2016 / 25 June

An MBA or Start-up after Engineering?

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Enough has been said and done to disparage the ‘lethal’ combination of MBA and B.Tech. In today’s world of dot coms, startups, bloggers, photographers and wildlife photographers, the (now) traditional degree holders are made to feel that they are walking the rut and are really the losers. While the daredevils pursue their passions and adventures, these stereotypes are believed to be running the rat race to nowhere. But before we run ahead of ourselves, we need to take a step back and think about it.

For a person with ‘normal’ background, an MBA with a B.Tech or another form of graduation is the only way to enter the corporate world at a decent level. The odds of having one’s resume’ shortlisted without this combination are so low that one may as well do a start-up. I have nothing against the start-up wiz-kids but the ground reality and situation is different for everyone. As the movie “Taare Zameen Par”  proclaimed – Every Child is Different! So, I am very happy to have gone for an MBA at XLRI after my B.Tech at IIT Delhi.

The engineering courses tend to be very structured, dry and monotonous. This does not apply to the top 15-20% students of every class. As I said, every child is different. So, a vast majority of engineering students just pull along, manage to clear the exams and enjoy the perks of the hostel life. These perks are the great freedom to do what you like and when you like it. There is a steady stream of money coming in from home which can be topped up with part time jobs. Your friends’ circle is available twenty-four hours. In fact, friends are more than available; they just refuse to leave your room. And thus life is good.

As soon as the student is entering the final year, the worries related to life after campus start haunting him or her. The ones who have done well in studies are more confident. They will either land up a “Schol” to go abroad or get the few very good corporate jobs on offer. The toppers in my batch at IIT Delhi are working in places like Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, some are tenured profs at universities like Columbia. But what about the majority who land up in the belly or the tail of the normal curve? For them the MBA provides a great chance of redemption.  On second thoughts, it also provides a justification for what they did in engineering college. There is no need to acquire expertise or excel in something that you are anyway not going to pursue. So, here starts the beeline once again for the MBA entrance examinations. By God’s grace, these exams only test the aptitude which is not quite correlated to the grades.

Other than acquiring the corporate edge that I talked about, it is great fun to do an MBA after engineering for many more reasons. All your perks of hostel life continue. With markedly better sex-ratio in the B-schools, it’s a pleasant change for the “engineer”. Few actually get lucky but everyone has a chance to try at least. The courses are fun too. Quantitative courses are a breeze and the non-quantitative ones can be cracked with innovative ideas. Here, many of our erstwhile non-serious engineers decide to undo their below average grades in engineering and aspire to be in the top. After a couple of trimesters, things settle down as a new bell curve emerges. B-school is over in a flash as compared to engineering. The courses provide great variety, opportunities for lateral thinking and soft-skill development. These are essential in corporate world. Though, I feel, B-schools can still impart more practical exposure.

B-schools placements are also quite different. At least in the top ones, a great number of companies visit the campus for summers and final placements. There is a culture of pre-placement offers. Many times the tail-enders end up getting better jobs owing to a well-rounded CV. Hence, MBA after a graduation still remains the best combination to start a corporate career. Any person looking forward to a steady income and a reasonably structured life can use this time-tested combo. Though there are ups and downs in the economy and quality of placements vary from year to year, few business sectors get in and out of fashion, this remains the default education option for low risk-takers.

Hence, if you are undecided whether to go for an MBA after engineering or after a few years of workex vis-à-vis joining a start-up as the next big thing in your life, thinking about the following issues may be helpful:

  • Are you really able to work in a very unstructured environment offered by the startups? Give it a serious thought or do a part-time stint at a startup.
  • What is your risk taking ability? Many people jump headlong into a startup dreaming $$$ signs. What about the multitudes of ventures that fail? Do you have it in you to absorb the losses and move on?
  • How is your family situation? Is your family able to support you or is looking for support from you?
  • How is your personal situation? Without a steady and reasonably good income, marrying can be a bad idea. However supportive your fiancé or girlfriend or boyfriend may be, cracks appear in relationship if either party is not economically independent.

So, an MBA after graduation may sound like a cliché but it is still one of the best options available. Having said all of this, a man (woman) got to do what he (she) got to do. If you do start-up with a dream – all the best!

Please feel free to leave a comment and write to me at info@ashutoshm.com

Ashutosh Mishra - YouthCoach & Author

A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.

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  • I am a final year mechanical engineering student from Chennai in the same dilemma. Almost all people I know have advised me to work for a few years and then pursue MBA. Will work experience count while getting placement after MBA? And what is the best stream to take in MBA if I am person who loves to develop brand, promote them and organize events?
    I really look forward to your reply. Thank you 🙂

    • Ashutosh Mishra

      1) Work experience helps if it is in the same area where you want to develop after your MBA.
      2) In India, I have seen freshers doing MBA after graduation have an age advantage over work-ex guys. for example, by the time you are 30 years of age, the freshers have 7 years work-ex in their profession but the guy with two years experience will have only 5 years. This may result in the fresher MBA being senior and earning more at the same age vis-a-vis the work-ex MBA person.
      3) Even two years of work-ex doesn’t qualify for a good lateral placement. Indian B-Schools as well as employers don’t seem to value work-ex very much. Of course, each case is different.

      Hence, I tilt in favour of doing MBA straight after graduation, specially in India.

      To add, given your preference, Marketing seems to be a good choice for specialisation.

    • Ashutosh Mishra

      Please read my blog here for further discussion on similar topic: http://www.ashutoshm.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=120&action=edit



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