also spoke about how much I value balance and want to grow in other aspects of life, work being one of them. This might not fly well with all universities – depending on what they value. Rotman seemed to value the same things as I did, and it just clicked.
My advice would be to spend enough time reading about the different university options and being honest with yourself about what it is about that university that attracts you. Be specific. Supplement this reflection by talking to at least 2-3 students of the university which will give you an idea of what your day to day will be like. Use your reflection to write your essay. What specific clubs, events, courses, professors, people, or initiatives of the university attract you to it? talk about it.
GPA etc vary from school to school – try and figure out what each university values and work accordingly.
8. Were you satisfied with your choice of university? What is your most and least favorite thing about the university experience?
I was very satisfied with my choice of location and university. I love Toronto as a city – people are amazing!! (the stereotype of Canadians being nice is very accurate). I love that my university was in downtown Toronto – it made the shift from Mumbai easier, and I always felt like I was amidst all the buzz. Moreover, networking became a lot easier since many of your target companies are located 10 mins away from you.
Rotman gave me the opportunity to explore different fields without pushing me in a specific direction. I spoke to people in so many different industries and roles which helped bring me clarity of what I didn’t want to do. The one thing I will say is that you need to curate and create your own path. The Rotman staff and faculty are amazing!! – once you present them with an idea of what you want to do and where you want to go, they support you in every way to get there. One of my highlights at Rotman was the Self-development lab which held modules on improving communication, presence etc. It felt like a finishing school and made me more polished.
The thing I liked least is the grade disclosure policy that all Canadian universities have with employers. As a result of this, your GPA might be shared with your prospective employer which adds pressure on students to focus more on academics than connecting with their classmates. However, the thing to note is that not all industries care about the GPA – figure out what your industry of choice values and focus accordingly.
9. How is the Indian fraternity over there? How is the overall campus diversity?
There are a ton of Indians in Toronto, so barring midnight honking and stray dogs barking, you won’t miss much. There are enough Indian restaurants to serve you your favorite kadhai paneer and mango lassi, enough walmarts stocked up with Hajmola and Maggi, and enough gujju aunties offering tiffin service. At Rotman, 50 out of our cohort of 350 came from India. Besides Indians, some of my closest friends have come from Canada, South America and China.
10. Tell us something about the faculty and resources which were there on campus
The faculty is excellent!! I’d highly recommend connecting with your professors outside of class – they give great advice about life, the universe and everything. In terms of resources – they’re exactly as what’s mentioned on the Rotman website. Career services, Clubs, International Student Supports, and the likes.
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